In the teachings of the Shaiva Tantra of Kashmir, there are certain very useful teaching metaphors, called “nyāya” in Sanskrit. These are valuable “containers” and points-of-view that permit understanding of esoteric knowledge that would otherwise be obscure or confusing. For me, the most valuable of all of these is “The Ocean and the Wave” nyaya.
The “Absolute”, or supreme and overarching level of pure Consciousness, is the very essence-nature of our own highest Self. It is that which we come to directly know and abide in through meditation. It is the source and ground-of being of the entire universe. It has many names of reference in the teachings, that all point to this same absolute existing principle. Among these are “anuttara” (“of which there is nothing higher”), “Shiva” (the deity form from their Vedic culture is itself a mythic designation of that Consciousness), “Puruṣa” (the yogic term for the self as Consciousness of the individual), etc. Understanding and recognizing that such terms are referring to the supreme and unlimited Consciousness can bypass much confusion!
The difficulty for the mind is that the “Absolute” is of a transcendent nature. It is beyond all relativity and cannot be adequately contained or expressed in thought-forms or language. Which is not to say that it cannot be “known”. It is known in the deepest and most direct samadhi (inward absorption) of our meditation. As the teachings clearly and correctly state: “Only Consciousness Itself can know the Absolute Consciousness.” And: “That Consciousness is the only reality-principle that cannot be made into an object (or concept) within Consciousness.” It always escapes our efforts to conceive it. So we must “know” it within our own ecstatic meditative awareness.
It is boundless, boundary-less, and formless. It can appear to be empty of any content. Yet simultaneously, it burgeons and bristles with the vibrating energy of every possible form of expression. That is what is called its “Shakti”, its dimensions of potency, its inherent power to manifest every possible creative expression. It is full with every manner of curious paradox.
So to approach a level of understanding of what would otherwise escape our understanding we use nyaya, metaphors. The Ocean and the Wave. The Absolute is Oceanic in its character. And we ourselves are individual waves upon that Ocean.
The ocean is sometimes still, and sometimes arises into energetic and moving wave-forms. The individual, as embodied consciousness, is a standing wave: an enduring expression, a Light-Life-Wave, unique and magnificent. Yet the wave is never separate from the Ocean, its source. The fundamental character of the wave is that it is always also the Ocean. This expresses very beautifully the relationship between the individual microcosmic Self (Puruṣa, Atmā. You and I.) and the Absolute universal and imperishable Source-Consciousness of all that exists.
The full realization of this deep truth is known as “Self-Realization” (among numerous designations in different traditions). It is the Freedom (kaivalya of the Yoga Sutras) that is attained from the dis-identifying with our limited forms, including our body, mind, roles and possessions; And knowing ourselves as truly being composed in essence as that imperishable Consciousness. And beyond even that, is the ultimacy of non-dual realization: That everything is composed of, and consists of nothing but a form and expression (wave) of that Oceanic Consciousness that holds and supports all. It, at once, is beyond every thing (transcendent) and is the essence within everything (immanent). The Ocean and the Wave.