Ramakrishna shares this inspiring reflection on the ascension of kundalini shakti:

“I will try to make you understand what happens, but it is so expansive and sublime that words almost cannot allow it to be rendered. Therefore, I insist that you plunge yourself into the waters of such an experience, because there can be no other way to seek it, however penetrating your mind and spirit might be. They cannot rival the flashing brilliance of Absolute Presence. Both can do nothing but raise the dust of the words in which they are lost. Though what the eyes of the soul contemplate defies description, the paths the soul follows can surely be explained in words. Even if the goal is one, the means to reach it are many.

Since the oldest times, the great sages (rishis) have enumerated at least five ways in which the soul can focus or concentrate its energy towards the Absolute when in a state of prayer and meditation.

For example, the rishis say that the human soul often advances through clumsy jumps, like a toad.

At other times it moves like a snake that glides up the slope of a hill: in flashes and curves.

There is still another way. Every cell of your body and every pulse of your heart beats slowly, and the regularity of the rhythm with which your intuitions catch fire is as slow and inexorable as the march of a line of ants from one spot to another.

The fourth way is the way of the birds. You know how birds fly off a tree and move in the air as though they were wandering aimlessly, yet it becomes apparent that they are aiming for a distant tree that has been their goal all the while? Similarly, your concentrated soul-energy rises and focuses towards the Divine when thoroughly invigorated by persistent devotion. Every atom of your being seems to fly up on the wings of all-pervading Light. It may wander about aimlessly at first, but if you keep on meditating and praying, those wings will bring you to the House of Oneness.

The fifth way is quite different from the others. The sages have called it ‘the way of monkeys.’ Sometimes you can see monkeys sitting as still as rocks. Then suddenly they start leaping and bounding and they do not stop until they have reached their destination—somebody’s mango garden. Your spiritual intuition can also act this way.

You sit still and meditate day after day, yet nothing happens. But you keep on thinking of samadhi with your body, heart, mind, and soul. Do not let even a particle of you flag. Concentrate hard until, after two or three years, suddenly your Spirit leaps from plane to plane, soaring over the steepest precipices with the ease of a hawk, then plunges into advaita—the perfect union with Infinite Wisdom.

Besides the different ways by which a soul climbs before reaching perfect unity, you must also know the planes of consciousness that you must cross. No matter whose meditation—whether Lord Buddha’s or a common man’s—it must take him across six different valleys (planes of consciousness) in order to reach the seventh and last. Whether your soul’s intuition hops like a toad or flies like a bird, it must cross all seven valleys. The experience of each one of these valleys is exactly the same, no matter how a soul reaches it.

It is good to know that I too, even if you admire me now, acted the same way as you, sitting still as my Guru had advised me. By doing so I purified my thoughts and feelings of all the dross of separation. In my mind, in my heart, in my soul, in every cell of my body, I sought His Presence. I knew that I was not separate from Him. He was in me. Hence I roused every bit of myself to elicit the hidden Self. I was saying: ‘Come forth, o thou sword of immortality, from this thy scabbard.’ Thus I prayed for days, weeks, and months.”

The awakening of kundalini and its gradual ascent from chakra to chakra

1. MULADHARA CHAKRA

“At last my spirit hopped, it leaped over the embankment of this world into the waters of the first of the seven valleys. A light utterly unknown, as though from another Sun, shone upon what I perceived. All of the earthly things that I looked upon wore the vesture of Beauty.

Everywhere I glanced, around and beyond, beauty and spirituality leapt out of matter like tigers from dark dens. Now I was aware that this was the home of the senses. The sight of so much wonder filled me with terrible desires. ‘Possess, possess’ they cried. I was seized with an overpowering desire to taste and own all the beauty that lay around me. Just at that moment, another cry broke out in me: ‘Beware, beware of the sinister temptation of this valley!’ No sooner heard than done, I set out to quicken my meditation. I meditated hard and prayed intensely for release from the first valley. After a few months, my prayers were answered. The world of the senses tempted me no more. Slowly the first valley fell from my consciousness as the skeleton of its prey falls from an eagle’s talons.”

2. SVADHISHTHANA CHAKRA

“Thus, I had entered the second valley. Here, I was not obsessed with the cloying material beauty of everything I saw. The light in which the world appeared now was more refined, more subtle and soothing. I felt happy here. Fragments of beautiful colors, shapes, and sounds haunted and sweetened my hours in this valley. I thought of relaxing my meditation and staying here. I was even tempted to create life. There were thoughts of sex. In the sublime light of the second valley, sex wears the appearance of beatitude and power.

But no matter how it appears, the soul must resist its temptations. I set out to free my consciousness from the besetting beauty of sex. I heaped more fuel of devotion on the altar of God-quest. The fire of illumination burned very low at first, but it gradually became brighter and in a few more days, lo, it burned like daggers of light. In those biting flames the second valley burned to cinders. Neither it nor its temptations fretted me further.”

3. MANIPURA CHAKRA

“Thus, I reached the third stage. In this valley I found that the sense of power I had experienced in the second valley had increased a hundredfold. Now I felt that I could take the Sun between the palms of my hands and crush it into a handful of burning dust.

This sense of power must be resisted, for it is nothing but a test of one’s character. There is no temptation viler than the sense of power. The instant I had perceived the danger that beset me, I quickened my meditation to the utmost. It had to be more powerful than the power that I had to resist. I prayed—oh, how I prayed—to be freed of my lust for power. Like the fangs of a viper it held me. But my soul would not yield to it. I rose on the wings of meditation higher and higher until I reached a height where it had no more meaning for me. At that moment, the snake opened its mouth and fell from my side.”

4. ANAHATA CHAKRA

“Now, like an elephant hurtling through a fence, I plunged into the valley of hridaya jyoti—the light of God’s Heart. As if my heart had become a torch lit by the flame of His, light gushed out from my soul over everything. Pebbles and stars all sang with equal radiance a song of the Ineffable. In the fourth valley I felt well nigh secure from every temptation. Yet I kept a strict watch on myself.

Though I was a chalice of light I felt suspicious of temptation. That feeling served as a warning to me. I decided not to tarry here. Thus followed another long period of fasting, prayer, and meditation.”

5. VISHUDDHA CHAKRA

“Fortunately, this time I did not have to wait so very long. The light in heart expanded. It flung a vast circle-net of Suns around and beyond. Extremely surprised, I realized that I had reached the next valley, the realm of utterance. My thoughts and feelings, every pulse and each cell of me was enlightened! Through my throat and lips poured words of wonder and benediction. I praised the Lord all the time. I could not bear to speak except of Him. And if anyone spoke of possessions and pleasures, their words smote me like rods. It got to be so that if any of my relatives came to consult me on family matters I used to run away and hide in the woods of panchvati.

Relations and friends who sought to own me appeared to me as a deep well dragging me down—I feared I would be suffocated in the water down below in the dark earth. I felt as if I were drowning in their presence. Only by leaving them could I find peace. Simply: this valley is not full of tolerance and love for all. One must transcend it. That is why I flung myself into deeper and deeper meditations yet. There was neither peace nor pleasure for me. ‘Either I find Him face to face, or I take my life,’ I said to myself. As a tiger crouches in order to leap, so did I. I prayed, I waited, I watched. I would not linger in the valley of utterance; I must not give in to merely praising God. I must see Him. So I sat crouching in prayer.”

6. AJNA CHAKRA

“Suddenly I perceived something ahead. That instant I leapt. In a trice I was in the sixth plane—the valley of turya. Here I was close to my Beloved. I could see and feel Him in the next chamber. Only a thin transparent veil separated the soul from the Self. At last I knew that I was in a room in the House of Oneness.”

7. SAHASRARA

“From the sixth valley it is not difficult to pass to the seventh. Here everything was reduced to ideas floating as shadows in the obscure silence of the spirit. Only the much-weakened concept of my ego was asserting itself with interruptions of a dull monotony. My soul became pure reality. Any dualism between the subject and the object disappeared. My Self knew no limits. Whatever existed was only infinite joy. I was beyond language, beyond expressible experience, beyond thinking…and to call this state ‘freedom’ greatly diminishes its sense. There neither word nor the chatter of human thought can enter. Only your soul clad in silence can lift the veil that separates Him from your embrace.”