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).
“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).
Earlier, in the third section of the First Brahmana, verses one through twenty-one, an most interesting and significant narrative is given of the struggle between the forces of light (devas or gods) and the forces of darkness (asuras or demons). The gods said to one another, “Come, let us overcome the demons through Om.” Therefore they inspired the faculties of speech (vak) and breath (prana) to chant Om. And so the demons were vanquished and the gods triumphed in joy. The account relates how all the faculties of the human being are illumined and bring liberation when they vibrate to the mantra Om joined to the breath. Thus breath was declared to be Brihaspati, the guru of the gods, and even more, Brahmanaspati: Brahman Itself, the Absolute.
“One should meditate on this syllable: Om. That is the quintessence of the essences, the Supreme, the highest” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.1.1, 3).
“One should meditate on Om.… This sound is that syllable, the immortal, the fearless. having entered this, the gods become immortal, fearless. He, who knowing it thus, praises this syllable, take 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).
“Om is the yonder sun, for the sun is continually sounding Om’” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.5.1).
“The breath is continually sounding Om” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.5.3).
“This Om is the highest and best. This is endless. He who, knowing this, meditates on Om, the highest and best, becomes the highest and best and obtains the highest and best worlds. When Atidhanvan Shunaka taught this Om to Udara Sandilya, he also said: ‘As long as they shall know this Om 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,’ he said. ‘This is the deity connected to Om” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.11.6, 7).
“The sun is Om” (Chandogya Upanishad 2.20.1).
“As all leaves are held together by a stalk, so is all speech held together by Om. Verily, the Syllable Om is all this–yea, the Syllable Om is all this” (Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.3).
“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 ‘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).
“That word which all the Vedas declare, which all the austerities proclaim, desiring which people practice brahmacharya, that word, to you I shall tell in brief: It is Om. This syllable is, verily, the everlasting Spirit. This syllable is, indeed is the highest end; knowing this very syllable, whatever anyone desires will be his. This support is the best. This support is the highest; knowing this support, one becomes great in the world of Brahma” (Katha Upanishad 1.2.15-17).
“Om: this syllable is all this.… All that is the 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 is of the nature of the Syllable Om.… Thus the Syllable Om is the very Self. He who knows it thus enters the [Supreme] Self with his [individual] Self” (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 the Omkara until the end of his life, win by That?’ To him, he said: ‘That which is the Omkara, 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 Omkara as a support, that which is tranquil, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme” (Prashna Upanishad 5:1, 2, 5, 7).
“Om has been sung as 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 become merged in Brahman, intent thereon 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 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).
“I am the Pranava [Om]” (Bhagavad Gita 7:8).
“Uttering Om, the single-syllabled Brahman, meditating on me, departing thus from his body, he attains the Goal Supreme” (Bhagavad Gita 8:13).
“I am Omkara” (Bhagavad Gita 9:17).
“Among words I am the One-syllable [Ekakshara: Om]” (Bhagavad Gita 10:25).
The acts of sacrifice, gift and tapasya prescribed by the scriptures, are always begun uttering “Om” by the Brahmavadins [those who walk the path of/to Brahman]. (17:24)
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
“Ishwara,… being unconditioned by time is teacher even of the ancients. His spoken form is the Pranava. Its japa [repetition] and meditation is the way. From it results the disappearance of obstacles and the turning inward of consciousness. For removing these obstacles there should be the constant practice of this one thing” (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:24-32).
The Laws of Manu (Manu Smriti) is the oldest code of laws in India.
“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 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 Yoga Vashishtha 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” (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).
“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)
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
“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 88, 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 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).
“Whether the unconditioned Brahman or the conditioned Brahman [is the goal], the Syllable Om becomes a means of realizing it… 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).
“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” (Shankara, Commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad).
“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 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).
“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” (Shankara, Commentary on the Chandogya Upanishad).
“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” (Shankara, Commentary on the Chandogya Upanishad).
“One should meditate on the syllable Om. 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. …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” (Shankara, Commentary on the Chandogya 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.…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.
“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).
“Om is both the higher and the lesser Brahman” (Shankara, Commentary on the Mandukya Karika).
“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).
“Wishing to attain the supreme Self one utters [does japa of] Om; and he does indeed attain Brahman through that Om” (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 spoken form is Om.’ Of the Lord who has been described, the designating Word is Om.…
“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.…
“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 meditation. Meditation 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 meditation attain one-pointedness of mind. After japa, which causes his mind to bow before the Lord, let him engage in meditation. When his mind becomes unwavering from meditation on the Lord, let him do japa of Om, for japa leads to meditation. When japa and meditation 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).
“That which is manifested by the Pranava is the Lord (Ishwara) Himself. …When the yogi has recognized the power of Om to express Its meaning, the Lord, he should undertake japa and meditation of It on the Lord Who is signified by Om. When the yogi thus engages in japa and meditation of Om, his mind becomes one-pointed. So it has been said: ‘After Om japa, let him set himself in yoga [meditation], after yoga, let him set himself to japa. When Om japa and meditation come to perfection the Supreme Self [Paramatman] shines forth.’” (Vyasa, Commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
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
- Understanding the Aspects of Om Yoga Meditation
- Points For Successful Meditation
- Foundations of Yoga
- Afterword: It Is All Up To You
- Appendix One: The Glories and Powers of Om
- Appendix Two: Breath and Sound in Meditation
- Appendix Three: Practical Applications of Om
More on OM Yoga:
Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary
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