Parā परा (366)

In the next few nāma-s Her Śabda (sound) Brahman form is going to be discussed. The literal meaning of ‘Brahman’ is growing, developing, swelling, expanding, evolving etc.  This nāma refers Her un-manifested form (of the Brahman). 

In order to understand this nāma and the next few, origin and evolution of sound becomes a necessity. 

Prakāśa and vimarśa form of the Brahman are quite frequently referred to while discussing the Supreme Reality or the Absolute. Generally it is to be understood that prakāśa form represent Śiva and vimarśa form represent Śakthī. Śiva or Parameśvara (parama means the highest) is pure and unblemished self-illuminating light and Śakthī or vimarśa is the realisation of this pure light. Prakāśa and vimarśa cannot be separated. There is a Sanskrit saying that word and its meaning cannot be separated; in the same way Pārvatī or Śakthī and Parameśvaran or Śiva cannot be separated from each other. When there is a brilliant light, one needs to have knowledge to realise it as light. Suppose, there is a candle burning, and on seeing the candle with light, one can say that the candle gives light. When one wants to see a candle light, he needs to have a lighted candle. The light and its visibility though separate, are interdependent. Visibility is the expression of light and without the source of the light, visibility becomes impossible.  In the same way, light is of no use, if it is not reflected making the visibility possible. Both light and its expression together is known as light. This is called prakāśa vimarśa māyā or the Absolute. Sound originates from this Absolute form.

This Absolute form is also called parāvāc form. This parāvāc is primeval stage. The sound in this stage can be called as a seed that has not yet germinated. When the seed begins its germination, the stage is called paśyantī (nāma 368).  At this stage the seed has the desire to grow. The stem becomes visible and the seed is set to commence its journey of growth. Though it is known for certain that there is going to be a tree at a future date, one does not know how the tree would be, big or small, fruit bearing or barren etc. When the sapling grows to a certain height, one is able to see its leaves, he will be able to identify what type of tree that would be. This stage is called madhyamā (nāma 370). The sapling further grows to become a tree, when one is able to see its flowers and fruits. He is able to recognize the nature of this seed totally now. The complete form of the tree is known at this stage. This is called vaikharī stage. These three stages originated from the form of the Absolute, the seed in this example. Absolute form is called as parāvāc. Parā mean the highest form or the supreme form and vāc means sound. Parāvāc means the supreme form of sound. From this parā form or the seed form sound germinates, grows and yields words.  The result is a full word with meaning.

In a human being this parāvāc is said to be in the form of kuṇḍalinī (nāma110) energy posited in mūlādāra cakra or base cakra. From the base cakra, the seed of the sound begins its ascent, reaches manipūraka cakra or navel cakra in the form of paśyantī, moves to anāhat cakra or heart cakra in the form madhyamā and reaches viśuddhi throat cakra as vaikharī where the final cleansing takes place. From the throat cakra the physical form of words are delivered. The vibration of kuṇḍalinī energy is the seed of the sound. When a desire of speech arises, it manifests as Śabda Brahman at mūlādhāra and moves up to take a physical form and delivered through throat cakra in the form of vaikharī. Śabda Brahman is the Brahman in the form of sound. Like universe manifesting from the Brahman, words originate from Śabda Brahman. In reality, these two Brahman are not different.

To understand this better, we have go back to the creation.  In terms of Sāṁkhya philosophy, the creation is based on twenty five tattva-s or principles (against twenty four tattva-s normally considered).  The addition here is Īśvara tattva.  These twenty five principles are 1. Puruṣa (the individual soul), 2. Prakṛti (nature), 3. Buddhi (intellect), 4. Ego, 5-9. Jñānendriya-s (cognitive senses, like ear, nose, etc), 10-14. Karmendriya-s (action senses like legs, hands, etc), 15-19. Tanmātra-s (subtle primary elements like taste, smell, etc), 20-24. Mahā bhūta (five basic elements like ākāś, air, etc) and finally as 25th tattva, Īśvara.  Here Īśvara means the Brahman and puruṣa means the individual soul that gets various shapes and forms.  The concept of Brahman is beyond all the other twenty four tattva-s.  Puruṣa and Prakṛti both are aboriginal principles, but there exist certain differences between them.  Puruṣa is known as jīva-ātma or the individual soul which is a conscious spirit with positive principle. Prakṛti is unconscious matter with negative principle.  When puruṣa interacts and conjoins with prakṛti (opposite energies are attracted to each other), the prakṛti manifests into other twenty one tattvas and binds the puruṣa or soul into subtle and then to gross matter.  The gross matter is the physical form of man and subtle matter is antaḥkaraṇa a (mind, intellect, consciousness and ego).  The stage before this union is called avyakta (nāma 398) or un-manifested form.  In the stage of avyakta, when modifications in the form of manifestation is about to happen, māyā spreads its veil depending on the karmic density of the soul.  This is how the creation is explained in the scriptures.

This un-manifested form or avyakta is called kāraṇa bindu because it is smaller than an atom.  Bindu means a dot and kāraṇa bindu means origination of cause.  When the time is ripe for kāraṇa bindu to manifest, it pulsates and vibrates getting ready to manifest and this gives rise to another dot called kārya bindu or effect dot, where the cause is manifested as effect.  From this effect-dot or kārya bindu, arises another dot called nāda bindu or sound-dot.   The sound is ultimately delivered through nāda bindu after undergoing further refinement.  The kāraṇa bindu resides in mūlādhāra cakra and during it’s ascend undergoes these modifications and delivered in the form of audible sound. 

Parā has three stages.  Its original parā form is considered as supreme and is full of energy.  In order to manifest, it gradually loses its supremacy and energy level and becomes parā-parā the mediocre level of supremacy.  It further loses its strength at the exact time of manifestation and becomes aparā where it loses its supremacy and become manifested.  These three stages are known as Śiva, Śaktī and nara (man).  This way also She is known as parā.  As the subsequent nāma-s discuss further about the evolution of sound from its parā or supreme form, therefore contextually this nāma is to be considered from the angle of Śabda Brahman only.

Rig Veda (I.164.45) also discusses this modification and it says,

catvāri vāk parimitā padāni tāni vidurbrāhmaṇā ye manīṣiṇaḥ |
guhā triṇi nihitā neṅgayanti turiyaṃ vāco manuṣyā vadanti | |

चत्वारि वाक् परिमिता पदानि तानि विदुर्ब्राह्मणा ये मनीषिणः |
गुहा त्रिणि निहिता नेङ्गयन्ति तुरियं वाचो मनुष्या वदन्ति | |

“Four are the definite grades of speech; those learned who wise know them; three deposited in secret, indicate no meaning; men speak the fourth grade of speech. Four grades of speech are – ॐ, Bhūḥ Bhuvaḥ Suvaḥ and these are known as Parā, paśyantī, madhyamā and vaikharī.  Parā is the innermost at the origin; paśyantī pertains to heart, madhyamā to intellect and vaikharī the phonetically expressed through organs of speech.”

This nāma refers to Her parā form.