The Vedic Gayatri Mantra–the Savitri Gayatri–is a prayer for enlightenment recited at dawn and sunset, and is considered the most important verse in the entire Vedas. The yogis, however, say that there is another Gayatri, the Ajapa Gayatri, which also relates to enlightenment. Being “ajapa” it is repeated spontaneously by the subtle levels of our existence in time with the breath. That Gayatri is “Soham,” whose conscious japa in time with the breath is considered a direct means to enlightenment. So whenever mention is made of ajapa japa it means the japa of Soham joined to the breath.
The teaching that the incoming breath makes the sound of “So” and the outgoing breath the sound of “Hum” is found in: Shiva Swarodaya, 51; Yoga Shika Upanishad 1.5, 6:53; Dhyana-Bindu Upanishad 61(b)-63; Yoga Chudamani Upanishad; Kularnava Tantra; Mahanirvana Tantra; Niruttara Tantra; Goraksha Shataka, 42; and in: T. N. Rao, Vedanta: The Knowledge Supreme; Swami Parmeshwarananda, Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Upanisads; L. R. Chawdhri, Secrets of Yantra, Mantra and Tantra; Yogi Pranavananda, Pure Yoga; Margaret and James Stutley, A Dictionary of Hinduism: its Mythology, Folklore, and Development 1500 B.C.-A.D. 1500. It is also found in many of the books written by Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh.
Here are some quotations regarding ajapa japa–Soham Yoga.
In the oldest upanishad, the Isha Upanishad, we find Soham in the sixteenth verse which concludes: Yo sav asau purushah; Soham asmi: “I am that Purusha [Spirit-Self]: I am Soham.”
In Sanskrit Soham means “I Am That,” but at the core of every sentient being Soham exists as the Self–is the Self. Therefore the seer of the upanishad concludes: “I am Soham.” Soham asmi–“I am That I am”–is exactly what God told Moses was his Name (Exodus 3:14).
In the next oldest Upanishad, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, we are told:
“In the beginning this (world) was only the Self [Atman], in the shape of a person. Looking around he saw nothing else than the Self. He first said, I am Soham [Soham asmi]” (1:4:1).
Thus, Soham is the “first speaking” of the Absolute Itself: the expression of the knowledge and knowing of the Self. We, too, are Soham.
Later in the Upanishad (5.15.2), the identical words are found as in the verse cited previously from the Isha Upanishad.
Maha Vakya Upanishad
At the beginning of the Maha Vakya Upanishad, Brahma the Creator is said to have declared: “The personal knowledge that this Sun is Brahman is got by chanting the Ajapa Gayatri: Soham.” At the end of the upanishad Brahma says that those who invoke this Gayatri will have the realization: “I am that sun who is the ethereal light. I am that Shiva who is that sun of Knowledge. I am the supremely pure [vishuddha] light of the Atma. I am all the light that we know.”
Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad
Solely by the mantra Soham joined to the inhalation and exhalation, the jiva perceives the supreme Brahman (6:4).
The Supreme Swan [Paramhansa–the Self] is Soham (2).
The two syllables So and Ham are the two wings by means of which the swan-spirit flies back to Spirit.
Soham is the seed-mantra, the essence, of the Sun.
Yoga Chudamani Upanishad
This mantra [Soham] which is called Ajapa Gayatri will give salvation to all yogis. Just mental repetition of this mantra will help one get rid of all sins.
There are no practices as holy as this, no japa which is equivalent to this, and no wisdom equivalent to this and in the future there shall be nothing equivalent to it.
This Ajapa Gayatri which rises from the Kundalini supports the soul. This is the greatest among the sciences of the soul (33-35).
Yoga Shikha Upanishad
The breath goes out with the sound “ham” and goes in with the word “so”…. This chanting of the mantra “Soham, Soham,” [in time with the breath] is called Mantra Yoga (1.5).
The Gayatri called Ajapa is the giver of liberation to the sages; by merely repeating it mentally one is released from all sin (15:70).
Know this [Soham] to be the Paramatma.
The body is the temple of God. Let the jiva worship with “Soham.”
The living soul knows itself to be “Soham” (Utpatti Khanda 3:64:9).
The breath of every person in entering makes the sound of “sah” and in coming out, that of “ham.” These two sounds make Soham. Throughout a day and a night there are twenty-one thousand and six hundred such respirations. Every living being performs this japa unconsciously, but constantly. This is called ajapa gayatri (5:84).
All jivas are constantly and unconsciously reciting this ajapa mantra, only for a fixed number of times every day. But a yogi should recite this consciously (5:90).
Yogavishaya of Minanath [Matsyendranath]
One constantly meditates: “Soham” (29).
Every human performs the japa of Soham in each cycle of breathing. One who does not realize this is like a blind man because he lives in the darkness of worldly illusions and he can never get moksha. The Ajapa Gayatri bestows moksha on the yogis. Anybody can get rid of all sins and evils by attaining its knowledge and realizing its power. There is no knowledge equivalent to it. No punya [meritorious action] comparable with the prodigious benefits of this sadhana has ever existed in the past or is likely to exist any time in the future.
In yoga practice Soham is chanted. The yogi who silently chants it while breathing surely attains the Holy Way (3:731).
Sri G. R. Ambedkar
Sri G. R. Ambedkar (Sri Dada Maharaj) of Poona was a student of Gajanana Maharaj. whose words on Soham are cited later in this chapter, and himself a teacher of Soham sadhana. The following quotations are taken from The Spiritual Teaching of My Sadguru (Shri Dada Maharaji), by B. G. Vellal.
Soham Japa alone and of its own accord will satisfy your spiritual urge.
Soham is the revealed sound-symbol of Brahman, the Ultimate Reality. Just as light is inseparable from the sun, or sweetness from sugar, or the symbol from what it symbolizes, the inner Sound of Soham ajapa japa which flows from Brahman and is heard by an ardent seeker within himself is also inseparable from its primary source! The terms Soham and Brahman are, in all respects, identical, denoting one and the same Principle. Soham means Brahman! The sound of the Soham mantra resembles the inner Soham Sphurana [Vibration], that is the inner vibration, experienced by an advanced seeker. The word Soham is made up of two parts namely Sah and Aham, where Sah stands for “That” denoting He, God or Brahman and Aham for “I”.… This mantra signifies the inseparable, non-dual oneness of man with the Absolute. This implies that the seeker is, at no point in space and time, anything other than Brahman and that he has no existence whatever apart from it.
Hence, a man, who in his ignorance has lost touch with his own Self, that is to say his true Nature, can and will, by deep, one-pointed and incessant meditation of the Soham mantra be able to blow up and destroy his separate, illusory, and perishable identity and strip himself outright of dualism and get absorbed into the Eternal Brahman. Such an experience alone is Atmasakshatkara [direct sight of the Self] after which one abides in one’s own Natural State.
The Soham mantra is very aptly described as a siddha, tarak and pragat mantra. It has been handed down to us through the Master-pupil medium from the remote past. Many stalwarts belonging to the Nath cult have poured the intense warmth of their heart and soul into this mantra in the course of their meditation and attained Self Realization. These great Self-realized sages have, by its use, proved that the mantra has unfailing and overflowing potency to guarantee the highest spiritual success to any serious seeker. Soham being a siddha mantra is bound to lift up and redeem its devotee and enable one to lead the rest of his life as a jivanmukta. Besides, when death comes, one will peacefully and automatically attain videha kaivalya. Soham is therefore a taraka mantra as well. Since these sages have declared that Soham is a pragat mantra, meaning “open for practice by all,” any man or woman irrespective of religion, creed or community has the freedom to practice Soham meditation.
The real Guru is the Atman who reverberates rhythmically as the primordial sound of Soham Sphurana within everyone of us. This Atman or Chaitanya felt within also permeates the whole universe and is therefore known as Paramatman or Brahman!
Practice this easy-to-follow Soham discipline: Relax the body and mind, and sit upright, even on your bed, with legs crossed if possible, keeping the trunk, neck and head in one line. Closing the eyes gently, turn the gaze inwards. Repeat the Soham mantra mentally and silently, dwelling on its deep meaning, without moving the lips or tongue, rhythmically [in time with the breathing] and distinctly. This is Soham Nadanusandhana. The sages declare that Nirguna Soham Dhyana is a technique of reflection on the Attributeless Self or Atman, that it is Self Enquiry or Vichara which, removing ignorance and delusion, reveals the Supreme Self. Form a habit of sitting for meditation at a regular time, preferably before going to bed at night or/and before dawn, and gradually increase the period as much as you conveniently can. Cultivate the practice of reciting the mantra mentally at other times too, e.g. when you are sitting, walking, speaking, resting or doing anything else.… As one progresses, essential and requisite vairagya, that is dispassion, will follow.
In his Yogataravati, Verse 4, Shrimat Adya Sankaracharya reverently salutes this Atman’s own holy utterance through Whose Grace a seeker merges with his breath and mind into supreme state of Brahman. Sri Gajanan Maharaj Gupte, the Sadguru of my Sadguru, describes this circumstance as the state of one’s own real Self into which both Light (Prakasha) and Sound (Nada) dissolve.
Mental purity, equipoise and tranquility accrue to the spiritual seeker as a result of making headway in the Soham sadhana and performing desireless or nishkama karma. He will neither be elated when the outcome is favorable, nor will he feel depressed if an unexpected consequence ensues.
The purpose of any sadhana is only to still the mind. When the mind is perfectly serene, the Self automatically shines forth. Atmasakshatkara is the direct inner experience of every mature seeker. As the seeker becomes one with the infinite, the vast energy of spirit called Chaitanya naturally comes to him as vigor and wisdom to conquer his difficulties, mundane or otherwise. He goes through difficulties and disasters like others but remains unaffected and unruffled. You cannot change the pattern of the world, but this sadhana helps you steer clear through it.
[With] the mantra “Soham” the sadhaka infuses his body with the life of the Devi, the Mother of all (Shakti and Shakta, chapter 26).
[The yogi] ascends by himself until he realizes the great saying, Soham (“I am he”). At this stage, which the Tantra calls jivan-mukta (liberated whilst yet living), he is called paramahansa (Mahanirvana Tantra Of The Great Liberation, introduction).
With the mantra Soham the sadhaka leads the jivatma into its place in the heart (The Serpent Power, p. 243).
The Kularnava Tantra [9:32] says: “The body is the temple of God. The jiva is Sadashiva. Let him give up his ignorance as the offering which is thrown away (nirmalya) and worship with the thought and feeling, ‘I am he’ [Soham].”
On page 185 of The Garland of Letters, Arthur Avalon speaks of “the Soham Atma.”
Akshaya Kumar Banerjea
Every jiva continually repeats this mantra Soham. This is called Ajapa-Gayatri and is the best form of Gayatri-mantra. Gayatri means a sacred song, by the singing of which one is delivered from all bondage. By the wonderful Divine design this great mantra pregnant with the highest spiritual truth is being constantly sung by every jiva with every breath day and night without any effort. A sadhaka has only to pay deep attention to the inner meaning of his natural breath, in order to realize the identity of the individual self and the Cosmic Self and attain liberation (Philosophy of Gorakhnath, p. 166).
This Gayatri named Ajapa is the giver of moksha (liberation from bondage) to the Yogis (who concentrate their attention upon this natural japa). By mere concentration of attention upon this Ajapa-Gayatri a man becomes liberated from all kinds of sins.
He [Gorakhnath] sings the glory of this Ajapa-Gayatri in various ways and instructs all spiritual aspirants to make the best use of this natural device for their spiritual self-realization (Philosophy of Gorakhnath, p. 166).
This natural Gayatri-mantra has its origin in Kundalini Shakti and is the sustainer of the vital system. The knowledge of this is called Prana-vidya (true insight into the vital system), and it is mahavidya (great wisdom). He who attains the knowledge of this Ajapa-Gayatri is truly the knower of Yoga. Wisdom equal to this, japa equal to this, knowledge equal to this, have never been and will never be.
This is a magnificent conception of our natural breathing process. The highest enlightenment is associated with it. The cultivation of this conception and constant remembrance of the essential identity of the individual Self and the Self of the universe with every breath occupies a very important position in Gorakhnath’s system of yoga sadhana. It is known as Ajapa-Yoga (Philosophy of Gorakhnath, p. 166-167).
O sadhus, O noble people, contemplate the mantra Soham. Become aware of the mantra Soham.… As you contemplate this mantra, you will attain the supreme state.” (I found this in a writing of Swami Muktananda, but did not note its name.)
One of Kabir’s disciples, Sri Dharam Dass, composed the following which are often recited by devotees of Kabir in their devotional gatherings (satsangs). In essence they are the teachings of Kabir, also.
In the hymn beginning Puran Brahm Daya, Kabir twice refers to God within as “the Soham Guru” about which he says: “The liberated soul finds refuge in the Soham Satguru, and realizing Soham becomes sinless.”
The incomprehensible God is present everywhere, and meditation on sound is the way to realize him.… Kabir has explained this [Soham] gayatri, and whoever recites it always will be free of karmas and doubts.
Plant the flag of God between two mountains: the individual Self and the Universal Self.… This is indeed a marvelous experience. The Self remains fully conscious, endowed with noble and deep intelligence. It realizes the Eternal Name and will not perish, because it is Soham.
His consciousness soars to the house of Ida and Pingala, and remains steadfast in Sushumna, and realizes the Reality: I am Soham, and controls his consciousness in this channel of God realization. Subduing the mind, the soul soars to spiritual heights, and bathes in the serene lake of meditation. In that state of consciousness, the soul worships the Divine Sound, and realizes that there it is no other God than the supreme unattached Absolute.
The essence of the four Vedas and six philosophies is Soham. Soham is the eternal essence expressing “I am That.” (Brahm Nirupan 12).
The first gayatri [Adi Gayatri: Soham] is the essence of all the recitations, and the person reciting it attains liberation. On the path to liberation there are 880 million places to cross (obstacles) where Yama blocks the way. Reciting the gayatri the soul overcomes sorrow.… The soul realizes, “I am Soham” and goes forward to dwell in eternal Sat Lok [the highest world of the Siddhas]. Reciting this gayatri this soul becomes free of grief and goes onward.
The first gayatri represents the eternal abode and the soul realizing Soham enters it. Kabir says that by its silent recitation the soul resides in the eternal abode. Truth is eternal and void, and beyond the duality of sin and virtue Kabir teaches to proclaim this gayatri to others.
Make the breath into your rosary, and meditate upon the Supreme Reality, and know that this Reality of Soham Shabda resides in you as the Self. Soham pervades the breath. The beads of the rosary are tied in a knot. Use the breath to tie the knot of God in your heart. This is the proper rosary for you.
The rosary is your own breath. There is a rare devotee who can use the rosary of the breath in this way.… he is always conscious of Soham Shabda as non-duality.
God is ever present from the beginning. He is present now, and will be present to the end. But if you seek him in the fathomless depths, you will not find Him there. How can one get hold of God? He is the Soham Shabda, the all pervading Brahman that is changeless…. I am Soham Shabda which is unutterable and steadfast, and beyond description.
Soham is my support. The Self within repeats “Soham, Soham” melodiously.
O Brother! Listen to the eternal Word.… You will easily cross the ocean of birth and death. Be in love with Soham Shabda, and win the fearless and eternal abode.
As long as there is life in the body, this instruction brings pleasure. The soul then recites Soham silently.
The soul remains fully conscious, endowed with noble and deep intelligence. It realizes the Eternal Name and will not perish, because it is Soham.
The soul then rejoices in meeting its Beloved, who never becomes separated from its gaze. The soul is freed from the bondage of time and death…. The soul then recites Soham silently.
In Brahm Nirupan, Dharam Dass wrote about meditation on the formless Brahman (nirakara or nirakshar) in this way: “As said before, Nirakshar cannot be written about. It is eternal and can only be experienced. Thus the person, who, with a concentrated mind and devotion and love, recites it continuously with understanding is wise. All doubts and illusion are removed from him, and he overcomes death. He indeed realizes Soham Shabda” (Brahm Nirupan 11).
When the “I”-sense, giving up its identification with the body, identifies itself with the Self as Soham, the Supreme Being, pure consciousness, is revealed in the heart. The mind, giving up all thoughts and fancies, transcends itself. The intellect becomes firmly centered in the Absolute Brahman.
Sri Gajanana Maharaj (Gajanana Murlidhar Gupte)
Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nasik in Maharashtra was one of the great yogis of the twentieth century. The following quotations are found in Light on the Path of Self-Realization, printed in 1941, five years before his departure from this world.
The taking in of the breath generates the sound “So” and the giving out generates the sound of “Ham.” Thus the sound of “Soham” is being continuously generated in every creature, although very few are conscious of it. Soham means “I am He.” Soham therefore, is the sign showing the oneness of the jiva (human soul–atman) and Shiva (Supreme Self–Paramatman). All knowledge has been centered in Soham. All the four Vedas, the Gita and the Gayatri Mantra tell us nothing except “Soham.” One can accomplish anything by meditating upon Soham. Disgust for sexual pleasures, the ending of all karma, release from the cycle of birth and death, the realization of the Self–in short everything can be obtained through Soham. This is the real Dhyana Yoga or Raja Yoga.
When the power of breath gets an upward turn, the breath proceeds upwards through the Sushumna and… proceeds to the brahmarandhra at the centre of the brain. The Soham consciousness then merges in the unknowable Supreme Self and the sadhaka attains perfection.
Awaken and kindle the flame of “Soham” in this dense darkness of ignorance, practice Dhyana Yoga and obtain Self-realization. Your whole worldly existence will be full of bliss. Great spiritual powers will be generated in you and no evil-minded person will ever dare to cast an evil eye towards you. When your meditation will attain intensity friends and foes alike will begin to behave like brothers and sisters towards you. You may then carry on your ordinary social and worldly life. You will be happy spiritually as well as in your worldly life. This is what is meant by attaining spiritual greatness while at the same time leading a worldly life. This is the real grace of Guru, which is the same as the grace of our real Self.
I do not ask you to put your faith in me but I earnestly ask you to put your faith in the Soham mantra and in your Self-experience. Try to get Self-experience and be assured that the whole world will appear to you as nothing else but Brahman, if you practice Dhyana Yoga with intensity.
Even though you may be in the world, you will be as it were out of it and you will be beyond pleasure and pain and the equanimity of your mind will never be disturbed. All your bodily diseases will disappear of their own accord. When you realize Brahman, the stage of a sadhaka is over. After that you may remain in the world enjoying the full bliss of Self-realization, a devotee in the real sense of the word of the all pervading Omnipotence. It has been said, “One can really worship God only after becoming one with him.”
I am always taking the “wine of Soham” and thus I have been spoilt. You people should not spoil your lives by following me. If at all any one wants to spoil his life as I have spoiled mine, he should with open eyes and confidence in himself accept this dose of the Soham wine and then live in the bliss of his own Self.
A person should day and night repeat Soham in his mind and direct all his senses towards it. He will then become one with it.
He alone is a true saint who has thoroughly realized the truth of Soham [I am He]. His mind, intellect and his senses and even the hair on his body are full of the true meaning of Soham. He may or may not do any outward actions. Even though he may do certain actions, he is detached from them. He is videhi [apart from the body] like King Janaka. He looks upon worldly and spiritual things equally and goes beyond the states of pain and pleasure. He knows the only true Being and is always experiencing the state of unlimited joy.
I therefore, say that if you have learnt Dhyana Yoga it is all well with you. If not, try to learn it. Strictly speaking God is none else than our own Self. Every one should try to see this Self by the torch of Soham and obtain the internal sight. Saints have said, “Persons who have obtained the internal vision are saved while those who have only the external vision are drowned.”… If you really enter inside, your real Guru who is inside will automatically lead you to the right path. Otherwise you will not be able to understand clearly who is leading you on.
Kabir has said, “If you want to know the Eternal, you will not find him in the Vedas, the shastras or in the Koran, in the temples or in the mosques. Penance, pilgrimage, breath-control, or living on nothing but neem leaves, will not lead you to him. You can find him only in your breath.”
All human beings on this earth are really gods themselves, but those who know themselves enjoy peace and joy.… If your life is not pure, what can soap do? Your mind must be internally merged in the divine joy.… Do not entertain evil thoughts. If, however they arise in your mind, check them then and there by the mantra Soham. Then your mind gradually will become void of thoughts. But you must be very careful then. Because siddhis will then tempt you. Do not succumb to them but discard them, and go straight to your goal and be one with your Self. Then dualism will disappear and you will enjoy the real bliss of the Self.
I wish to say with all the earnestness at my command that every person should internally repeat the mantra Soham and should bear in mind that he himself will be able to fulfill his desires. Only it must be borne in mind that he must keep his conduct pure, should have at least a little vairagya and should have firm faith in Soham. When once a person obtains this self-confidence, he is sure to get Self-experience and will meet with his real Guru. Evil thoughts will then cease to rise.
One thing regarding this japa must be remembered. This japa of Soham must be repeated continuously in the mind. It should not be allowed to be known to others that you are repeating the japa [that is, it must be invoked in silence, inwardly, without moving the lips]. This japa should be so continuously and incessantly repeated that it must be heard internally even in our sleep.… When this state is reached,… if he then prays to this God of internal light to grant his desires, he shall be absolutely sure of his prayers being granted.
This method is a hundred times superior to that of praying for favors to God who is outside ourselves. Not only will the desires be granted, but either in this or in the next birth according to the person’s present efforts and previous karma, a person is sure to attain the highest bliss of the Self.… If all my brothers and sisters will do as I have just told you, they will be able to enjoy real happiness.
This [Self in the form of] “I” is present in each and everything, even in the minutest atom of dust. It is your Self. Know it. Through continuous meditation on the idea of Soham [I am He] be one with that Self which itself is the Supreme Self. I cannot tell you anything beyond this. This God is in my heart, similarly he is in your heart also. When through the grace of Guru and through the japa of Soham you will get the internal sight, you will be able to understand everything.
Repeat Soham internally and then get the idea [thought] of Soham merged into the Supreme Self and enjoy eternal peace and joy. If this is done you will become one with the self-existent, eternal and blissful Principle and experience the presence of that Supreme Self everywhere. You will then become perfect, leave behind all egoism and realize the real “I.”
The ignorant human soul takes its birth and questions, “Who am I?” But originally this human soul was full of knowledge and was one with the Supreme Self. A sadhaka receives the answer to the human soul’s question, “Who am I?” by japa of the mantra Soham [“I am He”], and having become thoroughly convinced that his Self is one with the Supreme Self, he returns to his original state of knowledge and bliss.
I have got full experience in this very body of the power of Soham. I, therefore, never tell any of my friends to bring the forms of deities before their mind’s eye, but give them the mantra Soham and turn their minds inwards, owing to which all ideas become merged in the Sahasradala [center of the brain/Sahasrara]. While going towards the Sahasrara, some visions in the form of light do manifest themselves…. All these visions appear without any effort and they are full of light. After some time all these visions merge into the Self and the aspirant gets into the state of samadhi, and experiences great joy.
Some see visions of light while some do not. Those who repeat Soham with very great intensity, become at once merged in the sound. Hence they are unconscious of any visions of light. Some of my friends, therefore, who get merged in sound do not see any visions. If you do not see any visions, you should not on that account entertain any doubts regarding the efficacy of Soham. For this purpose I have made this point clear. Not to see anything in dhyana shows a state of concentration. When seeing is turned into non-seeing, then there is the real state of samadhi. The state of complete samadhi is like the state of death, but it is a state of life after having conquered death. The state of sleep is also a kind of death and he really knows the secret of Dhyana Yoga whose sleep is nothing but samadhi.
Among all these different stages of the powers of Shakti, the power of Soham is the most exalted.
You should repeat Soham in your heart with firm faith. Your deep-rooted mental tendencies will vanish and the dirt of desire accumulated in previous births and in this birth will be washed away and your individual Self will be merged into the Universal Self and you will always remain in your real original state and thus attain everlasting peace.
The mind must be internally merged in Soham and become full of bliss. While carrying on this practice it is all one to me whether people hail me as a great saint or place me on a donkey and take me round through the streets as was once done in the case of Sri Tukaram. I do not in the least care about this. If my mind is absolutely clean and full of the bliss of Soham, entirely devoid of egotism and concentrated in the internal sound or Soham, even when outwardly doing worldly actions I shall consider myself as extremely fortunate.
The final goal of Soham: Self-realization.
A sadhaka comes to realize the power of the Self and ultimately to grasp that there is one everlasting and all-pervading Being which is present in everything and which is the only thing that exists. He then becomes one with Soham. He obtains everything which is to be obtained, to him nothing remains unattained, all his doubts are solved and he is merged in everlasting bliss. He becomes one with Brahman and never falls from this state.
Take this torch of Soham to light you through the dense darkness of ignorance; and having safely crossed the ocean of worldly existence, remain in the world in a spirit of detachment. This torch will lead you safe to your destination and once you reach there, you will be merged in your real Self and be full of bliss and joy. I am showing you the path leading to the Infinite and if you follow it you are sure to realize the real nature of Brahman.
If a sadhaka practices Dhyana Yoga with intensity, I am sure in this very life he will reach the state of perfection through the power of the Soham mantra.
Now let us see the real significance of Soham. All creatures are taking in and giving out breath. The taking in of the breath generates the sound So and the-giving out generates the sound of Ham. Thus the sound of Soham is being continuously generated in every creature, although very few are conscious of it.… Disgust for sexual pleasures, the ending of all karma, release from the cycle of birth and death, the realization of the Self–in short everything can be obtained through Soham. This is the real Dhyana-Yoga or Raja-Yoga.
The mind must be internally immersed in Soham and become full of bliss.… If my mind is absolutely clean and full of the bliss of Soham, entirely devoid of egotism and concentrated in the internal sound of Soham even when outwardly doing worldly actions, I shall consider myself as extremely fortunate.
He alone is able to explain the real nature of Soham who has himself experienced its power.
This Soham will in course of time remove the dirt of bad thoughts and make the mirror of the mind clean. As soon as the mirror becomes clean, the blissful nature of Soham will be realized. Hence we should direct all our efforts towards keeping our attention fixed on Soham without any break. If we do so we shall surely attain complete peace and happiness and life will be full of bliss.
Soham is the real path of knowledge (Jnana Marga). Owing to this, egotism disappears. In the path of knowledge, the sadhaka’s consciousness becomes more and more comprehensive, until it becomes all-pervading. Thus, in the path of knowledge one becomes all-pervading and one with the universal Being.
The Dhyana Yoga of the Nath Pantha which has been handed down from Matsyendranath acts like a light which clearly shows the right path. I say this from my own experience. As the sadhaka has to repeat the japa and also to meditate, this path is known as Dhyana Yoga. With firm faith, having turned back the course of thoughts from the outward world to inside himself, a sadhaka has to carry on the japa and meditation for a long time. As he progresses, he gradually reaches perfection and realizes that his own Self has been his Sadguru. This state is known as oneness of jiva (the individual Self) and Shiva (the Supreme Self). It is also called Sakshatkara. A sadhaka then naturally enjoys the bliss of the Self and becomes devoid of desire for anything else. This path is also known as Dhyana Yoga or Karma Marga, because a sadhaka gets Sakshatkara after progressing through many steps. He also attains complete knowledge, hence it is called Jnana Yoga. I therefore again and again say that people should have recourse to this simple path of self-deliverance.
The Soham mantra is the real savior.
I wish to emphasize that he who has no attachment for worldly objects, who is perfect, has completely controlled his senses, and whose mind is entirely devoid of any desire of sensual pleasures, who remains in the world but is, as it were, out of it because of his entire detachment, he alone obtains the sovereign kingdom of everlasting atmic bliss. He becomes one with Soham, and obtains the real grace. His mind is pure like the water of the Ganges, which moves in its course purifying all who come in contact with it. All bad thoughts entirely disappear, and his actions are quite naturally done. He is externally, as well as internally, quite calm and at peace.
In this stage it is difficult to distinguish him from other ordinary persons. In this stage he sees Brahman in all things. In other words, he is entirely immersed in the experience that everywhere there is nothing but all-pervading joy and bliss. His joy and peace are not dependent upon anything else, and hence they are everlasting. They are not disturbed under any circumstances, however adverse. His experience tells him that he himself has taken the form of the biggest as well as the minutest things. This is the real meaning of Soham. This is the real Atmajnana. Without this Atmajnana, all actions are useless.
The following are from disciples of Gajanana Maharaj in Light on the Path of Self-realization.
The only thing Maharaja persistently lays stress upon is that a person should day and night repeat “Soham” in his mind and direct all his senses towards it. He will then become one with it.
It was the practice of Gajanana Maharaj to have a beginning aspirant sit before him and meditate so he could observe and bless him. One person told this afterward: “When I had repeated the japa of Soham for five minutes, he in his great mercy manifested to me a strong light resembling a [photographic] flash light and said, ‘This is the light of your own Self. By means of the Soham Japa you will be able to see it constantly.’”
A student of Gajanana Maharaj related the following vision: “One day when I went to Maharaja in the evening as usual for his darshan, Maharaja said that one must worship Shakti. Then one gets all the siddhis (powers) of the yoga path. Only care must be taken of not utilizing those powers for oneself. There must not be a single thing in the yoga path which one does not understand.
“Next day when I sat for meditation early in the morning the Goddess having six arms, whom I had once seen before, stood before me and… said that by that japa one can acquire the whole power of the universe in oneself, saying which she disappeared. After about a week or fortnight the Goddess again appeared before me and said, ‘I have not got six arms, I have only two. But I showed six arms to you as I had to put down your six enemies [the six passions] and for that purpose I had equipped myself with six arms. But now there is no necessity for me to put down your six enemies as they are being slowly conquered by you without an effort by the japa of the mantra Soham. I have originally only two arms and one should meditate upon me in that form, because my form of two arms represent dwaita [duality] and through this dwaita you have to go into adwaita [oneness].’”
The same student said this: “On another occasion when I was sitting near Sri Gajanana Maharaja in meditation, I thought I was going through a deep valley. There was partly light and partly darkness there, and when I went almost to the bottom I heard the sound of ‘Soham’ coming from above and the sound of ‘Koham’ coming from below. I saw a brilliant light below from which someone came up and said, ‘I myself was asking from below “Koham” to which the reply of “Soham” came from above.’ Then I asked him [Gajananda Maharaj] what it meant. He said ‘Koham’ means ‘Who am I?’ to which the answer is ‘Soham–I am He.’”
The following words of Sri Gajanana Maharaj are found in Light of the Soul, printed in 1948, two years after Maharaj’s departure from this world.
Is there any use in carrying on the japa of Soham without faith in its efficacy? The answer to that is that the repetition of the japa will always be useful, even though done without faith. It will never do you any harm. No doubt all the shastras and saints lay stress on faith, and hence the above statement will appear contrary to their teachings. However, if you go deep into the matter and observe minutely, you will easily be able to reconcile the two statements. Without having faith–although it may be in the subconscious mind–no one will be induced to practice the japa. As soon as a person begins to repeat the japa, faith is there accompanying the japa like its shadow. If we carefully follow this argument the seeming contradiction will cease to trouble us. A real mumukshu or devotee will never be deceived by the seeming contradiction, and will never allow his mind to be disturbed and turned away from the path.
This mantra Soham is the inner, subtle sound produced by the incoming and outgoing breaths. Everyone is breathing and producing this sound, but no one is conscious of it. Hence no one practices this japa. If anyone carries on the practice by fixing his attention upon this japa, he will be sure to obtain its fruit. …I carried on the japa with perseverance and firm faith, and later this practice became my nature.
All dross is sure to be swept away from the heart of a sadhaka by the constant japa of Soham. If the seed of Soham is sown in such a field, it is sure to sprout into a beautiful tree which will be laden with the fruit of the bliss of Self-realization. Such sadhakas… will be enjoying unchanging bliss and will very easily cross the river of worldly existence. When a sadhaka reaches this stage he can very easily control his mind, intellect and ahankar. The power generated by the constant repetition of the Soham mantra is sure to lead to the complete liberation of the sadhaka. “Your treasure is within you, only you have forgotten the place where it is hidden.”
If we want to make our whole worldly life full of bliss, we must meditate on the Self through the mantra of Soham. Such has been my own experience and… I have reached this stage entirely through meditating on Soham. I cannot say that I have attained this stage through my own efforts. This Soham which has come out of the Avyakta (the Unmanifested) has brought the shakti (power) of the Avyakta with it, and owing to this shakti everything of mine has become Krishnarpana (one with the Godhead). Hence, Maya does not trouble me. I have become one with Soham and I have realized my Self by meditating on it. I am enjoying unchanging bliss.
The mantra Soham is the sole savior. I am absolutely sure of this, not merely intellectually but through self-experience. All saints have resorted to this very mantra, and when their thoughts become entirely merged in the Supreme Self they become one with Brahman and shine forth in this world. Through their grace and through meditation on Soham I am enjoying the same bliss which they enjoy. I have not as yet arrived at the state of such great saints as Jnaneshwar, Tukaram, or Ramdas. But I am following in their footsteps and taking draughts of the supreme bliss. These saints have boldly declared in their imperishable words that they have been saved by Soham, and that others will also be saved by the same mantra. Future saints also will preach the same principle.
The mantra Soham was hidden in the Avyakta in the deep recesses of my own soul. This treasure was with me but I had forgotten the place where it was hidden. The saints pointed out to me that place and from that time I have been continuously contemplating on the Self.
I am telling others to repeat Soham not on my own initiative, but the saints are speaking with my mouth. This Soham which has come out of the Avyakta is ever present in the hearts of men. Saints become one with this Soham which is in their own hearts and then the Soham merges itself again into the Avyakta. I therefore think that Soham is the real Karma [action leading to liberation], it is the “I” and the saints have made me realize this “I.” This Soham is the real secret.
Soham will deliver from all troubles and difficulties.… Soham japa is like an ocean which is full of unlimited bliss.
The repetition of Soham may be sakama (action with expectation of fruits), or nishkama (action without expectation of fruits). As Soham is based on the workings of nature, its japa, though it may be carried on with the object of fulfilling earthly desires, will ultimately be united with the real Soham which is enshrined in the innermost core of our being, and thus bring into awakening the power of the Paramatman. Objects of earthly desires are not permanent. The joy which is felt in their attainment is evanescent. But the effect of even the sakama japa of Soham is not altogether lost. It retains its force and awakens the power of the Self.
This “I” [the true Self] is Soham, and eternal peace is its nature. A person might say that he does not want all this bother about God, dhyana, devotion, faith and concentration. All right; but let him say whether he wants peace, calmness and happiness or not. Even if he thinks that these ideas about God, etc., are false and illusory, still he must admit that there is somebody inside him who thinks them false and illusory. This knower inside us is the Self and that Self is Soham.
If an aspirant carries on the continuous meditation on the sound of Soham, he will become one with Soham. If he happens to die in this state he can be sure of attaining sadgati (everlasting happiness; final beatitude) after his death. It is very difficult to bring our mind to bear upon the contemplation of God at the time of our death. The force of desires is very great at that time, a person becomes a prey to them, and owing to this has to go through the cycle of various lives. If, however, he gets himself accustomed to the continuous intense contemplation of the sound of Soham, his mind at the time of death will not be entangled in the meshes of worldly desires, but will be merged in Soham and hence he will be sure to go to a higher state after his death. I therefore say to you all: commence the japa of Soham and carry it on ceaselessly.
What is necessary is that we must devote our attention to this Soham. The more your attention is directed towards Soham the greater will be the change in your mind and thoughts.… The speaker, doer, the action itself and in fact everything will be one with Soham. I am at present experiencing the bliss of such a state, and anyone else who will do as I have done will attain similar bliss. As long as the “I” dwells in this body, we must get into the habit of repeating Soham. Ceaseless repetition will make the trend of all thoughts full of Soham.
As soon as a man gains consciousness of the ever-existing presence of this “I” he attains the goal of human life. This state is known as sakshiavastha (the state where the “I” is consciously felt to be the ever-present witness). This Soham is ever present in every being in the form of his own Self. This Soham is continuously going on, it never stops. This Soham which is seen in all animate and inanimate things is my Jani Janardan (God present in all human beings), and wherever I use the word “Jani Janardan,” I mean by it this Soham that is present in all.
The state of enlightenment is indescribable in words. All words, therefore, are meaningless, and silence is the only eloquence regarding it. In order to attain this natural state, saints have prescribed a certain practice. Soham is in the hearts of all saints who have obtained Self-realization. I, too, told myself, my mind, to contemplate ceaselessly on Soham. The mind is pliable and turns towards that to which it is made to turn. When the mind, therefore, was made accustomed to the japa of Soham, the mind became one with Soham, and thus became merged in the Paramatman. Through the ceaseless contemplation of Soham, the mind became one with the Paramatman, and began to enjoy the everlasting and unchanging bliss which is the nature of the Self.
The japa of Soham should be repeated in as natural a manner as possible. There is no necessity of assuming any particular posture (asana). It should be carried on even while doing worldly actions. No misgiving should be entertained regarding its effect even though there may be absence of concentration. Such doubts are groundless. Even when we feel that our mind is concentrated, that state of concentration is only apparently so. The mind is in its very nature extremely fickle, and we cannot be sure when it will dart away and throw us into a whirlpool of thoughts. Everyone knows that this state of concentration is generally momentary. It is no doubt true that in the state of samadhi the mind is concentrated for a longer duration, but that state of samadhi also is not permanent; it lasts only for some time. After that the person again descends into consciousness of surrounding worldly objects, the play of good and bad desires generating pleasure or pain is resumed, and the body carries on its usual activities.
Some people think that if they carry on the japa of Soham they may get into a state of [continual indrawn or abstract] concentration, and then it will be difficult for them to carry on their worldly duties easily. This idea also is false. Soham is our real nature. If we become one with it we will, on the contrary, be able to carry on our usual worldly duties more efficiently.
It is a common idea with aspirants that as soon as they begin japa of the mantra Soham their mind should become concentrated and they should enter into the state of samadhi. It is a laudable wish, no doubt, but it is out of place at the time. The main idea in meditation is that while the japa is going on there should not be the flow of other thoughts disturbing the repetition of the mantra. Our mind is naturally fickle. It is very difficult for it to concentrate itself upon one idea. The aspirant will in time experience a state in which the mantra is going on while his mind is entirely at repose.
“All possible troubles beset the worldly life.” Keeping this truth firmly in mind, it is necessary to get deliverance from samsara (worldly existence) by the internal repetition of Soham. The seeing of many visions is not a sure sign of progress. Real progress lies in the continuous meditation on the sound of Soham going on without a break, after the visions have stopped. If a person carries on the continuous practice of the Soham japa, his mind will in course of time get concentrated upon it, and he will then experience the state of samadhi.
In the state of samadhi there is no consciousness of the external world, and there is experience of bliss. But this state lasts only for a short time. As soon as the normal consciousness is gained, the world makes its presence felt as before and the old play of desires, full of pleasure and pain, commences. Thus it will be seen that it is a mistake to suppose that we have reached our final goal when we reach the state of samadhi. What is necessary in this stage, is that even while we are conscious of worldly objects our meditation on Soham must be ceaselessly going on, and the worldly objects and events should produce no reaction on our mind, making it unsteady. Hence it is necessary to carry on the meditation of Soham ceaselessly. When this practice is carried on continuously, a state is reached when the presence of the Paramatman is felt in all the three states: the waking, the dreaming and the sleeping. Thus, the state of ajapa-japa is reached, and when this is reached we experience the state of samadhi even while we are doing worldly activities. The mind itself becomes one with Soham and the truth of the following words is realized: “The mind has become fixed and motionless in one place. Atmic bliss has, therefore, been realized to the full. Nothing remains lacking.”
The object of the above discussion is not to make aspirants despondent and abandon the practice through a sense of frustration if they find that their efforts are not crowned with success in a short time. They are sure to realize the real power of Soham after some days if they carry on the practice continuously, with great intensity. There is absolutely no doubt about this. I say this from my own experience. The aspirant should have the firm determination that he will carry on the practice of Soham intensely in the future, although he might have failed to do so in the past.
This “I” inside the body may be called by any name. It may be called God or Nature or any other name. The knowledge of this “I” leads to peace and happiness. Is there anyone who does not want this peace and happiness? Our mind is like a mirror. Various thoughts are always arising in the mind. It is a mistake to think that we are sinners, and hence will not be able to concentrate upon Soham. Who is it that knows that we are sinners, and hence will not be able to concentrate on Soham? It is our own Self which is inside us. Various thoughts are always having their play in the mind. According to the different thoughts, the mind is plunged in sorrow or in joy. We should think about the “I” inside, who is the witness of all these thoughts. That is Soham.
If we sit quiet and at ease divesting the mind of all disturbing thoughts, we shall get a glimpse of this witness inside. The mirror of our mind has been covered over with the dirt of innumerable impressions left by bad thoughts entertained through the course of innumerable previous lives. The dark soot of kama (lust) and krodha (anger) is lying in thick layers on the surface of this mirror. It is our duty to try to wash away all this dirt and soot by means of good desires, and by increasing the flow of good thoughts.
Sri Tukaram says, “Wherever I go you are always with me to bear me company.” The companion here referred to is none other than Soham. Wherever you may be, in whatever condition you may be, this Soham, this witness, this Paramatman, is always your companion. You have never been or will ever be separated from Him because you and He are one. Only you are not conscious of His nearness and presence. You must first become fully conscious of His nearness and presence and then lose the sense of this consciousness also by becoming one with Him. Then you will be bliss incarnate, everlasting, unchanging bliss.
While carrying on the contemplation of Soham, an aspirant should always be carefully observing whether his worldly desires are gradually dropping off. The gradual dropping of worldly desires, and the capability to perform worldly actions solely from a sense of duty and not with a view to achieve some object, are sure signs of spiritual progress. If an aspirant makes it a point to see that his attention is continuously fixed on Soham, that his mind is growing more and more detached, and that he is continuously carrying on the practice with firm faith in the path of Soham sadhana, I am sure that he will certainly reach the goal. Whether a person is a mumukshu (aspirant), sadhaka, or a siddha (a person who has obtained siddhi or power), if all his desires have completely disappeared and he has attained a complete sense of detachment, then he attains a state in which the Supreme Self is always with him wherever he stays. There is no necessity for him to go anywhere. I therefore urge all people, whether ignorant or learned, mumukshus or sadhakas, to carry on the japa of Soham with their attention continuously directed towards it.
Some people say that the present age is the age of material enjoyment. That the present Yuga is Kali Yuga, and in this Yuga it is extremely difficult to attain the highest goal of Self-realization. Naturally, men in general will be always striving to obtain material happiness. I, however, think that it is not proper to be complaining about external conditions. A little consideration will, on the contrary, convince us that external conditions are almost the same in all Yugas. The change lies in the mind, the attitude it adopts. According to the attitude of your mind you will feel that the age is Satya Yuga or Kali Yuga. Everything thus depends on your mind. Hence I say that you should get your mind immersed in the ceaseless contemplation of Soham and then you will find that the difficulties created by troublesome external conditions will automatically disappear.
If our mind is unsteady, if it does not feel any joy in the contemplation of Soham, we should ask ourselves the question: Why do we not experience pleasure in doing the japa? The obvious answer is that it is our own lack of faith that comes in the way and bars us from getting this joy. There is also another thing. Thousands of bad impressions have been accumulated in our mind through the course of previous births. How can all these impressions disappear at once?
In the case of those whose bad impressions have been cleared away to an appreciable extent, if they carry on the practice they will get some spiritual experiences sooner or later according to their merit. If any bad desires have beset their mind in this life, the continuous contemplation of Soham will gradually destroy all those desires in this very life. In the next life the remaining bad impressions and bad desires, and kama (lust), krodha (anger) and lobha (greed), generating them or generated by them, will surely disappear. You should have no doubt regarding this in your mind.
I therefore say again and again, that the real power lies in the mantra Soham. This power is also centered in you. If you thoroughly realize this power, and become one with it, you will easily attain atmic bliss, even though you may be leading a worldly life. You will be thoroughly happy internally, as well as in your worldly life.
My brothers and sisters should remember that a liking for and devotion to God is the result of the accumulation of great merit in previous lives. If you have this liking, God in the form of Soham who has His dwelling in the outgoing and incoming breath of every human being, will be realized by you. I say this from my own experience.
There are stone idols of gods and there are portraits or pictures of gods. Looked at from the point of view of our senses, they are merely lifeless stones or pictures. Is there any movement in them? But do we not superimpose the presence of Rama, Vitthala, Krishna or Dattatreya on these lifeless things by the force of our faith? And when this emotion of devotion generated by faith reaches its climax, these idols of stone are actually perceived as full of chaitanya. They talk with us and walk with us and behave with us as if they are our friends and companions of long-standing. We should carefully consider within ourselves how we fixed our faith in these stone idols in the beginning. We so fixed our faith owing to the teachings of saints and devotees. That is, our faith was generated owing to the words of others in whom we had faith. For some days, months or years we maintained this faith and ultimately this faith culminated in the above-mentioned realization.
Similarly, you should entertain firm faith in the power of Soham. Do not allow your faith to be shaken although in the beginning you do not get any experiences. Are we not required to have faith in each other even in ordinary worldly transactions? If you give this consideration to the matter of Soham in the same manner, you will find that having faith in Soham is a matter solely depending upon your own mind. Even if owing to bad impressions of past lives doubts assail your mind, it lies with you to drive away these doubts with assiduous efforts, remembering that therein lies the successful fruition of your life.
The path which leads to the true knowledge of this “I” and to the realization of oneness with it, is the path of spiritual progress. He who desires to go by this path must naturally practice self-restraint and keep himself detached from material pleasures. Abandoning of material pleasures outwardly, or abandoning them by merely forcibly curbing the mind, is of very little use. The renunciation must be mental–the mind must gradually develop a dislike for these material pleasures. If you will try to immerse your mind in the continuous contemplation of the sound of Soham, this renunciation becomes easy. The mind becomes one with Soham, and then the ajapa japa begins. In this state our whole worldly existence becomes full of happiness. The mind of a person who attains this state goes beyond pleasure and pain. It becomes full of universal love, and he feels nothing but love in this material world which to others is full of pleasure and pain.
My friends, doubts are bound to assail the mind. To entertain various doubts and misgivings is quite natural to the mind. As long as a person is alive, his mind will always be full of thoughts, good or bad. Hence it is futile to wait till the mind abandons all mistaken thoughts and doubts. People who think that they will not be able to make any progress in spiritual matters until this inflow of thoughts is stopped should pay particular attention to the following illustration.
There are bound to be innumerable waves on the sea. If a person thinks that he will swim in the sea when all these waves are stopped, will he ever be able to swim in the sea? He will surely come to know that the waves will never stop and he will never be able to swim. Similarly, every person who wants to follow the spiritual path should not wait for the disappearance of all thoughts, but should start the contemplation of Soham and try to keep his mind fixed upon it. He should not allow his mind to be diverted from it by the waves of thoughts.
As long as a person identifies himself with this body, these doubts and thoughts are sure to assail him and cause disturbance. A sure way to escape from the clutches of these thoughts is to develop a feeling that we are not the body. It is the nature of the mind to carry on the continuous play of thoughts. The mind (manas), the intellect (buddhi), and the chitta (consciousness) are all inside us. Buddhi is the power which enables us to determine something. The mind is always fickle and moving from one idea to another, and when the mind concentrates upon something it is called chitta. A sadhaka, therefore, should concentrate upon Soham and thus turn his mind into chitta. If he continues this practice for some time, his mind will gradually gain in calmness and ultimately will become one with Soham and with the inherent, everlasting bliss which is the real nature of Soham, and thus his chitta will become chit (consciousness). Once this state is attained, that person will experience unlimited joy. Such a person is easily able to identify himself with all persons with whom he comes into contact, and with all circumstances in which he finds himself placed. His peace of mind is never disturbed, and he is always immersed in everlasting and unchanging bliss. He attains the goal, and the real purpose of human life is fulfilled.
God has innumerable names, and people are calling out His various names according to their individual liking. Although it is so, still it must be remembered that Kabir says: “Rama Nama is repeated by almost all people–by thieves, by licentious people, and by rich people. But that Nama by which Dhruva and Prahlada were saved was something different.” I boldly tell you with firm assurance that the “different” Nama referred to by Kabir in these lines is none other than Soham. He who makes that Nama his own becomes one with the universal power. His words acquire the force of truth, and hence are full of power.
If you repeat the Soham mantra in your mind, by continuous practice your mind gets concentrated upon it. The concentration is dhyana. If this force is uninterruptedly stored up in your heart, be sure that you have obtained the goal of human life.
Somebody might say, “We have carefully listened to what you have told us. But what will be the use of all this for solving the practical difficulties of our actual life in this world?” No doubt this question is very important.
If your difficulties remain as they are, all this effort of japa and concentration will be useless and good for nothing. But I say this with all emphasis, that once you get the experience of the Avyakta [the Divine Unmanifest], the power of the Avyakta is such that it will more than suffice for solving all possible difficulties in your worldly life. There is no necessity of your trying anything else for that purpose. You should only try your best to obtain the experience of the Avyakta. Once that is done, you will get such a power that it will either drive away all possible difficulties which beset you, or all difficulties will automatically disappear.
True karma [yoga] lies in remaining absolutely calm and undisturbed by fixing your abode in the all-pervading Chaitanya. I have said something about karma [yoga] before. Here I put it in the shortest way and the fewest words: To remain indifferent to pleasure and pain, and to perform actions from a sense of duty supported by the basis of Self-knowledge, is the real karma [yoga]. Lord Krishna describes himself as “Aham,” that is, “Soham,” which is the real power of Avyakta.
If a man carries on the japa of the saving mantra Soham, he will thereby surely succeed in gradually obtaining peace of mind. Sometimes doubts and fears will assail him. He should not mind them, but carry on the practice with greater and greater intensity. If this is carried on till the time of death, he will find that at the time of death his mind is not centered in worldly matters. Even if his mind is slightly disturbed and attracted a little towards these things, he should still carry on the japa, and then at the time of death his mind will be engrossed in the contemplation of Soham.
I have explained this point as clearly as I could. Only you must have the lighted torch of Soham with you, and must try to obtain peace in its light. I have said what I know from my own experience. Everybody should try to realize it by his own experience. He must only remember that love is the Self, and the Self is love. Soham is the Self, and the Self is love. Soham is the Self, and there is everlasting peace in the Self. That itself is the Avyakta, the Unmanifested, in which everything lives, moves and has its being. Obtain everlasting peace by the mantra of Soham, which surely and certainly leads to the goal.
People should quietly and persistently carry on the japa of Soham on their own initiative, instead of running after every saint, true or false, whom they happen to hear about. In this way they will at least not be deceived or misled.
The world is like a big jail and people are born into it to serve out their sentences. Have therefore a wholesome fear of this jail and try to purge away your sins and evil desires by the japa and contemplation of Soham. You need not do anything else for the purpose of your deliverance. Keep firm control over your mind, and then you will easily get control over your prana (breath).
There are saints like Sri Jnaneshwar, Tukaram, or Eknath who, while conscious of this world and its implications, are always enjoying the bliss of the Self. They are in what is known as sahajavastha. They see unity in diversity, deal with worldly matters in a worldly way, and still inwardly are immersed in the bliss of Self-realization. Such saints alone are useful to the world, and they alone can lead others to the supreme goal by a method which people can easily follow. Hence I say that everyone should repeat Soham. It surely and certainly leads to the knowledge of the Self and the attainment of everlasting peace. One’s actions then in the worldly life are automatically done, and one is absolutely detached from them, just as a lotus leaf is from water.
Our salvation really lies in our own hands. I therefore advise my mind to always get immersed in the contemplation of Soham, and thus to free itself from the snares of all doubts.
I say that through his experiences a sadhaka comes to realize the power of the Self, and ultimately to grasp that there is one everlasting and all-pervading Being which is present in everything and which is the only thing that exists. He then becomes one with Soham. He obtains everything which is to be obtained, to him nothing remains unattained, all his doubts are solved, and he is immersed in everlasting bliss. He becomes one with Brahman, and never falls from this state.
Sri Gajanana Maharaj ended The Light of the Soul by a single sentence:
With these words I stop and enter into the deep and changeless love and joy of the ajapa japa of Soham.
Through the ajapa japa [Soham] the mind rids itself of restless thoughts (Gorakhbodha 102).
The gayatri called ajapa [Soham] is the giver of liberation to yogis; simply with the resolve [sankalpa] to recite this [Soham] is he freed from all demerit (Goraksha Sataka 44).
Knowledge like this, repetition [japa] like this, insight like this neither was nor shall be (Goraksha Sataka 45).
The gayatri [Soham] is sprung from Kundalini and supports the prana. Knowledge of the prana is the great knowledge. Who knows this is an adept (Goraksha Sataka 46).
Self-knowledge is the light [of the mantra] Soham. [It belongs to] neither earth nor sky nor sea (Gorakh Vani 18:5).
Practice mental recitation with such an intensity that the mantra of “Soham,” “Soham” is pronounced mentally, produced without your doing so out loud. Sit firmly in the asana and meditate. Contemplate day and night on the Divine.… then the divine Sound is perceived automatically, the Sun rises in the Sushumna, and the current of consciousness comes to dwell in the Sahasrara lotus and the bhramargufa [brahmarandhra] is illuminated with the radiance of the Self. (Unfortunately I have lost track of the source of this. I only know that it is the sixth verse of one of his writings.)
One whose intellect is centered in equanimity and who has attained inner knowledge through the japa of Soham, recognizes God [Hari] is his inner heart.
Soham japa or Soham awareness is the state of total peace, of complete rest.
Contact between the senses and their objects of perception is ended through Soham japa.
When one experiences or becomes aware of Soham, the body consciousness is dissolved and the senses turn inward, away from their objects.
Just as light pervades everywhere, from the sun to its reflection in water, the Soham consciousness extends from the embodied Self to the Supreme Self. When man becomes fully immersed in the Soham vision, he, along with it, spontaneously merges with the Supreme Being.
As soon as I approached the mantra Soham, I entered the turiya state.
Finding the silent sound: All of these sounds [of mental Soham japa], one after the other, lead us inward to the still, silent sound out of which they all emerge. The process comes in stages.… If anyone wants to know the meaning of the silent sound of the Soham mantra, there is only one way to do so, and that is to follow the sounds inward to that place. Inside, the meaning is revealed in direct experience.
Attention is required: There is one skill that is of utmost importance to meditation, and that is training the attention. It means developing a steady, unbroken relationship with the Soham of the breath, regardless of the other activities of the mind. It is not about repressing thoughts, but is more like listening intently to the whisper of a beloved friend in a crowded room. It is your conviction to attention that makes the voice clear, not the elimination of the other people. So too, the thoughts of the mind are allowed their life, as you listen passionately to the Soham, Soham of the breath ebbing and flowing through the gross and subtle bodies, and the mind.
The Soham mantra is a natural mantra because it is already part of your nature. So is the sound of inhalation, and is remembered in the mind along with the inhalation. Ham is the sound of exhalation, and is remembered in the mind along with the exhalation.
The Soham mantra has been called the universal mantra because of the fact that its vibration is already a part of the breath, and everybody breathes. (Soham Mantra Meditation)
You should take a dip in the Manasarovar [of the Divine Absolute] and perform the japa of Soham. The japa of Soham is beyond the limits of sins or sacred virtues.
His password is Soham. [Soham is the password which admits us into liberation, into the Being of Brahman.] (Quoted in The Impact of Sufism in India.)
The Supra-Causal Realm (Bhanwar Gupha) is vibrating with Soham.
There is a land where no doubt nor sorrow have rule: where the
terror of Death is no more.
There the woods of spring are a-bloom, and the fragrant scent
“Soham” is borne on the wind:
There the bee of the heart is deeply immersed, and desires no
Lalleshwari (Lalla Yogeshwari)
One of the greatest saints of Kashmir, Lalleshwari (Lad Ded) lived and wrote her inspired poetry in the fourteenth century.
The anahata sound… mounts the horse of the breath and rides in and out in the form of Soham. (Lalleshwari, Section 71)
Everything is contained in Soham. (Lalleshwari, Section 73)
Become the close companion of the inhalation and exhalation. By combining Soham with them, you can sail across [samsara]. (Lalleshwari, Section 74)
Day in and day out pursue Soham in your breath. Then you will become what you really are–the perfect and supreme light. (Lalleshwari, Section 75)
If you want to christen your body, name it after the formless God. Repeat that Name and remember it: Soham–I am he.… Your I-ness will flee from you, and only Shiva will remain. (Lalleshwari, Section 78)
As long as I failed to see my Self, I could not see the ocean even though I was drowning. When I held aloft the torch of Soham, I saw that I was the ocean itself. O Lalli! Do not let the light of Soham be extinguished, not even for a moment. (Lalleshwari, Section 83)
Everything has become new for me. My mind is new, the moon is new, the sun is new. The whole world appears fresh and new as if rinsed with water. Since I washed my mind and body with the soap of Soham, I have become like new. I am transformed. Now Lalli has become the great Shakti which leaps with bliss. (Lalleshwari, Section 103)
It is easy to compose scriptures, but very difficult to follow them. The scriptural methods for seeking the Truth are complex and subtle. I forgot the scriptures in my practice of Soham. I forgot the texts in my yogic techniques. Still, I attained perfection, the bliss of Consciousness. O Lalli! Now the goal of life is fulfilled. (Lalleshwari, Section 131)
The mantra Soham, “I am he,” consists of So, “he,” and Aham, “I.” I renounced Aham in the form of my pride and expanded to become perfect. I expanded into Shiva and became Shiva. (Lalleshwari, Section 149)
I read and study only one word, and that word is Soham. When I seized that word I caught Lord Shiva himself. In the fire of that word all my dross was burned to ashes, and I became pure gold. (Lalleshwari, Section 152)
Swami Maharaj of Akalkot (Swāmi Samarth Mahāraj; Akkalkot Swami)
The person who repeats ‘Soham Soham’ [in time with the breath] accomplishes the liberation from personal existence and gets absorbed in the divine substance, with the realization that he is the Self.
Swami Muktananda Paramahansa
Perhaps the best-known twentieth-century teacher of the Nath Yogi tradition was Paramhansa (Bhagavan) Nityananda of Ganeshpuri. His most renowned disciple was Swami Muktananda who came several times to America on his world tours, and founded many yoga centers. Although toward the end of Muktananda’s life some personal difficulties arose, it does not affect the legitimacy of his previous teachings. His brilliant, unique discourses merit study and I am including many of his statements regarding Soham sadhana in this section.
Soham is a divine technique. Jnaneshwar says: “Soham japa or Soham awareness is the state of total peace, of complete rest.” He adds, “Contact between the senses and their objects of perception is ended through Soham japa” (Satsang With Baba, Vol. 4, p. 281).
Describing the plight of the child in the womb as it goes through various phases of development according to the Garbha Upanishad, Muktananda says:
When the fetus in the womb is seven months old, the soul receives knowledge of its past and future. It knows who it has been and who it will be. When the movie of its lives passes before its mind, it becomes frightened and begins moving restlessly here and there.… Finally, the fetus becomes desperate and begins to call out to God for help.
Now God, the Self, is right there. He has been watching all of this, and when at last the soul starts crying out and taking refuge in Him, God bestows His grace upon it. He gives it instruction in Soham, which means “That am I.”
As the fetus repeats the mantra, it begins to understand its identity with the supreme Principle. It becomes immersed in the Soham awareness, the awareness of its true nature, and becomes calm and serene. However, when nine months are over, the fetus is forcibly ejected from the mother’s womb. The moment it comes out, it begins crying, making the sound “Kwanh, kwanh,” or “Ko’ham, Ko’ham.” It forgets God’s instructions and the understanding it has attained. It forgets the awareness of Soham, and cries, “Ko’ham–who am I?” It begins to identify itself in different ways, saying, “I am this body,” “I belong to a particular class,” “I am a woman,” “I am a man,” “I am a sinner.” It becomes established in this kind of understanding and lives its life accordingly (I Am That, pp. 34, 35).
Shaivism says that the contemplation of Soham is the contemplation of your own true nature. It is the knowledge of your own Self. Therefore, you should realize this japa in all your activities (I Am That, p. 40).
If ego can be replaced by Soham, there will be nothing left to renounce. (Selected Essays, p. 134).
Soham is everyone’s own mantra (Soham Japa, A Meditation Technique For Everyone, p. 13).
Harmonize the repetition of mantra with the breathing as follows: With “So” take it in and with “ham” bring it out.… When one’s mind is fixed on “So” with the incoming breath and on “ham” with the outgoing breath it is mantra-japa.… Your beauty, your energy, your duty, your religion, your Guru and guide; your study, worship and prayer–all lie in engaging yourself to the remembrance and repetition of “Soham,” “Soham.” This is my instruction, this is my precept. This is to be followed or practiced, and reflected upon devoutly. (From a letter written on April 23, 1968)
[The Guru Gita] speaks of a mantra in the sahasrara, at the crown of the head. Inside there is a triangle [trikuti] and there are two syllables, So and Ham, and the mantra Soham arises from there. Right in the center of this triangle the guru dwells. For this reason, you don’t have to continue to search for a Guru. If you see that Guru, you will receive messages from him. If you experience this relationship between a Guru and a disciple, even for a moment, it is more than enough. (From the Finite to the Infinite, p. 307)
You should repeat Soham until you become completely absorbed in meditation.… Soham is the gateway to the kingdom of meditation. Keep repeating Soham as much as you can. (From the Finite to the Infinite, p. 168)
Soham is the final japa. It is meant for Siddhas, for free beings.… Soham is the most natural mantra. It is the true mantra. (From the Finite to the Infinite, p. 190)
Every part of your body reverberates with this mantra. Every blood cell reverberates with it. You don’t always realize this, but when you meditate and become very quiet and look within, you experience that every blood cell contains the Soham mantra; it reverberates in this body. And not only in this body–it permeates the entire universe. (From the Finite to the Infinite, p. 192)
Make [the monkey mind] dance on the stage of Soham. For that, meditate and repeat the mantra. (From the Finite to the Infinite, p. 407)
Discard aham or ego, and grasp Soham. (From the Finite to the Infinite, p. 323)
The awareness of Soham, “I am He,” is the best way of worshiping the Self. (From the Finite to the Infinite, p. 241)
Jnaneshwar Maharaj describes his own experience in this manner: He says that the seeker,… takes refuge in Soham and finds inner rest. Kabir says that Soham is the japa that goes on automatically, and if one is aware of it, one goes beyond sin and virtue. Kabir has written a large number of verses on this theme. Then, take the case of Vasuguptacharya, who was also a Siddha. He says it is by means of Soham that we explore our inner nature, that we become aware of the inner Self. Janabai, a Siddha yogini, writes in one of her poems that when one becomes aware of Soham within, one becomes aware of the inner Self, one recognizes Lord Hari within. (Satsang With Baba, Vol. 1, p. 200)
In fact, So and Ham comprise the entire universe in their scope. So is the supremely pure changeless Shiva, and Ham is the inner Self or Shakti… So is God and Ham is the inner soul. (Satsang With Baba, Vol. 1, p. 200)
It signifies a very high state when Soham arises within. That is the true vibration of the inner Self. (Satsang With Baba, Vol. 1, p. 281)
He who is repeating Soham with intense faith cannot be harmed by any power in this universe. (Satsang With Baba, Vol. 2, p. 102)
Man takes so much pride in his petty name, he subjects himself to so much suffering, he fights and he gets caught up in so much unpleasantness, in spite of the fact that by repeating Soham, the True Name, the Divine Name, he could attain the divine state.
Soham is not a sectarian mantra. There is nothing artificial or imaginary about it. It is self-begotten. It has arisen itself. It is the mantra for all renunciants, for all sadhus, for all holy beings. Soham is vibrating within by itself. It doesn’t have to be artificially created. This mantra is going on in every one, but as long as we are outward turned we do not become aware of it. It is only during meditation, when we plunge into our own depths, that we become aware of Soham, which has always been going on within us. Therefore a poet-saint says, “Soham is ajapa-japa. Do japa of it. Then you will get beyond both sin and virtue.”
Soham is enormously helpful for attaining perfection…, because when this mantra is repeated, Kundalini is awakened much more quickly than it would be in any other way. Kundalini begins to work with much greater force and experiences come far more easily.… He who becomes Soham while repeating Soham, becomes the Lord.… The highest state is gained.…
Soham is a symbol of the highest attainment. Soham is the final goal of man. Every being should grow into Soham awareness. (Satsang With Baba, Vol. 3, pp. 183, 184)
Soham is in fact the mantra of meditation. Soham is not the exclusive property of any particular sect or school of philosophy. It belongs to everyone because Soham is without beginning, it is self-existent. Every human being has the right to do Soham because Soham goes on by itself within everyone. Therefore, repeat Soham. You should continue to do Soham because Soham is ideally suited for meditation. The scriptures also say that within every creature the mantra Soham is going on by itself. In certain higher stages of meditation you will discover that what you are now repeating deliberately has always been going on within you involuntarily. You can continue to do Soham. (Satsang With Baba, Vol. 4, pp. 49, 50)
Soham is meant for one who is very highly evolved, who understands what truth is, one who is enlightened. (Satsang With Baba, Vol. 4, p. 280)
Soham japa is ajapa japa; that is, Soham japa takes place within spontaneously. There is nothing higher than this [Soham japa]. You should make yourself aware of this japa, and that will lead you to the supreme state. (Satsang With Baba, Vol. 4, p. 281)
Soham is called ajapa japa. You shouldn’t try to force anything. Follow the natural movement of your breath. While inhaling repeat “So,” while exhaling repeat “Ham.” In the course of doing this you will attain spontaneous inner kumbhaka which is of great significance because during this kumbhaka the inner Shakti is unfolded completely. Vasuguptacharya says that through Soham one becomes aware of the true nature of one’s Self. This ajapa japa is one of the greatest secrets of Siddha Yoga, the sahaja or spontaneous yoga. This pranayama combined with the repetition of these two syllables is extremely useful.…
One saint says that through ajapa japa all sins and virtues fall away. Another says that ajapa japa draws liberation to one’s own home. Hans Raj, a saint, composed about 250 couplets in Sanskrit while commenting on Shankaracharya’s verse on Soham.… Great saints, such as the nine Naths, retired into solitude and in the end they concentrated on Soham. Through this they attained the highest realization.
Lord Shiva, while revealing the secret of mantra japa to His consort, says, “Only he gets the full benefit and reward of japa who regards his own Self to be Bhairava, who regards his own Self to be the Supreme Lord, who achieves the awareness of Soham, “That am I.” Only to such a one do all realizations come.” …Lord Shiva says that the very moment one realizes that the Self is pure consciousness, that the Self is the highest consciousness (and this is what aham refers to), he attains the highest realization. (Satsang With Baba, Vol. 4, pp. 282, 283)
You do not hear that word which the saints have heard and spoken of: Soham shabdachi thanim pahudat jhalom–“I found rest in the word Soham.” (Play of Consciousness, p. 9)
O Yogini Kundalini, you are the supreme deity of spiritual aspirants. O Guru, O abode of love, dynamic energy, You are the grace that came from Nityananda. You are the two-syllabled Soham, his gift to me. (Play of Consciousness, p. 28)
If aham, the individual ego, is destroyed and replaced by Soham, “I am He,” what is left to renounce? (Play of Consciousness, p. 226)
Soham is the meditation mantra you gave, which stabilizes the flow of concentration.… I became peaceful, I became satisfied, I became Soham. (Praise of Nityananda in Play of Consciousness, p.22)
The pranayama of this [Siddha] path is the repetition of “So” on the incoming breath and “Ham” on the outgoing breath. (Play of Consciousness, p. 40)
Kabir wrote: “The ajapa japa, Soham, destroys all your sins and virtues.” The Soham awareness is also described as the awareness, “I am the Absolute [aham Brahmasmi],” or “Thou art That [tat twam asi].” It is the understanding of your identity with the supreme Principle, and the understanding has the power to destroy all of your accumulated karmas and past impressions [samskaras]. Not only does it destroy the effects of millions of sins, it also cuts the bondage which arises from your good action. Most people want to eliminate the effects of their bad actions, not realizing that their virtues are just as binding as their sins. Your sins bind you with an iron chain and your virtues with a golden one. That is the only difference between them. If you want liberation, both sin and virtue must be wiped out, and that is what happens when you attain the awareness of Soham. This awareness puts an end to the cycle of birth and death, killing the notion of duality. (I Am That, p. 49)
This mantra [Soham] has the power to transform you completely. (I Am That, p. 54)
Instead of repeating “I am, I am, I am” all the time, why don’t you repeat “Soham, Soham, Soham,” which means “I am That,” in other words, “I am God, I am He.” (Selected Essays, p. 27)
“Help me to hear the mahamantra, the great mantra, Soham, which goes on constantly within me. If I were to hear it, I would be lost in inner ecstasy, and I would become immortal.”
In the meditation which follows Kundalini awakening, the inner music, or nada, of Soham can be heard, and all a seeker needs to do is keep listening to it all the time. Nothing is higher than this nada. Once you begin to hear it in the spiritual center at the crown of the head, you will hear it vibrating in every particle of your body. This is the voice of God. “Bestow your grace on me so that I may hear the Soham music,” the poet says. (Selected Essays, p. 76-77)
The Siddhas residing in Siddhaloka repeat this spontaneous mantra [Soham] without stop, thereby remaining in the state of Siddhahood.
The true Siddha mantra, Soham, is unique because it is not man-made. …the Siddha mantra is natural and was not composed by anyone.… The mantra of which I speak goes on spontaneously in all living creatures. In the beginning it was imparted by the Lord himself….
In Vedic literature, the fetus is said to receive knowledge of the past and future in the seventh month. It remembers the sufferings of its previous lives and learns of the suffering to come. It becomes restless and begins to kick and move about, but wherever it moves, the heat and secretions of the surrounding internal organs press against it, causing it to feel pain. A description of these effects is found in the Garbhopanishad which is part of the Vedas. The supreme Lord takes pity on the child’s suffering.… From his seat in the heart, he instructs the child, “Why do you move about unnecessarily? Sit peacefully in one place, remember God and repeat the mantra Soham, Soham, Soham.” For all of us, therefore, the supreme Lord himself was the Guru in the beginning. Many learned people don’t know this simple truth through they talk about mantras and initiation. Once I met a scholarly master who said, “You tell me that God is your Guru. But when did he initiate you, and when did you receive a mantra from him?” I told him to read the Garbhopanishad, and he would know what I meant. After that he wrote me a long letter saying that in all of India no one else had given him a proper explanation of this passage.
God initiated us with the Soham mantra when we were in the uterus of our mother. At the end of the ninth month, a vital air called the prabhanjana vayu (the same vital air which consumes the entire universe in the process of dissolution) projects us out into the world. The shock of this experience is so great that as soon as we emerge we start crying “ko’ham, ko’ham, ko’ham: Who am I? Who am I?” forgetting the underlying mantra we learned in the womb. Later, if we meet a mantra seer, he reminds us of what the primal Guru had taught us before birth.
According to the Upanishads, when we inhale, the first part of the mantra, So, is pronounced, and when we exhale, the second part, Ham, is pronounced.… The mantra also speaks its own natural language. The letter So denotes the supreme Lord, source of all religions and philosophies; the exhaled Ham denotes the “I,” thereby establishing an identity between the supreme Self and the individual soul.
The Soham mantra has nothing to do with religions, castes, colors, or creeds. It belongs neither to the Hindu nor to the Christian.… The Lord whose body is the universe appears in the form of sound. By indwelling with us, he gives us different kinds of experience through his subtle mantra.
…Soham is so powerful that it awakens the inner Kundalini immediately.… Therefore, in all your activities, all the time, repeat the mantra Soham, Soham, Soham. Try it.… To experience the Self constantly, use the mantra Soham.… Your entire being is made up of Soham. By remembering the mantra Soham without stop, your very body will be converted into Soham. (Selected Essays, p. 98-101)
Kabir, the great poet, says, “The Guru awakened me within by imparting just one word.” (Selected Essays, p. 91)
Ajapa-japa is realized by the conscious repetition of Soham. With ajapa-japa there is effortless pranayama and effortless meditation. The mantra is the easy and triumphant way of Siddhas. It is the ladder to be climbed to liberation, the boat that sails across samsara. It leads, finally, to sahaja samadhi (the natural state). (Soham Japa, A Meditation Technique For Everyone, p. 12)
A man is his mind. He becomes exactly what his mind dwells on. Japa of Soham is a mysterious process by means of which a worthy seeker can swiftly experience his identity with the Self. (Soham Japa, A Meditation Technique For Everyone, p. 14)
The mind will acquire the nature of God [Rama] only when the seeker constantly practices “Soham…Soham.”
Soham is endless, limitless, measureless, and is the messenger of Truth, who is Self-evident. The message and the messenger are not separate in Him. This messenger is himself the joy that is the enjoyment of the endless. (This is from the introduction to Volume 1 of the 2 volume book containing the teachings of Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj that was published by Nisargadatta Maharaj.)
Sri Ramana Maharshi
Someone asked Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi: “What is the purport of the teaching that one should meditate, through the ‘I am he’ thought, on the truth that one is not different from the self-luminous Reality that shines like a flame?”
Bhagavan replied: “The purport of teaching that one should meditate with the ‘I am he’ thought is this: sah-aham: So’ham; sah the supreme Self, aham the Self that is manifest as ‘I.’ If one meditates for a long time, without disturbance, on the Self ceaselessly, with the ‘So’ham–I am he’ thought which is the technique of reflection on the Self, the darkness of ignorance which is in the heart and all the impediments which are but the effects of ignorance will be removed, and the plenary wisdom will be gained.… The body is the temple; the jiva is God (Shiva). If one worships him with the ‘So’ham–I am he’ thought, one will gain release” (Collected Works [Section] 29).
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was shown the Sanskrit text of Devikallotara Jnanachara Vichara Padalam (A Study of the Exposition of Supreme Wisdom and Conduct to Goddess Ishwari by Lord Shiva) written on palm leaves. He said that this writing was very, very important, and himself translated it into Tamil with his commentary. Sri T. K. Jayaram then translated it into English, including the following:
[Shiva said to Parvati:] The means by which this mind, which is restless and moves about quicker than the wind, can be brought under control, is indeed the means to obtain liberation; is indeed what is good for those who seek permanent Reality; it itself is pure Consciousness and the state of firmness; moreover, it alone is the righteous duty to be followed by discerning aspirants; it alone is the pilgrimage to holy waters; it alone is charity; it alone is austerities. Know that there is no doubt about this. (8-9)
Bhagavan’s comment: Now all your pilgrimages are over. Soham Sadhana is the last pilgrimage.
Repeatedly say thus: I am He, the eternal, Omnipresent Reality which is Brahman. Meditating thus for a long time, whoever abides imperturbably, will become the Supreme Brahman, thereby attaining immortality. (60)
Bhagavan’s comment: This is the secret of the Nath Panth. Here comes “I Am He” or “He I Am”–Soham. Our system also says this. Meditate thus for a long time on the Self. You have to say repeatedly: “He I Am”–Soham. This sixtieth verse is very important.
Satya Sai Baba
It is said: Ishwarah Sarva Bhuthanam–God is the indweller of every living being (Bhagavad Gita 18:61). But with what form? How can one contemplate on God with an invisible form? What is the use of such contemplation? Divinity is the very life breath that can be perceived and heard. How can one recognize and experience the sound of this Divine breath? The Upanishads have given the names of “Brahman” and “Atma” for this invisible Divine breath in human beings. But one cannot understand these abstract concepts with any amount of explanation.
What is the meaning of Ishwara Tattwa (Divinity)? It can be understood as the Divine, auspicious breath of Soham that emanates from a human being. Soham means ‘I am that’ (Divinity). The sound of the breath in the human being, i.e., Soham, establishes the nature of Divinity. If one tries to contemplate on the form without recognizing the sound, he will not be able to understand the nature of Divinity. Soham is sattwic in nature. This sattwa guna is Ishwara Tattwa.
The principles of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara are emanating from the Soham Tattwa in each human being. In this trinity, Shiva is the Soham Tattwa. Thus, Divinity is permeating the entire human body.
It is said: Shabda Brahmamayi–“Sound is Brahman.” In every breath of the human being there is this Soham chanting. Without this Soham sound, the breath cannot exist. Sound is the real Brahma Tattwa (the Principle of Brahma). The Soham principle in the Brahma Tattwa is Atma Tattwa in essence. Therefore, in order to understand Atma Tattwa one has to recognize the nature of the swasa (Divine breath). Thus, Soham means “I am That.” What is this “That”? What is it that proclaims “I am That”?
When you sit for meditation on the Soham principle, you will observe that the “So” comes in and “Ham” goes out while inhaling and exhaling. This process has to be watched carefully. (Soham–The Right Sadhana, a discourse delivered on the occasion of Dasara Celebrations, October 12, 2002.)
Soham conveys the message of identity between God (So) and the individual (Aham). (Discourse, 6th October 1997, Prashanti Nilayam)
The joy you get by devotional singing and by performing worship is temporary. But you will get eternal joy by experiencing the Soham Mantra.… You should experience it with every breath. (Summer Showers in Brindavan, # 11, 26-05-2002)
In the bodies of all beings “Soham” is the japa that is constantly going on. Knowing “Soham,” one is liberated from all bondage. (Sadacharah 10).
Pandit Shriram Sharma
In Hamsa Yoga: The Elixir of Self-Realization, Pandit Shriram Sharma quotes the following, saying that it comes from a yogic treatise in the form of instruction given by Shiva to Parvati:
Ajapa japa of Gayatri bestows moksha on the yogis. A determined commencement of this sadhana itself can eradicate the evils in the sadhaka’s character.
The body of an individual is itself a temple in which God resides in the form of the jiva. After cleaning this temple externally and internally–by removing the mist of ignorance and evil conduct, the internal God should be worshiped by the sankalpa of Soham.
Hakara is pronounced when we breathe out and sakara when we breathe in. Concentration on this continuous flow of of nada is Soham sadhana.
Later the Pandit says: Even the self-inspired, continuous ajapa japa of Gayatri performed naturally (along with each respiration cycle) without any effort is said to provide complete protection to the prana and offer spiritual knowledge and siddhis equivalent to that of the other yoga sadhanas. Then think about the impact of this ajapa japa if it is performed as a sadhana with ascetic disciplines, sankalpa and shraddha! Indeed, this sadhana (of Soham) then becomes the highest kind of spiritual sadhana because no branch of knowledge and science is found superior to the Gayatri-vidya and no japa better than the japa of the Gayatri (Mantra). The shastras therefore sing great paeans on the Soham sadhana.
In Jap-Tap-Dhyan [Japa-Tapasya-Dhyana], beginning on page fifteen, Pandit Shriram Sharma writes:
Research in spirituality shows that in the innermost levels of the human psyche the being (Atma or Self) is always conscious of its true identity with the omnipresent Creator (Atmabodh Pragya), and this superconsciousness (Self-awareness) of primordial identity (Atmabodh) induces the involuntary (automatic) japa (ajapa japa) of Soham. In the Sanskrit language, Soham is a combination of two words, So and Ham. However, notwithstanding the complexities of grammar, which are irrelevant for the eternally present sounds, let us consider only the concept behind this nomenclature of Soham. “So” means “That” and “Ham” means “I.” Spirituality regards “I” as the basic identity of the living being as soul. Thus, taken as one word Soham implies “I am That,” i.e. “I” the individual is one with that Cosmic Presence (Omnipresent God). In this way this concept supports the theory of Advaita, the indivisibility of God and creation. In other words, each individual soul is part and parcel of the Whole, the Supreme Soul, i.e. God. The omnipresence of God is a concept common to all faiths of the world. In India spirituality uses a plethora of expressions like “Tatvamasi,” “Aymatma Brahma” and “Shivoham” to drive home this vision. They advocate the elemental oneness of the Creator (Brahman) and the Creation (the individual).
Pranayama performed in the course of Soham Sadhana is for this very purpose of re-establishing the interface between the Supreme Soul (God) and the individual soul (human being). Through Pranayama during Soham Sadhana, the individual is reminded of that eternal relationship with the Creator.
Man generally identifies himself as his physical body. All his efforts and activities are exclusively confined to making arrangements for convenience of this body, its pleasures, comforts and benefits. He considers only those persons, places and things as his own which are related to his body. His sense of belonging remains confined to this false field of self and everything else is regarded as “not-self.” As a consequence, man does not hesitate from harming “others.” This is the state of life of common man described by the seers, in which the infatuated soul aimlessly wanders, deluded by the false perspective of physical, mental and emotional attachments (Maya). Constricted by this illusory relationship the individual becomes involved in selfish, regressive and harmful activities. This narrow outlook is also responsible for numerous physical and mental ailments that result in perpetual situations of suffering, grief and distress. It is necessary to avoid and escape from such an unfortunate situation.
The super-science of spirituality is devoted to showing the prodigal man the path back to his true home. Soham Sadhana has been regarded as a means for awareness of truth, fundamental wisdom and realization of God. It shows the true relationship of the individual soul with the Super Soul (Paramatman) and makes the former realize this relationship. The concept of Soham (I Am That) does not imply identifying this physical human body composed of the five primordial elements and three qualitative attributes (gunas) with God. Such a premise would be counterproductive providing man with one more basis for inflating the ego and consequently becoming a cause for his retrogression instead of progressive evolution of the soul.
In this automatic japa of Soham during breathing is imbibed an indication of the true nature of the soul which is factually a part of the omnipresence of God. The concept of indivisibility of the Supreme Being and the individual being actually propounds the universality of the individual entity of soul which, in other words, is the same as the omnipresence of God. Masters of spirituality have endeavored to explain this concept in many ways like giving examples of the ocean and its waves, the sun and its rays, the indivisibility of the cosmic life and its numerous living organisms, the unit of life and the Whole, and the pieces of burning ember in a mass of fire. In this way they have pointed out that on casting off the veils of illusory identifications with the body and mind and becoming devoid of the veils of pollutants of vices, the individual living being (soul) attains oneness with the Supreme Divinity. The only impediment to this unity is lack of true wisdom on the part of man. Disregarding his true relationship with God, the individual considers oneself as an independent being, which results in false sense of an inflated ego, the perception of “I and mine” in relation to the transitory names and forms. Consequently, because of his indulgence in narrow selfishness, man degrades his own self by his meaningless ideologies and counterproductive actions.
Sadhana is meant solely for expelling the pollutants of the mind. The highest endeavor of human life is the attempting of communion with God by augmenting purity in all facets of life, in thoughts, words and deeds. Performance of Soham Sadhana does just this. The expression “because of being a part of God, the individual soul is indestructible” (Ishwar ansha jiva avinashi) is found in many places in the scriptural literature and is propagated by the teachers of dharma.
Though man is superficially aware of this truth, this does not serve the purpose. The idea must penetrate into innermost depths of the psyche. Only when the firm conviction in this concept is converted into an unwavering faith in God, will it become a source of motivation, for the soul to take up in right earnest the cleansing out the dirt and dross of ignorance lying in all nooks and corners of mental, vital and physical parts of the being and thus make them empty and pure receptacles for receiving the divine nectar of Self-awareness. Having attained this state, the devotee becomes a medium for expression of the will of God. It is like the merger of a rivulet in the sacred river Ganges or dissolution of a drop of water in the ocean. In both cases the water losing its erstwhile individual identity, acquires the character of the vaster entity. Similarly, the thoughts and conduct of an enlightened person conform to those of an angel (deva).
Japa is not merely a ritualistic chanting of words of some mantra. The process must be associated with the force of self-motivation through the words (vak shakti), contemplation on the objective bio-energy (through pranayama) and emotional involvement. With these inputs the japa becomes live and energized. Adopting this discipline of upasana one can surely look forward to rapid spiritual growth.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Do Ajapa Japa. The Prana will be absorbed in the Nada. All the Vrittis will perish.… Do Soham Japa and Soham Dhyana along with the breath. This is very easy.… Remember Soham. Feel his Presence everywhere. This will suffice (Self-Knowledge).
Soham Dhyana is Nirguna, Nirakara meditation only. Soham means “I am he.” This is associated with the breath. Repeat “So” when you inhale and “Ham” when you exhale. This is easy. This is known as Ajapa Japa. Feel that you are the all-pervading pure consciousness when you think of Soham. The source for this breath is Brahman or Atman. You are identical with that source and reality (Yoga in Daily Life).
Meditation on Soham is also Nirguna meditation [meditation on the Formless Brahman] (Meditation on Om).
With the Mantra Soham the Sadhaka leads the Jivatma into the heart (Kundalini Yoga).
Concentrate on the breath with Soham repetition (Mind: Its Mysteries and Control).
Soham means: “He am I” or “I am Brahman.” So means “He,” Aham means “I.” This is the greatest of all mantras. This is an abheda-bodha-vakya which signifies the identity of Jiva or the individual Self and Brahman or the Supreme Self. This Mantra comes in the Isavasya Upanishad: “Soham asmi” (“I am Soham”).…
Recognize your own swarupa by negating the body-idea and identifying yourself with the supreme Self. Mentally always repeat Soham. Meditate on Sat-Chit-Ananda, the non-dual Brahman. Watch the breath with silent Soham repetition while sitting, standing, eating talking, etc. This is an easy method for concentration. The Soham bhava must become habitual (Sadhana).
Let every breath sing the song of infinity and eternity with Soham! (Easy Steps to Yoga).
Some study the Vedas, the Puranas and other scriptures, others study grammar again and again. Some perform their daily prayers and also practice the six purificatory exercises; others reflect on virtue and time. But all work is accomplished only when everything else but the two syllables [So and ham] is dispelled from the mind. Sundardas says: Listen O learned one, liberation is not achieved without the japa of Soham.
The Self is God, the Self is Consciousness, and the Self is always repeating its own mantra, Soham, Soham.
Day in and day out, the breath comes in and goes out with Soham, Soham. Use the mala of the breath and repeat it all the time. What can you attain by using wooden beads? If you repeat this ceaselessly, it cools down all different kinds of anguish.
With this mantra [Soham], the Self is constantly worshipping itself.
Give up everything else, keep only these two syllables.
Swami Swarupananda of Pavas
One of the most influential teachers of Soham sadhana in the twentieth century was Swami Swarupananda of Pavas in Maharashtra. Here are some of his words on the subject.
By merely remaining in constant and faithful Soham-awareness, the present-life karma (prarabdha) can be brought to its end, and future karma (sanchit) is destroyed before its birth and the karmi (actor–creator of karma) is offered in oblation to the Supreme Lord.
Have total faith and reverence for Soham sadhana.
Practice Soham sadhana sincerely unto the last breath for Self-realization.
Soham sadhana includes jnana as well as bhakti.
For constantly remembering our real Self [Atman] join “So” (Brahman) and “Aham” (I–the jiva)–“I am Brahman”–with our breathing.… This association of Soham bhava with the breath is the key of the Soham sadhana. After some period of our attention on breath, the mind gets completely introverted and remains focused on Soham bhava. While practicing, if the mind drifts away from the Soham vritti (thought), it can be refocused again taking the help of the breath.
Meditation is the shortest, simplest and most efficient method of Self-realization. Experiencing the oneness between the seeker (the individual sadhaka) and the sought (Satchidananda Brahman) is the essential feature of meditation. Soham sadhana is its most potent method (practice).
There are certain Do’s and Don’ts, which help in Self-realization. The things that can distract the sadhaka from Soham bhava are all Don’ts, while all those that help him to focus on Soham bhava are the Do’s.
Soham Sadhana is a way of life. It is a holistic approach; a synnesis of yoga or the total yoga (purna yoga). It means all the approaches preached by the Bhagavad Gita, namely Karma yoga, Dhyana yoga, Bhakti yoga, and Jnana yoga are to be integrated into our daily spiritual practice, in every moment of our existence.
Keep on practicing Soham Sadhana with great faith and reverence. One is blessed with achievements proportionate to the efforts and importance attached to such efforts.
Soham sadhana is the simple, direct and sure method of attaining Self-realization but it should be practiced arduously, consistently, with devotion and burning aspiration.
Cling to Soham bhava. Soham bhava can be mastered by remembering Soham all the time in the mind, not allowing the drifting of our mind onto any other thought. We must meditate on Soham–ideally, without a break even for fraction of a second. Such total mastery over Soham bhava is the natural state of existence of all realized souls. Others can also reach this lofty, very distant, seemingly unattainable goal through sincere, consistent Soham sadhana, giving top priority to it in our life.
Practice Soham sadhana with true faith and devotion. Through such ardent Soham sadhana alone one can transcend the present state of existence on the level of body awareness to the ultimate state of pure existence on the level of eternal bliss.
Clinging steadfastly to Soham Sadhana, we can certainly attain Self-realization one day in this life itself.
Chapters in the Soham Yoga, the Yoga of the Self:
- Preface to Soham Yoga
- Chapter One in Soham Yoga: Yoga
- Chapter Two: The Practice of Soham Yoga Meditation
- Chapter Three: Soham According to the Scriptures and the Masters of Yoga
- Chapter Four: The Yogi’s Subtle Anatomy
- Chapter Five: Points For Successful Meditation and Its Purpose and Philosophy
- Chapter Six: The Foundations of Yoga
- Afterword: It Can Be Done
- Appendix One: Breath And Sound In Meditation
- Appendix Two: Jesus, a Nath Yogi
- Soham Yoga Meditation Glossary
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