Yoga and Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion, are found in their original purity in the Rig and Yajur Vedas, the eleven major upanishads (Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, and Shvetashvatara), the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Besides the passages on Om to be found in these sources, I am including relevant parts from the earliest texts on yoga and the writings of Vyasa and Shankara, the two most influential teachers of India. In all of these we find the original yoga and philosophy of Indian’s sages.
The Rig Veda
“He who knows not the eternal Syllable of the Veda [Om], the highest point upon which all the gods repose, what business has he with the Veda? Only its knowers sit here in peace and concord” (Rig Veda I.164.39).
The Yajur Veda
“At the time of departure from this world, remember Om, the Lord, the Protector” (Yajur Veda 40:15).
“That which glows [i.e., the sun] is Om” (Aitareya-Brahmana 5.32).
“This breath [prana] is also Om” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.23).
“Om is Brahman, the Primeval Being. This is the Veda which the knowers of Brahman know; through it one knows what is to be known” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.1.1).
“One should meditate on this Syllable [Om]. That is the quintessence of the essences, the Supreme, the highest” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.1.1, 3).
“Speech [vak] and breath [prana] are joined together in the Syllable Om. Verily, whenever the pair come together, they fulfil each other’s desire. He who knowing this thus, meditates on the Syllable, becomes, verily, a fulfiller of desires. Verily, this Syllable is of assent, for whenever one assents to anything he says simply ‘Om.’ What is assent is fulfillment. He, who knowing this thus, meditates on the Syllable, becomes, verily, a fulfiller of desires. Saying ‘Om,’ one recites: saying ‘Om,’ one orders: saying ‘Om,’ one sings aloud, in honor of that Syllable, with its greatness and its essence. He who knows this thus, and he who knows not, both perform with it. Knowledge and ignorance, however, are different. What, indeed, one performs with knowledge, faith, and meditation, that, indeed becomes more powerful. This, verily is the explanation of this Syllable” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.1.6-10).
“He obtains wishes by singing [intoning], who knowing this, meditates on the udgitha [Om when it is part of Vedic recitation] as the Syllable. This, with regard to the Self” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.2.14).
“One should meditate on the udgitha as this Syllable [Om]….Verily, the gods, when they were afraid of death, took refuge in the threefold knowledge [of the Rig, Saman, and Yajur Vedas].…Death saw them there in the Rig, in the Saman and in the Yajus just as one might see a fish in water. When they found this out, they rose out of the Rig, out of the Saman, out of the Yajus and took refuge in sound. Verily, then one learns the Rik, one sounds out Om. [It is] the same with Saman; [it is] the same with Yajus. This sound is that Syllable, the immortal, the fearless. Having entered this, the gods became immortal, fearless. He who knows it thus, praises this Syllable, takes refuge in that Syllable, in the immortal, fearless sound, and having entered it, he becomes immortal, even as the gods became immortal” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.4.1-5).
“Now, verily, what is the udgitha [Om when it is sung aloud in Vedic recitation] is the Pranava [Om]. What is the Pranava is the udgitha. And so verily, the udgitha is the yonder sun and the Pranava, for the sun is continually sounding ‘Om’” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.5.1).
“One should meditate on the breath in the mouth as the udgitha, for it is continually sounding Om” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.5.3).
“Now, verily, what is the udgitha is the Pranava. What is the Pranava is the udgitha. [If one knows this], verily, from the seat of the hotri priest, all wrong singing is corrected, yea is corrected” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.5.5).
“The Udgitha [Om] controls the worlds which are above the sun, as also the desires of the gods” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.6.8).
“He [who knows Om] attains the worlds beyond the sun and also the desired objects of the gods” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.7.7).
“What is the essence of this world? Akasha [Ether]. All these beings arise from akasha alone and are finally dissolved into akasha; because akasha alone is greater than all these and akasha is the support at all times. It is this Om which is progressively higher and better. This again is endless. He who, knowing thus, meditates upon the progressively higher and better Om, obtains progressively higher and better lives and wins progressively higher and better worlds. This is the udgitha [Om], highest and best. This is endless. He who, knowing this, mediates on udgitha, the highest and best, becomes the highest and best and obtains the highest and best worlds. When Atidhanvan Shunaka taught this udgitha to Udara Sandilya, he also said: ‘As long as they shall know this udgitha among your descendants, so long their life in this world will be the highest and best.’ And so will their state in that other world be. One who thus knows and meditates–his life in this world becomes the highest and best, and so his state in that other world, yea, in that other world.’” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.9.1-4).
Once the sage Usasti was approached and asked what “deity” presided over Om. “The sun, said Usasti, all these movable and immovable sing the praise of the sun when he has risen. This is the deity that belongs to Om” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.11.6, 7).
In Chandogya Upanishad 2.9.5 and 2.14.1, Om is said to be “the midday sun”–the idea being that Om is the plenitude of the Divine Light, the optimum manifestation-embodiment of that Light.
“The sun is Om” (Chandogya Upanishad 2.20.1; 2.21.1).
“Prajapati brooded on the worlds. From them, thus brooded upon, issued forth the threefold Veda (as their essence). He brooded on this. From this, thus brooded upon, issued forth the syllables Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah. He brooded on them. From them, thus brooded upon, issued forth (as their essence) the Syllable Om. Just as all the parts of the leaf are permeated by the ribs of the leaf, so are all the words permeated by the Syllable Om. Verily, the Syllable Om is all this–yea, the Syllable Om is verily all this” (Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.2, 3).
“Even as a great extending highway runs between two villages, this one and that yonder, even so the rays of the sun go to both these worlds, this one and that yonder. They start from the yonder sun and enter into the nadis. They start from the nadis and enter into the yonder sun.…When a man departs from this body, then he goes upwards by these very rays or he goes up with the thought of Om. As his mind is failing, he goes to the sun. That, verily, is the gateway of the world, an entering in for the knowers, a shutting out for the non-knowers” (Chandogya Upanishad 8.6.2, 5).
“I will tell you briefly of that Goal which all the Vedas with one voice propound, which all the austerities speak of, and wishing for which people practice discipline: It is Om. Om, indeed, is the lower [Saguna] Brahman; this is, indeed, the higher [Nirguna] Brahman. Anyone who, meditating on Om, wishes either of the two [aspects], by him that is attained. This [Om] is the best means [of attainment and realization]; this means is the Higher and Lesser Brahman. Meditating on Om, one becomes worthy of worship in the world of Brahman” (Katha Upanishad 1.2.15-17).
The Mukti Upanishad, one of the minor Upanishads, says this about the Mandukya Upanishad, which is completely devoted to the subject of Om: “The only means by which the final emancipation is attained, is through the Mandukya Upanishad alone, which is enough for the salvation of all aspirants.” And the Mandukya Upanishad says:
“Om: this Syllable is all this. All that is past, the present and the future, all this is only the Syllable Om. And whatever else there is beyond the threefold time, that too is only the Syllable Om. The Self [Atman] is of the nature of the Syllable Om.…Thus the Syllable Om is the very Self. He who knows it thus enters the Self [Supreme Spirit] with his Self [individual spirit]” (Mandukya Upanishad 1, 8, 12).
“Taking as the bow the great weapon of the Upanishads [Om], one should place in it the arrow sharpened by meditation. Drawing it with a mind engaged in the contemplation of That [Brahman], O beloved, know that Imperishable Brahman as the target. The Syllable Om is the bow: one’s Self, indeed, is the arrow. Brahman is spoken of as the target of that. It is to be hit without making a mistake. Thus one becomes united with it [Brahman] as the arrow becomes one with the target. He in whom the sky, the earth, and the interspace are woven, as also the mind along with all the pranas, know him alone as the one Self. Dismiss other utterances. This [Om] is the bridge to immortality. Meditate on Om as the Self. May you be successful in crossing over to the farther shore beyond darkness” (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.3-6).
“Satyakama, son of Shibi, asked [the Rishi Pippalada]: ‘Venerable Sir, what world does he who meditates on Om until the end of his life, win by That?’ To him, he said: ‘That which is the sound Om, O Satyakama, is verily the higher and the lower Brahman. Therefore, with this support alone does the wise man reach the one or the other.’…If he meditates on the Supreme Being [Parampurusha] with the Syllable Om, he becomes one with the Light, the Sun. He is led to the world of Brahman. He sees the Person that dwells in the body, who is higher than the highest life.…That the wise one attains, even by the mere sound Om as support, that which is tranquil, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme” (Prashna Upanishad 5:1, 2, 5, 7).
“The udgitha [Om] is the supreme Brahman, and in it are the Triad [the individual spirit, the cosmos, and the Cosmic Spirit]. It is the firm support, the imperishable. The knowers of Brahman by knowing what is therein [in the all-containing Om] become merged in Brahman, intent thereon [i.e., on Om] and freed from birth” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 1:7).
“As the form of fire when latent in its source is not seen and yet its seed is not destroyed, but may be seized again and again in its source by means of the drill [a pointed stick whirled to produce fire for the Vedic sacrifices], so it is in both cases. The Self has to be seized in the body by means of the Pranava. By making one’s body the lower friction stick and the Pranava the upper friction stick, by practicing the friction of meditation one may see the hidden God” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 1:13, 14).
“The knower of the real nature of Brahman that is identical with the Pranava, after keeping his body erect, by holding the three parts [the chest, the neck, and the head] in an upright posture, placing all the organs of perception and action along with the mind in his heart, should cross all the formidable streams [of samsara] with the ferryboat of the Pranava” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 2:8).
“God is the Syllable Om, out of him proceeds the Supreme Knowledge” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4:17).
“The Om that is the most exalted in the Vedas, that pervades all worlds, and that emerged from the immortal Vedas as their quintessence–may its, the supreme Lord, gratify me with intelligence. O Lord, may I be the receptacle of immortality. May my body be fit; may my tongue be surpassingly sweet; may I hear much through the ears. You are the sheath of Brahman: you are covered by [worldly] wisdom. Protect what I have learned” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.4.1).
“Om is Brahman. Om is all this. He who utters Om with the intention ‘I shall attain Brahman’ does verily attain Brahman” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.8.1).
“I am the Pranava” (Bhagavad Gita 7:8).
“Having confined the mind in the heart and…engaged in the practice of concentration, uttering the one-syllabled Om–the Brahman–and remembering me, he who departs, leaving the body, attains to the Supreme Goal. I am easily attainable by that ever-steadfast yogi who constantly and daily remembers me not thinking of anything else” (Bhagavad Gita 8:12-14).
“I am Omkara [Om]” (Bhagavad Gita 9:17).
“Among words I am the Ekakshara [Om]” (Bhagavad Gita 10:25).
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
“Ishwara [God] is a particular Purusha [Spirit, Person] who is untouched by the afflictions of life, actions, and the results and impressions produced by these actions. In him is the highest limit of omniscience. [“In him becomes infinite that all-knowingness which in others is only a germ”–Swami Vivekananda’s translation of the Yoga Sutras.] Being unconditioned by time he is teacher even of the ancients. His designator [vachaka–spoken form] is the Pranava [Om]. [“His manifesting word is Om”–Swami Vivekananda’s translation of the Yoga Sutras.] Its japa [constant repetition] and meditation is the way [or: should be done]. From it result [come] the disappearance of obstacles and the turning inward of consciousness. Disease, languor, doubt, carelessness, laziness, worldly-mindedness, delusion, non-achievement of a stage, instability, these cause the distraction of the mind and they are the obstacles. [Mental] pain, despair, nervousness, and agitation are the symptoms of a distracted condition of mind. For removing these obstacles [there should be] the constant practice of the one principle [the japa and meditation of Om]” (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:24-32).
The Laws of Manu (Manu Smriti) is the oldest code of laws in India.
“The threefold Knowledge is based on the Omkara. It [Om] is another Triple Veda; he who knows that Om is truly learned in the Veda” (Manu Smriti 11:266).
“The monosyllable Om is the highest Brahman.…Undoubtedly a Brahmin reaches the highest goal by japa of Om alone, whether he performs other rites or neglects them” (Manu Smriti 2:83, 87).
The Yogashishtha is the oldest book on yoga, second only to the Yoga Sutras in authority.
“The Cosmic Spirit utters Om and by pure will creates the various objects” (Yoga Vashishtha 3:67).
“The holy word, Om, bestows the highest state” (Yoga Vashishtha 5:54).
“Pranayama is accomplished by effortlessly breathing and joining to it the repetition of the sacred Om with the experience of its meaning, when the consciousness reaches the deep sleep state” (Yoga Vashishtha 5:78).
“I abandon all thoughts and notions; contemplating Om, I shall remain in the Self, in total inner silence” (Yoga Vashishtha 5:81).
“I shall now enter into the Self by the Self indicated by the culmination of the Om-sound as a lamp without fuel” (Yoga Vashishtha 5:87).
“My heart is established in the peace indicated by the resonance of Om” (Yoga Vashishtha 5:87).
“Brahman is the Truth that is indicated as Om” (Yoga Vashishtha 6:1:30).
“[The turiyatita state] is the Eternal, beyond the eternal and the transient; it is a pure mass of consciousness. In it there is no question of diversity. It is all, it is supreme blessedness and peace, it is beyond expression. It is purest Om. It is transcendent. It is supreme” (Yoga Vashishtha 6:1:34).
“He should repeat Om till the mind gains perfect peace” (Yoga Vashishtha 6:1:128).
“The one that is awakened is the inner Self, that is the Supreme Self whose name is Om” (Yoga Vashishtha 6:2:48).
“She [Mahashakti] is known as Uma because She is the very essence of the sacred monosyllable Om.…Since She exists as a ray of light in one who has been awakened by the contemplation of the subtle inner vibrations produced by the sound of Om, She is known as Indukala [ray of the moon]” (Yoga Vashishtha 6:2:84).
Minanath (Matsyendranath, founder of the Nath Yogi Sampradaya).
“Clearly [this Om] is the lord of supreme peace, the ultimate one” (Yogavishaya 18).
Gorakhnath (Gorakshanath), greatest of the Nath Yogis
“That supreme light, Om, is (that) in whose elements the worlds bhuh, bhavah and svah [the three lower worlds] and the divinities moon, sun and fire exist.
“In which the three times [past, present and future], the three Vedas, the three worlds [physical, astral and causal], the three [Vedic] accents, and the three gods [Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva] are situated, that, Om, is the supreme light.
“In which action and desire and knowledge, Brahmni, Raudri, and Vaisnavi, the threefold Shakti [of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, is contained, that, Om, is the supreme light.
“That Om, in which these three letters A, and likewise U and M, which has the bindu as its mark, exist, is the supreme light.
“With the voice one should repeat that bija; one should practice it with the body; with the mind one should remember: That, Om, is the supreme light.
“Whether [he be] either pure or impure, one who recites Om continually is not besmeared by sin, even as the leaf of the lotus [is not wet] by water” (Goraksha Shataka 84-89).
Gaudapada (the guru of Shankara)
“Om should be known. Having known Om, one should not think of anything whatsoever” (Mandukya Karika 1:24).
“One should concentrate one’s mind on Om, for Om is Brahman beyond fear. For a man, ever fixed in Brahman, there can be no fear anywhere” (Mandukya Karika 1:25).
“Om is surely the lower Brahman; and Om is considered to be the higher Brahman. Om is without cause, and without inside and outside; and it is undecaying. Om is indeed the beginning, middle, and end–everything. Having known this way indeed one attains immediately identity with the Self. One should know Om to be God seated in the hearts of all. Meditating on the all-pervasive Om, the intelligent man grieves no more. The Om, without measures and possessed of infinite dimension, is the auspicious entity where all duality ceases. He by whom Om is known, is the real sage, and not so is any other man” (Mandukya Karika 1:26-29).
“Om is used to serve as a means to the meditation on Brahman. As other scriptures say, This is the best help (to the realization of Brahman) and the highest” (Commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad).
“‘One should concentrate on the Self, uttering Om’ [Mahanarayan Upanishad 24:1]. ‘One should meditate upon the Supreme Being only through the Syllable Om’ [Prashna Upanishad 5:5] ‘Meditate upon the Self with the help of the Syllable Om’ [Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.6]. And so on. Although the words Brahman, Atman, etc. are names of Brahman, yet on the authority of the scriptures we know that Om is its most intimate appellation. Therefore it is the best means for the realization of Brahman” (Commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad).
“It is so in two ways–as a symbol and as a Name. As a symbol: Just as the image of Vishnu or any other god is regarded as identical with that god [for purposes of worship], so is Om to be treated as Brahman Why? Because Brahman is pleased with one who uses Om as an aid; for the scripture says, ‘This is the best help and the highest. Knowing this help one is glorified in the world of Brahman [Hiranyagarbha]’ (Katha Upanishad 2:17).
“The Supreme Self, being beyond the reach of the eye and other organs, cannot be perceived without some help, therefore the aspirant superimposes it with faith, devotion, and great rapture on the Syllable Om, as people superimpose Vishnu on images of stone etc. with carvings of his features. Whether the unconditioned Brahman or the conditioned Brahman, the Syllable Om becomes a means of realizing it. For another scripture has it, ‘The Syllable Om is the higher and lower Brahman’ (Prashna Upanishad 5:2).
“‘It [Om] is the Veda, [for] through it one knows what is to be known’ (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.1.1) There Om is the Veda or Name of Brahman. Through that Name the aspirant knows or realizes what is to be known: Brahman, which is the object signified or designated by the Name. Therefore ‘the Brahmanas know’ that it is the Veda: They mean that as a Name it is intended as a means to the realization of Brahman. Om is enjoined as a symbol of Brahman, for it is coordinated with the word Brahman in the sentence, Om is Brahman. Now it is being praised as the Veda, for the entire Vedas are but Om: They all issue out of it and consist of it; this Om is differentiated into the division of Rik, Yajus, and Saman [Vedic meters], etc., for another scripture says, ‘As by a stick all leaves are pierced, so all speech is pierced by Om’ (Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.4).
“Whether the unconditioned Brahman or the conditioned Brahman [is the goal], the Syllable Om becomes a means of realizing it… Here is another reason why Om is the Veda–through it, this Om, one knows whatever is to be known; hence this Om is the Veda. The other Vedas owe their Vedahood to this. Therefore Om, being so important, should be used as a means to Self-realization. If it is used as a means to realization, the entire Vedas are practically used” (Commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad).
“One should meditate on the Syllable Om, which is the Udgitha. This Syllable, Om, as the Name of the Supreme Reality, is nearest to him; when it is used He surely becomes gracious just as a man becomes so when his favorite name is used.…It is a symbol [indicator] of the Supreme Self [Paramatman]. Thus it is known in all the Upanishads that Om, as a name and as a symbol, holds the highest position of being an aid to the meditation of the Supreme Self. And its highest position is also well known from its being used very frequently at the beginning and end of repetition of holy names, rites, [scriptural] study, etc. Therefore this Syllable Om is to be meditated on in its verbal form. That is, one should continuously concentrate one’s mind on Om which forms a part of rites and is a symbol of the Supreme Reality.
“The Syllable Om is the inmost essence of all essences. It is supreme because of its being the symbol of the Supreme Self. It is competent to be worshipped as the Supreme Self. It is competent to take the place of the Supreme Self since it is to be worshipped like the Supreme Self.
“It is well known that Om has the quality of fulfilling all desires.
“He who meditates on Om becomes possessed of its quality. He who meditates on Om possesses the quality of fulfilling the desires of others. The meaning is that to him comes the result as stated before, in accordance with the Vedic text: ‘He assumes those very forms in [by means of] which he meditates on him.’” [Mandala Brahmana].
“Om is also possessed of the quality of prosperity. Being a meditator on Om as possessed of the quality of prosperity, one becomes endowed with that quality.
“Now then, since Om is to be meditated on, it is being praised. For through Om the knowledge of the three Vedas is gained. The Vedic rites are meant for the worship of the very Om because it is a symbol of the Supreme Self. The worship of That [Om] is surely the worship of the supreme Self.
“Om is possessed of the qualities of being the quintessence, the fulfiller, and prosperity.
“Because Om is the symbol of the Supreme Self it is the cause of immortality.
“The soul, when it departs from the body, goes upward by meditating on the Self with the help of Om as he did while living” (Commentary on the Chandogya Upanishad).
“‘Meditating on Om one is worshipped in the world of Brahman’ [Katha Upanishad]. The idea is this: Getting identified with Brahman, he becomes worshippable like Brahman” (Commentary on the Katha Upanishad).
“Just as the bow is the cause of the arrow’s hitting the target, so Om is the bow that brings about the soul’s entry into the Immutable. For the soul when purified by the repetition of Om gets fixed in Brahman with the help of Om without any hindrance, just as an arrow shot from a bow gets transfixed in the target” (Commentary on the Mundaka Upanishad).
“Om is essentially the same as the Self.…And the Supreme Brahman, too, is but Om.…Om is the same as the supreme as well as the inferior Brahman…by virtue of its being a means for the attainment of Brahman” (Commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad).
“When the Syllable Om is known, one should not think of anything whatsoever, serving any seen or unseen purpose; for he has got all his desires fulfilled.
“One should concentrate the mind on Om, which is essentially the supreme Reality, for Om is Brahman beyond fear, because for one who is ever fixed in it, there can be no fear anywhere, in accordance with the Vedic text, ‘The enlightened man is not afraid of anything (Taittiriya Upanishad 2.9).
“Om is both the higher and the lesser Brahman. When the letters disappear [in the state of meditation], Om becomes verily the supreme Self that is Brahman.…The idea implied is that it is coextensive with all that is inside or outside; it is birthless; and it is a mass of Consciousness, homogeneous like a lump of salt. Om is the origination, continuance, and dissolution of all–of the whole phenomenal universe.…In this way indeed, having known Om that is the Self, one attains identity with the Self at that very moment.
“One should know Om as God existing in the heart of all living beings. Having meditated on the all-pervasive Om, that is the Self beyond the worldly state, the intelligent man does not grieve, for no cause of grief can be possible then, in accordance with such Vedic tests as, ‘The knower of the Self transcends sorrow.’
“Om being beyond measures is Turiya, it has infinite dimension and its extent cannot be determined. It is auspicious and holy because of the negation of all duality. He who knows Om is a sage because of his meditating on the Supreme Reality, and not any other man, though he may be learned in the scriptures” (Commentary on the Mandukya Karika).
“As the supreme Brahman cannot be directly indicated by words, etc., and is devoid of all distinctions created by attributes–and as it is on that account beyond the senses–therefore the mind cannot explore it. But to those who meditate on Om, which is comparable to the images of Vishnu and others, and on which is fixed the idea of Brahman with devotion, that Brahman becomes favorable and reveals itself. This is understood on the authority of scriptures. Similar is the case with the lesser Brahman. Hence it is said in a secondary sense that that Brahman which is both lesser and higher is but Om. Therefore one who knows this attains either of the two [Brahmans] through this Om alone; only through this, that is a means for the attainment of the Self, consisting in meditation on Om; for Om is the nearest symbol of Brahman. The One is reached with the aid of Om, which is a vehicle of advance” (Commentary on the Prashna Upanishad).
“One should concentrate the mind on Om, which is essentially the supreme Reality.…By means of the boat of Om that is Brahman one crosses over [samsara, the ocean of birth and death]. The idea is that by controlling the senses through Om the enlightened person should cross over the currents of the river of transmigration with the help of that Om” (Commentary on the Shvetashvatara Upanishad).
“One should contemplate in one’s mind, that is, meditate, that Om, as a word, is Brahman. For Om is all this. All that consists of sound is Om, since everything is permeated by Om in accordance with another Vedic text: As by the fibers the leaves are pervaded, so by Om is pervaded all speech (Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.3) And since all that is nameable is dependent on the names, it is said that all this is Om. Om is to be meditated on. Wishing to attain the supreme Self one utters [does japa of] Om; and he does indeed attain Brahman through that Om. The meaning of the passage is that, since the activities that are undertaken with the utterance of Om become fruitful, Om should be meditated on as Brahman” (Commentary on the Taittiriya Upanishad).
“How should one perform devotion to the Lord, and what is the means of that devotion? To explain the form in which the devotee contemplates on him, the sutra says: His designator [vachaka] is the Pranava [Om]. Of the Lord who has been described, the designating Word is the Pranava.
“The word Pranava is explained in the following way etymologically: pra stands for prakarshena: ‘perfectly;’ nu (from nava) means nuyate: ‘He is praised.’ Thus Pranava, the word Om, praises (pranauti) the Lord. That is, the Lord is devoutly worshipped (pranidhiyate) through it by his devotees. They bow down (pranam) to him through it. Through it they worship (pranidha) the Lord mentally; here the extra dha stands for the final [syllable] va of Pranava.
“It is the Lord who is expressed by the word Om; the sound of the Word accords with its meaning.
“From the termination ava is understood avati: he favors. He brings out his devotees from samsara, he leads those in samsara to nirvana, he brings to a devotee unsurpassed joy, he grants him samadhi to lead him to the highest truth. But all these meanings are associated with the most intense love of the Lord.
“When the Lord is continuously worshipped in the mind by means of this Syllable, Om, he gives his grace. There are many sacred texts indicating that Om is Brahman.
“The relationship between Brahman and Om is that of a lamp and its light.…This is the relationship between the Lord who is expressed and the Pranava which expresses him.
“Through Om the Lord is met face to face.
“It is proper to employ Om as a means for practicing worship of God.
“When the yogi has understood the identity of Om and Brahman he attracts the grace of the supreme Lord through its japa and bhavanam. Bhavanam is setting the heart on the Lord who is designated by Om and brought into the mind by it. Yogis who are engaged in both japa and bhavanam attain one-pointedness of mind. After japa, which causes his mind to bow before the Lord, let him engage in bhavanam. When his mind becomes unwavering from bhavanam on the Lord, let him do japa of Om, for japa leads to bhavanam. When japa and bhavanam of Om come to perfection then the Supreme Lord (Parameshwara), the Supreme Self (Paramatman) who stands in the highest place shines forth for the yogi.
“Om is the Name of the Supreme Lord” (Commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
“Salutations to Dakshinamurti [Shiva], who is pure and calm, the embodiment of pure knowledge and who is attainable through the Syllable Om” (Hymn to Dakshinamurti).
“That which is manifested by the Pranava is the Lord (Ishwara) himself” (Commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
“Swadhyaya is repetition of the Pranava” (Commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
“When the yogi has recognized the power of Om to express its meaning, the Lord, he should undertake japa and bhavanam of it on the Lord who is signified by Om. When the yogi thus engages in japa and bhavanam of Om, his mind becomes one-pointed. So it has been said: After Om japa, let him set himself in yoga [bhavanam], after yoga, let him set himself to japa. When Om japa and bhavanam come to perfection the Supreme Self [Paramatman] shines forth” (Commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
That completes the picture. The most ancient and authoritative texts set forth Om japa and meditation. We need only heed the instruction: “Having known what is said in the ordinance of the scriptures, you should act here in this world” (Bhagavad Gita 16:24).
Read the next chapter in Om Yoga Meditation: Om Yoga Meditation
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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