महीं मूलाधारे कमपि मणिपूरे हुतवहं
स्थितं स्वाधिष्ठाने हृदि मरुतमाकाशमुपरि।
मनोऽपि भ्रूमध्ये सकलमपि भित्त्वा कुलपथं
सहस्रारे पद्मे सह रहसि पत्या विहरसे॥
mahīṁ mūlādhāre kamapi maṇipūre hutavahaṁ
sthitaṁ svādhiṣṭhāne hṛdi marutamākāśamupari|
mano'pi bhrūmadhye sakalamapi bhittvā kulapathaṁ
sahasrāre padme saha rahasi patyā viharase||

Meaning: mahī - earth element; mūlādhāra – base chakra; kamapi (kaṁpāka)  – water element; maṇipūr – navel chakra; hutavahaṁ sthitaṁ - the element of fire present in; svādhiṣṭhāne - svādhiṣṭhāna chakra; hṛdi – the heart chakra; marutam – the element of air; ākāśam – the element of sky; upari – above these chakras (referring to viśuddhi chakra); mano'pi – tattva of mind; bhrūmadhye – in between the eyebrows (third eye or ājñācakra); sakalamapi bhittvā kulapathaṁ - breaking the path of kula (the path of kuṇḍaliṇī); sahasrāre padme – thousand petalled lotus; saha rahasi patyā viharase – remain in solitude with Your consort Śiva.  

“You remain in solitude with Your consort Śiva in the thousand petalled lotus known as sahasrāra (crown chakra), by piercing the earth element at mūlādhāra chakra, water element at maṇipūra chakra, the element of fire in svādhiṣṭhāna chakra, the element of air in the anāhata chakra and the element of ākāśa in viśuddhi chakra, which is placed above these four chakras; the tattva of mind in ājñācakra thus transcending the entire path of kula.”

Parāśakti has three forms – gross, subtle and subtlest. Gross form is Her various forms we worship. Her subtle form is kāmakalā, discussed in Lalitā Sahasranāma 322. This form is known to Her consort Śiva and is considered as Her secretive form. Her subtlest form is kuṇḍalinī that is being discussed in this verse. Kula means the worshippers of Śakti. They are known as śākta-s.

There is a significant difference between this verse and other tantra scriptures. This verse says that water element is maṇipūra chakra; but tantric scriptures say that fire element represents maṇipūra chakra. In the same way, this verse says that svādhiṣṭhāna chakra is the element of fire; but tantric scriptures say that svādhiṣṭhāna chakra is the water element. Every chakra is associated with a bīja. svādhiṣṭhāna is represented by the bīja vaṁ (वं) and maṇipūra is represented by the bīja raṁ (रं). Each element also is represented by a bīja and the bīja for fire is raṁ and water is vaṁ. These bīja-s are placed in the middle of the respective chakras and all tantric scriptures unanimously accept these bīja-s in the first five chakras. But, as far as this verse is concerned, elements for maṇipūra chakra and svādhiṣṭhāna chakra are interchanged. All tantric scriptures go with Lalitā Sahasranāma. Therefore, in order to avoid any confusion, this verse is interpreted here based on Lalitā Sahasranāma and tantric scriptures. This ‘error’ could have happened while rewriting Śaṁkarācārya’s original verse.  

Parāśakti resides in the base chakra known as mūlādhāra, which is situated in the perineum. Perineum is located between the organs of excretion and procreation. It is also said that the position of mūlādhāra is not the perineum in women, but within the external opening of the womb. When She is activated, She ascends through the central canal of the spinal cord, which is also known as meru. Inside the meru there is another subtle nāḍī (nerve) known as vajriṇī or vajrā. Within in vajriṇī there is a subtlest nāḍī known as citriṇi, through which She in the form of kuṇḍalinī ascends to the higher chakras to unite with Her consort Śiva. These three nāḍī-s represent icchā śakti, jñāna śakti and kriya śakti.

Each of the first five chakras or psychic centres is associated with five principal elements – earth, water, fire, air and ākāśa (ether). When we look at the order of these elements, earth is the grossest and ākāśa is the subtlest. When an aspirant meditates on kuṇḍalinī, his awareness moves from gross to subtle and then to the subtlest (ājñācakra).  Taittirīya Upaniṣad says that from ākāśa, air originated; from air, fire originated; from fire, water originated; from water, earth originated. Therefore, it becomes clear from the subtlest element, gross element originated. Beginning with the grossest element earth, other elements are associated with higher chakras ending at throat chakra with the subtlest element ākāśa.

First five lower chakras have one bīja each. Mūlādhāra has laṁ (लं); svādhiṣṭhāna has vaṁ (वं); maṇipūra has raṁ (रं), anāhata has yaṁ (यं), viśuddhi has haṁ (हं); Ājñācakra has two bīja-s ha (ह) and kṣa (क्ष). Sanskrit has 50 letters and all these 50 letters are placed in sahasrāra, which has one thousand petals. Each of these petals has one letter; thus one letter is placed 20 times. There is difference of opinion on the number of letters in Sanskrit. Some are of the opinion that it is 51 and others 50.

When She ascends from mūlādhāra, She has to cross the grossest element earth. When an aspirant has properly awakened kuṇḍalinī, he begins to move away from material attachments. Immediately after awakening from the base chakra, there is a blockage known as granthi, which prevents Her upward movement. Grantha means knots like honeycomb. These knots are formed by intertwining nerves. To reach the next higher chakra svādhiṣṭhāna, this knot is to be pierced. The aspirant has to pierce this knot by practicing certain āsana-s, breathing exercises and awareness. When this knot is loosened, She comfortably crosses this granthi known as Brahmagranthi.

After piercing brahmagranthi, She reaches svādhiṣṭhāna chakra, which is the element of water (according to this verse, it is the element of fire).  This psychic center is situated at the tip of the spinal cord known as coccyx or tail bone. The consciousness of the aspirant now becomes more focused on Her, but not perpetually focused.  Then She moves towards the navel chakra, known as maṇipūra chakra, which is situated in the spine just behind the navel. Element fire is associated with this chakra (according to this verse, the element is water). There is a fire by name jaṭharāgni in this chakra, which digests the food consumed by us. Navel chakra is one of the important chakras as fetus remains connected to the placenta of the mother through umbilical cord. All the chakras open both in front and back of the body. Between maṇipūra chakra and anāhata chakra, there is another knot known as Viṣṇu granthi. This granthi has also to be loosened by āsana-s, breathing exercises and awareness as in the case of Brahmagranthi. Once this granthi is loosened, She reaches the heart chakra. Heart chakra, also known as anāhata chakra and is represented by air element. This psychic center is not placed in the biological heart, but just above the navel chakra in a straight line, next to the biological heart. If this chakra is activated, the aspirant is bound to move from limited love to universal love.

From the heart chakra, She moves to the next higher chakra, the throat chakra known as viśuddhi chakra. This is placed in the area called manubrium, where the two collar bones join together. The back portion of this chakra falls on the nape of the neck. When this chakra is fully activated, the aspirant will be blessed with oratory skills. From viśuddhi, She moves to ājñācakra, known as the third eye.

Ājñācakra is placed just above the central point of the two eyebrows. This chakra is not associated with any of the elements, as all the five elements have been covered by the five lower chakras. Ājñācakra is associated with mind. It is where the command of one’s Guru is received. Divine commune happens through this chakra. If ājñācakra is fully active, it means that the other five lower chakras are also active. From ājñācakra, She moves to the crown chakra known as sahasrāra. Sahasrāra is not a chakra; it is the Abode of Śiva. Her movement from ājñācakra to sahasrāra can happen only due to Her Grace. Breathing, mudras, particular movement of eyeballs and high level of concentration alone can help in making Her ascend towards Śiva. Before reaching sahasrāra, She passes through twelve minor chakras placed above ājñācakra. When She reaches sahasrāra, She conjoins with Śiva, not only Her consort, but also Her Lord. At this point, a nectarine substance flow from the cranium towards the throat. This is the indication of attaining perfection in kuṇḍalinī meditation. This should not be allowed to drift into the body and should be pushed back by using kecarimudra (folding the tongue to touch the upper palate).

Kuṇḍalinī meditation is not that easy, as is being practiced today. Activation of kuṇḍalinī can be done only by a Guru, who himself has attained complete spiritual perfection. He awakens the kuṇḍalinī by passing on his energy into the body of his disciple.  In rare instances, kuṇḍalinī ascends on its own due to one’s good karmas. However, perfection can be attained by breathing, āsana-s, bandha-s. mudras and intent concentration.

Lalitā Sahasranāma 98 Samayācāra-tatparā talks about Kuṇḍalinī worship. The entire Saundaryalaharī is based on Samayācāra tantra.

Worshipping Lalitai in the cakra-s of kuṇḍalinī, beginning from mūlādhāra cakra is called samayācāra.  This is explained in Rudrayāmala, an ancient scripture, as told by Śiva Himself to Śaktī.  This nāma means that She likes samayācāra worship.  This worship can be done only mentally.  Initiation from a Guru is the first step in this worship.  This initiation will culminate in pūrṇa abhiṣeka (mantra bath) that will be performed by guru to the disciple.  The initiation by the guru will make the kuṇḍalinī ascend from the perineum to the six cakra-s.  Guru will guide his disciple at each level and at each cakra.  Guru will not perform the mantra bath on the disciple unless he is convinced that the disciple has attained a particular stage from where, the disciple could carryon on his own.  Guru also will not perform this ritual unless the disciple pursues the right path of Self realization.  After this ritual of mantra bath, there is yet another ritual called mahā veda samskāra, a fire ritual.  This mahā veda saṃskāra will be done only on the day of mahā navami (ninth day of Dasara celebrations) which occurs once in a year. After completing all such formalities, the sādhaka (practitioner) will have to go to an isolated place and commences his samayācāra meditation, i.e. meditation on the six cakra-s and the sahasrāra.  There is a prescribed procedure for this worship.

Kuṇḍalinī is aroused from the perineum and taken to mūlādhāra cakra.  She is in Her subtle form viz. mantra form in this cakra.  From mūlādhāra cakra, She is taken to the next higher cakra viz. svādhiṣṭhāna cakra.  She has to be mentally worshipped in this cakra.  She is in Her subtler form viz. kāmakalā form at this stage.  After the worship at this cakra, She is adorned with rich clothes and ornaments. We have to remember that everything associated with Her is red in colour. She is then taken to maṇipūraka cakra.  At this stage, changes occur in the gross body of the sādhaka.  People around him start noticing these changes.  In this cakra, She is offered arghya, pādya, etc (washing Her hands and feet) and She accepts the offerings made by the sādhaka. Then She is made to adorn the throne, as discussed in verse 8. In this cakra She is in Her subtlest form viz. Kuṇḍalinī.  Kuṇḍalinī energy gets the name of Kuṇḍalinī only from the navel cakra.  From this cakra onwards, She becomes very powerful.  It is to be remembered that this is a mental worship that happens within.

Then She is taken to the heart cakra or anāhata cakra, where She is offered betel leaves (karpūra vītikā - Lalitā Sahasranāma 26).  She is then taken to viśuddhi cakra where is worshiped with ārati. Ārati means offering (showing) various types of lamps lit with pure ghee (clarified butter).  Each such ārati has its own significance.  For example, pañca ārati means the five elements, ‘pūrṇa kumbha ārati’ signifies that everything was created out of totality and everything merges in totality.  From viśuddhi cakra, She is then taken to ājñā cakra, where is offered ‘karpūra ārati.  karpūra ārati means ārati lit with camphor.  Ārati with camphor has a lot of significance (Pure camphor is not easily available nowadays.  If pure camphor is not available, it is better to use a ghee lamp, which does not cause pollution.  The soot coming out of impure camphor affects the purity of the energy level that prevails during rituals.)  She is adorned with garlands of sweet smelling flowers and perfumes.  She is to be visualized as a bride at this stage.  She is then taken to sahasrāra where Śiva is waiting for Her.  When She enters sahasrāra, a veil is placed around them and the sādhaka awaits Her return. She becomes highly romantic here.  Once She returns from sahasrāra, She is taken back to mūlādhāra cakra. This is known as samayācāra worship.

This verse is one of the master pieces of Śaṁkarācārya. He clearly indicates that mental worship is more powerful than ritualistic worship. After ascension of kuṇḍalinī to higher chakras, the aspirant gradually transforms into a yogin. Yogin (yogi) means the one, whose individual consciousness has merged into the Supreme Consciousness. This completes the merger of jīvātman with Paramātaman. But, he continues to live as a yogin till the traces of his karmas are spent and ultimately dies not to be reborn.

Detailed analysis of each chakra is provided in Lalitā Sahasranāma 475 to 534. Complete discussion about kuṇḍalinī can be read in the label ‘kundalini’