The Absolute, the ultimate reality, the highest of all—this is pure consciousness. This pure dynamic consciousness is the basis and source of all manifestation, large and small. Many names have been given to this “ground of all”: Shiva, Parashakti, Parabrahma, Atman, the Self, God. It is the divine consciousness in all, the one consciousness. This ocean of pure potentiality has two inseparable aspects: pure potential (Shiva) and pure energy (Shakti). Shakti is the supreme creative aspect of the Absolute, vital and dynamic. It is both completely stable and never still, the eternally pulsating sound and power of om; the creative energy of Life, omkar.
Within the sea of pure consciousness, this resonance causes movement, waves, and ripples that intersect and mingle, rise and break. All manifestation arises from the movement and interaction of forces precipitated by the resonance that is Omkar. Omkar is the original word (paravac), the universal sound (shabda), the “Word” in the Gospel of St. John (“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 6:I). In the Rig Veda, one of the most ancient of Indian holy texts, Omkar is vac, creator and substance of all. Omkar is pulsating everywhere, always at the same time. It is form-less, completely open, pure potential.
“Om vibrates like a storm in the sky. Having neither beginning nor end, it is the stage manager of the Divine Drama. The human body is a string of Om, all that is—inside us, outside us—is born of Om.” (Sutra 95)
Omkar—Shakti—is the very nature of the Absolute, or God. It is a living energy whose vibration gives rise to the whole universe. Synonymous with the om sound and pranava (its resonance), Omkar is the all-pervasive universal mantra. This one dynamic impulse reverberates within itself, giving rise to all experience—intellectual, volitional, emotional and spiritual. Omkar is also called sat-chit-ananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss. The Absolute simply is—an eternally stable, self-luminous, conscious force continuously and joyously manifesting its own awareness. Satchitananda.
“The universe arises from sound. As so all things with form, from sound, form arises.”(Sutra 92)
Exactly how this vibrant, self-aware, ever-pulsating ocean of pure consciousness manifests as our familiar material world is the subject of much scholarly debate. In general, all schema trace a hierarchical development beginning with the single Absolute that manifests in increasingly differentiated levels. Nityananda likewise sees the material world as the most differentiated and gross level. Because each successive level is contained within its more subtle predecessor, however, all things share certain basic elements that are the first and most subtle differentiations from the Absolute.
“When the life-energy moves in an outward direction, desires are born. There the mind follows, dividing and subdividing into the two-, four-, and six-fold properties of unconscious cosmic Nature and what we call “the world” comes into being.” (Sutra 70)
Nityananda spoke primarily of two sets of such elements. In the first are the five categories of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. In the second set are the three primary gunas or constituent elements of cosmic Nature (prakriti: sattva, rajas and tamas). Sattva is pure light and perfect balance. Tamas, at the other end of the spectrum, embodies inertia, darkness and total density. Between the two lies Rajas—passion, fire, dynamic activity.
“All principles have a single root—the One Absolute, Parabrahma.” (Sutra 5)
Omkar is the essence of them all; the “power of doership” of the Absolute, the essence of life, of words and objects, of human beings. Omkar is the heart of Atman, and Atman is central to the mystery of our essential nature—because Atman is the Self. In the sutras, a distinction is made between the individual Self (jivatman) and the divine Self (paramatman), a distinction that is only on the surface. The distinction is Maya. This does not mean that the world is an illusion. (After all, the power underlying everything is real power.) Rather, Maya implies that nothing outside and nothing inside is as it appears. Individual selves are not really separate. Instead they are like waves on the ocean’s surface, each different but still water—only water. Likewise, any extension of the supreme Self is not different from the supreme Self. Jivatman is supreme conscious energy expressed as an individuated person, Paramatman is the Absolute, and they are both really the same thing. When Nityananda speaks of merging the Jivatman into the Paramatman, he is simply referring to the merging of ocean waves into water. Atman merging into Atman.