The sacred syllable Aum (Om,Omkara) is art, science, philosophy, spirituality and religion rolled into one. As art it has visible symbolic forms that fascinate. As cosmophonic sound it is the crux of meta-science. As philosophy, it crystallizes the meaning of existence. As chant it belongs to the sphere of religion and spirituality, and is the simplest way to gain higher consciousness. Aum - the primeval sound, of which other sounds are just manifestations -gives one a feeling of unitary consciousness. It is Nada - Supreme Vibration - of Para- Brahma - the Absolute. Hence, it is anadi – eternal- and self-illuminating. It is Ekakshara Brahma as it encapsulates the Supreme Being in one mystical expression.
To an earnest spiritual aspirant, Aum is the code to open up the cosmic lock of Being. The nano-way to meditate on the Ultimate, Unseen and Omniscient Reality. Aum is all – all is Aum : that which is in time or beyond it, says Mandukya Upanishad (verse 1). As such it finds mention in Hindu scriptures and is sacred to Buddhists, Jainas and others. Aum, the supermind awakener is Pranava, because through it the Almighty can be praised, invoked and accosted in Anahata Chakra – the heart region in the subtle human body. It is Udgitha - it can be chanted loudly as per the Chhandogya Upanishad which avers. Now, verify 'what is the udgitha is the Aum.What is Aum is the udgitha.' Aum is sarva-deva-maya – it comprises all divine beings and hence embodies the essence of their wisdom. Aum is a kshara-swarupa - of the nature of the Word that is indissoluble and indestructible . The Kathha Upanishad regards AUM as the everlasting spirit (eva¯ksharam brahma), the highest end (eva¯ksharam param) of an individual, the best and the highest support of all (a¯lambanam shreshtham; a¯lambanam param). As Para-Vak –the transcendental speech,
Aum manifests into vaikhari, madhyama and pashyanti-‘audible, thoughtful and illumined’– forms at mundane level. When its sound penetrates the depths of being, the embodied soul melts into bliss, crossing the layers of matter, life, consciousness, and thought. Individual self (jivatma) dissolves into Universal Self, individual mind into Universal mind and individual consciousness into Universal consciousness and one attains the state of dying while living (jivata marana) as explained by Bhakti and Sufi saints. Aum thus resuscitates the bliss nature of the Self. All the key mantras in Hinduism begin with this mystic syllable which emerged out of a viable combination of the fifty-two letters of the Sanskrit alphabet each, endowed with a nucleus of cosmic power. The vibration of Aum in creation can be heard by puissant souls (jagrita purusha ) in deep meditation. Aum is seen both as a single syllable and in parts(matra-s) as A(a-kara)U(u-kara) and M (m-akara), alluding to material(Vaisvanara), mental(Taijasa) and intellectual( Prajna) states beyond which comes transcendental dimension of the Self- Turiya–avastha. While the parts, A, U and M, are sometime identified respectively with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They stand for the Supreme reality. Amritabindu Upanishad advices that one should first concentrate on Aum, through the means of letters –a,u,m,- and then, without them, to know the imperishable Brahman, and to attain peace. Mandukya Upanishad says that he who knows Aum and Atman as One, ‘merges himself in the Self.’
Chanting Aum: Aum can be chanted in three ways - through mouth, through mind and through being. The first method is mechanical, second, mental and the last supramental. In the first two cases emphasis can be either on the sound of letters a, u, or m in successive mode virtually uninterruptedly ; or on u (O or oo) and ‘m’ in normal course – pronouncing syllables in a uniform manner or by giving an edge to one over the other. Preferably m, which comes at the end. The sound of 'a' in no sense, ignored, because it is inherent in other sounds and sometimes takes longer time while chanting. In either of the above mode of chanting, the beginning and the end must be slow, smooth, elongated, and focused on its deeper meaning, so as to imbibe vibrations from cosmic sphere. When recited fast, Aum looses energy and impact and cannot find the wavelength of the primal sound. Humming the sacred syllable is better than verbal chanting. Mental chanting is better than humming and chanting naturally with one’s whole being is the best. Aum can be chanted anytime, anywhere singly, in pair or pairs or in community gathering, both in secluded surroundings or in the open. However, it is better to chose a calm and quiet place in early morning or evening hours at the junction time of day and night called samdhya-kala. No specific posture is required but it is better to be seated on ground in an easy posture to partake of the earth’s magnetism naturally, keeping one’s spine erect.
The Mundhaka Upanishad regards Aum as the bow. 'The individual self' as arrow and Brahman or god as the target. (pranhavo dhanuhhsharo hy a¯tma¯ brahma tal lakshyam ucyate). The prophet advises meditation on the Self as Aum, to go beyond darkness of ignorance. (aum ity evam dhya¯yatha¯tma¯nam, svasti vah? pa¯ra¯ya tamasah? parasta¯t . The Kaivalya Upanishad suggests that the wise should repeatedly rub the individual soul( atma) with the syllable Aum - like two pieces of arani-wood used in Vedic times to light fire - both to kindle divine knowledge and to exhume karmic bonds.
At the climax of pranava–dhyana –uninterrupted contemplation on Aum - subject and object become one, and the whole being of a person is permeated with divine rhythm. Among spiritual beginners this spiritual experience does not last long, due to the predominance of negative samskaras – tendencies that remain deeply embedded in the mental sheath (manomaya kosha). However, in case of a puissant soul , Aum-dhun(dhuni)– the spontaneous reverberation of the sacred syllable - keeps resounding in the deeper self, day and night, and helps him to acquire the state of a sthitaprajna - he who is of firm mind and established wisdom, who is above pleasure and pain, loss and gain, and who revels in the world like a lotus in the pond. Death does not cause him fear as he understands that human life is just a change of garb from ethereal to material state, and vice versa - a transitional period of the soul in its movement towards perfection ; a forward step in eternity ,propelled by causation, on the twin wings of time and space.
Aum and Chakras: Being an all-pervasive sound , the chanting of Aum influences all the chakras in the subtle human body and activates prana –life & force. Besides giving one a feeling of unitary consciousness. The vibratory seat of Aum is Vishuddha chakra (throat centre) which it purifies, restraining the negative thought currents of the mind, awaiting expression. Focussing at Ajna Chakra along with the chanting of Aum, activates the pineal gland and brings out the cognitive potential of a person which can be transmuted for higher purpose – the awakening of consciousness. Unlike meaningless syllables, which tranquilize the mind by constant repetition, Aum has a soothing effect on all the three states of self namely, waking, dream and deep sleep – jagrat, svapna and sushupti .Consequently, the fluctuations of mind are checked, the faculty of intuition gets empowered and the prajna chakshu. The inner vision opened.
When Aum-chanting emanates from the heart, it sprouts feelings of kindness and love , tearing apart the knots of anger and hatred within. As the sound touches the navel (manipura) it regulates fire-element in the gross body(sthula sharira) and burns up toxins. Moving downward in the lower chakras –muladhara and svadhishthana - it controls sense organs from going astray, and helps in the sublimation of vital energy. Some spiritual preceptors advice householders (grihasthi-s) not to recite Aum without the prefix Hari, lest regular practice turns them into renunciates. But this seems to be more or less a myth. Aum-chanting, even for a few minutes, fills the surrounding environment with peaceful vibrations, affecting even plants, trees and the animal kingdom. So, as Swami Ramatirtha advised, sing the sacred syllable ‘in the language of feeling, sing it with your acts, sing it through every pore of your body. Let it course through your veins, let it pulsate in your bosom, let every hair on your body and every drop of your blood tingle with the truth that you are the Light of lights,the Sun of suns, the Ruler of the universe,the Lord of lords,the true self….’
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