Yoga is an eternal science intended to reveal and manifest the Eternal. Although the identity of the Supreme Self (Paramatma) and the individual Self (jivatma) with Soham is indicated in the Isha Upanishad (16) and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.4.1) respectively, no one knows exactly when it was that the knowledge of Soham Yoga was revealed in the world, but the most famous proponent of Soham Yoga was Gorakhnath, the greatest yogi in India’s recorded history, who numbered many enlightened yogis amongst his disciples and who established the Nath Yogi Sampradaya.
The Theory of Soham Yoga
Soham means: I Am That. It is the natural vibration of the Self, which occurs spontaneously with each incoming and outgoing breath. By becoming aware of it on the conscious level by mentally repeating it in time with the breath (So when inhaling and Ham when exhaling), a yogi experiences the identity between his individual Self and the Supreme Self.
According to the Nath Yogis (see my book Soham Yoga) Soham has existed within the depths of God from eternity; and the same is true of every sentient being. Soham, then, will reveal our inner being. By meditating on Soham we discover our Self within which Soham has existed forever. The simple intonation of Soham in time with the breath will do everything in the unfolding of the yogi’s spiritual consciousness.
The practice is very simple, and the results very profound. Truly wondrous is the fact that Soham Yoga can go on all the time, not just during meditation, if we apply ourselves to it. The whole life can become a continuous stream of liberating sadhana. “By the mantra ‘Soham’ separate the jivatma from the Paramatma and locate the jivatma in the heart” (Devi Bhagavatam 11.8.15).
The important thing about Soham Yoga is that it really works. It only takes perseverance.
The ancient yogis of India discovered that the root impulse of inhalation makes the subtle sound of So, and the root impulse of exhalation makes the subtle sound of Hum (written as Ham in Sanskrit). Since all creation is the thought or ideation of God, meaning is inherent in everything, including the breath: “That [So] I am [Ham].” In this way every living being is perpetually intoning Soham (Sohum) at the core of their being, saying: I AM THAT: the spirit-Self which is a divine part of the Divine Infinite.
No matter how many ages we wander in forgetfulness of our divine origin and nature, we are always affirming “I am That” without ceasing at each breath. But we have lost the awareness of that sacred thread of inmost knowledge and are now wandering without direction or discernment. But by mentally intoning Soham in time with the breath–So when inhaling and Ham when exhaling–we consciously take hold of the thread and begin moving in the right direction.
The Practice of Soham Yoga Meditation
Repeating Soham in a constant flow with the breath turns the mind inward and produces spiritual awareness in an ever-increasing degree. So whenever we intone Soham in time with the breath, we align and link our consciousness with its origin: both our spirit and Divine Spirit.
For the repetition of Soham to produce its effect it must be pronounced correctly. Soham is pronounced like our English words So and Hum. The short a in Sanskrit is pronounced like the u in up or hunt, so we say “hum” even though we write it as “ham.”
It is most important to pronounce the O correctly. It should be pronounced like the long o in the Italian or common American manner–as in home and lone. In England, Canada, and parts of the American South, the long o is sometimes pronounced as a diphthong, like two vowels jammed together: either like “ay-oh” or “eh-oh.” This is not the correct manner of pronouncing the O, which should be a single, pure vowel sound.
The same is true of the U in ham (hum). As already pointed out, it is pronounced like the u in up or hunt–not like the u in truth or push, as is done in parts of Great Britain.
A mantra is most effective if it is mentally intoned–that is, mentally “sung”–on a single note. (The pitch does not matter–whatever is spontaneous and natural.) This makes the repetition stronger and of deeper effect, because intoning unifies the mind and naturally concentrates it.
How to Practice Soham Yoga Meditation:
- Sit upright, comfortable and relaxed, with your hands on your knees or thighs or resting, one on the other, in your lap.
- Turn your eyes slightly downward and close them gently. This removes visual distractions and reduces your brain-wave activity by about seventy-five percent, thus helping to calm the mind. During meditation your eyes may move upward and downward naturally of their own accord. This is as it should be when it happens spontaneously. But start out with them turned slightly downward without any strain.
- Be aware of your breath naturally (automatically) flowing in and out. Your mouth should be closed so that all breathing is done through the nose. This also aids in quieting the mind. Though your mouth is closed, the jaw muscles should be relaxed so the upper and lower teeth are not clenched or touching one another, but parted. Breathe naturally, spontaneously. Your breathing should always be easeful and natural, not deliberate or artificial.
- Then in a very quiet and gentle manner begin mentally intoning Soham in time with your breathing. (Remember: Soham is pronounced like our English words So and Hum.) Intone Soooooo, prolonging a single intonation throughout each inhalation, and Huuummm, prolonging a single intonation throughout each exhalation, “singing” the syllables on a single note. There is no need to pull or push the mind. Let your relaxed attention sink into and get absorbed in the mental sound of your inner intonings of Soham. Fit the intonations to the breath–not the breath to the intonations. If the breath is short, then the intonation should be short. If the breath is long, then the intonation should be long. It does not matter if the inhalations and exhalations are not of equal length. Whatever is natural and spontaneous is what is right. Your intonation of Soooooo should begin when your inhalation begins, and Huuummm should begin when your exhalation begins. In this way your intonations should be virtually continuous, that is: SooooooHuuummmSooooooHuuummmSooooooHuuummmSooooooHuuummm. Do not torture yourself about this–basically continuous is good enough.
- For the rest of your meditation time keep on intoning Soham in time with your breath, calmly listening to the mental sound.
- In Soham meditation we do not deliberately concentrate on any particular point of the body such as the third eye, as we want the subtle energies of Soham to be free to manifest themselves as is best at the moment. However, as you meditate, you may become aware of one or more areas of your brain or body at different times. This is all right when such sensations come and go spontaneously, but keep centered on your intonations of Soham in time with your breath.
- In time your inner mental intonations of Soham may change to a more mellow or softer form, even to an inner whispering that is almost silent, but the syllables are always fully present and effective. Your intonations may even become silent, like a soundless mouthing of Soham or just the thought or movement of Soham, yet you will still be intoning Soham in your intention. And of this be sure: Soham never ceases. Never. You may find that your intonations of Soham move back and forth from more objective to more subtle and back to more objective. Just intone in the manner that is natural at the moment.
- In the same way you will find that your breath will also become more subtle and refined, and slow down. Sometimes the breath may not be perceived as movement of the lungs, but just as the subtle pranic energy movement which causes the physical breath. Your breath can even become so light that it seems as though you are not breathing at all, just thinking the breath (or almost so).
- Thoughts, impressions, memories, inner sensations, and suchlike may also arise during meditation. Be calmly aware of all these things in a detached and objective manner, but keep your attention centered in your intonations of Soham in time with your breath. Do not let your attention become centered on or caught up in any inner or outer phenomena. Be calmly aware of all these things in a detached and objective manner. They are part of the transforming work of Soham, and are perfectly all right, but keep your attention centered in your intonations of Soham in time with your breath. Even though something feels very right or good when it occurs, it should not be forced or hung on to. The sum and substance of it all is this: It is not the experience we are after, but the effect. Also, since we are all different, no one can say exactly what a person’s experiences in meditation are going to be like.
- If you find yourself getting restless, distracted, fuzzy, anxious or tense in any degree, just take a deep breath and let it out fully, feeling that you are releasing and breathing out all tensions, and continue as before.
- Remember: Soham Yoga meditation basically consists of four things: a) sitting with the eyes closed; b) being aware of our breath as it moves in and out, and c) mentally intoning Soham in time with the breath and d) listening to those mental intonations: all in a relaxed and easeful manner, without strain. Breath and sound are the two major spiritual powers possessed by us, so they are combined for Soham Yoga practice. It is very natural to intone Soham in time with the breathing. The way is simple and easy.
- At the end of your meditation time, keep on intoning Soham in time with your breath as you go about your various activities, listening to the inner mantric sound, just as in meditation. One of the cardinal virtues of Soham sadhana is its capacity to be practiced throughout the day. The Yoga Rasyanam in verse 303 says: “Before and after the regular [meditation] practice, the repetition of Soham should be continuously done [in time with the breath] while walking, sitting or even sleeping…. This leads to ultimate success.”
Can it be that simple and easy? Yes, because it goes directly to the root of our bondage which is a single–and therefore simple–thing: loss of awareness. Soham is the seed (bija) mantra of nirvanic consciousness. You take a seed, put it in the soil, water it and the sun does the rest. You plant the seed of Soham in your inner consciousness through japa and meditation and both your Self and the Supreme Self do the rest. By intentionally intoning So and Ham with the breath we are linking the conscious with superconscious mind, bringing the superconscious onto the conscious level and merging them until they become one. It is divinely simple!
Soham Yoga Sadhana in three sentences
The two supreme yogis of India’s history, Matsyendranath and Gorakhnath, and the Yoga Chudamani Upanishad have made three statements that are most important for the yogi, for they present the essence of Soham Sadhana.
- The inhalation comes in with the subtle sound of So, and the exhalation goes out with the subtle sound of Ham.
- There is no knowledge equal to this, nor has there ever been in the past or shall be in the future any knowledge equal to this.
- There is no japa equal to this, nor has there ever been in the past or shall be in the future any japa equal to this.
The implication is that the unequaled, and therefore supreme, knowledge and the unequaled and supreme yoga practice are the mental intonations of So throughout the inhalation and Ham throughout the exhalation. And therefore that intoning So and Ham in time with the breath is the totality of Soham Yoga practice.
Such gimmicks as thinking the breath is going up the spine with the intonation of So and down the spine with the intonation of Ham, or intoning Soham at the chakras, are not Soham Sadhana. Consequently, the Soham yogi’s attention should be only on the movement of his breath and his mental intonations of So and Ham in time with it.
These three statements of Matsyendranath, Gorakhnath and the Yoga Chudamani Upanishad also imply that the difference between Soham Yoga and other yogas is the difference between lightning and lightning bugs.
What can you expect?
Yoga and its practice is a science and the yogi is the laboratory in which that science is applied and tested. At first the aspirant takes the word of a book, a teacher or other aspirants that a yoga method is worthwhile, but eventually it is his personal experience alone that should determine his evaluation of any yoga practice. Because each person is unique in his makeup there can be a tremendous difference in each one’s experience of yoga. Nevertheless, there are certain principles which can be stated.
If a yogi is especially sensitive or has practiced the method in a previous life, he may get obviously beneficial results right away. Yet for many people it takes a while for a practice to take hold and produce a steadily perceptible effect. One yogi I knew experienced satisfactory effects immediately. Then to his puzzlement for some days it seemed that absolutely nothing was happening, that his meditation was a blank. But he had the deep conviction (no doubt from a past life as a yogi) that Soham sadhana was the right and true way for him. So he kept on meditating for hours at a time. Then one morning during the final hour of meditation results began coming in the form of experiences that he had not had before. All doubt was dispelled, and he knew he was on the right track. From then onward everything was satisfactory, though there were alternating periods of active experiences and simple quiet observation of inner rest.
Experiences, as I say, can be different for everyone, but certainly peace and refinement of consciousness can be expected. Many things will occur that simply cannot be described because ordinary human language has no words for them. The real test is the yogi’s state of mind outside meditation. This he should watch carefully. And he must make sure that he is always practicing correctly. Fortunately, Soham sadhana is simple and easy to do.
Warning: Do Not Interfere!
We are used to directing and controlling as much of our life as possible. But what applies to the external life as wisdom is not necessarily so in the internal life of meditation. The very simple twelve points given previously when followed exactly in a relaxed and calm manner will produce the inner environment in which Soham can do its divine work of revealing itself as the consciousness that is the yogi’s true Self. If there is any interference in the form of trying to change something or direct the meditation or experience in any way, the process is interrupted and will produce no results. Naturally, since the practice is so incredibly simple and we have read all kinds of propaganda about “powerful” yogas and the chills and thrills they produce and the “profound insights” and even visions of higher worlds, etc. and etc. that supposedly result from them, we wonder if there surely isn’t “more than this to it” and consider trying out such gimmicks as intoning Soham at the chakras, integrating it with some artificial form of pranayama, concentrating on the spine while visualizing/imagining currents moving up and down the spine, and other “enhancements” that may entertain but will only be obstacles to success in Soham sadhana.
The truth is that Soham intoned in time with the breath immediately begins producing a tremendous number of yogic kriyas, but kriyas that are so subtle and natural that they are usually not perceived. It takes real refinement of the mental energies to experience much of what Soham effects in the entire being of the yogi. I have been astonished at how profound the effects of Soham sadhana are, and some of my experiences have been really incredible, but I have had decades of yogic practice behind me to enable me to experience and understand the workings of Soham. I am not describing any of these experiences lest when you encounter them yourself you wonder if your experience is only autosuggestion based on my description.
Be wise and just breathe and intone Soham in time with it with eyes closed during mediation and open during the rest of the day’s activity. Nothing else, but just being aware of that process and listening to the inner intonations of Soham is the secret and the assurance of success. And that is all. Soham must not be interfered with–it really cannot be, so any attempt will interrupt and spoil the practice and drag you back on the path of samsara, however “yogic” it may seem to you.
Simplicity of practice
The simpler and more easeful the yoga practice, the more deeply effective it is. This is a universal principle in the realm of inner development and experience. How is this? In the inner world of meditation things are often just the opposite to the way they are in the outer world. Whereas in the outer world a strong aggressive force is most effective in producing a change, in the inner world it is subtle, almost minimal force or movement that is most effectual–even supremely powerful. Those familiar with homeopathic medicine will understand the concept that the more subtle an element is, the more potentially effective it is. In meditation and japa the lightest touch is usually the most effective. This being so, the simple subtle intonations of Soham are the strongest and most effective form of mantric invocation.
Subtlety of practice
Soham sadhana is extraordinarily powerful, yet until we become attuned to it by some time of practice it may seem very mild, just a kind of yogic sitting-up exercise. But it is a mighty tool of yoga alchemy. The secret of its power and effectiveness is its subtlety–the very thing that may cause it to be disregarded and not recognized for its intense value, for it is the subtle energies that are able to work lasting changes in our awareness. The more evolved consciousness or energy becomes, the more refined and subtle it becomes–truly spiritual.
It is the very subtle energies that are able to work lasting changes in our awareness. The more evolved consciousness or energy becomes, the more refined and subtle it becomes. Thus it is the highest level of spiritual powers alone that are able to effect our ascent in consciousness.
Tension of any kind interferes with these energies. It is important, then, to keep in mind that often when things seem stuck in meditation and not moving as they should, or when the mind does not calm down, it is often because we are not relaxed sufficiently and are not allowing our inner intonations of Soham to become as subtle as they should be. For the subtler the intonations, the more effective and on target they are.
Even so, I do not mean to give you the impression that your inner intonations of Soham should become feeble or weak in the sense of becoming tenuous–only barely within your mental grasp, and liable to slip away and leave you blank. Not at all. The inner sound of the intonations may become subtler and subtler, but they do not at all become weaker–only gentler and more profound and therefore more effective.
In point 6 of the Soham Meditation instructions I said that “we do not deliberately concentrate on any particular point of the body such as the third eye, as we want the subtle energies of Soham to be free to manifest themselves as is best at the moment.” There is an exception to that. On occasion, such as at the very beginning of meditation or when during the rest of the day you find your attention drifting from the breath and Soham, it can be helpful to make yourself very gently (lest you give yourself a headache from tension) aware of your entire brain (Sahasrara) area, feeling that the breath and Soham intonations are taking place there.
Usually a short time of this awareness (which can arise spontaneously as well) is sufficient, but I know some people who prefer to keep their awareness on the Sahasrara most of the time.
A final word
All the theory and eulogy in the world regarding a meditation method mean virtually nothing. But practice is everything. In yoga more than anything else, practice certainly does Make Perfect. And the practice is so marvelously simple. Consequently, as a friend I urge you in every sense of the expression to literally take this practice to heart. Meditation produces steady spiritual growth if there is steady practice.
The secret of success is regularity in meditation. If you meditate regularly, every day, great will be the result.
So it really is all up to you. The sane and sober voice of the sages and scriptures of India assures us that through the simple japa and meditation of Soham all possible spiritual attainments will be realized.
Sri Gajanana Maharaj On Soham With The Breath
Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri)
It is consistently found in books on yoga that the expression “ajapa japa” refers to the production of “So” by the inhalation and “Ham” by the exhalation. And the “practice” of ajapa japa is always the mental japa of Soham in time with the breathing. The word “Soham” is certainly a mantra, but it is only ajapa japa when done with the breath: “So” throughout the inhalation and “Ham” throughout the exhalation, the breath being natural and spontaneous, not deliberate. Therefore, when in Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self and Light of Soham the expression “ajapa japa” is found, it means the joining of Soham with the breath, not just the repetition of Soham over and over like an ordinary mantra, for then it would be ordinary mantra japa, not ajapa japa.
Here are Sri Gajanana Maharaj’s words on the subject. The words in italics are mine.
As this Soham Mantra is the mantra of all the Nine Nathas and as it is also the mantra signifying the action of breathing of all creatures, an aspirant who takes to it is sure to make some progress in this very birth and to get experiences showing his progress.
Since Soham is the mantra of the breath, the way to get experience and progress is to do its japa in time with the breath.
Now let us see the real significance of “Soham.” All creatures are taking in and giving out breath. The number of breaths in the whole day amounts to twenty-one thousand and six hundred. The taking in of the breath generates the sound “So” and the-giving out generates the sound of “Ham.” Thus the sound of “Soham” is being continuously generated in every creature, although-very few are conscious of it. To be conscious of this sound is the real “Sudarshana” of “Soham,” which means “I am He.” “Soham,” therefore, is the sign showing the oneness of Jiva (human soul) and Shiva (Supreme Soul).… This is the real Dhyana-Yoga or Raja-Yoga.
Soham is inseparable from the breath. The breath and Soham are one, not two. Obviously japa of Soham with the breath is the way to become conscious of the perpetual sound. Awareness of this japa of Soham in time with the breath is the Sudarshana Chakra of the Self.
When the power of breath gets an upward turn, the breath proceeds upwards through the Sushumna and… proceeds to the brahmarandhra at the centre of the brain. The Soham consciousness then merges in the unknowable Supreme Self and the sadhaka attains perfection.
The “power of breath” gets an upward turn by the japa of Soham being done in time with the breath.
Maharaj quotes the following verse of Mahipati: “The seed was sown by the sadguru in the ear and the crop began to grow in the eyes in the form of light. The breath and mind were made one and I became as it were mad with joy.”
The seed is Soham, and the breath and mind are “made one” by Soham japa in time with the breath.
Sri Narayana Saraswati, after hearing the vision of Sri Gajanana Maharaj in which he was initiated by Sri Matsyendranath, blessed him and said: “I shall always manifest myself to you in your breath” obviously through Soham japa in time with the breath.
“Kabir has said, ‘If you want to know the Eternal, you won’t find Him in the Vedas, the Shastras or in the Koran, in the Temples or in the Mosques. Penance, pilgrimage, breath-control, or living on merely Neem leaves would not lead you to Him. You can find Him only in your breath (Soham- “So” when taking in and “Ham” when giving out the breath).’”
The words in parentheses are Maharaj’s, and underline the blessing of Sri Narayana Saraswati: “I shall always manifest myself to you in your breath.”
My guru showered his grace upon me and gave me the ajapa japa mantra of Soham. This grace has deeply entered the innermost recesses of my heart.
[My guru] blessed me by giving me the mantra of Soham. This mantra is the inner, subtle sound produced by the incoming and outgoing breaths. Everyone is breathing and producing this sound, but no one is conscious of it. Hence no one practices this japa. But if anyone carries on the practice by fixing his attention upon this japa, he will be sure to obtain its fruit. I carried on the japa with perseverance and firm faith, and later this practice became my nature.
The way to be conscious of the inner sound of Soham is to repeat it in time with the breath–“So” when inhaling and “Ham” when exhaling. “This japa” is the japa of Soham in time with the breath. And that is the japa Maharaj speaks of in the final sentence.
The mantra Soham was hidden in the Avyakta in the deep recesses of my own soul. This treasure was with me but I had forgotten the place where it was hidden. The saints pointed out to me that place and from that time I have been continuously contemplating on the Self.
The place where Soham was hidden is the breath. Contemplation on the Self is done in the breath by Soham japa in time with the breath.
This Soham is ever present in every being in the form of his own Self. This Soham is continuously going on, it never stops.
Soham is present in all as the continuous breath. By repeating Soham in time with the breath the Soham-Self becomes known.
Even while we are conscious of worldly objects our meditation on Soham must be ceaselessly going on…. Thus, the state of ajapa-japa is reached.
Everyone knows that “ajapa-japa” means the inner sound of Soham in time with the breath. Only through conscious Soham japa also in time with the breath can the state of ajapa-japa be reached. Maharaj continues:
When this is reached we experience the state of samadhi even while we are doing worldly activities. The mind itself becomes one with Soham and the truth of the following words is realized: “The mind has become fixed and motionless in one place. Atmic bliss has, therefore, been realized to the full. Nothing remains lacking.”
The one place is which the mind is fixed and motionless is the breath. This is made possible by japa of Soham in with and in the breath.
As long as the breath goes on, life goes on, and the activities of the body go on. The saints have explained the meaning of the incoming and outgoing breath, and Soham is the sound which is produced by the incoming and outgoing breath. This Soham sound is ceaselessly being repeated in our body whether we are conscious of it or not. If we become conscious of this internal Soham, we shall experience peace of mind. If we fully understand this Soham, we shall attain complete bliss, which is the real nature of Soham, and become one with it.
The underlined portion refers to Soham japa with the breath. And as Maharaj says we are to “become conscious of this internal Soham.” This is done by the japa of Soham with the breath.
My brothers and sisters should remember that a liking for and devotion to Vithal (God) is the result of the accumulation of great merit in previous lives. If you have this liking, Vithal in the form of Soham who has His dwelling in the outgoing and incoming breath of every human being, will be realized by you. I say this from my own experience. You may have no faith in me but you should have faith in this Soham.
Vithal and Soham have their “dwelling in the outgoing and incoming breath of every human being.” Therefore this realization requires the joining of Soham to the outgoing and incoming breath. That alone is “this Soham” in which we are to have faith.
The ajapa japa is automatically going on in the breath (So in taking the breath in, and Ham in giving out). When one repeats this japa of Soham consciously then it is called ajapa japa. If one fixes his attention on the sound produced by the breath, the three nerves–Ida, Sushumna, and Pingala, become free in their actions.
Soham is the pure Sudarshana, which removes all distinctions and gives the experience of Unity in diversity. He who has this Sudarshana in his hand becomes himself Lord Sri Krishna. The four Vedas, the six shastras and the eighteen Puranas describe nothing else except the Sudarshana.… The Sudarshana is situated in your breath. It destroys the three kinds of pains which beset a human being.
The Sudarshana is the Soham Breath itself, the japa of Soham in time with the breath.
The following are words of Sri Gajanana Maharaj spoken to Mr. Vishwanath Gopal Vaidya at various times.
Disciples ask the guru, “Where is the ‘Soham Sudarshana’? Please explain it to me.” Listening to the disciple’s query, the guru says, “The Soham Sudarshana is in the breath, which eliminates the three types of anxieties, namely: those pertaining to this physical body, those pertaining to this material world and those pertaining to the attainment of moksha. Soham Sudarshana is when the mind is moving in the interior ajapa by the repetition of Soham in time with the breath.
When the jiva, the individual Self, and Shiva, the Supreme Self, merge inwardly through the japa of Soham, that is the means whereby you can become immortal when perfectly established in that state. Understand that this Soham Hansa (Swan of Soham) state is the ultimate state in yoga.
Meditate on the sounds of the inner, mental repetition of Soham until they reveal the Self.
To what I am going to tell you, listen carefully. Keep your awareness within the head [the brain, the sahasrara chakra, the thousand-petalled lotus]. There you will find the Gurupada, the feet of the Inner Guru, the Self. Be absorbed in the subtle sound of your mental intonations of Soham in time with the breath.
[In Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self, there is a citation in the third chapter from a talk by Swami Muktananda in which he speaks of this very same teaching of the Nath Yogis about the Gurupada in the sahasrara. Editor’s note.]
Mr. Vaman Keshav Mahegaonkar, a disciple of Gajanana Maharaj, told the following:
Once in meditation I saw Sri Dattatreya, who asked me whether I had understood the meaning of Soham. According to my understanding I replied, “‘So’ means ‘He’–that is, God–and ‘Ham’ means ‘I am.’ Hence Soham means that God is my Self.” Hearing this reply Sri Dattatreya nodded His head in approval, but asked me again whether I knew any other meaning of that mantra. I, however, could not answer this question. Then Sri Dattatreya told me with His own lips that “So” meant taking in of the breath and “Ham” meant letting out of the breath. Hence, he said, Soham meant Taking In and Letting Out. What is to be taken in and what is to be let out? The answer to that is that bad qualities, passions, egotism etc., are to be let out and then good qualities–that is, good morals, faith in truth and devotion to God–are to be taken in. First of all bad qualities are to be let out and then good qualities are to be taken in. Soham can be interpreted in this manner also.
Mr. Balkrishna Mahadeo Gadkari, another disciple of Gajanana Maharaj, wrote:
I first got the darshan of Sri Gajanana Maharaj in the month of May, 1929. After I had the good fortune of being in his company for four or five days, he had me sit near him and placed the right palm of his hand on my head. He told me to shut my eyes and fix my mind inside on the movements of breath, and he favored me with the japa of Soham. When I had repeated the japa of Soham for five minutes, he in his great mercy manifested to me a strong light and said, “This is the light of your own Self. By means of the Soham japa you will be able to see it constantly.”
At the end of Atmaprabha, Sri Gajanana Maharaj concludes: “With these words I stop and enter into the deep and changeless love and joy of the ajapa japa of Soham.” As we see from all the foregoing, the ajapa japa of Soham is “done” in time with the breath.
For a more in-depth introduction to Soham Yoga Meditation, read Soham Yoga: Its Theory and Practice.
If you have a serious interest in this practice, we recommend you read Abbot George Burke’s book on the subject of Soham Yoga entitled: Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self.