Preface to Om Yoga
Most of the world is familiar with the mathematical formula: E=mc2. But this is not just mathematics and physics, it is a statement about the nature of the universe and everything in it including us. If we take a block of ice and let it sit at room temperature, in time we will not have ice, but water. Water is the actual substance of the block and ice was just its momentary form. The reason that matter can be turned into energy as this little formula postulates, is the fact that all things already are energy, matter just being their temporary form. Furthermore, Quantum Physics has realized that energy is essentially consciousness. If this is thought about sufficiently it will revolutionize the way we see the world around us and ourselves.
Everything is vibrating energy and therefore everything emits very subtle sound patterns. The yoga adepts of India perceived these sound patterns and translated them into verbal forms that could reproduce them. These are known as mantras. Mantra is a Sanskrit term that means “a transforming thought” because when it is repeated a mantra transforms the ordinary consciousness of the repeater into higher consciousness. The repetition of a mantra to produce this transformation of consciousness is called japa. Mantras are never spoken like ordinary speech but are intoned or “sung” on a single note.
There are many mantras of varying character and potency. The mantra which embodies the Supreme Consciousness that is God is a single syllable: Om. It is called the Pranava, which means both the Word of Life and the Breath Word, since prana means both life and breath. In the Bhagavad Gita (7:8), the most widely-read scripture of India, we find these words: “I am Om, the Word that is God.” The yogis of India in Bengal usually use a symbolic form like this for the Divine Word, Om:
This ideogram for Om symbolizes the four states of consciousness. The larger, lower part represents the waking state. The part just above that represents the dreaming state. The crescent above that represents the state of dreamless sleep. The dot represents the state of pure consciousness which pervades the other three. The single dot also represents perfect unity. Om is the embodiment of all four states.
Om meditation is simple, but remember that E=mc2 is also very simple. An atomic explosion results from the movement of a single atomic particle. So it is with Om. The more you use it the more you will experience and benefit.
The statement that Om embodies the Divine Consciousness may seem an exaggeration, but to the yogi everything in the universe is a manifestation of that Consciousness. Some objects veil it, some reveal or lead toward it, and Om simply is it. Yoga is not a religion in the formal sense, so it has no dogmas. Rather, it presents various practices and says: “See for yourself that this is real: it works.”
The most important thing to understand about yoga is that experience is the key element. Yoga is its own proof of validity, and the spiritual progress made by the yogi through its practice is the yogi’s validation. So if you carefully follow the instructions given in this book you will come to know, not just believe, that Om bestows the highest consciousness on those who invoke it continually, for that is the way in which the power and purpose of the Om mantra can be realized.
The yoga of the Self
Authentic yoga brings about everything spontaneously from deep within, from the Self. The yoga tradition says that the contemplation of the Pranava, Om, is the contemplation of our own true nature. It is the knowledge of our own Self. In yoga everything happens naturally and spontaneously at just the right time, simply through the Om breath. When the breath and Om are perfectly merged it is the major force of inner transformation-transmutation. The Om breath is the inner secret of the yogi.
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. During meditation, when we enter into our own depths, we become aware of Om, which has always been active within us.
“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).
Regarding the Pranava, Om, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (1:28) simply says: “Its repetition and meditation is the way.” The major Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, as well as the Yoga Sutras, advocate meditation on Om, the sacred Syllable that both symbolizes and embodies Brahman, the Absolute Reality.
It is my hope that you will test for yourself the spiritual alchemy of Om Yoga that is set forth here. “This is the bridge to immortality.…May you be successful in crossing over to the farther shore beyond darkness” (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.5, 6).
“This is the bridge to immortality.…May you be successful in crossing over to the farther shore beyond darkness” (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.5, 6).
Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri)
Light of the Spirit Monastery (Atma Jyoti Ashram)
(Please see A Brief Sanskrit Glossary for the definition of unfamiliar words and also for brief biographical information on unfamiliar persons.)
Read the next chapter in Om Yoga: Yoga
Om Yoga links:
Preface to Om Yoga: The Physics of OM
- The Word That Is God
- OM in the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Yoga Sutras
- Om Yoga Meditation
- The Yogi’s Subtle Anatomy and Meditation
- Breath and Sound in Meditation
- Points For Successful Meditation
- Afterword: It Is All Up To You
- Appendix Three: Practical Applications of Om
More on OM Yoga:
- Appendix One: The Glories and Powers of OM
- Appendix Two: Christian Insights on Om Yoga
- Foundations of Yoga
Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary
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