Immortal and eternal
We are immortal. How do we know that? It is intuited by anyone with an unclouded awareness. For as long as the human race has existed on this earth, our immortality has been part of common knowledge based on intuition and various experiences people have had throughout history: near-death experience, actual dying and returning to life, and seeing or receiving communication from departed persons in both the waking and sleeping states. Some have entered the worlds of the departed, observed and spoken with them, and returned to tell about it.
But we are more than immortal. We are eternal. That is, we will not just live forever from this point on, we have also existed forever, from eternity. Eternity is not time without end, but that state of being and existence which transcends this realm of time and space. In eternity neither beginning nor end is possible; it is the state of Divine Being, of God, of whom it was long ago said in the Rig Veda: “His shadow is immortality” (Rig Veda 10:12:2).
How is it possible for us to be eternal? Because our very existence is rooted in the eternity of God. We have always existed within God because in some ineffable way we are part of God, one with him yet distinct from him. It is like the ocean and its waves: the waves are not the ocean, but the ocean is the waves. Eternally we have been the parts and God has been the Whole. We are never separate from him, but we are always distinct from him. We are all spirit, but we are finite and God is infinite. God lives in us and we live in God. We are divine; we are gods within God.
Meditation: the key
We must know this, not just believe it. How can we know this? We can know it through practice of the spiritual science of meditation. Like mathematics, this science is based on the fundamental nature of relative existence in which we presently find ourselves for the purpose of the evolution of our consciousness. To understand this we need to know a bit of cosmic history.
The seed of life
Within eternity, within the depths of Spirit, there arises the impulse–or rather the potential of an impulse–that is Om. Then like a germinating seed Om expands into a field of subtle energy possessing the two fundamental qualities of movement and sound. Moving outward into increasingly objective forms of these two forces, the living universe takes shape, functions, and eventually comes into fruition when it has so perfectly evolved that it returns to its original state of unmanifested perfection. During this cycle of projection and withdrawal the spirits, the seeds of consciousness that have been cast into this field by the Sower-Creator, also evolve to the point of return into Eternal Being. For the cosmos is a great school of consciousness in which the spirits learn to truly be gods within God, manifesting their eternal potential.
The first stages of this drama occur solely under the aegis of the Divine Director. But in time a point is reached in which each of the actors on the cosmic stage begins to direct his own drama and evolve it to such a degree that they can return to their Source with the capacity to experience and share in the infinity that is native only to God. They do not become God, but they become godlike in the fullest extent. To attain this they take charge of their own evolution by the practice of Yoga.
The basis of yoga
Yoga is based on the fundamental nature of relative existence: the dynamic field of the single evolutionary force or impulse manifesting as movement and sound. All the phenomena of the universe are but variations, evolutes, of these two aspects of the one impulse which is the basis of the duality which makes both the universe and evolution within it possible, and the perfected unity which is its final purpose.
In the individual human being the root-impulse manifests as breath and the subtle sound vibration produced by inhalation and exhalation. This is the force that impels the individual spirit into the realm of evolution and then produces the evolution itself, and by conscious cultivation of which the awakened individual can continue his own evolution to its ultimate perfection: revealed godhood.
Long ago in the hidden mists of earth’s history this secret of Yoga was revealed to those developed enough to perceive it within the depths of their own being. Discovering the way to transcendence, they seized it and applied it. Consciously entering into the stream of divine evolution, they became in the truest sense Ascended Masters, no longer gods in potential but in actuality. They passed on their knowledge of Yoga to others who in turn passed it on to succeeding generations, even unto today. Since it works with the yogi’s fundamental makeup and nature, there is no need for any external empowerment such as “initiation.” The only thing needed is practice.
The essence of yoga
Om Yoga meditation has two elements, just as does the universe of which we are a living, evolving part. The first is awareness of breath, and the second is the production of mental sound which links breath awareness to the subtle sound of Om that is produced spontaneously by the breath. Om produces the breath, and the breath produces Om since they essentially are one. Together the inhaling breath and the exhaling breath make the subtle sound of Om. Though two, they are really one, and Om makes the two into one, changing duality into unity on all levels of manifestation. Om leads us into duality for our evolution and then leads us back into unity as the final step in our evolution.
Necessity of meditation
The supreme master of yoga, Gorakhnath, said: “He who aspires to any attainment without the practice of yoga meditation cannot succeed in hundreds of years” (Gorakh Rahasyam 4). Meditation is the process of centering our awareness in the principle of pure consciousness which is our essential being. In this way we will never lose sight of our real identity. As the Gita says: “He whose happiness is within, whose delight is within, whose illumination is within–that yogi, identical in being with Brahman, attains Brahmanirvana” (Bhagavad Gita 5:24).
Normally we lose awareness of our true Self through consciousness of external objects. Since we are habituated–if not actually addicted–to objective consciousness, we can use that very condition to our advantage. Rather than disperse our consciousness through objects that draw us outward, away from the source of our being, we can take an object that will have the opposite effect, present it to the mind, and reverse our consciousness.
Such an object must have two qualities: (1) It must be something whose nature it is to turn our awareness inward and draw it into the most subtle depths of our being, and (2) it must be something that can continue to be perceived even in the most subtle areas of our awareness. Therefore it must be an object that can accompany our questing consciousness inward, not being transcended when the mind and senses are gone beyond. That object is Om. By sitting with closed eyes and letting the mind become easefully absorbed in experiencing the inner repetitions of Om we thereby directly enter into the state of consciousness that is Om, the state of consciousness that is Brahman the Absolute.
Sound and consciousness are, practically speaking, the same. Since the individual spirit (jivatman) and God (Paramatman) are essentially one, we can conclude that Om, repeated within the mind in japa and meditation, will produce the consciousness of both Atman-Selves and restore their lost unity.
Meditation is the process of returning our consciousness to the center, our eternal spirit-Self, and keeping it there so our evolution will proceed exactly according to the divine plan without any more delays or deviations. Here are some statements of the upanishads regarding meditation.
“This Self, deep-hidden in all beings, is not revealed to all; but to the seers, pure in heart, concentrated in mind–to them is he revealed” (Katha Upanishad 1:3:12).
“Wise, self-controlled, and tranquil souls, who practice austerity and meditation, attain by the path of liberation to the immortal, the truly existing, the changeless Self” (Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.11).
“With mind illumined by the power of meditation, the wise know the Self, the blissful, the immortal” (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.7).
“This Effulgent Self is to be realized by meditation and by superconscious vision” (Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.5).
“In meditation the Self is revealed” (Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.8).
“By the rightly meditative, the Self is fully known” (Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.4).
“One who knows, meditates upon, and realizes the truth of the Self–such a one delights in the Self, revels in the Self, rejoices in the Self” (Chandogya Upanishad 7:25:1, 2).
“Knowledge of the Self is gained through meditation” (Swetashwatara Upanishad 1:15, 16).
Knowing this, Lalla Yogeshwari also used to sing: “An ascetic [yati] wanders from holy place to holy place to seek the union brought about by visiting himself” (Lalla Vakyani 36).
Paramatman and jivatman
Why are there so many yoga methods? It is because of differing diagnoses of the root problem of human beings. Buddha said that it was important to ask the right questions to get the right answers. In the same way we must know the real problem of humanity if we are to formulate the solution. If we accept secondary problems as the primary ones our answers will be secondary ones and unable to clear up the fundamental problem whose solution will bring about the solution of all other troubles.
For example, our problem is not that we do not know one of the symbolic forms of God mistakenly called gods, or an avatar or master. Our problem is that we do not know and experience our individual being (jivatman) within the Cosmic Being (Paramatman).
The root cause of our ignorance and its attendant miseries is forgetfulness of our true Self and God, the Self of our Self. Since the two are really one, it follows that our meditation must consist of that which is common to both the Self (Atman) and the Supreme Self (Paramatman). And that is Om.
Yoga is a very real union of the Absolute with the relative in a divine alchemy that erases all difference between jivatman and Paramatman while ineffably retaining a distinction between them. Therefore our yogic practice must be an invocation of both the absolute and the relative, of Shiva and Shakti. This is accomplished through Om which is itself the absolute and the relative, Shiva and Shakti. We are moving toward union every time we intone Om with the inhalation and exhalation, for inhalation and exhalation are Shiva and Shakti as well. Within the context of yoga the inhalation is the descent of Shiva and the exhalation is the ascent of Shakti.
The right approach
Now this is very important: When we want to swim in the ocean, we do not dive into a particular wave, but into the ocean itself. A wave, being only a manifestation on the surface of the ocean, must be left behind if we are to sound the depths of the ocean. If we stay with the wave, we will find ourselves being thrown onto the shore and out of the ocean. It is the same with meditation on names and forms–whether of gods, avatars or liberated masters. We need to dive down where name and form cannot go.
We must meditate on the Self–not on external beings or forms. As Sri Ma Sarada Devi said:
“After attaining wisdom one sees that gods and deities are all maya” (Precepts For Perfection 672). Sri Ramana Maharshi said: “Since the Self is the reality of all the gods, the meditation on the Self which is oneself is the greatest of all meditations. All other meditations are included in this. It is for gaining this that the other meditations are prescribed. So, if this is gained, the others are not necessary. Knowing one’s Self is knowing God. Without knowing one’s Self that meditates, imagining that there is a deity which is different and meditating on it, is compared by the great ones to the act of measuring with one’s foot one’s own shadow, and to the search for a trivial conch after throwing away a priceless gem that is already in one’s possession” (Collected Works, section 28).
Since we must realize the individual Self (jivatman) and the Supreme Self (Paramatman), we do japa of Om which embodies–and is–both. That is why Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nasik said:
“Some people say that meditating upon Nirakara [the Formless Reality] is difficult. But in my opinion it is very easy and in addition it is natural. A man easily gets into the state of samadhi by meditating upon Nirakara. The path of doing so is, however, concealed and secret. Once you get it you can be in that state although outwardly you may be talking, laughing, playing, or sleeping. This power is concealed like the river Saraswati [which flows underground and is unseen]. As some people have not understood this secret path, therefore, they say that it is difficult, and that it would require the passing of various lives to obtain success in it.”
In effective meditation the mantra and the Self of the yogi should be actually one–the mantra must proceed from the Self. The Shiva Sutras say: “If the mantra is kept separate from the repeater of the mantra and its goal, one cannot attain the fruit of the mantra” (Shiva Sutras 1:4). The divine Self is both the origin and the goal of Om.
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 fact, Om rhymes exactly with home. (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: 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.
In Sanskrit texts the Pranava is usually spelled Aum so many people mispronounce it as “Awm,” among other mispronunciations. Aum is the phonetic spelling indicating that the spoken O begins with a barely perceptible sound of the short Sanskrit A. But you are going to work with it mostly mentally, which begins with the pure long O sound. When your inner mind has become accustomed to it you will speak it aloud that way, also. It will be second nature to you. This is the trait of the adept Om yogi.
The example of contemporary Masters, Saints and Yogis
As just said above, the sacred monosyllable is pronounced to rhyme with home. In all the time I have spent both in India and America with many pandits, yogis and sadhus, the only pronunciation I have ever heard from any of them is the simple Om. Masters and yogis I have frequently heard speaking, intoning or singing Om include:
- Sri Anandamayi Ma and the sadhus that usually accompanied her.
- Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh and his advanced disciples: Swami Chidananda, Swami Venkatesananda, Swami Sivananda-Hridayananda, Swami Vidyananda, Swami Satchidananda, (founder of the Integral Yoga Institute in America), and Swami Nada-Brahmananda (a renowned adept in Nada Yoga, the Yoga of Sound).
- Sri Maitri Devi of Delhi, an accomplished yogini and disciple of the renowned sannyasini Swami Purnananda.
- Sant Keshavadas of Andra Pradesh.
- Swami Swahananda, head of the Vedanta Society of Southern California and disciple of Swami Vijnanananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna.
- Furthermore, recordings show that Om was the pronunciation of: Swami Sivananda, Paramhansa Yogananda, Swami Ramdas of Anandashram, and Sri Dilip Kumar Roy, the famous musician-composer disciple of Sri Aurobindo.
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
1. Sit upright, comfortable and relaxed, with your hands on your knees or thighs or resting, one on the other, in your lap.
2. Your mouth should be closed so that all breathing is done through the nose. This, too, aids in quieting the mind.
3. 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.
4. Turn your eyes slightly downward, then close them gently. This removes visual distractions and reduces your brain-wave activity by about seventy-five percent, thus helping to calm the mind. As you meditate you may find your eyes moving either up or down spontaneously. This is as it should be, and will be discussed in the next chapter.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Then in a very quiet and gentle manner begin mentally intoning (“singing” on a single note) Om in time with your natural and spontaneous breathing, but making Om encompass the entire breath in this way:
As you inhale, intone the O of Om throughout your inhalation. The moment your exhalation begins (or is about to begin) intone the M of Om throughout the exhalation. In this way you unify the breath, turning duality into unity.
It is important to be intoning OM the syllable, not: O. M. O. M. O. M. You must be intoning Om, prolonging it and having it encompass the whole breath, not just making two disconnected sounds. In time this will become second nature.
Intoning Om in this way integrates the inhaling and exhaling breaths, balancing them and leading your awareness inward. It also leads to awareness of the breath as essentially the vibrating impulse of Om. For breath and Om are the same thing. This process is known as Om Japa-Pranayama.
8. Continue doing this, listening in a relaxed and peaceful manner to your inner mental intonations of Om, letting 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.
9. 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 (or becomes) silent. But Om is always fully present and effective, and you will still be intoning Om in your intention.
10. You may find that your intonations of Om move back and forth from more objective to more subtle and back to more objective. This is all right. Just intone in the manner that is natural at the moment.
11. 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.
12. Om Japa-Pranayama causes the subtle energies to move upward into the Sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus of the brain–physical, astral and causal. Therefore it is good to lightly and gently keep aware of your brain (Sahasrara) area and feel that your mental intonations of Om in time with the breath are taking place there. You can either be aware of the Sahasrara for the first few minutes of meditation and whenever your awareness wanders, or be aware of it through your entire meditation–whichever you find is best.
13. Do not let your attention become distracted from your intonations of Om and your Sahasrara awareness. Thoughts, impressions, memories, inner sensations, and suchlike may arise, but calmly ignore them. Do not try to stop them, but gently and calmly keep your attention centered in your intonations of Om in time with your breath.
14. Even though something feels very right or good when it occurs, it should not be forcibly prolonged or hung on to or made to repeat in later meditations. 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.
15. 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 intoning Om as before in time with the breath in a relaxed and easeful manner, without strain.
16. Remember: the essence of Om Yoga meditation is mentally intoning Om in time with the breath and listening to those mental intonations.
17. At the end of your meditation get up and go about your usual daily routine maintaining Sahasrara awareness while continuing to intone Om in time with your breath and listening to those inner intonations of Om as though they are taking place in the Sahasrara.
In the next chapter we will further examine the various aspects of the practice just outlined.
Read the next chapter in Om Yoga: Understanding the Aspects of 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
- 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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