North face of Mt Kailash
At the heart of the Sahasrara Chakra (the subtle centre at the crown of the head) is the abode of the aspect of the Self known in Hinduism as Lord Shiva. Though all the deities of the Hindu pantheon are believed to be aspects of the one Universal Self, Shri Shiva represents the unmanifested Self, which exists in a state of perpetual meditation, apparently withdrawn from the world. In Advaita philosophy, the distinction between Self and world is seen as illusory, and therefore the deities who look after different aspects of worldy existence are no less "spiritual" for their involvement with the world; however, the ascetic deity, Lord Shiva, is often chosen by Hindus to represent the Self, because He is a pure essence at the heart of all things. He is considered to reside also in the heart Chakra. Lord Shiva is both remote, in the sense of being unaffected by phenomena, and the closest, because He resides in the heart. Because Self and world are one, meditation is not a withdrawal from the world, as many believe; it is a withdrawal from the mind's illusion of separateness. What better way to get a grip on reality than to become it.
The subtle centres are manifested at various locations on Earth. The Himalaya corresponds to the Sahasrara Chakra. Mt Kailash is located in a particularly remote and desolate region of the Tibetan plateau. Hindu texts describe it as being surrounded by seven layers of mountain ranges, rather like the heart of a lotus enfolded in layers of petals. Four great rivers of South Asia have their source near the mountain, and in yoga philosophy there are four subtle nadis, or spiritual channels, emerging from the Heart Chakra.
The Sanskrit word kailash means 'crystal', and the mountain does have a jewel-like appearance rising from the surrounding bare and arid terrain.