Manipura chakra is the third of the ascending chakras, mooladhara being the first and swadhisthana the second1. The manipura is a most important centre and is widely mentioned in traditional scriptures. In Buddhism, it is regarded as the seat of the kundalini, although in reality the kundalini can be regarded as residing in all chakras. Tantra yoga regards spiritual life, or expansion of awareness, as starting at the level of the mooladhara chakra, for it is here that man begins to become aware of himself, even if in a very rudimentary form. Therefore, the kundalini is said to reside at the mooladhara chakra level. Buddhism, on the other hand, regards expansion of awareness as beginning at the manipura chakra, the lower chakras being considered as instinctive levels of man, and therefore the kundalini is considered to reside at the manipura chakra. In this context, the abode of the kundalini is a matter of definition.
The manipura chakra is indeed the centre of prana within the human framework; it is the centre of the incredibly complex network of subtle energy that permeates and controls the body from behind the scenes. It is the centre that puts man directly in contact with the subtle forces of the cosmos. In this sense the kundalini can be regarded as residing in manipura. The Buddhist concept is perfectly correct. However, the mooladhara chakra is also a vital trigger centre that is very much concerned with directing pranic forces from the base of the spine upwards through sushumna to the higher centres. It is often associated with transmutation of sexual energy into more subtle pranic energy (ojas). Both of these chakras are centres of pranic energy but in a slightly different sense. It is for this reason that the Buddhist and tantra-yoga systems seem to differ. They adopt a particular aspect of the pranic energy in man and regard it as the power of the kundalini. The kundalini is actually the sum total of the dormant potential in man. Each of the chakra centres can be utilized to put man directly in contact with the pranic substratum of his being and to raise levels of awareness. Therefore, both Buddhist and tantra-yoga concepts are correct.
The Sanskrit word mani means ‘gem’ or ‘jewel’; the wordpur means ‘city’. Therefore, the word manipura can be translated directly as ‘the city of gems’. It is so called because of the intensity of the pranic energy at this centre. In the Gautamiya Tantra it says: “The manipura chakra is so called because it is lustrous like a sparkling jewel.” (ch. 34) It is often compared to the dazzling power of the sun, which continually radiates energy to the planets. Without the sun there would be no life on this earth. In the same manner, the manipura chakra radiates and distributes pranic energy throughout the entire human framework; without this chakra, each person would be lifeless and totally devoid of vitality. It is also compared to a blazing fire, since it burns up and assimilates the energy in food in the same way that a fire burns up wood and releases the inherent energy. The absorption of energy in the human structure takes place at different levels – at grosser levels by absorbing the nutrients of food for the upkeep of the physical body and at a more subtle level by absorbing
the more subtle essence of food to refuel the pranic body. The manipura is intimately related to this entire process at all levels.
This centre is also widely called the nabhi chakra – the navel chakra.