It is very easy to become caught up in superlatives and vague descriptions of kundalini. It is ineffable, so we will confine ourselves to a very simple and basic description.
In tantra and yoga, kundalini is regarded as feminine and is also called Shakti. She is the link to higher awareness and bliss. She is the revealer of all mantras and the means by which bliss trickles down from the eternal source, sahasrara, to individual beings.
The kundalini is the creator, sustainer and dissolver of all centres of being, including man. She creates by descending through the different chakra levels (shristi krama: process of creation); sustains by abiding in mooladhara chakra; and dissolves by ascending through the chakra levels (laya krama: process of absorption).
When kundalini descends to the lower chakras then she is the cause of delusion, limitation and lack of knowledge: maya. She is known as jagan-mohini, the world bewilderer, causing man to become caught up, ensnared and deluded by the outside world of name and form. As she descends, kundalini becomes progressively more gross and loses her power and subtlety.
In animals, insects, plants and all so-called inert objects, kundalini resides and sustains from levels below mooladhara chakra. In fact, the tantric scriptures list seven more chakra levels which exist below mooladhara: atala, vitala, sutala, talatala, rasatala, mahatala and patala.
At these levels there is lack of any form of self-awareness that distinguishes man; this faculty does not arise until the level of the mooladhara chakra. We will not discuss these lower chakra levels for they are not important with regard to human aspiration and yogic practices.
In man kundalini normally resides and sustains from the level of the mooladhara chakra. The kundalini is said to dream at this level; it is the dream of everyday wakeful life. While she sleeps, man retains a strong sense of individuality and self-centredness; he is awake only to the world of name and form, and unaware of the untapped potential that is his heritage. At this level, man is really asleep; it is the tamasic state of being. The situation can be summarized as follows: when the kundalini sleeps in mooladhara, then man is awake to normal levels of being; this is really deep sleep. When kundalini wakes up, then man as an individual begins to arouse from his twenty-four hours a day waking slumber.
The reascent of kundalini through the chakras implies the reversal of creation. She becomes the cause of awakening, bliss and realization. Shakti returns to its source at sahasrara. As the kundalini progressively rises through the chakras, so the veils of maya are removed. It is this maya that clouds consciousness. Maya is thicker in the lower chakras and nil in sahasrara. As she awakens, the barriers of individuality begin to break down and evaporate like a mirage. One’s self-identification gradually expands to include more and more.
Eventually kundalini merges with maha kundalini (great kundalini) – sahasrara. She merges with Shiva (consciousness) with whom she is identical. In her formless form she is consciousness; in her formed form she is Shakti, the power of manifestation.