Awakening the kundalini does not mean one becomes enlightened...far from it. (hello, look at me as an example). That is a trap that people fall into. The journey then just begins. Enlightenment then, however that is defined, does not depend on kundalini development but it sure helps the process along.
Kundalini refers to energy that is historically thought to be coiled at the base of the spine in a dormant state. There are two types of kundalini. One keeps the body alive. If you don't have kundalini you are dead. The other is an energetic driver for spiritual, emotional, mental, physiological evolution.
Here's a good layman explanation without getting into the details:
I recently posted this a day or two ago to heavenlygong's request. It is an excerpt from a much longer post:
For me a mature kundalini awakening is Shakti rising through the body to meet with her Beloved Shiva, marry him, and live in divine union and bliss expressed in the physical vehicle called Susan.
The non poetic explanation is the energy rises up the back piercing, clearing, activating all the chakras (both positive and negative expressions) and indwelling all the dan tiens. The energy not only rises up the back but comes down the front into the earth, cycles through the earth and up the legs again and again. The energy not only runs this major yin yang circuit or orbit but it settles not only into all the energy channels of the body but settles deep within the cells of all the body. There is a continuous flow of energy and conscious awareness between heaven and earth with the physical vessel known as Susan with her heart as the nexus point.
The body literally swims saturated in the flow of kundalini. It can be felt as a pulse or tidal wave that moves at different speeds. Ancients sometimes likened it to the undulations of a snake. The kundalini eventually settles even into the marrow of the bones creating a frission of bliss that feels like an internal fountain of champagne bubbles that is not only felt by the practitioner but by other sensitives. The bliss is so exquisitely pleasureable it borders on being unbearable, even feeling a bit painful in it's intensity. Only by holding a state of micro muscular tension in my body at all times I keep from falling over into spontaneous kriyas and expressions of bliss and ecstasy. Always, the whole current of the Universe feels like bliss as Shiva and Shakti continually make love as the universe is destroyed, created and destroyed again on all levels from micro to macro. Peace in my heart is deep and physically palpable, not an intellectual construct.
In the KAP school the party line is : Enlightenment is a biological process. For me, the state of enlightenment..whatever that is...holds no attraction. How best can I serve this world and those in it with the abilities Shakti has given me is of the greatest attraction.
Kundalini awakening can be spontaneous and immediate or it can take anywhere up to some years. Historically the KAP program, if you diligently follow and do the directions, takes about 90 days. That number is based on empirical studies Glenn Morris use to do with his students, he was a college teacher and with his MA students, since the 90s.
It is not unusual for the process to happen quicker if you are not in solitary practice. By that I mean, if you practice with a group and a teacher. When I used to teach alone, teaching people to awaken their kundalini, my goal was to get the process started in a weekend time frame and that was often the case. Where KAP is traditionally based on a formula of specific practices drawn from different traditions based on empirical testing and practice, my method was to primarily awaken Kundalini by energy transfer. I would put my hands on all my students and directly initiate and start the process during the weekend. I also had a fair number of advanced students who would assist me for they were able to initiate others also. Santi has improved the old KAP program where things move quicker. He does far more energy initiations and transfer than I have ever seen a teacher do before. He even does it more than me.
So my process was direct initiation to activate the kundalini. I would then spend a good portion of the seminar teaching people about how to live with kundalini in a fun and healthy manner.
I wrote this essay back in 2006: I lifted it from the kundalinisupportnetwork.com website that i have.
What Does Kundalini Activation Do?
by Susan A. Carlson, BSN, RN
Susan is the Founder of the Kundalini Support Network.
Kundalini Energy is living energy in the body that has two aspects, inner and outer. The outer kundalini aspect controls the physical, bodily process. It is what makes our heart beat, causes our lungs to breathe in and out. Simply put it is what keeps our bodies alive. When it is absent our bodies die.
The inner aspect of kundalini is normally dormant. It is an evolutionary driver for physio-psycho-spiritual transformation. It can be awakened in several different ways. Once awakened, it propels us to a self awareness that can be unparalleled in the world of self help seminars/books and human potential meetings. Once the awakening becomes fully mature self awareness is evident and heart and body felt bliss comes from merging into and becoming one with the Tao, Spirit, God, or All That Is. This is the goal of all major religions, esoteric martial arts and other spiritual systems. The end result is we can no longer draw a line of separation between us and the God Force.
Ten of the benefits of Self Awareness:
Synchronicity. Life no longer seems slavery to chance circumstance. We start operating in the natural flow of the Universe. The Ancients call this flow the Tao.
A dawning of experiential knowing, not an intellectual acknowledgement, there is an intelligent, universal energy, what some may call the God Force.
An equal knowing that we can access this energy at any moment.
You will begin to feel loved beyond belief!
Fear begins to evaporate to be replaced by peace. Peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is the continual awareness of the presence of the God Force and the sacredness of all things.
We begin to develop an appreciative wonder for the Universe and everything it holds.
You will begin to experience a connectedness to everyone and everything.
Bliss becomes a natural state. Bliss can be shared with others as we become transformed by our meditative practice.
Health and wellness is more easily achieved.
The mind, body, spirit split is healed and we achieve integration as total and complete human beings.
Note that I would update this a little because I am continually growing and refining my practice in kundalini development.