What do the practice of yoga, ajna chakra, and the season of Epiphany have in common?
The mystery of revelation.
During the season of Epiphany, Christians celebrate the revelation of Jesus as Messiah to the world. The God of the Bible is a God who reveals himself through his people, through his Word, and throughout Creation! I love this season because it emphasizes the big-ness of God, and reminds me that I worship a God who desires to be known by all of humanity. One of my favorite illustrations of God revealing himself to the world is the story of the wise men visiting the newborn Jesus, found in the book of Matthew.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Matthew 2:1-6
On the surface this story might not sound terribly interesting, but it holds a great enigma. You see, the Magi were Gentiles, and it was the people of Israel, not the Gentiles, who were awaiting a Messiah. The Isarelites had been chosen by God to be in covenant with Him and to bring the message of God’s goodness to the world. For centuries Israel’s prophets had foretold the coming of a Messiah, pointing to the day when the God of Israel would come to earth, take on flesh, and become their Savior and Redeemer. The prophecy of Isaiah illustrates the hope for a Messiah that existed among the Israelites:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6-7
Sadly, when the birth day arrived, the Israelites did not understand that these prophecies were being fulfilled in Jesus. Those awaiting the Messiah did not seek the newborn king. They did not intend to worship him. In fact, they were troubled by his birth.
So who were these mysterious men who came to worship the Messiah?
Matthew tells us that the Magi came from the east after seeing a star in the sky. Somehow they knew that this star signified that something critical was happening in the world. They believed that the star belonged to the newborn king of the Jews, and they brought him lavish gifts, intending to worship him. We don’t know much about these wise men from the east. Some scholars suggest that they were pagan astrologers who may have been familiar the Israelite’s prophecies because they lived in the Babylon Empire while the Jews were living there in captivity.
So why is it that astrologers from a distant land would seek the newborn king of the Jews? What prompted the Magi? How did these wise men understand the importance of Jesus’ birth? Why didn’t the Israelites recognize these signs and seek their long-awaited Messiah?
When I ponder these questions, I am reminded of the mystery of “inner-knowing” and can’t help but wonder how the concept of the ajna chakra, might intersect with this story.
Eastern philosophy holds a teaching on seven energy centers, or chakras, that run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. These swirling wheels of energy correspond to massive nerve centers in the body. Each of the seven main chakras contains nerve bundles and major organs and is believed to affect our psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being. Since energy is meant to move, it’s vital to our health that the seven main chakras stay open, aligned, and fluid. If there is a blockage, energy cannot flow which eventually will cause dis-ease.
The sixth chakra, or ajna chakra, is located in the brow, between the eyebrows. It is a part of the brain which can be strengthened, like a muscle, through meditation and other spiritual practices. It is commonly referred to as the “third-eye” and is known as our center of intuition, capable of seeing what is invisible to the physical eye and perceiving beyond ordinary sight. Perhaps this is what Jesus was referring to when he said:
Whoever has ears, let them hear.” The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” Matthew 13:9-16
The ajna chakra is often associated with religious visions. It is related to pineal gland which is located deep in brain center, between the two hemispheres. The primary function of the pineal gland is to produce melatonin which is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light. In summary, the sixth chakra, is associated which religious visions, and is deeply affected by light. Interestingly, Scripture often uses the metaphor of light and darkness to teach us spiritual truths.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. Isaiah 9:2
The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned. Matthew 4:16
Open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. Acts 26:18
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
We do not need to fully understand the chakra system, to glean the underlying wisdom of the ajna chakra and to grasp how it might apply in this story. The Magi were given spiritual vision. The Israelites were blinded spiritually. The wise men saw the light in the sky, that the Israelites did not see. The wise men had a certain insight about the birth of the king of the Jews that the Israelites did not possess.
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22
The mystery of the revelation of Jesus as Messiah to the Magi both excites me and humbles me. Would I recognize the Messiah? How can we ensure that our “eyes” are healthy?
Jesus often refered to people as “blind” and knew that his followers would need help “seeing”. Jesus left his followers a helper when he gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit! We can further strengthen our spiritual vision by reading and meditating on the Word of God, confessing our sins, maintaining a humble and teachable heart, fasting and prayer remembering to take the time to get still and listen for the voice of God. But however hard we try, we simply cannot perceive and understand the things of God when our hearts and minds are not touched with the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17
The season of Epiphany and the ajna chakra both point to revelation, realization, and illumination. The third-eye of yoga teaches that there is a certain “knowing” that we can receive from beyond our physical senses, pointing us to God. It illustrates to us that we are created with an organ of perception intended to hear “the still small voice of God” and to see “things that cannot be seen” (1 Kings 19:11-13 & 2 Corinthians 4:18) Whether we refer to this part of our being as a chakra, or the eyes of our heart, one thing is for certain, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit in order to see, know, and understand the things of God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, our thoughts are not your thoughts and our ways are not your ways. Lord, strengthen our spiritual eyes to help us to see what you see. Shine your heavenly light on us this day, let us see your radiance. Give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know you better.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:17-19
Inhale: Enlighten the eyes of my heart
Exhale: that I might know the hope to which you have called me.