The universe is sustained by God’s mere presence. According to the Path of Kundalini awakening, God’s energy that is used in the running (i.e., creation, sustenance and destruction) of the universe is Divine consciousness (Chaitanya). With respect to a person, this Divine consciousness is known as chētanā and it is that part of God’s energy required for the functioning of a human being.
This chetana is of two types and, depending on its state of activity, it takes on two different names. Active chetana — also known as Vital energy (Prāṇa–shakti). The Vital energy sustains and gives energy to the gross body, mind, intellect and subtle-ego. It is distributed through subtle energy channels known as nāḍīs. These energy channels are prevalent throughout the body and supply energy to the cells, nerves, arteries, lymph etc. Non-active chetana — which is known as the Kundalini. This Kundalini lies dormant at the base of the spinal column in a person until kundalini awakening takes place.
The Kundalini or non-active chetana is used primarily for spiritual growth. It is not used for, nor does it take part in, day-to-day bodily functioning. Kundalini awakening happens through spiritual practice or spiritual transfer of energy. This includes practices that come under generic spiritual paths to God such as Karmayoga, Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga), Path of Deliberate Rigour (Haṭhayoga) and Path of the Guru’s grace (Gurukrupāyoga). The practices in the Path of Deliberate Rigour include celibacy, breathing exercises (prāṇāyām) and yogic exercises and other spiritual practices. Some people try to force Kundalini awakening by efforts through the Path of Deliberate Rigour. However, this can lead to deleterious effects. Some can even become insane from it.
Whatever the spiritual path, when there is spiritual growth the Kundalini rises. Here the unmanifest Guru Principle or the Teaching Principle of God itself awakens the Kundalini. As it is awakened by the Guru’s grace then it automatically travels upwards and transforms the seeker spiritually. To better understand this let us take the help of an analogy. Employing one’s own efforts in regular spiritual practice is like working hard and then amassing a fortune. Kundalini awakening by the direct transfer of energy through a Guru is like being born to a billionaire where the father provides the son with instant money. Out of the two, having earned wealth (spiritual wealth) through hard earned means is always a more sustainable and a surer option for future growth.
Just as the heart is the principal centre (organ) of the circulatory system and the brain of the nervous system, similarly the subtle energy system has various chakras, channels and ducts.
There are 72,000 subtle-channels. Of these channels, the three main subtle-channels are — Sushumnānāḍī, that is, the central channel that extends from base of spine to the top of the head; Pingalānāḍi or the Sūryanāḍi (sun channel), that is, the channel that runs to the right of the Sushumnanadi, and the Chandranāḍī (moon channel), that is, the channel that runs to the left of the Sushumnanadi.
The Vital energy is transmitted in the body through the Sun channel and the Moon channel and the other smaller channels. The vital energy flow alternates between the Sun channel and Moon channel.
The Kundalini is spiritual energy and it generally lies dormant, coiled at the base of the Sushumnanadi for an average person. Through spiritual practice it begins to rise from the base of the spine through the Sushumnanadi right till the top of the head. While it does so, the Kundalini awakens each of the chakras along the way.
As the Kundalini passes each chakra along the Sushumnanadi, there is a thin subtle-valve that it needs to push through at each chakra to make its onward journey upwards. As it keeps pushing through the wall there is sometimes an increase in the amount of spiritual energy from the Sushumnanadi at that chakra. Having nowhere to go, it sometimes flows out through the surrounding subtle-ducts and becomes converted into Vital energy (Prāṇa–shakti). For that period of time, the concerned person may experience a heightened activity associated with that area.