Om was first perceived by the ancient yogis of prehistory and is not the exclusive property of any religion or philosophy. It is not a sectarian mantra; it belongs to all without distinction or exclusion. Nor was it invented by those primal sages. Rather, it is swayambhu–self-begotten, self-existent and self-sufficient. It arises spontaneously within, from the Self. It does not have to be artificially implanted or empowered in us by any kind of initiation. This mantra is going on in every one of us, but as long as we are outward-turned we do not become aware of it. It is only during meditation, when we enter into our own depths, that we become aware of Om, which has always been active within us.
The japa (repetition) and meditation of Om are not exclusively Hindu practices, but are also part of the Jain and Buddhist traditions. They are also indicated in the Bible. This should be no surprise since Moses was an initiate of the Egyptian religion which was rooted in Indian philosophy, as was proved by Apollonius of Tyana at the time of Jesus. Like Apollonius, Jesus himself lived and studied in India, and the Christian scriptures reflect this. The Nath Yogis, one of the oldest and most respected of monastic orders, claim that Jesus (Isha Natha) was a great adept of their order.
The Goal and the Way
“What world does he who meditates on Om until the end of his life, win by That? If he meditates on the Supreme Being with the Syllable Om, he becomes one with the Light, he is led to the world of Brahman Who is higher than the highest life, That which is tranquil, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme” (Prashna Upanishad 5:1,5,7).
This sacred Word was the heart of the primeval esoteric wisdom of the sages of ancient India. An essential part of that wisdom is the knowledge of words of power or mantras–a series of verbal sounds whose effect lies not in an assigned intellectual meaning, as is the character of common language, but which possesses an inherent sound-power that can produce a sublime spiritual effect.
This sacred Syllable is spelled out as Om, but it is usually written in the ideogrammatic forms:
It is most important in repeating Om 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.)
Om 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 Om unifies the mind and naturally concentrates it.
Om should be intoned giving full value to both the O and the M. That is, Om should be intoned with equal time on both letters: Oooommmm. Not Oommmmmm or Oooooomm. You need not be overexacting about this, but approximately so.
The way to receive the benefit of a mantra is japa, the continual repetition-intonation of the mantra. In this way the invoker is constantly imbued with the power and consciousness inherent in the mantra. It is best to intone Om mentally, silently, and to intone it throughout all your waking hours–not just during meditation.
Whenever we intone Om we align and link our consciousness to our spirit-soul with its innate potential, and with its Source the Divine Spirit and its powers.
Om Yoga Meditation Practice
Breath and sound are the two major spiritual powers possessed by us, and here is how they are combined for Om Yoga meditation.
1. Sit upright, comfortable and relaxed, with your hands on your knees or thighs or resting, one on the other, in your lap.
2. Turn your eyes slightly downward. Then close your eyes gently,. This removes visual distractions and reduces your brain-wave activity by about seventy-five percent, thus helping to calm the mind.
3. Breathe naturally. Your mouth should be closed so that all breathing is done through the nose. This, too 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.
Be aware of your breath naturally (automatically) flowing in and out as you breathe through your nose. Your breathing should always be easeful and natural, not deliberate or artificial.
4. Now in a very quiet and gentle manner begin mentally intoning (“singing” on a single note) Om once throughout each inhalation and once throughout each exhalation. 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.
Make sure the O and the M get approximately “equal time”–Oooommmm, not Oommmmmm or Oooooomm. Don’t torture yourself about this–approximately equal is good enough, and in time your intonations will automatically occur in this right manner. Also, your intonation of Om should begin when your inhalation/exhalation begins and end when it ends. In this way your intonations should be virtually continuous, not with long breaks between them. That is: OommOommOommOomm, or Oomm-Oomm-Oomm-Oomm, rather than Oomm…Oomm…Oomm…Oomm. Here, too, approximately continuous is sufficient.
5. For the rest of your meditation time keep on intoning Om in this manner–in time with the breath–listening to your inner intonations of Om. Let your awareness become fully absorbed in the mentally intoned sound of Om. No need to pull or push the mind–it will naturally come to rest in the sound. Just let the mind relax and sink or melt into it.
6. In time your inner, mental intonations of Om may change to an even more mellow or soft, subtle form, even to an inner whispering that is almost silent, but Om is always fully present and effective, and you will still be intoning Om in your intention. Your intonations may even become silent, like a soundless “mouthing” of Om, yet you will still be intoning Om in your intention. You may find that your intonations of Om 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.
7. In the same way you will find that your breath will also become more subtle and refined, and slow down. Sometimes your breath can become so light that it almost seems as though you are not breathing at all, just thinking the breath.
8. In Om Yoga we do not deliberately concentrate on any particular point of the body such as the third eye, as we want the subtle energies of Om 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 they come and go spontaneously, but keep centered in your intonations of Om.
9. 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 Om 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 Om, and are perfectly all right–but keep your attention centered in your intonations of Om 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–unique, actually–no one can say exactly what a person’s experiences in meditation are going to be like.
10. 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 in a relaxed and easeful manner, without strain.
11. Remember: Om Yoga meditation basically consists of three things: a) sitting with the downturned eyes closed; b) being aware of our breath as it moves in and out, and c) mentally intoning Om in time with the breath and listening to those mental intonations–all in a relaxed and easeful manner, without strain.
12. At the end of your meditation get up and go about your usual daily routine while continuing to intone Om in time with your breath. If sometimes you cannot intone in time with your breath, then intone Om over and over like the tolling of a bell until you can resume intoning with the breath.
For more information on Om Yoga practice, including some methods to enhance the practice, please read the book Om Yoga, Its Theory and Practice posted on ocoy.org.