The Rig Veda
He who knows not the eternal Syllable of the Veda [Om], the highest point upon which all the gods repose, what business has he with the Veda? Only its knowers sit here in peace and concord (Rig Veda I.164.39).
Om must be known. That is, through japa and meditation Om must be experienced in its true nature as the Supreme Reality itself.
The word Veda has a larger meaning than the four compilations (samhitas) of Vedic hymns. Veda is divine knowledge–knowledge that is attained through the japa and meditation of Om.
The “gods” are fourfold. First, the highly evolved astral and causal beings who possess great powers. They are enthroned upon Om because they attained their mighty status through the powers inherent in Om; their powers are simply the multiform rays of the divine Sun that is the sacred Syllable Om.
Second, the “gods” are the higher faculties possessed by each one of us–faculties that lie dormant until awakened and developed by the japa and meditation of Om.
Third, the “gods” are the powers of God that are sometimes symbolized as god-forms. Since we are image-reflections of God, the same spiritual powers or gods are within us, though to a finite degree. Both types of inner “gods” need to be known and manifested by us in the state of Self-realization. And they are to be accessed or known through the japa and meditation of Om.
Fourth, the liberated beings who dwell in the supreme consciousness are also “gods.” Being perfected image-likenesses of God they, too, can be communicated with through Om, as it is also their essential nature and name, just as it is the essential Nature and Name of God the Absolute. Therefore Om is the means of communication with God, the Powers of God, and the gods of (in) God.
“Only its knowers sit here in peace and concord,” having attained the Highest and entered the Eternal.
The Yajur Veda
At the time of departure from this world, remember Om, the Lord, the Protector (Yajur Veda 40:15).
Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita (8:6) that whatever we think of most during life we will think of at the time of our death, and that will determine our subsequent state. Through constant thought of and absorption in Om during his lifetime, the yogi guarantees that at the moment of death his awareness will be fixed on Om.
Om is the Lord, the Protector. It is, then, the perfect defense internally and externally. Safety consists in the constant invocation of Om.
The Upanishads are the Knowledge portion (Jnana Khanda) of the Vedas, texts dealing with the Ultimate Truth and its realization. Although the amount of upanishadic material given here is considerable, there is actually a great deal more in the sense of lengthy expositions of its components: a, u, m, nada, and bindu. But it is either so obscure or in reference to things or terms that themselves would require a great deal of explanation–since they would be known only to someone very well versed in Vedic religion–that it has seemed reasonable to omit those segments or else condense them into brief statements of the relevant ideas.
I will be commenting on some of the upanishadic passages, but will keep it to a minimum, for a careful and thoughtful reading is usually sufficient to reveal their meaning.
All that is, is nothing but Om (Akshi Upanishad 42[b]).
In this due order the concrete and the subtle should all be dissolved in the spiritual Self, perceiving “I am Om–Vasudeva” (Akshi Upanishad 45, 46).
“Vasudeva” means “he who dwells in all things”, and is the Spiritual Self of each one of us.
The wise mounts the chariot of Om, his charioteer is Vishnu, he seeks the abode of the Brahma-world to win Rudra for himself (Amritabindu Upanishad 2).
Om is the vehicle which carries us to God-experience.
But the chariot is useful only so long as one is on the highroad; he who has come to the end of the highroad leaves the chariot and goes on foot. So one leaves the word-symbol also, and only with the silent Om one comes to the soundless, silent, invisible place (Amritabindu Upanishad 3, 4).
Om recited aloud has incalculable value and effect, yet that recitation is being “on the road.” The time comes when we leave the verbal Om and in japa and meditation travel inward with the “silent” mentally intoned Om until the silence of Spirit is entered into.
One should combine the yoga [meditation] with the svara [subtle inner sound] of the mystical Syllable [Om]; should experience the yoga relating to the transcendent nirguna Brahman beyond the [objectively spoken] Syllable, by the experience of yoga without the Syllable [Asvara]; Asvara which is a form of existence should not be reckoned as non-existence. That alone is Brahman which is divisionless, non-differentiated and untinged (Amritabindu Upanishad, 7, 8).
The subject of the inner, mental Om as distinguished from the spoken Om is continued here. We must pass from the outer to the inner to the “silent” Om.
The Shabdakshara [sound-syllable: Om] is to be construed as the transcendental Brahman. When that Om has decayed, there underlies it the Akshara [the Undecaying]; if the knower of the Atman should desire the peace of the Atman he should meditate on that Akshara. [This is a play on words, for akshara means both imperishable and syllable.] The two vidyas that ought to be known are the Shabda-Brahman and that Brahman which transcends it. He who is well-versed in the Shabda-Brahman attains the transcendent Brahman (Amritabindu Upanishad, 16, 17).
By “decay” is meant attenuation or diminution (diminishment) much as the organ stops that use the term “decay” to indicate fading, lessening, or dissolving of the sound. When the grosser forms of Om have faded away in meditation, then the underlying subtle forms are experienced and peace is found.
Om! This Syllable is Brahman. With Om alone he should breathe. With frequent application of this divine sound he washes away the stains of the soul (Amritabindu Upanishad 20).
The repetition of Om should accompany our every breath. For Om is not a mere reminder of God. It is the living Presence of God, the “divine Sound” which purifies the soul from all the impurities and defects we call “sins.” Om is the divine Ganges in which we immerse ourselves and wash away all that is not God.
Then he should meditate [on Om] and utter it repeatedly, more than repeatedly; for no excess here is too much (Amritabindu Upanishad 21).
One of the deadliest flaws the spiritual aspirant can have is the attitude that spiritual life and practice can be overdone–that to be totally intent on and absorbed in spiritual practice (sadhana) at all times is unbalanced or fanatical. But it is not so.
The sacred Syllable sounds silently [within during meditation]. With this sound he [the meditating yogi] sees the way, the way along which his prana goes. Therefore should one always practice it, so that he goes along the right way (Amritabindu Upanishad, 24).
Om is the sure guide to the Goal. It leads us along the path of the breath (prana) which is also the path of unfolding consciousness and life. By holding to Om we ensure that we progress along the right way. We also see indicated in this verse that the meditation of Om is also the highest pranayama.
By means of Om he [the meditating yogi] sees the way, the way along which his prana goes; therefore one should always repeat it so that he goes along the right way: through the heart-gate, the air-gate, the gate which leads upward, and the opening of the gate of liberation which is known as the open orb [the sun.] (Amritabindu Upanishad 25, 26).
When the individual comes into manifestation on this earth he passes from the astral world into the material plane by means of the sun, which is a mass of exploding astral energies, not mere flaming gases. And when the individual has completed his course of evolution within this plane, upon the death of his body he rises upward in his subtle body and passes through the sun into the higher worlds, there to evolve even higher or to pass directly into the depths of the transcendent Brahman. To ensure that this will take place, the Om Yogi practices the japa and meditation of Om.
Mounting on the chariot of Om, one seeking a place in the Brahmaloka should drive in the chariot as long as the way is on the track of the chariot and halting at the end of the track, he proceeds onward, giving up the chariot. Then abandoning the stages of matra [letters] and linga [form, mode], devoid of vowels and consonants, he reaches the subtle stage by means of the [subtle] sound (Amritanada Upanishad 2-4).
We start with the mental intonations of Om that are like intonations done aloud, but in time they become subtler, more like a soft intoning and even a gentle whispering. Finally the intonations of Om can become silent “mouthings”–movements of will and consciousness. Om takes us all the way from outer to inner, from subject to object, from vibration to silence–silence that is the very essence of Om.
Om is Brahman in one Syllable. The meditation on Om should not be discontinued. With this divine mantra one should meditate many times for ridding himself of his own impurities (Amritanada Upanishad 20).
Om is the Imperishable, which does not decay under any circumstance (Amritanada Upanishad 24).
If we would become immortal and unchanging, we may do so through immersing ourself in the immortal and unchanging Om. The very title of this upanishad means “The Immortal Sound.”
Om encompasses the Root of phenomena [Brahman] (Annapurna Upanishad I-3-4).
I meditate on that Ultimate Truth, the sound of Om, which shines as the Turiya of Turiya (the consciousness of Consciousness), which is one and only one.
Before the actual text of the upanishad begins, there are these introductory words.
The sages Angiras and Sanatkumara asked the renowned sage Atharvan: Which is the form of meditation that came to be foremostly employed by seekers after liberation? What should be the object of meditation by such seekers? Atharvan replied: The form of meditation that came to manifest as the foremost of all, for the regeneration of all seekers, was the First Word, indicative of Brahman: the Syllable Om. Meditation on Om should be resorted to by seekers after liberation. This Syllable is the Parabrahman, which it designates. Omkara is the higher as well as the lower Brahman, as the Sruti says. [This statement is found in both the Maitri and Prashna Upanishads as well as here.] The four Vedas are the four feet of Om. This Syllable is the Supreme Brahman (Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:1, 2).
Om is “the First Word,” of which Saint John the Beloved wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
Here it is plainly stated that japa and meditation of Om comprise the original yoga practiced by the Vedic Rishis at the beginning of the human race. Moreover, this yoga was not worked out by them, but was manifested to their inner awareness even before the Vedas were revealed to them. Om Yoga is the real Path of the Masters that “should be resorted to by seekers after liberation.”
Om is the self-effulgent Brahman which shines alone and sees everything (Atharvashikha Upanishad 1.6).
Om, Om, Om–having thus pronounced the Pranava in three gradations, the fourth is the tranquillized Atman. Thus, by having recourse to the application of the prolonged intonation of the Pranava in the attitude [bhava], All is Om, the radiance of the Atman perpetually manifests itself devoid of the veil that enshrouded it (Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:9).
This passage does not mean that we should only say Om three times, but that there are three gradations or inner levels of Om–the physical, astral, and causal–which we should pass through in meditation. These three gradations lead to the turiya–pure consciousness–form of Om that is both jivatman and Paramatman.
The translation of P. R. Ramachander, has this sentence at the end of the ninth verse: “It [Om] takes one via the sushumna nadi to the lotus with a thousand petals” (Sahasrara). (Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:9).
This is extremely important, as it tells us that the consciousness of the yogi which is dispersed throughout the body–and especially throughout the various centers of power or chakras–is taken up along the Sushumna Nadi to the Sahasrara. Thus we see that Om japa and meditation open the sushumna nadi and lift up the consciousness.
That which causes all the pranas to prostrate themselves before and get merged in the Paramatman, so as to attain identity with him, is for that reason known as the Pranava. The one substance which is predicated by the term All, that is the source wherefrom all the gods and all the Vedas took their origin and wherein they attain final repose, which is firmly established in the four-fold state, is of the character of the Pranava (Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:10a).
The first sentence is a play on words. To do prostration is to do pranam. Therefore that which causes the pranas to bow before the Lord in pranam is the Pranava, which may also be translated as the pranam-causer. It is Om which unites all the levels of our being with one another and then unites them to God.
That which elevates the pronouncer, even on its being pronounced once in the pluta-svara [with the prolonged intonation], is the Pranava, Om. That which causes all the pranas to melt away absolutely is the Pralaya [known as the Pranava], it being the cause of the absolute abatement into the chief prana of the other subsidiary pranas (Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:10b).
The subtle sound of Om intoned inwardly immediately begins elevating the consciousness. Om is itself the pralaya (dissolution), the resolution of the life force and consciousness back into their origin: Spirit.
The gods connoted by the Pranava have considered Om to be that which helps in crossing [samsara], as Om enables [its invokers] in the surmounting of all the sorrows and fears of worldly existence which recur through several series of birth and deaths. Hence it is the Crosser [Taraka] (Atharvashikha Upanishad 2:1).
For the sake of simplicity I have used Om here and in some of the subsequent parts of this upanishadic text where the term used is actually “Turiyomkar,” that designates the pure consciousness (turiya) aspect of Om (Omkar) which is the highest, beyond all conditioning and the three usual states of waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep.
The translator adds this comment: “The Pranava that indicates Brahman is not only the boat, but is verily the other shore reached after crossing the ocean of worldly existence [samsara].”
Since all the gods enter Om, to be entirely absorbed therein, that Omkara is of the character of Vishnu. Since it causes all things apart from it to expand, by drawing them into its superabundance, it is Brahma (Atharvashikha Upanishad 2:2, 3).
It is said in other upanishads that the gods took refuge in Om and were saved from destruction. Thus Om is Vishnu, a name of God that means “the Preserver.” We, too, by taking refuge in the invocation of Om will be made safe–but not in a static sense of mere preservation. The power of Om will increase the boundaries of our consciousness to its innate infinity, demonstrating its nature as Brahma by drawing us into its superabundant Being. (Brahma comes from the root “brih” which means to expand.).
Since it remains beyond the reach of all powers of perception yet is itself that which reveals all that is perceived–even as a light placed in the darkness will disclose all things apart from itself–it is the self-manifest luminary that reveals all things apart from itself in their real character.
Since it reveals itself by shining distinctly from within the things of the phenomenal world–which it thereby reveals–it is ever saying: ‘I, the absolute existence, the Om, am here within,’ just as a flash of lightning reveals itself from within the cloud, which it also reveals by bursting through it–though the cloud itself has been concealing it–and pervades all the worlds as well as the infinite numbers of macrocosms that are within its range in the character of absolute existence [Sat], consciousness [Chit], and bliss [Ananda], and causes them to pervade in universal forms. Because of such a pervading, Om becomes [seen as] the all-pervading Mahadeva [Shiva]. This is the final conclusion arrived at by the gods and the Vedas (Atharvashikha Upanishad 2:4, 5).
This whole passage is very complex and I have unhesitatingly simplified it. The fundamental idea here is that Om reveals itself from within that which conceals it from those who do not meditate upon it. That is, through japa and meditation Om turns what conceals it into what reveals it.
Om embraces the state of waking in which the gross elements of existence are perceived, the state of dreaming in which the subtle elements of existence are perceived, the state of [dreamless] sleep in which the gross and subtle elements of existence are dormant, gathered up into their potential state, and the state of pure consciousness which reveals the presence or absence of the experiences of the waking, dreaming, and sleeping states.
When [through japa and meditation] these three states, which are really divisions [manifestations or stages] of the Pranava, dissolve into each other–the grosser merging into the next succeeding subtler ones–the practitioner intent on achieving the attainment of the state of Turiya-Turiya will successfully achieve his end through this unity. Having become the self-luminous one, he becomes Brahman alone.
This path of attaining the knowledge of the truth that the Turiya-Turiya is the peerless Brahman alone leads to victory. For this reason, this path of attaining the Turiya-Turiya, standing apart from all wrong paths, is resorted to for meditation on the Turiya-Turiya, and the accomplishment of nirvikalpa samadhi (Atharvashikha Upanishad 3:1, 2).
Om is consciousness itself, within which are contained the four modes of waking, dreaming, dreamlessness, and superconsciousness. That is, Om is manifesting as all these three modes of consciousness, and further transcends them as turiya. Consequently japa and meditation of Om unites the three lower states and enables us to both master and transcend them. For all are inherent in, and inseparable from, Om. The upanishad is also describing the procedure of meditation when it speaks of Om causing the various states of consciousness to “dissolve into each other–the grosser merging into the next succeeding subtler ones” until “achieving the attainment of the state of Turiya-Turiya” which is perfect Unity.
Should any man stabilize this changeless Atman in the ether of the middle of his heart, be it for a little more or less than the duration of a second, through meditation, and become entirely absorbed in him, the highest fruit thereof will be the attainment, by the meditator, of the state of the Paramatman (Atharvashikha Upanishad 3:4a).
Darkness may prevail for untold millions of years within caves in the depths of the earth. Yet how long will it take for the darkness to be vanquished at the entry of light? No time at all. Instantly illumination will take place. Consequently the upanishad states that if the yogi can stabilize his consciousness within the pure consciousness at the core of his being (not the physical heart) for even a moment and pass therefrom to the total union of his limited consciousness with the Limitless Brahman, the Supreme Self (Paramatman), his attainment will be boundless. Sages speak of a Supreme Moment in which enlightenment comes to the yogi.
The entire path of Om will be realized by him. He who knows Om in this manner will attain the fruits resulting from all kinds of meditation, from resorting to Yoga and Jnana. This knower of Om in this manner becomes the transcendent Isha or Shiva who alone is exclusively worthy of being meditated upon, and also becomes one who brings about the well-being of all his devotees. Hence one should give up all things apart from Brahman That is without a support, and devote himself entirely unto the attainment of Brahman” (Atharvashikha Upanishad 3:4 b, c).
In this instance “Isha” and “Shiva” refer to the Supreme God. Brahman is said to be “without a support” because God is the Support of all, himself needing no support. In a sense this is the Vedic equivalent of the “Uncaused Cause” concept.
The whole world [of relative existence] is composed of the Syllable Om, which absorbs all things into itself. To it be salutations again and again! That which is Om is the Pranava. That which is the Pranava is the All-pervasive One, the Endless One, the Deliverer, the Subtle One, the Pure One, the Shining One, the Parabrahman, the One Absolute Existence (Atharvashira Upanishad 44).
This is a condensation of a passage that speaks of Om “swallowing” all things, followed by a very lengthy list of those things. The idea implied is that all things come from Om and thus are eventually absorbed back into Om, which then alone remains as the Sole Reality, Brahman.
This upanishad further informs us that Om possesses the quality of absorbing all things into itself. So the constant invoker and meditator on Om will be united to and assumed into the Supreme Brahman that manifests as Om. Indeed, we should salute it again and again!
Now arises the question, Why is the Omkara [Om] so called? The answer is: For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it elevates, as it were, the entire body, for that reason alone it is known as the Omkara (Atharvashira Upanishad 45).
Here, too, we are told that the Pranava is not a mere spiritual abstraction, but a powerful entity that has the effect of transforming the physical body. The invocation of Om causes the physical, astral and causal levels of the body to vibrate at increasingly higher rates of consciousness and function. So the invocation of Om elevates us on every level of our existence. Purification of matter itself is possible through the invocation of Om. We can heal and correct our body and the world around us through the sovereignty of Om. And this is true of the astral and causal levels, as well.
We have already seen that Om absorbs all things. Here we discover that it also impels all things–especially its invoker–toward itself. Once again we find that the divine power of Om perfects us in yoga
Now arises the question, Why is the Pranava so called? The answer is: For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it causes pranama (obeisance) to be made to the Brahman of the Four Vedas.
Now arises the question, Why is it known as the All-pervasive One? The answer is: For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it pervades all the worlds, as their inseparable concomitant, even as oil would pervade the entire mass of pulverized sesame seeds, the source from which it has been separated, pervading the mass as intimately as the warp and the woof in a piece of cloth, for that reason it is known as the All-pervasive.
Now arises the question, Why is it known as the Endless One? The answer is: For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, neither the beginning nor the end thereof is reached, either in the transverse direction or upwards or downwards, for that reason it is known as the Endless One.
Now arises the question, Why is it known as the Deliverer? The answer is: For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it helps one to surmount and be delivered from the great fear of swirling in the recurrent confinement in the womb, birth, dotage, and death, for that reason it is known as the Deliverer.
Now arises the question, Why is it known as the Subtle One? The answer is: For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it abides in [all] other bodies, only after becoming the subtle, innermost Atman, subtler than the tiniest end-point (tip) of a grain of rice, for that reason it is known as the Subtle One.
Now arises the question, Why is it known as the Pure One? The answer is: For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it manifests itself in its own pure form and reveals other forms apart from itself, for that reason it is known as the Pure One.
Now arises the question, Why is it known as the Shining One? The answer is: For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it causes all bodies to be revealed in their real nature as non-existent apart from itself, in the very thick darkness [of ignorance], for that reason it is known as the Shining [Revealing] One.
Now arises the question, Why is it known as the Parabrahman? The answer is: For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it increases in volume by drawing everything apart from itself and causing all to be merged in its expansive abundance, itself transcending them all (Atharvashira Upanishad 46-53).
Again, Brahman comes from the root “brih” which means to expand.
Whatever has been expounded in this upanishad is Om alone: the Brahman indicated by the term Tat [That], that is the Absolute True Existence (Atharvashira Upanishad 70).
There is another, much shorter, recension of the Atharvashira Upanishad that has been translated by P. R. Ramachander. It contains the following:
Om is the Pranava. That Pranava is spread everywhere. That which is everywhere is the greatest. That which is limitless, shines like a white star. That which is also called Shuklam (White–Radiance) is very very subtle. That which is subtle is like a lightning power. That which is like lightning power is the ultimate Brahman. That Brahman is one and only one,…the ultimate God and the Lord of all things (Atharvashira Upanishad 3-6).
Here we see the important point that the more subtle the form of Om, the more powerful it is–and is ultimately seen to be Brahman itself, the Supreme Ishwara.
The fourth section of the upanishad outlines the ways in which Shiva (Rudra) is considered “the personification of the Pranava” and lists its qualities:
It sends the souls towards heaven, at the time of death.
It is all-pervading like oil in sesame–pervading the entire world and its beings.
It is Ananta–without beginning or end.
It is called Tara–Deliverer or Savior–and delivers from all the fears of life.
By pronouncing it we are rid of all pains.
It is the subtle pervader, yet without touching anything (remaining separate).
As soon as it is pronounced, in the state of darkness where nothing is visible, holy knowledge comes like a ray of lightning.
It is Parabrahman, inside and outside of everything, the refuge of everything, and bigger than the big, because it is inside every thing.
It is called Eka–the One–because it singly destroys everything and recreates everything.
It is the sacred water (tirtha) because it is the ultimate mingling of all sacred waters which are sought after, in the east, south, north ad west.
It is also Eka because it creates all beings and travels within them alone without any one realizing where it comes from and where it goes.
It is not understood by all, but only by great sages and devotees.
It is Ishana because of its power for creation and preservation, and also because it rules over all devas (gods).
As human beings approach a cow for milk, the wise have recourse to it.
It is Ishana because the Veda points it out as that which reveals the heaven and who rules over the gods.
It is Maheswara–the Great Lord–because it blesses its invokers by giving them knowledge, because it created the various worlds and brought out knowledge, and because through it yogis rise above all things and reach the highest state of existence.
The Bahvricha Upanishad teaches about the Feminine Aspect of God–the Goddess or Mahashakti. The third verse says of Her:
This is the secret Om grounded in the word Om.
That is, the highest form of the Goddess is the most subtle form of Om that is perceived only in meditation when the objectified “word Om” is reduced to its ultimate refinement. For the Goddess is really Consciousness manifesting as Energy and Sound.
Bhasma Jabala Upanishad
The Bhasma Jabala Upanishad describes Shiva as being: Of the form of Om; and states that the perfected yogi will himself realize: “I am Om.”
Having made oneself the lower arani, and the Pranava the upper arani and rubbing them together through the practice of meditation, see the Lord in his hidden reality (Brahma Upanishad 4).
In Vedic religion the fire rite, the Agnihotra or Havan, is the supreme ritual act. The sacred fire is kindled by the friction of two wooden sticks called aranis. This is an important symbol, for it is considered that the fire is latent in the wood until the friction causes it to manifest. In the same way, enlightenment is latent in the yogi, awaiting the right conditions to be provided for its manifestation.
We are the lower arani, and Om is the upper arani. When they are brought together and made to interact with one another through the japa and meditation of Om, God is revealed to the meditator both within and without. The Hidden becomes manifest, and the Unseen becomes seen through Om Yoga.
Beginning the Yoga with Om, meditate wordlessly on the highest one, since through wordless meditation Brahman is being attained (Brahmabindu Upanishad 7).
Although we may sometimes intone Om aloud, that is only the first step; we must take it inside in silent japa and meditation to attain its Essence.
Brahman is the Syllable Om; when it fades off, what remains the wise, the seekers of peace of soul, meditate upon–that eternal One (Brahmabindu Upanishad 16).
The experience of Om in subtler and subtler forms during meditation is the path to “that Eternal One.”
Two knowledges are necessary, the Sound-Brahman [Shabda Brahman] and the uppermost [Parabrahman]; one who is versed in the Sound-Brahman attains to the highest Brahman too (Brahmabindu Upanishad 17).
God, the sole Reality, must be known by us. Mere pious busyness and theologizing–knowing about God rather than really knowing God–do not avail anything ultimately. Gnosis (jnana) is imperative. For it alone is efficacious in the removal of ignorance and bondage.
Om is the Shabda Brahman, “the word that is God” as the Bhagavad Gita says. Those who know Om as such through their experience gained by its japa and meditation are the ones who shall attain to the unitive knowledge of Parabrahman.
The innermost Fire, the esoteric Truth underlying the knowledge of Brahman, is Brahman. Om, the Monosyllable, is that Brahman. This is what has been said by the expounders of the Vedanta (Brahmavidya Upanishad 1, 2).
In the Vedas God is many times spoken of as Fire (Agni). So also in the Upanishads. “Burnt clean in the blaze of my being, in me many find home” (Bhagavad Gita 4:10). The fiery nature of divinity has many aspects. God is fire in the sense of the universal “heat” that produces the evolving creation and into which it is ultimately dissolved. God is also the spiritual fire which burns us clean, purifying and refining us as the smelter purifies and refines gold. In the fire that is God, the true nature of all things is revealed and all which is untrue is dissolved so that only the truth of our divinity will remain.
Elsewhere this upanishad employs the interesting expression Omkara Atman: Om that is the Self.
Even as the sound of a bell cast of bell-metal finally dissolves itself for attaining peaceful silence, similarly should the Om be turned into account by the yogi aiming at the attainment of the all, for his final repose. Wherein the sound of the Om attains its final dissolution, thereafter is Brahman perceived. That yogi who dissolves his inner sense [mind] along with the sound of the Pranava makes for that immortal state of becoming one with Brahman, by giving up the delusion of existence apart from the Atman (Brahmavidya Upanishad 12, 13).
The end of the Pranava is That which transcends all (Brahmavidya Upanishad 72).
These verses are speaking of the meditation of Om. Those who follow the thread of the subtle Pranava to the end will merge in the transcendental Consciousness, beyond which is nothing, but within which is everything.
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is a symbolic story of the gods (devas) and the demons (asuras) struggling with one another for supremacy. This symbolizes the interior struggle of the positive traits of each one of us with our negative traits. Incidentally, it mentions that there were more demons than gods–as is the case with us when we awaken and realize the need for ascent to a higher life and level of consciousness.
Being wise, the gods realized that they could gain the ascendency over the demons by the chanting of Om. To do this, they permeated all the senses and powers of the individual with the vibrations of Om, thus purifying the person and banishing the demons. The parable also indicates that through the intoning of Om the gods dispelled all the negative past karmas incurred through the senses and powers of the yogi.
However, the final step was when they had Om be joined to the breath. Although the demons had been able to at least counter-attack before, when:
they charged it [the breath] and wanted to strike it with evil, as a clod of earth, striking against a rock, is shattered, so were they shattered, flung in all directions, and perished. Therefore the gods became victorious, and the demons were crushed. He who knows thus becomes his true Self” (1.3.7).
The next verse says that when the gods inquired as to how the breath joined with Om has thus restored us to their kingdom, they were told that the breath conquered on their behalf: for it is the essence of the powers of the body.
This breath [prana] is also Om (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.23).
Om is Brahman, the Primeval Being. This is the Veda which the knowers of Brahman know; through it one knows what is to be known (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.1.1).
Through Om we come to know Brahman.
One should meditate on this Syllable [Om].…That is the quintessence of the essences, the Supreme, the highest (Chandogya Upanishad 1.1.1, 3).
There is no higher meditation than the meditation of Om, for it is the essence of Divinity.
Speech [Vak] and Life-force [prana] are joined together in the Syllable Om. Verily, whenever the pair come together, they fulfil each other’s desire. He who knowing this thus, meditates on the Syllable, becomes, verily, a fulfiller of desires. Verily, this Syllable is of assent, for whenever one assents to anything he says simply Om. What is assent is fulfillment. He, who knowing this thus, meditates on the Syllable, becomes, verily, a fulfiller of desires. By this [Om] does the threefold knowledge proceed. Saying Om, one recites: saying Om, one orders: saying Om, one sings aloud, in honor of that Syllable, with its greatness and its essence. He who knows this thus, and he who knows not, both perform with it. Knowledge and ignorance, however, are different. What, indeed, one performs with knowledge, faith, and meditation, that, indeed becomes more powerful. This, verily is the explanation of this Syllable (Chandogya Upanishad 1.1.5-10).
Speech and prana are manifested and reunited in the repetition of Om, because Om is the point of their origin and their return. There is a very practical side to this, for: “Verily, whenever the pair come together, they fulfil each other’s desire. He who knowing this thus, meditates on the Syllable, becomes, verily, a fulfiller of desires.” Om being the source of all and the manifester of all is obviously the accomplisher of all. Since prana also means breath, all the foregoing applies to the joining of Om to the breath in the practice of Om Yoga.
The Brihadaranyaka parable about the gods and demons struggling with each other is given in Chandogya Upanishad 1.2.1-7, concluding with the statement (1.2.8) that those who know the union of Om with the breath are invincible. Then it lists great Masters who had this knowledge, saying that the sages consider Om as the very being of those Masters (1.2.10-14)–and it will be the same with those who meditate in the same way.
He obtains wishes by singing [intoning], who knowing this, meditates on the udgitha [Om] as the Syllable. This, with regard to the Self (Chandogya Upanishad 1.2.14).
We are frequently going to encounter the word udgitha–the sung or intoned form of Om–in the upanishadic verses regarding Om. Om is essential for all Vedic recitations and rites, being intoned throughout. It is technically referred to as “the udgitha” in the ceremonial texts, and the upanishads also use that term to underscore its prime value and dignity as the essence of the Vedas. Those who desire to know the Self as they engage in the japa and meditation of Om shall indeed obtain that knowing.
Verses 1.3.1-7 give another symbolic story of the gods and asuras in which it is said that the yogi should realize that the sun is Om, and that the sun vibrates Om and imparts it to all sentient beings. Also that the breath is the power of the sun, and both the breath and sun are Om. Then it explains that all the pranas are Om–as is the entire cosmos.
One should meditate on the udgitha as this Syllable [Om]….Verily, the gods, when they were afraid of death, took refuge in the threefold knowledge [of the Rig, Saman, and Yajur Vedas].…Death saw them there in the Rig, in the Saman and in the Yajus just as one might see a fish in water. When they found this out, they rose out of the Rig, out of the Saman, out of the Yajus and took refuge in sound. Verily, then one learns the Rik, one sounds out Om. [It is] the same with Saman; [it is] the same with Yajus. This sound is that Syllable, the immortal, the fearless. Having entered this, the gods became immortal, fearless. He who knows it thus, praises this Syllable, takes refuge in that Syllable, in the immortal, fearless sound, and having entered it, he becomes immortal, even as the gods became immortal (Chandogya Upanishad 1.4.1-5).
The Rig Veda has told us that the gods repose on/in the bindu of Om, the center of all being, the “heart” of God. Now we are being given an account of how they ascended to immortality. While examining this, we should keep in mind that the “gods” not only exist in the subtle cosmos, but they exist also in us. Therefore a parable about the external gods reveals the inner spiritual faculties that correspond to them.
The gods felt they would be safe from death by merging their consciousness with the Vedic mantras. This, of course, was foolish, since all that begins must end. Only the eternal abides unchanging and forever. Just as creation is cyclic, so also is the sounding forth of the Vedas. When creation is withdrawn, so are they. And since death is inherent in the “life” of relative existence, death could see and seize them. Realizing this, they arose from the Vedic mantric vibrations and entered into the Primal Sound: Om which underlies the Vedas and which is imperishable (akshara). The sage points out that no one learns the Vedas without first intoning Om. This is what pointed the gods to the Immortal Secret through which they became themselves immortal and beyond all fear. Wherefore the true jnani (knower) values Om and takes refuge in it through japa and meditation. When he has fully merged his consciousness in Om, then he, too, becomes immortal and fearless.
Now, verily, what is the udgitha is the Om. What is Om is the udgitha. And so verily, the udgitha is the yonder sun and the Om, for the sun is continually sounding Om (Chandogya Upanishad 1.5.1).
The significant part of this verse is the statement that “the sun is continually sounding ‘Om,’” indicating that the energy of the sun is a manifestation of Om. Scientists have only recently discovered this phenomenon. On page 16 of the July 2004 issue of National Geographic we find this: “Bubbles the size of Texas cover the sun’s face…. Called granules, the short-lived cells of plasma carry heat to the surface through convection, the same way water boils in a pot. The rise and fall of granules creates sound waves, which cause the sun to throb like a drum every five minutes.”
Our life depends on the light of the sun, thus our life is also a manifestation of the power of Om. The japa and meditation of Om aligns us with the solar powers that are Om and thereby greatly increase our life force and the evolution of all the levels of our being.
One should meditate on the breath in the mouth as the udgitha, for it is continually sounding Om (Chandogya Upanishad 1.5.3).
On the subtle levels of our being the prana is always producing the sound of Om, and that includes the breath, the prana’s most objective manifestation. We can even say that the soul lives and breathes in Om. This is why in both japa and meditation we intone Om in time with the breath. In this way we move from body-mind consciousness into spirit-consciousness through Om.
Now, verily, what is the udgitha is the Pranava. What is Pranava is the udgitha. [If one knows this], verily, from the seat of the Hotri priest, all wrong singing is corrected, yea is corrected (Chandogya Upanishad 1.5.5).
The Hotri priest is the one who directs the actions of the sacred rites. Symbolically speaking, “the seat of the Hotri priest” is our inner consciousness, and just as mistakes in recitation of the Vedic mantras are corrected from the seat of the Hotri priest, so through the japa and meditation of Om “conducted” by our inmost Self all the “wrong singing” of our life-actions will be corrected. That is, both ignorance and negative karmas will be removed and dissolved.
The Udgitha [Om] controls the worlds which are above the sun, as also the desires of the gods (Chandogya Upanishad 1.6.8).
He [who knows Om] attains the worlds beyond the sun and also the desired objects of the gods (Chandogya Upanishad 1.7.7).
Those who attain liberation from earthly rebirth pass though the sun for evolution in higher worlds. And in those higher worlds Om is still the Master Controller–both of those worlds and of the evolution of those who live in them. So for those who aspire to higher evolution, Om is the eternal key.
In Chandogya Upanishad 1.8.1-8, it is said that three great knowers of Om–Silaka, Caikitayana, and Pravahana had a discussion about Om. In conclusion, Silaka asked:
What is the essence of this world? Akasha [Ether] replied Pravahana; All these beings arise from akasha alone and are finally dissolved into akasha; because akasha alone is greater than all these and akasha is the support at all times (Chandogya Upanishad 1.9.1).
And since sound–Om, specifically–arises from akasha, he continued:
It is this Om which is progressively higher and better. This again is endless. He who, knowing thus, meditates upon the progressively higher and better Om, obtains progressively higher and better lives and wins progressively higher and better worlds (Chandogya Upanishad 1.9.2).
In meditation we experience the subtle sounds and bhavas of Om in increasingly higher–and therefore better–levels. Om Yoga is literally the Highway of the Infinite–the Infinite itself which we experience in higher and better forms.
Once the sage Usasti was approached and asked what “deity” presided over Om.
The sun, said Usasti, all these movable and immovable sing the praise of the sun when he has risen. This is the deity that belongs to Om (Chandogya Upanishad 1.11.6, 7).
This is the udgitha [Om], highest and best. This is endless. He who, knowing this, mediates on udgitha, the highest and best, becomes the highest and best and obtains the highest and best worlds. When Atidhanvan Shunaka taught this udgitha to Udara Shandilya, he also said: As long as they shall know this udgitha among your descendants, so long their life in this world will be the highest and best. And so will their state in that other world be. One who thus knows and meditates–his life in this world becomes the highest and best, and so his state in that other world, yea, in that other world (Chandogya Upanishad 1.9.2-4).
It is our nature to want only the best, so the upanishad is telling us what the best really is: Om. “Highest and best” is an epithet for God, so we are also being told that Om is Divine, and through it we can ascend to become ourselves the highest and best, participants in the Supreme Glory that is God. Om is endless; this means that it is infinite, without either beginning or end. Om is eternity itself. By means of Om we can rise to the highest states of being (“worlds”), including that of God himself.
The instructions of Atidhanvan Shunaka assure us that even in this world we can ascend to the highest consciousness, that as long as Om is held onto even our earthly life shall be divinized.
In Chandogya Upanishad 2.9.5 and 2.14.1, Om is said to be “the midday sun”–the idea being that Om is the plenitude of the Divine Light, the optimum manifestation-embodiment of that Light.
The sun is Om (Chandogya Upanishad 2.20.1; 2.21.1).
Brahma the Creator, also called Prajapati, manifested the three lower worlds (Bhur, Bhuvah, and Swah). Regarding this, the upanishad says:
Prajapati brooded on the worlds. From them, thus brooded upon, issued forth the threefold Veda (as their essence). He brooded on this. From this, thus brooded upon, issued forth the syllables Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah. He brooded on them. From them, thus brooded upon, issued forth (as their essence) the Syllable Om. Just as all the parts of the leaf are permeated by the ribs of the leaf, so are all the words permeated by the Syllable Om. Verily, the Syllable Om is all this–yea, the Syllable Om is verily all this (Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.2, 3).
Certainly it seems incredible that the little Syllable Om could be everything, and the seed of everything. But consider how the tiny acorn is the seed of the gigantic oak, containing within itself the genetic patterns and potentials of all the oaks that shall eventually descend from that oak–from that acorn.
Even as a great extending highway runs between two villages, this one and that yonder, even so the rays of the sun go to both these worlds, this one and that yonder. They start from the yonder sun and enter into the nadis. They start from the nadis and enter into the yonder sun.…When a man departs from this body, then he goes upwards by these very rays or he goes up with the thought of Om. As his mind is failing, he goes to the sun. That, verily, is the gateway of the world, an entering in for the knowers, a shutting out for the non-knowers (Chandogya Upanishad 8.6.2, 5).
The solar rays do not just flow into this world, they also draw upward through the sun and beyond. In the human body the process of exhalation and inhalation is related to solar energy, and much of the solar power on which we subsist is drawn into the body through our breathing. The solar rays do not just strike the surface of our body, but actually penetrate into the physical nerves (nadis). The nadis are also channels in the astral body that correspond to the physical nerves. Just as the electrical impulses flow through the physical nerves, the subtle life force, or prana, flows through the subtle nadis and keeps us alive and functioning. And as we have already seen, the prana, as it flows, is always sounding Om. The prana, then, is a vehicle for the solar energies that produce evolution, and we increase its effect through the japa and meditation of Om.
The continual intonation of Om, both in and outside of meditation, conditions our subtle levels so that at the time of death we will be oriented toward the solar powers and can ascend upon them–especially if we continue our intonations of Om even after the body has been dropped. Those intonations will guarantee our ascent into the solar world. Those who have imbued themselves with the Pranavic vibrations will enter through the solar gate and nevermore be compelled to return to earthly rebirth.
Under the quotation from the Yajur Veda we have already seen that whatever we think of most during life we will think of at the time of our death. This was affirmed by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (8:5-10): “At the hour of death, when a man leaves his body, he must depart with his consciousness absorbed in me. Then he will be united with me. Be certain of that. Whatever a man remembers at the last, when he is leaving the body, will be realized by him in the hereafter; because that will be what his mind has most constantly dwelt on, during this life. Therefore you must remember me at all times, and do your duty. If your mind and heart are set upon me constantly, you will come to me. Never doubt this. Make a habit of practicing meditation, and do not let your mind be distracted. In this way you will come finally to the Lord, who is the light-giver, the highest of the high.”
Those who continually invoke and meditate upon Om during their lifetime will remember Om at the time of death, and by means of Om will ascend to the sun and beyond into the real Beyond.
Pranayama is composed of the Pranava, Om. [Therefore] he should repeat the Pranava mentally. This only will be pranayama (Darshan Upanishad 6:2, 5, 6).
Pranayama is control of the subtle life forces–prana. Some yogis accomplish this control by means of various breathing exercises. But we have already seen in the verses from the Atharvashikha Upanishad that the invocation and meditation on Om causes the yogi’s various bodies and his consciousness itself to rise to higher levels of vibration. In this way, then, japa and meditation of Om is the higher pranayama, physical breath control being but the barest shadow of it since it affects only the lower bodies. Breath being a manifestation of prana it is only natural that our intonations of Om should be joined to the breath..
The single-lettered Syllable [Om] should be contemplated upon as Brahman by all who aspire for emancipation.… He who does not know Omkara is not a Brahmin (Dhyanabindu Upanishad).
Although “Brahmin” has come to designate a member of the highest Hindu caste consisting of priests, pandits, philosophers, and religious leaders, it literally means “knower of Brahman,” which is the sense intended here.
The Pranava, Om, is the supreme Bija [Mantra], with the Bindu and the Nada. What is above that stands enduring forever. What is endowed with sound is the Pranava, typical of all sound-phenomena; when the chief ingredient [the differentiating substratum] is lost, the soundless residuum is the highest seat [Brahman]. That sound arising from the heart, Om of the Pranava, is eternal [as borne testimony to by the Scriptural text, Eternal indeed is the Omkara]; the yogi who discovers that transcendent One which transcends that sound, stands clear of all doubt (Dhyanabindu Upanishad, 2, 3).
Bija Mantra: A single-syllable “seed” mantra from which realization grows as a tree from a seed.
Bindu: Point; dot; seed; source; the creative potency of anything where all energies are focused; the point from which the subtle Omkara arises that is experienced in meditation.
Nada: Sound; the resonance of sound; mystic inner sound; the primal sound or first vibration from which all creation has emanated; the first manifestation of the unmanifested Absolute; Omkara or Shabda Brahman; the inner sound of Om experienced in meditation.
Pranava is the bow, the Atman is the arrow, and Brahman is the target. If aim be taken with due care, the arrow will become merged in the target of Brahman and become one with it (Dhyanabindu Upanishad 14).
This is a frequently used simile for japa and meditation of Om in the upanishads. We see that Om is the impelling force that unites the soul with God “if aim be taken with due care,” if the practice is complete and correct.
The monosyllable Om, which is Brahman, should always be meditated upon by those who desire release from bondage.… The imperishable Pranava bestows release from bondage (Dhyanabindu Upanishad 9, 17).
In other upanishads, such as the Jabala Upanishad, Om is referred to as the moksha-mantra–the mantra that bestows perfect liberation to the soul.
All the gods take their origin from Om. All the letters [of the alphabet] take their origin from Om. All the three worlds, with everything, animate and inanimate therein, take their origin from Om (Dhyanabindu Upanishad 15, 16).
“The three worlds” refers to the three levels of creation: physical, astral, and causal. Om is the inmost reality of them all as well as the inner faculties of our innate divine knowledge we call “gods.”
The fine [subtle] end of the Pranava cannot be expressed, as of an unbroken stream of oil or the long [continuous] tolling of a bell. He who knows him is the real knower of the Veda and becomes a jivanmukta (Dhyanabindu Upanishad 18, 37).
There is no really good expression in English for the words translated “tolling of a bell.” It means the continuing resonating of sound after the bell has been struck that gradually fades away into subtler and subtler sound and then into silence.
It is extremely interesting to see that the Pranava is here referred to as “him” rather than “it.”
A jivanmukta is one who is liberated her and now in this present life.
One should contemplate upon Omkara as Ishwara (Dhyanabindu Upanishad 19).
“Ishwara” means “God” or “Lord” in the sense of the Supreme Power, Ruler, Master, or Controller of the cosmos. “Ishwara” implies the powers of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.
Making the Atman the lower arani and Om the upper arani, and practicing the friction of meditation, one should apply himself to the best of his strength to the resonance of the sound of Omkara (Dhyanabindu Upanishad 22, 23).
Since meditation is the method by which we attune ourselves to “the resonance of the sound of Omkara,” that is being spoken of here.
The Supreme Self, or Paramatman, is often described in the upanishads as a Swan (Hamsa) floating unwetted [unaffected] upon the sea of creation. Therefore the upanishad also says:
Those who look upon Om as of the form of the Hamsa staying in all, shining like tens of millions of suns, being alone, staying in gamagama [the state of ever going and coming] and being devoid of motion–at last such persons are freed from sin (Dhyanabindu Upanishad 24).
Pranava [japa] causes the lotus of the heart to turn upward and open (Dhyanabindu Upanishad 34).
This is a condensation and paraphrase. “Heart” (hridaya) means the core of our being. Presently our inner consciousness is turned downward, oriented toward external and material objects–a condition that unfailingly produces ignorance and rebirth. Further, it is shrunken and minimal in its scope. Also, as I.K. Taimni points outs: “No success in yoga is possible unless all the energies of the soul are polarized and harnessed for achieving the central purpose.” Invocation of Om repolarizes and reorients our inner consciousness, turning it upward toward Spirit. But it does more than turn us upward; it also begins to develop, evolve, and enlarge our consciousness, extending it to infinity.
Practicing meditation, one should apply himself to the best of his strength to the resonance of the sound of Omkara (Dhyanabindu Upanishad).
The Garbha Upanishad describes the growth of the embryo in the womb and the psychological states arising in the incarnating Self throughout the time of gestation. The tenth verse says:
In the eighth month, the Jiva gets the capacity to know its past affairs (of past births), and conceives of the imperishable Atman as Om, through perfect knowledge and meditation.
Thus Om Yoga is known to all in the womb, though forgotten immediately upon birth. Nevertheless, it is always present in our subconscious.
Gopala Tapaniya Upanishad
Krishna, as a manifestation of Vishnu, is depicted as holding a conch, chakra [wheel], mace, and bow. These four implements represent his divine powers. Verse forty-eight of the Gopala Tapaniya Upanishad says: These four are identical with Om, indicating that all divine powers are aspects of Om.
The Hamsa Upanishad expounds the Supreme Self as the Divine Swan or Hamsa (Hansa). In the fourth section the “parts” or aspects of the Swan are enumerated, and it says: Omkara is its head, meaning that Om is the very Consciousness of Brahman. Toward the end of the section the upanishad says that when all ignorance is dispelled, the Infinite Self shines forth: being effulgence in its very essence, the immaculate, the eternal, the stainless and the most quiescent Om. Thus is the teaching of the Vedas; and thus is the Upanishad.
“The most quiescent Om” is Om in its ultimate stage as subtle or soundless sound.
Salutations unto Thee [Vishnu] who art the embodiment of Om (Hayagriva Upanishad).
As in the Atharvashikha Upanishad, Om is identified with the preserving-saving aspect of God known as Vishnu. Later in the upanishad, Vishnu is actually addressed in a prayer as “Om,” indicating that the preserving and saving power of God is an aspect or attribute of Om.
Om is the connecting link between the innermost Atman and the Paramatman, thus bringing about the identity of the two indicated by the term ‘asi.’ (Hayagriva Upanishad).
In the Chandogya Upanishad there is the account of a sage teaching his son the nature of his true Self. He employs many similes, concluding each one by saying: Tat twam asi–You are That. Asi is the word meaning “are.”
“Yoga” means “union,” and “yogi” means “one who produces union.” Although it is not incorrect to refer to individuals as yogis and their spiritual practice as yoga, in the highest sense God is the only yogi, for it is his power alone that effects the union (yoga) of the individual consciousness with himself, the Supreme Consciousness. And that power is the power of Om. Om is the link, the bridge between the finite and the Infinite. It not only joins them, it makes them one. It is the primal awareness of I AM on the microcosmic and macrocosmic levels.
Once students of sacred knowledge asked Yajnavalkya: Can we gain life eternal by japa? Yajnavalkya said: By the immortal Name one becomes immortal. He should utter the moksha mantra [Pranava, Om] which is the essence [substance] of the Vedas. This is Brahman. It should be meditated upon (Jabala Upanishad 3, 4).
Japa and meditation of Om are so simple, so “small,” that it is only natural for us to wonder if such things could result in the attaining of Cosmic Consciousness. So his students asked the great sage Yajnavalkya if life eternal, the knowledge of God, could be gained by means of them. The answer was clear and unequivocal: Yes.
By making his own inner sense [awareness] the lower arani and the Pranava the upper arani, the accomplished adept completely burns up and reduces to ashes his ignorance of the Atman (Kaivalya Upanishad 11).
The inner consciousness of the yogi and Om, when “rubbed together” by japa and meditation, produce the fire of divine knowledge which reduces ignorance to ashes. It is ignorance that produces all the wrong and foolish actions engaged in by human beings, and those actions produce all the sufferings of human beings. Ignorance, then, is the root of sin and suffering, and eradication of ignorance is the only way to be rid of sin and suffering. Japa and meditation of Om completely burn up our ignorance and reduce the seeds of our karma to ashes, ending ignorance and rebirth for us and enlightening and freeing us.
I will tell you briefly of that Goal which all the Vedas with one voice propound, which all the austerities speak of, and wishing for which people practice discipline: It is Om. Om, indeed, is the lower Brahman; this is, indeed, the higher Brahman. Anyone who, meditating on Om, wishes either of the two [aspects], by him that is attained. This [Om] is the best means [of attainment and realization]; this means is the higher and lesser Brahman. Meditating on Om, one becomes worthy of worship in the world of Brahman (Katha Upanishad 1. 2.15-17).
Om is the aim of all spiritual aspirations, and Om is the means to attain them.
The terms “lower” and “higher” in this quotation refer to Brahman in his manifestations as both Relative Existence and the Transcendent Absolute Existence. The idea here is that Om embraces the total range of existence, which is also the totality of God (Brahman), that God is Om, and can be attained through Om. The upanishad tells us that both aspects of God can be attained by Om Yogis lest they think that the transcendental aspect (Nirguna Brahman), is beyond their capacity to attain. Om attains everything, is the key to everything–material, psychic, or spiritual–indeed, is everything. Om itself is Cosmic Consciousness.
According to the Vedic tradition embodied in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Sutras, Om is the means to attain liberation of the spirit and divine consciousness. Those who so attain become themselves “deities,” worthy of worship and able to assist those who call upon them. This is the secret of the “gods” who, the upanishads tell us, took refuge in Om, thereby merging in That which is Om and becoming themselves Om and worthy of worship by those who would also attain the “world” (status) of Brahman. Shankara in his commentary on this upanishad says: “‘Meditating on Om one is worshipped in the world of Brahman.’ This idea is this: Getting identified with Brahman, he becomes worshippable like Brahman.”
The Katharudra Upanishad is one of what are known as “sannyas upanishads”–those that describe the taking up of the sadhu life and how it is to be lived. Verses one and two tell how a man about to renounce should impart the final teaching to his son. Among other profound philosophical statements, he should say to his son:
You are the Syllable Om.
And repeating the statements back to his father, the son should say:
I am the Syllable Om.
Such a one is fit for the world of Brahman, concludes the second verse.
The Krishna Upanishad refers to Om as the “Brahma Pranava,” the Pranava [Om] that is God. Sometimes in the scriptures, Brahma refers to the Pitamaha, the Great Father who creates the three lower worlds of Bhur, Bhuva, and Swah–the world of men, angels, and archangels–rather than Brahman. In that case, “Brahma Pranava” would mean that Brahma creates these worlds through the mantric agency of Om.
Like a tortoise one draws in the limbs [of the senses] and locks up the mind in the heart by means of the repetition of Om. The knower of Yoga, having cut the thread [that binds to birth and death] with the knife of the Syllable Om does not become bound again.
All distractions in meditation are transcended by means of the japa and meditation of Om, which centers us in our true Self or consciousness.
As the Kaivalya Upanishad states, it is the power of Om that severs the bond of ignorance tying us to the cycle of rebirth. So this upanishad also speaks of Om as a knife that releases us forever from “the ties that bind.”
The transcendent Brahman is indicated by Om (Kundika Upanishad).
This may also correctly be translated as: “The transcendent Brahman is the meaning of Om.”
Only Om is real (Maha Upanishad 4:1.24).
I am that Brahman expressed by Om in unity and also expressed in his threefold aspect (Mahanarayan Upanishad 4:1).
The Supreme Being is the most excellent Pranava that is taught in the Vedas.… The threefold worlds and the entire Veda are comprised in Om (Mahanarayan Upanishad 8:1).
The Name designating the self-luminous Reality and consisting of the Syllable Om is hidden in the Vedas. By contemplating on the Supreme along with the japa of that Name one attains to immortality. This designation of the Supreme is on the lips of contemplative sages and it is the central support of undying bliss. May we always repeat in our contemplative sacrifices the designation Om which has for its cause the self-luminous Reality and may we also hold him in our hearts with salutations. The Syllable Om declares the Supreme. God-like sages attained the self-luminous Reality that pervades the three states of consciousness [through Om that is] secretly held by the teachers who praise it by chants in the Vedic speech (Mahanarayan Upanishad 12:8-11).
“Om is hidden in the Vedas” as their inmost meaning or message, as well as their essence. Thus the knowledge of Om is the sovereign secret of the Vedas. For this reason sages never cease invoking it.
Regarding “our contemplative sacrifices,” the Bhagavad Gita says: “Among sacrifices I am the sacrifice of japa” (10:25).
The Syllable Om is dissolved in the primal cause during contemplation (Mahanarayan Upanishad 12:17).
And so are those who contemplate on it.
Aditya, the supreme cause of the universe, is the giver of light and and is the source of all power. He is denoted by the Syllable Om.…That form of the sun is Brahman.…The Pranava representing the cause of the universe denotes that Brahman (Mahanarayan Upanishad 15:2; 37:1).
Aditya is a title of the sun, but is used here symbolically to indicate Brahman, the Source of Life.
I am Sadasiva denoted by Pranava (Mahanarayan Upanishad 21:1).
Sadashiva means “eternally auspicious,” “eternally happy,” and “eternally prosperous.”
Mahanarayan Upanishad 29:1 gives a long list of the powers and elements of the universe, and concludes with the statement: “The source of all these is the Supreme denoted by the Syllable Om.” The same occurs–with a different list–in 35:1, 2, saying at the end: “He who is denoted by the Pranava is all these.”
The one Syllable Om is Brahman. Its use is for the union with the Paramatman who exists as the manifold universe (Mahanarayan Upanishad 33:1).
He who is one with Om is one with all: both the absolute, the Paramatman, and the relative, the manifold universe. For they are one.
Mahanarayan Upanishad 38:1 gives a mantra known as the Trisuparna Mantra, one of the most beautiful of the ancient prayers: “May the Supreme reach me. May the Blissful reach me. May the Supreme alone that is blissful reach me. O Lord, being one among Thy creatures I am Thy child. Suppress the dreary dream of the empirical existence that I experience. For that I offer myself as an oblation into Thee, O Lord, and the vital and mental powers Thou hast kept in me.” The next verse says that those who recite the mantra “attain union with Pranava, i.e., the Deity of this mantra.”
Om is Brahman. Om is Vayu [Prana]. Om is the finite Self. Om is the Supreme Truth. Om is all. Om is the multitude of citadels [the bodies of creatures]. Salutation to him. That Supreme Being moves inside the heart of created being possessing manifold forms. O Supreme,… Thou art Om (Mahanarayan Upanishad 68:1, 2).
By means of Om the yogi should concentrate his thought on the Supreme Self. This Syllable Om verily is the substance of many great upanishads and a secret guarded by the gods without imparting to the unqualified. He who practices meditation on the Supreme thus with the aid of the Pranava attains to the unlimited greatness of the Supreme. By that [Om] he attains to the greatness of Brahman. Thus the secret knowledge has been imparted (Mahanarayan Upanishad 80:18).
Since “upanishad” literally means “that which was heard while sitting near,” the words “many great upanishads” in the foregoing verse may simply mean “many great teachings.”
The Maitrayana Upanishad is a different recension of the better-known Maitri Upanishad which will follow this section. Because there are some points of difference I am including and sometimes commenting on both.
Indeed, there are two forms of Brahman, the one having form, the other formless [quoted from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.3.1]; but the one having form is the untruth [or: unreal], the formless one is the truth [or: real], is Brahman, as Brahman the light, as the light of the sun; but this is the Syllable Om as the Self. ‘But he made himself threefold’ [quoted from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.2.3], because in Om there are three matras [a, u, and m]; through it this whole world is all interwoven lengthwise and breadthwise in that [Brahman who is the sun]. As it is said: ‘Indeed the sun is this Om;’ therefore one should meditate and make himself ready to unite himself with it.
“And in another place also it is said: ‘The udgitha is the Pranava and the Pranava is the udgitha. That is why the udgitha is that sun and is the Pranava’ [quoted from the Chandogya Upanishad 1.5.1]. Because it is said: [One should meditate on] that udgitha, which is called the holy sound [Om], which is the guide or propeller which is in the form of light, which is sorrowless, ageless, free from death, which is threefold, and which lies concealed in the cavity of the heart. Because it is said: Having the root above, it is the three-footed Brahman; ether, air, fire, water, and earth are its branches. That is Brahman and its splendor is that which is that sun and it is also the splendor of that Syllable Om; that is why one should worship it [Brahman, the sun] unintermittently through the Syllable Om. Because this is the one illuminator of man.’ As it is said: Indeed, this Syllable is sacred, this Syllable is the highest one; he who knows this Syllable–whatever he wishes is allotted to him (Maitrayana Upanishad 6:3, 4).
Much of this has already been considered, but in the fourth verse there is an important reference. Om is said to be “the guide or propeller which is in the form of light.” In the Rig Veda there is a mantra known as the Savitri Gayatri which is recited for unfoldment of the intellectual powers leading to enlightenment. When speaking of the divine sun of enlightenment, Brahman, it prays: “May it impel us towards That.” Sri Ramakrishna said that Om is the essence of the Gayatri mantra–that its recitation eventually replaces the Gayatri entirely. This is borne out by the upanishad. Om itself is the Light that propels us towards union with the Light–with Om.
Although it has become the custom in Vedic religion to recite volumes of Sanskrit hymns and mantras in worship, the Vedic Rishis understood that all worship could be done by the recitation of Om. Even more, they realized that real worship of God consisted of offering oneself to God by entering into union with him. And Om effected that union–that worship. Nothing more was needed.
Just as the sun is the sole illuminator of the world (at least in the natural order of things), so the upanishad declares Om to be “the one illuminator of man.”
“And in another place it is said: The Syllable Om is its [Brahman’s] sound-form. [A long listing of the various forms of Brahman follows; and in conclusion the upanishad says:] Therefore, when one says Om, all the previously mentioned ones are adored and are included, along with it [Brahman]. As it is said: Indeed, O Satyakama, this Syllable Om is the higher and the lower Brahman (Maitrayana Upanishad 6:5).
By the invocation of Om, God in all his manifestations–as well as his unmanifest Being–is worshipped. Japa and meditation of Om is the highest form of worship, therefore Sri Ramanuja, the great Indian philosopher, taught that meditation is the real bhakti (devotion) and jnana (wisdom).
By the Syllable Om he ascends. Through that he attains to the state of egolessness and on account of egolessness, he does not participate in joy or sorrow but he attains to absoluteness (Maitrayana Upanishad 6:21).
The little joys and sorrows of earth which are produced by the (actually) small things of earth are no more for him who ascends to the highest by means of Om.
It is said: Indeed, two Brahmans are to be contemplated: the Word and the Non-Word. For through the Word is the Wordless made manifest. Here the Word signifies the Syllable Om. Ascending through this, one attains to the wordless or the non-word, to Nirvana. Then further it is said: This is the way, this is immortality, this is communion and blessed happiness. Particularly, just as a spider climbing up by its threads comes into free space, so also the one who meditates and ascends through the Syllable Om attains to freedom.
Transcending this Word-Brahman which carries individual characteristics in itself, they disappear in the highest, wordless, unmanifest Brahman. In that place they are without individual qualities, without individual differences, just like the manifold juices of flowers which have entered into the honey.
For it is said: One must know two Brahmans: the Word-Brahman and the highest Brahman. He who is proficient in the Word-Brahman attains the highest Brahman also.
And in another place it is said: The Word-Brahman is the Syllable Om; but the uppermost part of That is that which is composed [quiet], wordless, which is devoid of fear and sorrow, which is bliss, satiated [full of contentment], firm, unmoving, immortal, unshaking, steady, which bears the name of Vishnu and leads to the place elevated above all. That is why one should worship these both. As it is said: The highest God and the lower One, who is called Om by name, one, becoming speechless and vacant [without any extraneous thought] should meditate (Maitrayana Upanishad 6:22, 23).
The Maitri Upanishad gives it this way:
There are, verily, two Brahmans to be meditated upon, sound and non-sound. By sound alone is the non-sound revealed. Now here the sound is Om. Moving upward by it one comes to ascend in the non-sound. So this is the way, this is immortality, this is complete union and also tranquility. And as the spider moves upward by the thread, obtains free space, thus assuredly, indeed the meditator moving upward by the Syllable Om attains freedom.
There are two Brahmans to be known, the sound-Brahman and what is higher. Those who know the sound-Brahman get to the higher Brahman. What is the sound is the Syllable Om. That which is its end is tranquil, soundless, fearless, sorrowless, blissful, satisfied, steadfast, unmoving, immortal, unshaking, enduring, called Vishnu; for obtaining what is higher than everything, let him reverence these two. For thus is it said: He who is both higher and lower, that God known by the name of Om is soundless and void of being too. And thus it has been said elsewhere: The body is the bow. The arrow is Om. The mind is its point, darkness is the mark. Having pierced through the darkness, one goes to what is not enveloped in darkness. Then having pierced through what is thus enveloped one sees Brahman.
These verses are specifically speaking about the meditation of Om, by means of which the objective Syllable Om becomes reduced to its subtle forms. Those who ascend in this way by means of Om are the real Ascended Masters.
The upanishad assures us here that the practice of japa and meditation of Om is itself the guarantee of success to the seeker.
And in another place it is said: The body is the bow, the Syllable Om is the arrow, the mind is the tip [of the arrow], darkness is the target; when one pierces through darkness, he reaches the place not obscured by darkness. He who has pierced that which is obscured has seen Brahman, which is comparable to a sparkling wheel of sparks, which has the splendor like that of the sun, which is filled with power, and which is beyond darkness. That Brahman shines in that yonder sun, as well as in the moon, in the fire, and in the lightning, and when he has seen him, he enters into immortality.
As it is said: Absorption [meditation] directed on the inner Self nevertheless grasps also the external objectives. Thus the objectless consciousness is made again objective. Still the bliss which ensues when the mind is merged with the Self–with the Self only as witness–is Brahman, the pure, eternal one. It is the true way, it is the true world (Maitrayana Upanishad 6:24).
The darkness which the upanishad says is the target is the “divine darkness,” the state of “unknowing” which leads to the Light of Knowing. This is the entire subject of the medieval Western spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing. Brahman, being beyond the senses, is itself often called “darkness” in the sense that it cannot be beheld by either the outer eyes or the inner eye of the mind and intellect. But the eye of spirit can indeed behold it; and shall. For that darkness will be found to be the true Light–all other light being but darkness and shadow.
The “wheel of sparks” which is said to be like Brahman is the alatachakra: a firebrand that is being whirled about so it forms a continuous orb of light that emits sparks in all directions, the sparks being the individual spirits that exist ever in the One Spirit, yet seem to emerge from him and enter into relative existence with its attendant bondage.
The second part of this verse supports that which many contemporary sages have said: At first in our search for God we follow the path of negation, saying neti, neti–this is not God, that is not God–in relation to the world and its experiences. But when we find God and are united with him we reverse this and declare that “this” and “that” are God–and so, in a mysterious way, are we. That which heretofore was seen as unreal is then known to be real. Through meditation we abandon objective consciousness for subjective consciousness so we may again return to objective consciousness–but now illumined by the experience of the Divine Subject: God.
And in another place it is said: When one, with his senses held down or dormant as in sleep, sees, in the cave of the sense-organs, still not under the sway of the senses, through the purest thought, as in a dream, that director, the Atman called the Pranava, who is formed of light, who is slumberless, ageless, deathless, and sorrowless, because it is said: Because it binds together prana and Om and all the manifoldness or because it unites them in itself, it is, on that account, called Yoga.
And in another place it is said: Just as the fisher pulls out the creatures living in water within his net and sacrifices them into the fire of his body [the “fire” of digestion], so also, indeed, one, as if, pulls out the pranas with the Syllable Om and sacrifices them into sorrowless fire (Maitrayana Upanishad 6:25, 26).
“The purest thought” by which Brahman is perceived is the subtlest form of Om as experienced in meditation.
Here, too, we see that Om is both Yogi and Yoga. And the Cosmic Fire of Brahman.
He who knocks down [unseats] the ego [ahankara] and journeys on the ship of Om beyond the ether in the heart, in him the inner ether in the heart [that is Brahman] becomes manifest by and by (Maitrayana Upanishad 6:28).
By this we learn that Om is the vanquisher of ego, ahankara, the false sense of “I” as separate from God. When that is done, then Om is the ship that will carry us over the ocean of ignorance into the harbor of God. The “by and by” spoken of here may be long or it may be short, but Brahman will become manifest in the Om yogi.
One should adore the Immeasurable Power [God] through the Syllable Om (Maitrayana Upanishad 6:37).
Here again we see that the inconceivable and infinite God can be worshipped by means of Om. For Om is itself that God.
The essence or nature of the ether found in the cave [of the heart, hridaya guha] is, indeed, that highest power. The essence or nature of the ether found in the cave [of the heart] is, indeed, that Syllable Om. Through it that power breaks or sallies forth, ascends, and is breathed out; it may be without intermission, or it may be as a support for the meditation on Brahman.
In this process [of the Supreme Power which is the Pranava becoming active and moving forth or upward], that power, during the motion of prana, emerges as the warmth throwing the light into the background; and just as it occurs during the wafting of smoke [upwards and about], after it [that power] has sprung up as a twig in the ether of the heart, it unfolds itself further and becomes another twig or branch after the other one [rising up into infinity], just as when a lump of salt is thrown into water or just as the heat [rises] in the melted butter or just as the thought of one who meditates extends itself [into infinity] (Maitrayana Upanishad 7:11a).
Tangled as the above seems, the idea is that during meditation Om attaches itself to the subtle inner movement of prana and changes into a whisperlike form similar to the sound or movement of respiration, and keeps going through an almost infinite variety of permutations as it becomes increasingly subtle.
It is said in the upanishads that the inmost consciousness of the human being is like two branches upon which two birds are sitting. On one branch a bird sits eating the fruit of the tree, while on the other branch the bird sits merely observing the other bird and its eating of the fruit. The first bird is said to be the individual consciousness which eats the fruits of its actions in the form of karma. The second bird is the Supreme Consciousness which observes the individual spirit in transcendent detachment and silence. Both the experience of the individual and the witnessing of the Cosmic Being are made possible by the “branching” of Om. Both rest upon Om for the experiencing and the witnessing.
In this connection they cite the following passage: But why is it [Om] called lightning-like? Because no sooner is it uttered than it illuminates [brightens up] the whole body like lightning. That is why one should worship that immeasurable Power through the Syllable Om (Maitrayana Upanishad 7:11b).
In the Rig Veda it is said that the evil ones, the Vritras, hid the sun in a cave so darkness would prevail upon the earth. The aspiring ones, the Aryas, searched for the sun. When they found the cave, by means of Om, the satya-mantra–the mantra that reveals the Truth [God], or the mantra that embodies the Truth [God]–they broke open the sealed cave and the sun rose into the sky and enlightened the world. That is why the upanishad earlier says: “Through it that power breaks or sallies forth, and ascends.”
Om, when uttered, “illuminates the whole body like lightning.” When our consciousness is centered on Om, then our bodies, physical, astral, and causal, are filled with the Light of God by its invocation. Om is both Life and Light. What else, then, can we offer God in worship than himself in the form of Om?
One should continuously worship Brahman with the Syllable Om. For thus it is said, This Syllable indeed, is holy, this Syllable indeed is supreme. By knowing that Syllable indeed, whatever one desires becomes his. And then it has been said elsewhere, This Om is the sound form of this [Self]. Therefore by the utterance of the Syllable Om all these forms [of Brahman] are praised, worshipped, and ascribed. For thus it is said: This Syllable Om, verily, is the higher and lower Brahman (Maitri Upanishad 6:4, 5).
It is the continuous invocation of Om that is the worship of God (Brahman). Om is what is offered, Om is the act of offering, and Om is the One who receives the offering. “Brahman is the ritual, Brahman is the offering, Brahman is he who offers to the fire that is Brahman. If a man sees Brahman in every action, he will find Brahman” (Bhagavad Gita 4:24). Only by the all-encompassing Om can we worship the all-encompassing Brahman. Only God can be offered to God.
Because in this manner he joins the prana, the Syllable Om, and all this in its manifoldness therefore this is called Yoga [joining]. The oneness of the breath, the mind, and likewise of the senses [through japa of Om] and the abandonment of all conditions of existence, this is designated as Yoga. One draws in the pranas by means of the Syllable Om (Maitri Upanishad 6:22-26).
Most of this is found in the Maitrayana recension of the upanishad, but the final part about the union of Om and prana during japa is not. The japa of Om greatly energizes and enlivens the Om Yogi on all the levels of his being. At the same time, though, it gathers up (“draws in”) the scattered life energies, harmonizes, and causes them to flow correctly in their intended channels.
One should meditate with the Syllable Om on that Unlimited Splendor [that is God] (Maitri Upanishad 6:37).
The renowned mantra of the Rig Veda, the Gayatri Mantra, begins: “We meditate upon that Boundless Splendor” that is God.
Verily, the nature of the ether within the space [of the heart] is the same as the Syllable Om. With this Syllable, indeed, that rises up, goes upward and pours forth. Verily, it becomes for ever the support of the meditation on Brahman. In the breathing, that [Om] has its place in the heart that casts forth light. In the breathing that [Om] is like the action of smoke; for when there is motion of air the smoke rises to the sky in one column and follows afterward one branch after another. That is like throwing salt into water, like heat in melting butter. On this point they quote: Now why is it [Om] said to be lightning? Because in the very moment of going forth [in repetition] it lights up the whole body. Therefore one should meditate with the Syllable Om, that boundless Light (Maitri Upanishad 7:11).
This is very like the Maitrayana recension, but there are some interesting differences, such as more exposition on the relation of Om to the inner movement of prana (“breathing”).
Smoke is used as a simile to illustrate that the cumulative effect of the repetition of Om is like a spiraling upward of smoke, the vibration rising higher and higher to the Absolute and acting as a thread up which the soul ascends to the Absolute.
The invocation of Om is compared to throwing salt into water because it pervades the entire being of the sadhaka with the divine vibration. It is also like the heating of butter because it causes the form to merge into the Formless, just as butter becomes one homogeneous mass when heated. So those who meditate on Om enter “that boundless Light” that is Om, that is God.
One who concentrates his mind on the Pranava and its import [bhava] experiences the internal radiance that alone is the real form of the Pranava (Mandalabrahman Upanishad 2.2.1).
That should be known as the other shore reached by one embarked on the boat of knowledge, after crossing the ocean of ignorance. That is the object of the quest through external and internal introspection. In the middle of it the world reposes. That is what lies beyond the range of Nada, Bindu, and Kala, the indivisible expanse [the one essence of consciousness]. That is of the form of the qualified [saguna] and the unqualified [nirguna] Atman. He who knows that stands liberated (Mandalabrahman Upanishad 2:4).
Of the sound produced in the anahata of the heart, there is the reverberation of that sound; there is radiance penetrating the interior of that reverberation. There is the mind penetrating the interior of that radiance: which mind is the doer of the deed of creating, sustaining, and destroying the three worlds. Wherein that mind meets with dissolution, that is the supreme state of Vishnu [Brahman] (Mandalabrahman Upanishad 5:4).
The Mukti Upanishad, one of the minor Upanishads, says this about the Mandukya Upanishad, which is completely devoted to the subject of Om: “The only means by which the final emancipation is attained, is through the Mandukya Upanishad alone, which is enough for the salvation of all aspirants.” And the Mandukya Upanishad says:
Om: this Syllable is all this. All that is past, the present and the future, all this is only the Syllable Om. And whatever else there is beyond the threefold time, that too is only the Syllable Om.…The Self [Atman] is of the nature of the Syllable Om. Thus the Syllable Om is the very Self. He who knows it thus enters the Self [Supreme Spirit] with his Self [individual spirit] (Mandukya Upanishad 1, 8, 12).
Contemplate me as…the one Syllable Om (Mukti Upanishad 2.2.77).
Taking as the bow the great weapon of the Upanishads [Om], one should place in it the arrow sharpened by meditation. Drawing it with a mind engaged in the contemplation of That [Brahman], O beloved, know that Imperishable Brahman as the target. The Syllable Om is the bow: one’s Self, indeed, is the arrow. Brahman is spoken of as the target of that. It is to be hit without making a mistake. Thus one becomes united with it [Brahman] as the arrow becomes one with the target. He in whom the sky, the earth, and the interspace are woven, as also the mind along with all the pranas, know him alone as the one Self. Dismiss other utterances. This [Om] is the bridge to immortality. Meditate on Om as the Self. May you be successful in crossing over to the farther shore beyond darkness (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.3-6).
The “arrow sharpened by meditation” is the inner consciousness that has been refined (sharpened) by the practice of meditation. Om aims at the Highest and reaches it through its japa and meditation. This being so, the upanishad tell us to “dismiss other utterances” and make Om the beginning, middle, and end of our life and our spiritual practice (sadhana).
This entire upanishad is on the subject of Om, but it is extremely abstruse, and the Sanskrit is so ancient (being a part of the Rig Veda) that it is not easy to translate. The first section is better summarized as follows: “The Swan, which is the vehicle of Brahma, of divine consciousnesss, is really the Omkara. All worlds are located within it.” Then the actual translation continues:
An adept in yoga who soars aloft upon the Swan [by meditating on Om] is not affected by karmic influences or by hundreds of millions of sins.
In Vedic mythology which is profoundly symbolic, Brahma the Creator is said to have a swan as his vehicle. Swans are considered symbols of perfect discrimination since they can separate water from milk by means of an acidic secretion which turns milk into curds, which they then eat, leaving the water. So the idea is that divine consciousnesss “rides upon”–is the crown of–viveka, the discrimination between the true and the false, between God and delusion. There is another meaning when applied to the Pranava. Just as the swan flies on two wings, so also the yogi ascends to the spiritual heights on the two letters O and M combined. Japa and meditation of Om may also be considered as flying on the two wings of the Divine Swan.
Assuming the meditation posture, and all the while introspecting, the yogi should listen to the sound [of Om]. This sound, when constantly practiced, will drown every sound from outside. By persisting in the practice in the same manner further and further, the sound will be heard subtler and subtler. In this manner will various kinds of sound be heard, growing subtler and subtler. Even when loud sounds, such as of the kettle-drum and the like, are heard therein, the yogi should take into consideration only the subtle, and the subtler ones. He should not shift elsewhere his mind, which is diverting itself in the subtle. The mind, lost in that sound forgetting everything outside, becomes one with it, like water and milk and forthwith merges with the Chidakasha [the Ether of Consciousness]. The yogi with mental control, by constant practice, becomes indifferent to everything else and is attracted by such Nada [the subtle forms of Om experienced in meditation] alone as would transport him beyond his mind. Leaving off all thoughts and devoid of all action, he should meditate upon Nada alone. The mind will then merge completely in the Nada.
Nada Yoga or Laya Yoga, is the practice of listening to the subtle inner sounds, especially of the repetitions of Om. Here the upanishad gives us invaluable counsel: do not bother with other sounds, including those of the chakras, when they arise, but be intent only on the increasingly subtler sounds of Om. Ignoring all other sounds, we should follow the thread of the subtle Pranava to reach the Pure Consciousness that is the Goal.
Even as the bee drinks the honey and does not like the sweet scents, the mind, always captivated by nada or sweet sound, has no relish for any other functioning; bound by the rope of a little [or subtle] sweet sound, it gives up its fickle nature in a trice. The mind, the snake abiding in the hole of the interior of the body, caught by the snake-charmer of sweet sound, completely forgetting the world, does not run anywise, becoming one-pointed. For the infatuated lord of elephants of the mind, roaming about the pleasure garden of the objects of desire, this sharp goad of sweet sound commands the ability to bring it under control. Sound plays the part of the net, which ensnares the deer in the interior of the body, viz., the mind. It likewise plays the part of the dike in stemming the tide in the interior of the body, viz., the mind.
The nada [the Pratyagatman] of the Pranava, wherein manifests Brahman, is self-luminous. The mind finds its repose therein.… As long as the sound persists, so long does the conception of akasha or Ether persist. The transcendent Atman devoid of sound is termed the Paramatman. As long as there is the sound, so long does the mind persist. When the sound ceases, the mind is out of element. The Pranava is endowed with sound; when its principal letter [either o or m] vanishes, there comes on the quiescent state, the transcendent state of Brahman. From constant application to the nada [sound] of the Pranava, the impressions [samskaras] left by the past will be obliterated. Then the mind and the vital air [prana] will merge in the detached Atman; there is no doubt. The myriads of thousands of means to the attainment of the all-witness, the nada [the sound], the myriads of hundreds of devices adopted for the attainment of the Ishwara, the bindu of the Pranava–all of them find their last resting place in the nada of the Pranava, wherein is manifest Brahman, which is no other than the innermost Atman (Nadabindu Upanishad, 31-51).
Past life impressions (samskaras), taking the form of reflexive, instinctual actions and thoughts emanating from the subconscious, are themselves the forces of karma. So to wipe out our karma we must wipe out the samskaras through meditation on Om.
All viable spiritual paths (practices) lead to Om. So it is only wisdom to become involved with it from the very beginning.
Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad
He shall receive instructions on the Pranava.… [At the end of his life] he shall discard his body remembering [reciting] the emancipating holy mantra, Om.
He should ever be intent upon the realization, through meditation, of the Brahma Pranava [the Pranava that is Brahman] (Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad, Upadesha VII).
To realize Om through continuous japa and meditation is to realize Brahman itself.
It is necessary for all to mediate upon the Self [Atman]. Thus the aspirant after liberation should ever be uttering the Pranava which enables one to cross samsara, and be living as a jivanmukta (Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad, Upadesha VII).
Narada asked Parameshthi [the Exalted One: Brahma] to enlighten him about the samsara taraka–that Pranava which lifts one out of samsara. Assenting to this, Brahma began thus: Omkara that is Brahman is the vyashti [individual] and the samashti [cosmic]. What is the individual? What is the cosmic? The Brahma Pranava is of three kinds: Samhara [destructive] Pranava, Shrishti [creative] Pranava, and Ubhayatmaka [belonging to both] Pranava, as being of two forms, internal and external (Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad, Upadesha VIII).
It is the Pranava, Om, that delivers us from the sea of rebirth and confers liberation upon us. Although one, and of a single, unified consciousness, yet, being Brahman, it is also many; and some of its aspects are being presented here.
Om is samhara–that which cuts off and dissolves–in relation to all impurity and ignorance. At the same time it is the power of creation, of manifestation, in relation to all that is true and divine in nature. It is therefore ubhayatmaka–simultaneously destructive and creative. This also is the nature of Brahman, the producer of both manifestation and dissolution. The Pranava cuts off and dissolves that which is unreal and brings about the rise and establishment of That which is Real. And it does so on the level of the microcosm, the vyashti, and on the level of the macrocosm, the samashti. All states of existence are embraced by it, both the part and the whole. It is the life of the individual spirit and of the Supreme Spirit equally. And it is That which unites the two into One.
It is also eight: Antah Pranava, Vyavaharika Pranava, Bahya Pranava, Arsha Pranava, Ubhayatmaka or Virat Pranava, Samahara Pranava, Brahma Pranava, and Ardhamatra Pranava (Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad, Upadesha VIII).
It is the Antah Pranava, the internal or indwelling Pranava, for it is the nature of consciousness–our own nature. It is the inmost, the most subtle, productive of all internal states and movements. Yet it is also the Vyavaharika Pranava, the power that manifests in all cosmic activity, producing all phenomenon. Thus it is also the Bahya Pranava, the external Pranava. It is the primal, holy mantra revealed to the Vedic Rishis, the Arsha Pranava. It is the all-containing (Ubhayatmaka) or cosmic (Virat) Pranava. But it also dissolves the cosmos as the Samahara Pranava. It is The Word That Is God, the Brahman Pranava of subtle (Ardhamatra) Form. All things are the Pranava; the Pranava is all things.
Om is Brahman. Know that the mantra of the one-syllabled Om is Pranava.… It is saguna [with qualities] and nirguna [beyond all qualities]. Though the Brahma Pranava is one only, its is the substratum of all, the support of the whole universe, of the form of all letters, time, Vedas, and Shiva. [In this instance, “Shiva” means the Supreme Brahman.] This Omkara that is mentioned in the Upanishads of the Vedas should be sought after. Know that this Omkara is the atma that is indestructible during the three periods of time–past, present, and future–able to confer liberation and eulogized by the Vedas. Having experienced this one Om as immortal and ageless, and having brought about the Brahma-nature in this body, become convinced that your atma, associated with the three bodies [physical, astral, and causal], is Parabrahman.… This alone is Brahman, the Brahma Pranava. This should be known. There is no other Turiya [transcendent consciousness]. To the aspirants after liberation, its is the support, like the sun, everywhere; its is the Atma Jyoti [Light of the Self]. As its alone is Brahman, this One-Lettered Brahman is shining always (Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad, Upadesha VIII).
Narasingha Tapini Upanishad
The Pranava is the true form of the Savitri Gayatri which has the sun as its presiding deity. Once Prajapati [the Creator] spoke to the gods, saying: The Pranava is both the Atman and Brahman; they are united to each other. The Atman of the four states and the Pranava are one (Narasingha Tapini Upanishad).
Here, again, we see that those who invoke Om obtain the result of reciting the Savitri Gayatri for enlightenment.
When those greatly evolved beings we call “gods” sought for spiritual knowledge so they could evolve to even higher states, God himself taught them about Om.
The “four states” are waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep, and pure consciousness (turiya).
There is no time limit on the meditation and japa of the Pranava, but rather this should be continued until one casts off one’s body.… Should for some unforeseen reason or other the actual perception of the turiya-turiya be unattained in this life, such attainment is surely to be had at least in the next, next after, or another incarnation (Narasingha Tapini Upanishad).
Those who practice Om Yoga will attain total and perfect liberation in at least four lifetimes. So the upanishad assures us, and so we can prove for ourselves.
So, in the culmination of the turiya-turiya Omkara, one actually perceives in one’s own Atman and with one’s own Self, the truth that the unsurpassed state of the transcendent Brahman is the Atman alone (Narasingha Tapini Upanishad).
“The culmination of the turiya-turiya Omkara” is reached through the practice of meditation.
That on which I have so long discoursed unto you, and which you have now realized in the two aspects of transcending the known, and transcending the unknown, and the unknowable, is verily ‘this Brahman’ which is non-dual and eternal. It is a peerless state of sentience and bliss. And that is the Atman, and that is the monosyllable Om (Narasingha Tapini Upanishad).
God is often spoken of as higher or lower, with form (Saguna) or without form (Nirguna), as Immanent or Transcendent, as Personal or Impersonal. But there is a state beyond these metaphysical dualities where the question of either/or simply cannot arise; where no appellations whatsoever can be used, or are even possible. This verse affirms that fact. Through Om that state which is really beyond all states can be attained.
[When the gods asked what the ascent to Brahman was, he replied:] This ascent alone is the Atman, as ascent is expressed by the japa of Om at the highest level of the turiya, which is identical with Brahman devoid of all attributes (Narasingha Tapini Upanishad).
This upanishad also contains two sections, virtually impossible to translate, which tells how Om unites the individual soul with the Universal Soul and the Absolute Brahman, making the three into one. In these sections there are references to Om as having four “horns,” to which the consciousness is to be bound, the “horns” representing the four states of consciousness, individual and cosmic.
Narasingha Purva-Tapiniya Upanishad
He who is the exalted God Narasingha [Vishnu] is also Om; to him be salutations.
At the center of the wheel of creation is the Deliverer, the Syllable Om, which single Syllable denotes Narasingha.
Most of the material on Om in the Mandukya Upanishad is cited in this upanishad, but the likening of Om to the hub of a wheel is unique to it and presents two ideas: 1) Creation has emanated from Om as its center. 2) Om binds all creation into a unity. On the personal level this tells us that Om is the center, the seed-core of our very being, and that meditation on Om will bind our scattered forces back into their primal unity, thus making us one with ourselves as a prerequisite for becoming one with God. This upanishad also lists the various scriptures and their adjuncts at length with the concluding statement:
One who studies the Pranava thereby studies everything–yea, he thereby studies everything.
Narasingha Uttara-Tapiniya Upanishad
Once the gods said to Prajapati [the Creator]: Proclaim to us Om which, being that Atman, is minuter than the minute [subtler than the most subtle]. Let it be so, said he.
Om! this Syllable is the whole world. Its explanation is as follows. The past, the present, and the future–all this is Om. And besides, what still lies beyond [these three modes of time], that also is Om. All this, verily, is Brahman, but Brahman is this Atman.
While one makes this Atman one with Brahman by means of the word Om, and makes Brahman one with the Atman by means of the word Om, one should experience that one, ageless, immortal, fearless [One] in the word Om, should merge in its this whole threefold world, for one should know that the world consists of its, and should compress it [the world] in the word: Om. Thereby one should combine the threefold Atman and the threefold supreme Brahman into each other.
One should make the Atman one with the Unborn by means of Om.
There is no difference between Atman, Om, and the universe.
Om is the Atman himself. One who knows this has his jivatman merged in the Paramatman.
On the great throne of one’s own heart one should install the Atman by means of Om. [This is a reference to the ritual known as prana-pratishta–installation of life–which is done to an image when it is set on the altar of a temple at its consecration. This ritual makes the image alive in a subtle–but no less real–sense.]
With the Pranava consisting of bliss and immortality one should worship Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
This Atman, the highest Brahman, the Om sound, who shines as Turiya at the top of the Om sound, one should worship and encompass him in the word Om and meditate upon him.
This Atman, the highest Brahman, the Om sound, who shines as Turiya at the top of the Om sound, one should meditate upon through the Pranava and make himself one with Brahman.
Therefore, one who follows the way of life of the gods, he passes away in the Om sound, the highest Brahman. He sees in his Self the Highest Self [Paramatman], the highest Brahman.
Woven lengthwise and crosswise [in the fabric of the cosmos] is the Om. Om is indeed speech [Vak]; and speech is this whole world. Therefore both the Atman and Om are one in the highest God.
Though not seeing him [Brahman], you should see him through the word Om. This is the truth, is the Atman, is Brahman, for Brahman is the Atman. Indeed this is not to be doubted: Om is the Reality. That is what the wise see.”
He [Narayana: Vishnu] merged into one with the inner bliss, Brahman, the Purusha, the holy Syllable consisting of a, u, and m; and its became the sound Om. The yogi who has seen [experienced] this is free from birth and samsara.
So pious was Devaki’s son, so pious was Madhusudana, as it is said, [because he perceived] him who dwells in all beings, one, Narayana, the cause, the causeless, the highest Brahman in the Omkara (Narayana Upanishad 5).
Here again Vishnu (Narayana) is declared to be the mantric Syllable Om. Furthermore, this verse indicates that Krishna (the son of Devaki, also called Madhusudana), who is considered an incarnation of Narayana (Vishnu), meditated upon God by means of Om.
Pancha Brahma Upanishad
Sri Ramakrishna was unsurpassed as a teacher who could illuminate the most abstruse philosophical concepts in a single sentence–or less. When asked: “What is the Self (Atman)?” his answer was: “The witness of the mind.” This is the teaching of the Pancha Brahman Upanishad about God, which says:
You should understand that Ishana [the Lord] is the witness of the buddhi (intellect) intelligence and is the activator of the mind. He is boundless and beyond all knowing. He is indicated by Om (Pancha Brahman Upanishad 6).
The Lord, also is seated in the heart of each one of us as the Eternal Witness.
“I am the Atman that dwells in the heart of every mortal creature: I am the beginning, the life-span, and the end of all” (Bhagavad Gita 10:20).
“The Lord lives in the heart of every creature. He turns them round and round upon the wheel of his Maya” (Bhagavad Gita 18:61).
The Pranava is the Atman.… To the ascetics seeking liberation, the basis of the sacred thread is Pranava alone.… The Pranava is the sacred thread.
In Vedic religion, the sacred thread (yajnopavita) must be worn for the performance of the fire sacrifice (yajna). This verse thus means that Om both qualifies the yogi for the “sacrifice” of Self-realization as well as being that sacrifice itself. That is, Om is both the means and the end. Moreover, the sacred thread is formed of three strands that represent the three letters of Om (a, u, and m).
Paramahansa Parivrajaka Upanishad
The Paramahansa Parivrajaka Upanishad refers to Om as “the Brahma Pranava”–Pranava-that-is-God–and has a section in which, like the Tarasara Upanishad, it is stated that Om contains all the sixteen states of consciousness.
Brahman, the Self-Existent, says: Om is my very life (Pashupatabrahman Upanishad 4).
The Pranava is the Sacred Thread [Brahmasutra] and the Divine Sacrifice [Brahmayajna] as well (Pashupatabrahman Upanishad 17).
The consciousness “I am He” [“I am Brahman”] is inherent in the Pranava. There is no difference between the [statement] “I am He” and the Pranava (Pashupatabrahman Upanishad 19).
Liberation is not within the reach of any but the person who has developed the faculty of meditating on the Pranava (Pashupatabrahman Upanishad 26).
I am the Pranava, which is the Deliverer [Taraka], the radiance of “I am He” (Pashupatabrahman Upanishad 32).
Brahman, indicated by Om, is Ishwara [God the Lord] (Pashupatabrahman Upanishad Uttarakhanda 1).
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali it is stated that the path to superconsciousness (samadhi) is the offering of the life to God (Ishwarapranadana). “Pranagnihotra” means “The Fire-Sacrifice of Life” and describes how the human being is the sacrificial altar, implements, etc., with his life being the offering. In verse 18 it says that the sacrificial fire is Om. In ancient India it was believed that the fire destroyed the material part of the offerings, but thereby transferred the subtle, spiritual part into the heavenly realms. The inference is that Om is that which transfers or transmutes our earthly consciousness into divine consciousnesss.
In verse 22, Om is called “the sacrificial post,” meaning that our consciousness is to be “tied” of Om in order to accomplish the sacrifice-offering of our life–ourselves–to God.
Brahman created Brahma in a lotus flower. The latter deliberated: Which is the one Word by which all desires are obtained and all worlds, gods, Vedas, sacrifices, rewards of the sacrifices, everything movable and immovable is known? He practiced tapas [meditation]. After he had practiced the tapas, he saw that Syllable [Om] which is all-encompassing, all-ruling, ever new, the Brahman. Then he obtained all desires, all worlds, gods, Vedas, sacrifices, all the movable and the immovable. [There follows a long list of divine and created things which Brahma obtained by doing japa of Om.]”
This Pranava, the one Syllable [Om], originated before the tapas, is Brahman, the seed of the Veda; all mantras have sprung from this Pranava.
It is stated that Om preceded the tapas of Brahma lest it be thought that Om is not eternal, but originated in response to the meditation of Brahma. Being Brahman itself, Om has never come into existence, nor will its ever cease to be. Sri Ramakrishna said: “From the same Om have come Om Shiva, Om Kali and Om Krishna” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Majumdar translation: 5.13.1). All mantras are but extensions or evolutes of Om. Thus by the invocation of Om itself we can obtain or produce the results and effects of all mantras.
The gods intoned Om and defeated the asuras by the help of the Pranava. Therefore one says the word Om in all sacred activities, and one who does not know its is not capable of accomplishing such activity. But one who knows its has the Veda in his power. That is why when one utters its at the beginning of the Rig Veda, its is the Rig Veda; when one utters its at the beginning of the Yajur Veda, its is the Yajur Veda; when one utters its at the beginning of the Sama Veda, its is the Sama Veda. And in every work, because one utters Pranava at the beginning, That is its form–the form of it.
Asuras are demons, and here symbolize the evil tendencies in the human being.
Om should be orally or mentally intoned whenever spiritual work is to be done. Being Pranava, the Life-giver, it suffuses us with the power to perform that work successfully and completely. In all spiritual actions we need the divine power of Om to empower us for their accomplishment.
The statement about how, when recited at their beginning, Om is the Veda that is going to be recited, means that the mantras (verses) of the Vedas are all extensions, variations, and permutations of Om. And the statement that the Pranava uttered at the beginning of a work becomes its form indicates that Om becomes the subtle thought-form which is the matrix around which the projected action is formed and successfully accomplished.
Like Brahman, Om encompasses everything. Om is particularly the glory of the Vedas. Everything, movable and immovable, has arisen from Om.
One suffering from the ignorance of the Atman is cured by the Pranava. And it is the fruit of the meditation of the Pranava that one becomes the pure Atman. By meditating on the Pranava one should unite in the heart the jivatman and the Paramatman; then one leaves all scriptures and remains as consisting of the Paramatman. “I am Om!”–this is the state of samadhi; in this state one lets go of all duality and obtains nirvikalpa samadhi in which one remains without “I” [the ego] and without “this” [objective, separative consciousness] as the pure Atman.
Then Satyakama, son of Shibi, asked him [the Rishi Pippalada]: Venerable Sir, what world does he who meditates on Om until the end of his life, win by That? To him, he said: That which is the sound Om, O Satyakama, is verily the higher and the lower Brahman. Therefore, with this support alone does the wise man reach the one or the other.…If he meditates on the Supreme Being [Parampurusha] with the Syllable Om, he becomes one with the Light, the Sun. He is led to the world of Brahman. He sees the Person that dwells in the body, who is higher than the highest life.…That the wise one attains, even by the mere sound Om as support, That which is tranquil, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme (Prashna Upanishad 5:1, 2, 5, 7).
All plant, animal, and human life on this planet depends upon the sun. It is the subtle powers of sunlight which stimulate growth and evolution. Sunlight particularly stimulates the activity of the higher centers in the brain, especially that of the pineal gland. Even in the depths of the earth a sensitive man can tell when the sun rises and sets above him. The sun truly awakens us in the deepest sense. As the germinating seed struggles upward toward the sun and out into its life-giving rays, so all higher forms of life reach out for the sun, which acts as a metaphysical magnet, drawing them upward and outward toward ever-expanding consciousness. Sunlight is the radiant form of Om. The sun initiates the entire solar system into Om. Human beings are solar creatures, therefore to intone Om is the most natural things they can do.
The king of mantras is the Ekakshara (Om) which is the storehouse of fire, which is Lord Vishnu, and which is Lord Shiva (Rama-Rahashya Upanishad 2).
Om is the supreme mantra, and thus is Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Liberator.
For those desiring liberation, the vairagis [monks], as well as house-holders, and in all stages of life, constant meditation of Om–especially for tapaswins [yogis and monks]–is enjoined; for the knowers of the mantra doubtless become liberated while alive (Rama-Rahashya Upanishad 5).
As regards the japa of Om [Pranava] alone: whoever is qualified to do japa of the six-syllabled mantra of Rama is also eligible to do the japa of Om [Pranava japa], and I bring about their well-being (Rama-Rahashya Upanishad).
The Rama-Rahashya Upanishad in several places refers to Om as “The Tara”–the Deliverer, the Crosser-Over [Omkara Taraka], and so does the Rama Tapini Upanishad. The Rama-Rahashya Upanishad further describes Om as a characteristic mantra of Lord Rama. Here again we see that there is no need for specialized mantras to worship or invoke any particular aspect of God. Om is sufficient for all.
Rama Tapini Upanishad
Brahman of absolute radiance and infinitude is identified with [one with] Om. The turiya-turiya of Brahman pervades the entire Pranava. Salutations to that Om which is the true form of Rama, and is the foremost of the Vedas (Rama Tapini Upanishad).
The first sentence may be translated in two other ways: “Om unites with the Brahman of absolute radiance and infinitude,” or “Om unites to Brahman and its infinite Radiance [Tejas]”–Tejas being a reference to the infinite Mahashakti or Mulaprakriti, which is also known as the Brahma Jyoti (Light of God; Light that is God). Om is the true form of God.
Rama Uttara Tapiniya Upanishad
The Syllable Om is to be worshipped as consisting of Brahman, who is Satchidananda (Rama Uttara Tapiniya Upanishad).
Because it delivers [saves], Om is called the Deliverer [Saving One: Taraka]. It should be known as the saving [delivering] Brahman which should be worshipped–mark this well. Because it saves from conception, birth, old age, death, samsara, and from the great fear, therefore its is called the Saving One. He who always remembers [through meditation and japa] this Saving One is saved by its from all sin, from all death, from samsara–from everything. He attains liberation, becomes great, and enters immortality (Rama Uttara Tapiniya Upanishad).
“The great fear” is a translation of mahato bhayat, a technical term used in the Bhagavad Gita (2:40) for all the attendant sufferings of earthly birth. Being Brahman itself, Om is the unfailing Savior of those who invoke its, saving them not only from the evils attendant on earthly life, but from taking future births as well.
Sprung from the a-sound, Lakshman is like the Wishwa; sprung from the u-sound, Shatrughna is the Tejasa. Sprung from the m-sound, Bharata is like the Prajna. To the Nada corresponds Rama, the embodiment of the bliss of Brahman. Nestling close against Rama, as the bestower of bliss on the world, creating, sustaining, dissolving all beings, one should know Her: that exalted Sita, She who is called Mulaprakriti; because She is the Pranava, the knowers of Brahman call Her Prakriti (Rama Uttara Tapiniya Upanishad).
All the brothers of Lord Rama, and Sita his consort, are declared to be manifestations of Om. All five are considered divine incarnations–avatars. So when we invoke Om we invoke them–as well as all gods and avatars.
Om! This Syllable is the whole world. Its explanation is as follows. The past, the present, and the future: all this is Om. And besides, what still lies beyond the three matras [or letters], that also is Om. All that, verily, is Brahman, and Brahman is the Atman (Rama Uttara Tapiniya Upanishad).
“I” denotes Om.… I am that which consists of Consciousness [Chit], I am Om. That is Ramabhadra [the blessing or welfare bestowed by Rama], the supreme light. One should grasp the Atman in the word ‘I’ [Om] and should unite him in spirit with Brahman (Rama Uttara Tapiniya Upanishad).
The illustrious Rama, the exalted One, is Om: salutations to him (Rama Uttara Tapiniya Upanishad).
The Pranava is the bow. The Atman is the arrow. The Para-Brahman is the target. Just like the arrow, the Atman will become one with Brahman [through japa and meditation of the Pranava: Om].
When all is understood to be One, the Omkara, the Absolute, there is no sorrow, there is no Maya. Then the attainment of the Advaita-Paramananda [the bliss of non-duality] is very easy.…All people cannot understand this Truth. Those devoid of Maya can know this secret. After knowing this, the Atman does not move towards any place at any time. It becomes one with the Absolute. Just as akasha does not move anywhere, similarly this Atman does not have any movement. It becomes one with Om.
One who knows this great secret Truth is the real sage. He becomes the Para-Brahman itself. He becomes Satchidananda. He attains permanent peace.
(The upanishad is brief, and for some reason the translation I have used has no verse numbers for the above.).
That, the Immortal, the Real, is the target of the seeker. The bow is Om [the Tara], the arrow is the Atman, the center of the target is Brahman. The practitioner will become one with the target (Rudrahridaya Upanishad 37).
The Pranava alone becomes the pranayama (Sandilya Upanishad 6:2 [2:17]).
Another translation is: “Pranava only is said to be Pranayama.” In the same section, Om is described as “the Supreme Light.”
I am that Om alone, having been freed from every other thing. This [realization] results from meditation on Om, as well as the knowledge of the nature of Brahman (Sandilya Upanishad 6:32).
Pranayama is accomplished through the right realization of the true nature of the sound which is at the extreme end of the pronunciation of the Syllable Om, when sushupti [the dreamless sleep state] is rightly cognized [experienced] while conscious (Sandilya Upanishad 2:46).
When the knowledge which is of the form of the Knowable, which is beneficent and which is untouched by any modifications arises in one and is known as Om only and no other, then the fluctuations of prana cease [and pranayama is achieved] (Sandilya Upanishad 2:51).
Brahman is Om (Sandilya Upanishad 3).
[The aspirant] shall devote himself all the time to meditation on Brahman and the Pranava, and this way attain liberation, the state of a jivanmukta even while alive (Sannyasa Upanishad).
[The aspirant] should take to the repetition of the Taraka-Nama, as it annihilates all sins. The Supreme Brahman shines in him who takes to this Taraka-Nama (Sannyasa Upanishad).
“Taraka-Nama” is “The Delivering Name”–Om.
[The sage’s] inner possession is Om, the Pranava. Till his final breath is out, he shall not abandon it (Satyayani Upanishad).
The attentive reciting of Om offers the Self into the fire of Brahman (Satyayani Upanishad 16).
The meditation (dharani or dhyanam) at the end of the Savitri Upanishad describes the Goddess Savitri as “adorned with the crown of the Pranava.”
Pranayama is accomplished through concentrating the mind on Om (Saubhagyalakshmi Upanishad).
Prana not only means breath or the life force behind the breath, it also means life itself. Thus pranayama in the higher sense is control of life, mastery of birth, death, and all that lies in between the two. Japa and meditation of Om accomplish all this, and are the truest forms of pranayama.
Indra said: The Pranava will protect you.… Its greatness is superior to all and does not share in the greatness of others. The whole world rests on its greatness (Shaunaka Upanishad).
Indra is the king of the gods in Indian cosmology, but “Indra” is also a title of the Supreme Being. The import of this verse is that the Pranava imparts its greatness to all, but there are none that can impart glory to its as its is the Self-existent All.
The entire cosmos rests upon the vibration of Om. And whenever Om is invoked, the vibrations that emanate strengthen and stabilize the creation itself. In this way the Om Yogi benefits not only himself but the entire universe and all within it.
When one says Om, all names and forms are contained in its; for the Pranava is everything and contains everything; therefore one calls its the One Syllable [ekakshara].…This sound grants victory and is constant and contains in it all beings; its is only a Syllable and yet infinite; being infinite its is one and contains all forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Therefore they call the Pranava Indra. Verily, all syllables and all beings are linked with this one Syllable, all the Vedas and all the sacrifices are under its power. And just as everything is under Indra’s power, because he is the king above all, so everything is under the power of the Pranava; its is the king of all syllables (Shaunaka Upanishad).
Om is said to be constant because its is always efficacious to the same degree–never fluctuating in the level of its power or effectiveness.
The Pranava is uttered softly and lightly in the mornings; for when the demons were near, the gods uttered its softly; there the Pranava became light to them and said: Lightly I shall crush your enemies.…Then the Pranava said: I am everything…I am all syllables (Shaunaka Upanishad).
This verse is a reference to the spiritual practice known as the Sandhya which is done in the morning and evening for the aspirant to attune himself to the evolutionary solar energies and absorb them more readily. If this attunement is practiced daily until the end of life, the aspirant will be enabled to ascend through the sun to the higher worlds beyond rebirth.
All that is inimical to our perfect realization is easily defeated–“lightly crushed”–by the japa and meditation of Om.
The Pranava pondered: If I am as all syllables, then the gods will see all my forms, and that is not good. Then he withdrew all his forms within himself and concealed himself in the nada [the subtle sound].… Therefore they [the gods] ran after him, in order to search for him. And they said: The power, the seed, the light, the indestructible, the flawless–all that is the nada. Therefore one obtains the light, the indestructible, the flawless through the nada (Shaunaka Upanishad).
Meditation on the subtle sound of Om is the way.
This Pranava is Indra, is everything that exists.… All is the Pranava. Indra is the movable and the immovable, so they say, but Indra is the Pranava.… Indra said: What I am, the Pranava is; its is invoked as my form.
[When the demons attacked the gods, Indra made Aditya (the Sun) the general of the gods and told him to invoke the Pranava.] Pranava said: The Udgitha is the manifestation of Aditya [the Sun], the manifestation of Brahman, and I am the manifestation of Brahman and not different from him. And he walked with his full form, which he had previously concealed in the Nada [of Om], in front of Aditya, and Aditya made him his weapon. Then he defeated the demons, and they were scattered as dust, so that they could not again come together. Thus the Pranava appeared in his full form and thereby earned great fame, for the Pranava is the pinnacle of greatness. All beings are contained in him, and his abode is in the Nada, for in it he had concealed himself.
Therefore, whatever one desires, one should request him for it, and the worship one performs belongs to him. For it is said: The Pranava has four horns, three feet, two heads, seven hands; threefold is he. Bound, great, loudly roaring, shining brightly, having entered into all the living beings [Rig Veda 4.58.3]. His four horns are the three and one half matra [time measures and letters]; his three feet are a, u, and m; his two heads are o and m; his seven hands are the seven notes [of the scale, svara], because he is sung in all the seven. Threefold bound are its three letters [a, u, m] with the three [sacrificial] fires, the three worlds, and the three Vedas; like these he is also spoken of.
The Pranava is Indra and therefore great. For it is said: The lord over all gods, great is Indra, granting greatness, mitigating grief, full of light, helping all, ruler, mighty, granting strength, sustaining the universe, well-disposed to all. Because Indra supports himself in this way, therefore it was said that the Pranava rings loudly; and it rings loudly because all who worship him earn great fame. That he has entered into all living beings means that he dwells in all beings. Therefore one should worship Indra [God] by the Syllable Om (Shaunaka Upanishad).
In the second paragraph the Pranava is depicted as a conscious being–which, being Sound-Brahman, its is.
Japa and meditation of Om is the highest possible worship of God.
Om, the Pranava, is the image of Brahman. It is the Word of Power. From Om this world is projected, in Om it exists, and in Om it is involved during the cosmic Pralaya. Om is the essence of the four Vedas (Shiva-Jnanamrita Upanishad 6).
Om is the very image-manifestation of God. God being all power, Om is the ultimate Word of Power. Om creates, maintains, and dissolves the cosmos, and is therefore omnipotent and the power of evolution. Om is the essence of the Vedas, for all the Vedic mantras are only variations on Om. The world being God, Om is the essence of the world itself, the most effective means of both its evolution and its transcendence.
Pranava Sadhana consisting of the repetition of Om will remove all obstacles in the spiritual path (Shiva-Jnanamrita Upanishad 9).
“From the japa and meditation of Om result [come] the disappearance of obstacles and the turning inward of consciousness,” says the Yoga Sutras (1:29). There are no obstacles or problems that can arise as we tread the spiritual path that Om Yoga will not remove. This is a simple principle, but one that is easy to forget. When you run into snags in meditation, do not look for gimmicks or fixes–Om meditation itself will clear up the problems. You need nothing more. But what about other obstacles that are more external, especially difficulties in our outer life, including negative karmas of all sorts, and especially negative life situations, including negative people, especially those that actively combat our spiritual endeavors? Om Yoga will take care of that, too. Just keep on practicing; do not slack off or stop meditating in order to placate or alleviate any negative situation or person. If you do, they will overcome you, cause you to lose both momentum and confidence, and derail your spiritual life. I have seen this happen many times. Compromise never works. Keep on, and let the Pranava clear the way.
Sita was the wife of Lord Rama(chandra) and is worshipped as an incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi (Sri). As such, the eighth verse says:
Sita must be known. She is the first cause. As Om is She that cause–so declare the Brahman-knowers.
Verse seventeen speaks of the Earth as a goddess (Bhu-Devi), and says: Her essence is the Pranava.
The twentieth verse says: From Hari’s [Vishnu’s]mouth proceeds the Syllable Om.
Suka Rahasya Upanishad
The supreme Brahman is inherent in Om.
Brahman is the single Syllable Om.
Om is the Supreme Brahman, and in its are the Triad. It is the firm support, the imperishable. The knowers of Brahman by knowing what is therein [in the all-containing Om] become merged in Brahman, intent thereon [i.e., on Om] and freed from birth (Svetasvatara Upanishad 1:7).
“Triad” refers to several levels of meaning: 1) the physical, astral, and causal worlds, 2) the three components of experience–the knower, the knowing, and the known; 3) past, present, and future; and 4) the Trimurti–Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. All this is Om, which will free us from the bonds of birth and death.
As the form of fire when latent in its source is not seen and yet its seed is not destroyed, but may be seized again and again in its source by means of the drill [a pointed stick whirled to produce fire for the Vedic sacrifices], so it is in both cases. The Self has to be seized in the body by means of the Syllable Om. By making one’s body the lower friction stick and the Syllable Om the upper friction stick, by practicing the friction of meditation one may see the hidden God, as it were (Svetasvatara Upanishad 1:13, 14).
The knower of the real nature of Brahman that is identical with the Pranava, after keeping his body erect, by holding the three parts [the chest, the neck, and the head] in an upright posture, placing all the organs of perception and action along with the mind in his heart, should cross all the formidable streams [of samsara] with the ferryboat of the Pranava (Svetasvatara Upanishad 2:8).
Meditation gathers up and unites all our inner faculties and the mind, centering them in our “heart”–the core of our being where we and God are one. The upanishad assures us that by doing so we will be able to overcome all the problems and tangles of this life. It is the withdrawal from these problems and tangles through meditation that enable us to then turn and face them and conquer them.
God is the Syllable Om, out of him proceeds the Supreme Knowledge (Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:17).
Om is the Supreme Teacher of the Supreme Knowledge.
The Om that is the most exalted in the Vedas, that pervades all worlds, and that emerged from the immortal Vedas as their quintessence–may its, the supreme Lord, gratify me with intelligence. O Lord, may I be the receptacle of immortality. May my body be fit; may my tongue be surpassingly sweet; may I hear much through the ears. You are the sheath of Brahman: you are covered by (worldly) wisdom. Protect what I have learned (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.4.1).
Om is Brahman. Om is all this. He who utters Om with the intention ‘I shall attain Brahman’ does verily attain Brahman (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.8.1).
“Om is all this” because Om is the Absolute and Om is the Relative that is the manifestation of the Absolute.
Om is a single Syllable that is of the nature of the Self [atma]. Through Om Brahma is produced (Tarasara Upanishad).
The idea of the second sentence is that Brahma is the creator both through his meditation on Om, by means of which he attained his spiritual status, and through his projection of Om as the basic power of the manifested cosmos.
That which is Om is the indestructible, the supreme Brahman. That alone should be worshipped.… It is called Taraka because it enables one to cross this mundane existence [samsara]. Know that Taraka [Om] alone is Brahman and its alone should be worshipped.… He who knows this becomes immortal.
Om is “worshipped” by its japa and meditation.
Om is the true form of the Self [Atman]. The Syllable Om is Brahman. The Syllable Om encompasses and consists of all–whatever belongs to the past, the present and the future, and consists of all the eternal verities, all mantras, all sounds, all the letters of the alphabet, the three hundred thirty million gods beginning from Brahman, all the meters and hymns of the Vedas, and the sixteen divisions of manifestation [kalas]. This is the essence of the Veda (Tarasara Upanishad).
In Vedic cosmology it is considered that there are sixteen divisions (kalas) or stages of evolving consciousness, from a germ to that of an Avatara, a Son of God. Thus Om is the root of all possible states of consciousness and evolution, and the manifester of them as well.
The Indivisible One Essence is the Syllable Om. The Indivisible One Essence is the japa of Om. Om is pure consciousness (Tejobindu Upanishad 2:20; 6:42).
The very act of japa of Om is said to be Brahman (the Indivisible One Essence) itself because it is impossible without the will of God coming into play within the individual’s consciousness for him to invoke Om. God is himself calling on himself through our japa of Om. And whatever God does is, truly, an extension of his being. Godly action is God. And nothing can be more godly than the invocation of Om.
Om is pure consciousness (Tejobindu Upanishad 6:39).
Tripadvibhuti Mahanarayana Upanishad
That blissful Supreme Being (Brahman) which resides within, is of the form of Om–the Pranava.…The blessed one, who recites and chants the Syllable Om gets rid of all the bindings and bonds of this material world.… He resides within all beings, and controls all their activities. He is the form of the Syllable Om, the Supreme Being (Tripadvibhuti Mahanarayana Upanishad).
Tripura Tapini Upanishad
The letters A, U, and M, constituting the Pranava, denote the inward bliss, the all-pervading Brahman. Putting them together, there is formed: Om (Tripura Tapini Upanishad 4:16).
Turiyatita Avadhuta Upanishad
[The sage] has for his support the supportless Brahman alone, and this sage in the turiyatita state finally remains completely absorbed in the non-dual Atman alone…when he gives up his body with the sounding of the Pranava Mantra, Om (Turiyatita Avadhuta Upanishad).
Another translation is: “[The sage] gives up his body as he has become one with Om, the Pranava. Such an ascetic is an Avadhuta; he has accomplished his life’s purpose.”
Like the unbroken stream of oil and the long resounding tolling of a bell, the topmost note of the Pranava cannot be uttered [aloud]. He who knows that [topmost note of the Pranava] is the knower of the Veda.
The Pranava [Om] burns away sins; the Pranava bestows liberation; the Pranava bestows abundance. By Pranava japa the yogi attains the fruits just mentioned. The Pranava is uttered like the unbroken stream of oil and the long resounding tolling of a bell. He who knows that [Pranava] is the knower of the Veda. Know that the mantra [Om] bestows grace that it might prove fruitful. Hence the Pranava removes all obstacles and destroys all defects (Varaha Upanishad 5:68-71).
The “topmost note of the Pranava” is the subtle sound of Om that is experienced in meditation, that cannot be “uttered” in the way of ordinary speech.
The one Pranava alone has become many. The Lord of Om takes you above (Vasudeva Upanishad 4).
Directly realize the Self by meditating on Om (Vedantasara Upanishad 1).
It is an important principle of all life–including spiritual life–that if you do not start out with what you want you will not end up with it, either. If you do not begin with gold you will not end up with a gold ornament. If you do not begin with marble you will not end up with a marble sculpture. There is no “path” or “thing” that leads to God. You must begin with God to end up with God. God alone is the way to himself, he alone is the truth regarding himself, and he alone is the life in himself. Om, then, being the purest form of divine consciousnesss, is the Way to God. Japa and meditation of Om are the means to “directly realize the Self” that is one with God. For Om is not only the true Name of God, Om is the true name of our own atma-spirit.
Om is the mantra of liberation and the essence of the Vedas. Brahman is indicated by Om alone (Yajnavalkya Upanishad).
The second sentence being so, we can say with assurance that Om is the actual True Name of God, all other “names” being but descriptive titles, however venerable or sacred.
Yoga Tattva Upanishad (A).
He should utter as japa the Pranava [Om], for the purpose of destroying sins accumulated previously. The Pranava mantra removes all obstacles and destroys all defects (Yoga Tattva Upanishad 63, 64).
By the practice at all times of the atma-mantra, Om, the highest Reality, the Transcendent Brahman, Sat-Chit-Ananda, the Immeasurable, the Non-demonstrable which transcends the range of speech and thought, the Pure, the Subtle, the Aspectless, the Changeless, the Detached, the Endless, the Non-divisible, the peerless and imperishable Brahman manifests itself (Yoga Tattva Upanishad 1:69, 70; 2:5-14, 18, 19).
We have already seen in the quotations from the Rama Uttara Tapiniya, Nadabindu, Sannyasa, and Varaha Upanishads that Om purifies us from all sins. But just what is “sin”? In Sanskrit the word is papa–darkness or impurity in the sense of a blot that obscures or mars our consciousness. Think of a glass through which light is shining. “Sin” is anything like dirt, dust, or smudges that hinder the light from shining through. Sin is not the transgression of some arbitrary divine law, but the transgression-obscuration of our own nature. It is in truth an “offense again God” but not in the usual, misunderstood sense. Rather, sin is an offense against our own divinity. Consequently, sin is not removed by tears or prayers to God, but by our own self-cleansing. It is up to us, and none other. And the way we purify ourselves is by the japa and meditation of Om.
He who understands that which is indestructible and is the meaning of Om–by him are all these worlds attained. This [Om] is the Truth, the Supreme Seat (Yoga Tattwa Upanishad 134-136).
Yoga Tattva Upanishad (B).
There are three worlds, three Vedas, three times of day [for worship, the Sandhyas], three gods [Brahman, Vishnu, and Shiva], three sacrificial fires [fire rites], and three Gunas [qualities or modes of Prakriti, the creative energy]. The three-lettered Om comprehends all these in itself. The lotus flower that occupies the space in the heart is the seat of the mind. With the sound of Om it becomes luminous, opens out, resounds, and is silent. And just as in a crystal the light of the sun is reflected, so Om shines in the soul, inspiring it, the highest Spirit by means of Yoga (Yoga Tattva Upanishad 6-11).
Through sound we reach the Silence.
By fixing the mind well and constantly on the Pranava, peace and tranquillity are attained (Yoga Tattwa Upanishad).
The Pranava is the surest way to peace.
Whoever at the end of the three-lettered Om meditates on the half-syllable [the Nada of meditation] also, he pervades through all this and finally goes to the highest place. [Through Om he pervades all things] as fragrance is in a flower, as butter is in milk, as oil is in the sesame, as gold is in the ore (Yoga Tattva Upanishad).
One should recite the imperishable Omkara as japa (Yogachudamanya Upanishad 71).
Om is the eternal, the pure, the awakened, the indeterminate, the flawless, the indescribable, That which has neither origin nor dissolution, the One, the Turiya, That which ever remains one through the revolutions of the past, the present, and the future, the always indivisible, the transcendent Brahman itself. All this is the Pranava.… The Pranava is the All-witness in all kinds of jivas, always in their interior, untouched by their actions (Yogachudamanya Upanishad 72, 73).
From the Pranava is generated Brahma; from the Pranava is generated Hari [Vishnu], from the Pranava is generated Rudra; the Pranava verily becomes the Transcendent [Para, or Highest]; the Pranava alone is manifest (Yogachudamanya Upanishad 77, 78).
The Pranava will tend upwards in the case of the enlightened. Thus will the Pranava stand. He who knows that is the knower of the Veda (Yogachudamanya Upanishad 79).
Like an unbroken stream of oil and the long chiming of a bell is the resonance of the Pranava. That the high-souled ones saw of yore. He who knows that [Pranava] is the knower of the Veda (Yogachudamanya Upanishad 80, 81).
Om is the transcendent radiance wherein desire, action, and so also knowledge, inhere in a threefold manner as Brahma, Rudra, and Vishnu. One should utter that by mouth, practice that with his body, and should utter that mentally, every day. Whether in a pure or impure state, he who utters the Pranava always is not smeared with sin, as the lotus leaf is not [wetted] with water (Yogachudamanya Upanishad 86-88).
Now I shall describe the Yogashikha which is by far superior to all forms of jnana [knowledge]. Assuming any posture deemed suitable by the practitioner, and withdrawing the mind from everywhere, one should contemplate upon Om instead (Yogashikha Upanishad 1:69, 70).
That mantra, made up of Shiva and Shakti [divine consciousnesss and Divine Power], is the Pranava. He who, having understood its real nature, is capable of expounding or hearing that mantra is rare indeed. This mantra is said to be the seat of divine consciousness, the sound form of Shiva that embodies his qualities. By the mere knowledge of it, a person will become a jivanmukta. It enables one to meditate upon Brahman, increases the prana, and awakens the mind–for it arises from Shiva. Being the root of all mantras, and being the form of the Primal Being, it is known as the mula [root] mantra. Because of its subtle and causal nature, and on account of its state of repose and mobility and its being indicative of the transcendent Ishwara, it is known as the Linga (symbol). On account of its presence in all beings, at all times, and its indicating the form of Brahman, it is called the Thread [sutra] (Yogashikha Upanishad 2:5-11).
Om, the embodiment of all divine qualities (being divine itself), has the power to impart those qualities to us who invoke it. Here, too, we see that the effect of Om is not abstract or confined only to the highest levels, but it benefits–through evolution–all the aspects of our being. According to the upanishad Om increases the life force and expands the mind.
In this and all passages regarding the nature of Om the word translated “symbol” does not mean a mere sign or symbol in the usual English sense–the way the word “water” is not water but only a verbal representation for water. Rather it means indicator in the sense that Om is a form of Brahman that actually puts us in direct touch with Brahman. That is, as indicator it not only points out Brahman but attunes and joins us to Brahman, being itself Brahman.
As the gems of a necklace are held together by the string that passes through their midst, so Om is the “thread” of all existence.
Pranava is of the nature of Prakriti [all creation], as is borne out by the scriptural statement, knowers of Brahman say that the Pranava arises out of the Supreme Being as Prakriti. The Pranava is that by means of which the universe is sustained. By the repetition of the Pranava the Turiya-Turiya Brahman flashes forth in the form of the non-relative Atman (Yogashikha Upanishad 2:13, 14).
That transcendent radiance is Om in which there stand all the worlds and Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, all the worlds, all speech, and the Vedas (Yogashikha Upanishad 6:56, 57).
Yoga Tattwa Upanishad
Sitting in a secluded place, he should repeat the Pranava for the destruction of his former sins. The mantra–the Pranava–destroys all obstacles and all sins. By practicing thus he attains the Original State (Arambha) (Yoga Tattwa Upanishad 63, 64).
The three worlds, three Vedas, three sandhyas (morning, noon and evening), three svaras (sounds), three agnis and gunas–all these are found within Om. He who understands that which is indestructible and is the meaning of Om–by him are all these worlds attained. This [Om] is the Truth, the Supreme Seat (Yoga Tattwa Upanishad 134-136).
A Yoga Upanishad
The Turiya-Turiya, the Brahma Pranava [Om], establishes itself as the imperishable. In this substratum of the transcendent Brahman, knowers of the Vedas, intent on attaining their beatitude, seek final repose by becoming one with it (This is from one of the Yoga Upanishads, but I failed to get the reference.).
Turiya-Turiya means “the consciousness of consciousness,” the absolute substratum of reality: the Absolute. Sri Upanishadbrahmayogin comments that Pranava “establishes itself as the imperishable” by “causing the dissolution of all perceptions apart from itself which are perishable and which, though originally considered as the support of all things apart from itself, proves, on closer scrutiny, to be itself the Unsupported [Brahman].”
That man is no other than the god Hari incarnate on earth, who fully understands the mystery of the mantra Om. Therefore it is incumbent on a man to constantly recite the mantra Om which heads the list of all its compeers in respect of merit and sanctity (Agni Purana).
As already pointed out, according to the scriptural principles those who invoke Om do supreme benefit to the entire creation through strengthening, correcting, and evolving it. In this way the Om Yogi is as the Lord himself in his form as Vishnu (Hari) the Preserver and Savior.
The man who, having subjugated his senses, repeats every day the Pranava Mantra, shakes off his mortal coil and is converted into the universal expanse of ether [akasha] which is but another manifestation of Parabrahman. [For] the Single-Syllable [Ekakshara; Om] is the Parabrahman [Supreme God] himself (Agni Purana).
The Vedas are founded upon the Pranava. They begin with it, which should be regarded as the summum bonum of speech. Therefore, you should all repeat that sacred Syllable Om (Agni Purana).
The Pranava is like a bow furnished with an arrow, and the Supreme Brahman is the target to aim at. A man with all assiduity and calmness should shoot the arrow of his mind at this target of Brahman, so that like a shaft it might be driven into and kept fast and invisible in the latter (Agni Purana).
Brahman is the only knowledge, and this mystic Syllable is his only exponent. The man who has fully understood the import of this monosyllable, has attained everything worth obtaining (Agni Purana).
Everything but Brahman is ignorance and illusion; therefore the revelation of God in his true nature through the japa and meditation of Om is the only real knowledge. Here, too, it is being understood that Om is the Name of God and that which can reveal God to the questing soul.
The mantra [Om] should be made use of for the attainment of both earthly prosperity and final liberation of the soul (Agni Purana 215).
I am the Self, identical with the mystic Om (Agni Purana 358).
Swadhyaya [self-study] is the repetition of the Om mantra (Linga Purana 8:39).
Since one attains self-knowledge by japa and meditation of Om, that is the highest form of self-study, and is the true atma vichara–Self-inquiry.
Rudra [Shiva] is expressible through the single Syllable, Om, which is the divine order, the supreme cause, truth, bliss, amrita, the supreme Brahman, greater than the greatest (Linga Purana 17:63).
Om is the causal pattern of the universe as well as the power which objectifies it. Through merging our consciousness with Om we come into harmony with its aspect of divine order, and that order then manifests in our consciousness and life.
Om is amrita–that which bestows immortality.
The wise exponents of Yajus say that Om is Brahman. The Rik and Saman srutis, too, have declared similarly (Linga Purana 17:70).
That is, the Yajur, Rig, and Sama Vedas all declare: “Om is Brahman.”
Om is the single-syllabled mantra. The all-pervading Shiva is stationed in it (Linga Purana 85:33).
This has two meanings. One is that the aspect of divine consciousnesss known as Shiva, the Auspicious One, is rooted in Om, and that those who invoke it will experience and embody that Shiva aspect of God.
The Pranava is the unchanging Atman that is all-pervasive (Linga Purana 85:43).
“The yogi who identifies himself with Omkara shall merge himself in imperishable Being. He shall thus himself become imperishable (Linga Purana 91:45).
The yogi that becomes identical with Om becomes identical with the imperishable Being. Pranava is the bow, the Atman is the arrow, and Brahman is the target. It [Brahman] should be pierced [entered into] by one who does not err. He shall be concentrated therein as in regard to the arrow. The single-syllabled word, Om, is hidden in the cave (Linga Purana 91:49a).
Like the arrow in the target, through Om the yogi becomes centered and absorbed in Brahman. The cave is “the cave of the heart,” the center of our being. There Om is concealed as the inmost core of our consciousness. If through meditation we “hide” Om in our inner consciousness…we will find it already there!
The Omkara is identical with the three worlds, the three Vedas, the three sacrificial fires, the three steps of Vishnu, the three scriptures–the Rig, Saman, and Yajur Vedas. It should be known that they are really the Pranava. The yogi who utters it attains identity with the deity (Linga Purana 91:49b).
It is said that Vishnu measured the three worlds in three divine “steps” or emanations. Om is both the spreading out of the three worlds and the three worlds themselves. As they were spread out by Om, so we can expand our consciousness and life sphere through its invocation.
To really know the Vedas–the divine knowledge contained in them rather than the mere letter–we must perfect ourselves in the practice of Om Yoga.
Om represents the three worlds. Its head is heaven; all the worlds constitute its limbs; and its feet are Brahmaloka [the world of the Creator, Brahma] (Linga Purana 91:55).
The yogi shall worship Maheshwara [“The GŒreat Ishwara,” a title of Shiva], repeating the Pranava (Linga Purana 91:71).
Thou art the embodiment of pure Sound. Thou art the eternal Essence of all letters and the embodiment of the three vowels [a, u, and m]. Thou art the half-vowel [bindu] beyond and its special mode of pronunciation (Sri Devi Mahatmyam, verses 72-74).
Om is the embodiment of the Divine Creative Power that is the Mother aspect of God.
[Shiva said:] Recite the mantra Om to acquire knowledge of me. I have taught this great auspicious mantra. Omkara came out of my mouth. Originally it indicated me. It is the indicator and I am the indicated. This mantra is identical with me. The repetition of this mantra is verily my repeated remembrance (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwara Samhita 10:15-17).
The two sets of created beings–nama [name] and rupa [form]–are pervaded by this mantra. It indicates Shiva and Shakti. The entire set of Vedas and crores [tens of millions] of mantras were formed of that. Different things are achieved through different mantras, but everything is achieved through Omkara alone. By this root-mantra [mulamantra] enjoyment as well as salvation is achieved (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwara Samhita 10:20, 23, 24).
Om is both the Creator and the Created, both Consciousness and Object, both spirit and creative energy–Shiva and Shakti. Material and spiritual attainment and perfection are both gained through the invocation of Om.
Ishwara [the Lord] said: O dear sons, recite this Om mantra which is identical with me. Your knowledge shall be stabilized (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwara Samhita 10:32, 33).
How often do people gain some insight or understanding and then lose it after a while or else find themselves unable to manifest (establish) it in their practical life and make it truly theirs. But through the japa and meditation of Om their knowledge will be stabilized and made manifest.
[To attain] the realm (state) of Shiva], the devotee should repeat the Pranava mantra every day (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwara Samhita 11:36).
The world of Shiva is Shiva–the state of consciousness symbolically called by the name Shiva. We gain that realm of consciousness through meditation on Om.
[The yogi] shall not omit the practice of the Pranava mantra. While practicing the Pranava he shall realize fully the identity of the jiva [individual spirit] with the supreme Brahman (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwara Samhita 13:34, 35).
To understand the meaning of the Pranava is to understand me [says Shiva]. The Pranava is the seed of all the lores. It shall be understood as very subtle but possessed of great meaning even as the seed of the banyan tree though very small contains a huge tree. It is the initial mantra and the essence of the Vedas. Particularly it has me [Shiva] for its form. I am Shiva pervading all but stationed in the single-syllabled mantra Om. Whatever object there is, whether synthesized into one or analyzed in parts, is the meaning of the Pranava. It is the imperishable Brahman, the means of attaining all objects. Shiva creates the universe at the outset, saying ‘Om.’ Shiva is the Pranava and the Pranava is Shiva. The brahmin sages, the wise who realize the identity between the word and what it indicates know me as the single-syllabled Om. Hence he who aspires for salvation and is free from aberration shall understand the Pranava as the cause of all, and me as the Nirguna Parameshwara. I give this crest-jewel of mantras at Kashi for the liberation of all individual souls (Shiva Purana, Kailashasamhita 3:2-10).
Although God is everywhere, pervading all things, he is “stationed”–centered–in Om, which is his prime abode.
It is not enough to want something; we have to go after it and get it. Consequently we are being told that “he who aspires for salvation [liberation]” needs something more than mere aspiration. He must also be “free from aberration” to attain success of Om Yoga. The yogi cannot afford to let his mind and senses run amok in an irresponsible manner if he really wants to attain Self-realization.
Mighty as the Pranava is, the aspirant should observe the disciplines of yama-niyama as set forth in the Yoga Sutras to ensure his success in Om Yoga. Yama and Niyama are often called “the Ten Commandments of Yoga.” Each one of these Five Don’ts (Yama) and Five Do’s (Niyama) is a supporting, liberating Pillar of Yoga. The complete list is given in Yoga Sutras 2:30, 32: 1) Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness, 2) Satya: truthfulness, honesty, 3) Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness, 4) Brahmacharya: continence, 5) Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness, 6) Shaucha: purity, cleanliness, 7) Santosha: contentment, peacefulness, 8) Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline, 9) Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study, 10) Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God.
All of these deal with the innate powers of the human being–or rather with the abstinence and observance that will develop and release those powers to be used toward our spiritual perfection, to our Self-realization and liberation. For they are not a list of the likes and dislikes of a whimsical or dictatorial deity, but are eminently practical and pragmatic.
It should also be mentioned here that the ingestion of meat (including fish and eggs), alcohol, nicotine, and mind-altering substances–legal or not–to any degree greatly reduces the effectiveness of yoga practice. This does not mean that those who use any of these things should not or cannot practice yoga. They certainly should and can. But they should be aware that such use will hinder their progress and make their practice more difficult than if they were free of them.
It is believed that those who die in Kashi (Benares/Varanasi) attain liberation, and that they do so by being initiated by Shiva into a mantra. Usually it is thought that the mantra given by Shiva is “Rama,” but here we see that it is actually “Om.”
The Pranava is the vital breath of all living beings from Brahma [the Creator] to the immobile beings [such as plants and minerals]. Being the Prana thus, it is called Pranava. That is Om.… Bindu and Nada cannot be described directly, but are known only by the wise.… I am the source of the Vedas. Pranava expresses me. Since it expresses me the Pranava, too, is known as the source of the Vedas.… ‘Om is everything, everything is Brahman.’ This Vedic text establishes the link between the Word and its meaning.… The link of the jiva and the Atman with me and the Pranava is as between the word and its sense (Shiva Purana, Kailashasamhita 3:14, 15, 18, 20, 33, 37).
Om is the life force within all things, and thus is Life itself. Om Yogis live to the maximum degree.
Perfect knowledge consists of the meaning of the Pranava (Shiva Purana, Kailashasamhita 14:9).
It should be understood that “the meaning of the Pranava” is far more than intellectual conceptions, however metaphysical or abstract. The “meaning” of the Pranava is the full realization-experience of the nature of Om. That realization is accomplished through Om Yoga.
The initial mantra of the Vedas is Om, the Pranava that expresses Shiva (Shiva Purana, Kailashasamhita 14:14, 15).
Om is the expresser of the Paramatman [the Supreme Self]. It shall be known as the great mantra [mahamantra] by the expert sages. This great mantra is subtle (Shiva Purana, Kailashasamhita 16:38, 39).
This final point is very important, for the true form and nature of Om is that subtle Pranava which is only experienced through the meditation of Om. Its effect is also subtle.
The devotee should worship with the Syllable Om (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwarasamhita 16:110).
Om is the essence of worship. Being infinite, when we offer it to God we offer him everything–including his own Self. “Among words I am the Ekakshara [Om]; among sacrifices I am the sacrifice of japa” (Bhagavad Gita 10:25) The word yajna, usually translated “sacrifice,” has more the idea of offering. Japa of Om is certainly the highest offering possible, for it is God who is being offered. All other offerings seem worthless and inappropriate in comparison–unless accompanied by the invocation of Om. If we always remember Om our entire life will be an act of worship.
The Pranava means an excellent boat to cross the ocean of worldly existence [samsara]. Or Pranava may mean There is no world [rebirth] for you, or it may mean That which leads to salvation. Or it may mean That which leads to new knowledge. [All of these are plays on words–the three syllables Pra, Na, and Va being the roots of the words, or vice-versa.] After annihilating all actions [karmas] it gives the persons who repeat the mantra a fresh knowledge of the pure soul (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwarasamhita 17:4-8).
Om is for the liberated living soul [jivanmukta]. When the body is destroyed he completely merges in Shiva undoubtedly. The repeater of the mantra [Om] certainly attains yogic communion with Shiva. A person who repeats the mantra [Om] certainly attains yogic communion (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwarasamhita 17:10-12).
The Pranava shall be recited and repeated by those who desire all their sins annihilated (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwarasamhita 17:15).
If the devotee repeats the Pranava he becomes pure (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwarasamhita 17:18).
By repeating the Pranava daily the devotee becomes perpetually pure. Thereafter the repetition of the mantra is conducive to the achievement of desires.
A devotee who [through the] repetitions of the Pranava is thus fully enlightened shall master Shuddha Yoga. A person who has thus mastered Shuddha Yoga becomes certainly a liberated living soul [jivanmukta]. A mahayogi who performs japa and bhavanam perpetually of Shiva in the form of the Pranava, certainly becomes Shiva himself. The devotee who practices the japa of Pranava becomes a sage (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwarasamhita 17:22-26).
Om Yoga is here referred to as Shuddha (Pure) Yoga–the Yoga of Purification–because it purifies the yogi from the impurities of ignorance and karmic bonds, setting him free into the real of Pure Spirit–Shuddha Atma.
[In the beginning] there manifested the single-syllabled Brahman as the word Om. It expressed Brahman (Shiva Purana. Vayaviyasamhita 35:1).
The unmanifest Pranava was transmuted into the Veda (Shiva Purana. Vayaviyasamhita 35:6).
Whatever object there is, whether compounded or separated, is indicated by the Pranava. Therefore, this single-syllabled Brahman is the expression of all meanings. Therefore at the outset Shiva creates the universe, saying Om. Shiva is the Pranava and the Pranava is Shiva. That is because there is no difference between that which is named and the name [the designated and the designator]. Rudra is that which is expressed by the single-syllabled Om.… Thus they call me Om (Shiva Purana. Vayaviyasamhita 35:42-46, 53).
Repetition of Om is known as rising to Shiva’s world [loka]. Japa of Om purifies the mind. At the time of meditation the japa of Om should be mental (Unfortunately, the reference was not noted for this.).
Srimad Bhagavatam Mahapurana
The Holy Lord said: Seated on a seat of moderate height with his body erect in a comfortable posture, placing both his hands on his lap and steadying his gaze on the tip of his nose, and having fully controlled his senses, he should manifest in his mind the sound of the Pranava–continuous as the ringing of a bell–as extending uninterruptedly, fine as a fiber of a lotus stalk (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.14.32-34).
The idea is that the meditator should intone Om continually, relaxing his awareness into the inner sound that should become increasingly subtle, “fine as a fiber of a lotus stalk.”
I am the Pranava (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.16.11).
In the beginning [in the Satya Yuga] the Pranava alone formed the Veda (Srimad Bhagavatam).
In Indian reckoning a Yuga is an Age–one of the divisions of evolutionary time. There are four Yugas, known as Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. Satya Yuga is four times as long as the Kali Yuga; Treta Yuga is three times as long; and Dwapara Yuga is twice as long. In the Satya Yuga the majority of humans use the total potential–four-fourths–of their minds; in the Treta Yuga, three-fourths; in the Dwapara Yuga, one half; and in the Kali Yuga, one fourth. (In each Yuga there are those who are using either more or less of their minds than the general populace.).
According to this and other scriptures, the Vedas were not utilized in the Satya–the highest age or Yuga–but were only given to the world in the Treta Yuga. So Vedic Dharma is not really based on the Vedas but on Om–of which they are considered to be a later evolute. The Vedas were the earliest formal scriptures, that is true, but according to this passage from the Srimad Bhagavatam they were revealed to the Rishis only many thousands of years after the appearance of the first human beings.
The yogi who is filled with Omkara becomes imperishable in the Imperishable Being. The Omkara is the bow. The Atman is the arrow. Brahman is its target. It should be hit unerringly. Like the arrow, the Atman shall be wholly absorbed in Brahman. The single-syllabled Om is Brahman hidden in the cavity of the heart. This Om is the set of the three Vedas, three worlds, three fires, three steps of Vishnu and the Rik, Saman, and Yajur mantras.… The Omkara is a set of three worlds. Its head is the heaven. It is the entire universe. It is the region of Brahma.
The intelligent yogi who engages in meditation attains the knowledge of the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and the Upanishadic lore through his yogic knowledge. Thus with all his elements dissolved, he becomes elementless. He then transmigrates to the eternal region whence there is no return.… The Brahmanas who know the Omkara are never born again. He who understands properly and again meditates upon the imperishable supreme Brahman called Omkara leaves off the cycle of worldly existence. He becomes liberated from all ties and bondages. Undoubtedly he attains the auspicious eternal region devoid of attributes.
Omkara is the holiest of holy things.… it is holy and full of sanctifying things. One shall worship Omkara devoid of sound, touch, color, taste and smell [through meditation].
The Lord created everything at the opportune time with Omkara all round..
These are the secrets of the ascetics in due order. He who understands meditation attains the highest region (Vayu Purana I.20.4-6, 10, 24, 25, 27-30, 33, 35).
That which glows [i.e., the sun] is Om (Aitareya-Brahmana 5.32).
I am the Pranava (Bhagavad Gita 7:8).
Having confined the mind in the heart and…engaged in the practice of concentration, uttering the one-syllabled Om–the Brahman–and remembering me, he who departs, leaving the body, attains to the Supreme Goal. I am easily attainable by that ever-steadfast yogi who constantly and daily remembers me not thinking of anything else (Bhagavad Gita 8:12-14).
I am Omkara (9:17).
Among words I am the Ekakshara [Om]; among sacrifices I am the sacrifice of japa (10:25).
The Bhagavad Gita is part of the Mahabharata, so the verses cited in that section may be considered as from the Mahabharata as well. The following comes from a section of the Mahabharata known as the Anugita.
The gods, rishis, and the nagas, and the asuras, approaching Prajapati [the Creator], said to him: Tell us the highest good. To them who were inquiring about the highest good, the Venerable One said, Om, which is Brahman in a single Syllable (Anugita XI).
Mantra Yoga Samhita
The Mantra-Yoga-Samhita, verse 71, calls Om “the best of all mantras,” adding that all other mantras receive their power from it. And later:
When people hear the Pranava they hear the Absolute itself.
When they utter the Pranava they go to the abode of the Absolute.
He who perceives the Pranava sees the state of the Absolute.
He who always has the Pranava in his mind has the form of the Absolute.
(Mantra Yoga Samhita 73).
The threefold Knowledge is based on the Omkara. It [Om] is another Triple Veda; he who knows that Om is truly learned in the Veda (Manu Smriti 11:266).
The threefold knowledge may be interpreted as being knowledge of body, mind, and spirit, knowledge of the physical, astral, and causal worlds, knowledge of the threefold Vedas, or knowledge of the Three Eternals: God, Creation, and Souls. Whichever it might be, it is certain that Manu is saying that Om is the basis of such knowledge. In other places we have already seen that to know Om is to know the Veda.
The monosyllable Om is the highest Brahman.…Undoubtedly a Brahmin reaches the highest goal by japa of Om alone, whether he performs other rites or neglects them (Manu Smriti 2:83, 87).
Omkara Pranam Mantra
The Yogis always meditate upon Omkara. This Omkara is the bestower of all desires and salvation. We bow down to the Supreme Omkara (Quoted in Meditation on Om by Swami Sivananda.).
Omkara Smarana Stotra
1) The Supreme Brahman is attained by the devoted contemplation, hearing, japa, and sankirtan [singing] of Om at all times.
2) By the mere thought [smaran, remembrance] of Om one attains the highest Brahma Jnana [Knowledge of God], the state of final Liberation and Immortality.
3) He who meditates on the Pranava in a continuous stream of thought like that of oil poured from one vessel to another or the continuous sound [resonance] of a bell, such a man should be considered as the knower of the Vedas.
4) By the long repetition of Om the knower of the Supreme Reality, whose refuge is solitude, overcomes the wandering of the mind due to the taint in the intellect.
5) Concentrating on the origin of the nose (the top of the bridge of the nose) with hands and feet controlled, the mind withdrawn from all activities, one should meditate on Omkara, the Pranava.
6) By the meditation on the monosyllable Om, Vishnu attains the status of Vishnu; Brahma attains Brahmanhood and Shiva becomes Shiva (Quoted in Meditation on Om by Swami Sivananda.).
Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva are not three gods, but aspects (rays or principles) of the one God. Being made in the image of God, these three are also in us in a microcosmic manner, and we manifest or attain those states by japa and meditation of Om. Some interpret this to mean that there are great cosmic beings of incomprehensible levels of evolution that became what they are through meditation on Om. Whichever it is, the message is the same: meditation on Om is the way to divinity.
The Ribhu Gita
The Syllable Om is the Self (Ribhu Gita 10:22).
Brahman is all as Omkara. Brahman itself is of the nature of Omkara (Ribhu Gita 17:40).
Brahman is just one Syllable: Om. The Imperishable is just one Syllable: Om (Ribhu Gita 24:21).
The bhavana [meditation] of Omkara is the japa that gives happiness (Ribhu Gita 34:8).
The Shiva Samhita
Let the practitioner [sadhaka], sitting in a retired place and restraining his senses, utter by inaudible repetition the Pranava [Om] in order to destroy all obstacles [to Self-realization] (Shiva Samhita 3:48).
Let the yogi destroy the multitude of karmas by the Pranava [Om].
Let him repeat the sacred Syllable Om (Vishnu Smriti 30:33).
The monosyllable Om is the supreme Brahman.…All religious acts ordained in the Veda perish; but the Syllable Om must be known to be imperishable, as it is identical with Brahman, the Lord of Creation. The recitation of Om aloud is ten times better than the sacrifices prescribed [by the Veda]; it is a hundred times better when repeated in a soft voice; it is a thousand times better when repeated mentally. The Four Daily Sacrifices, together with the sacrifices prescribed [in the Veda], all put together are not equal to a sixteenth part of the offering performed by reciting Om. A Brahmin may beyond doubt obtain final emancipation by solely repeating Om, whether he perform any other religious observance or not. One who is benevolent towards all creatures is justly called a Brahmin (Vishnu Smriti 55:17-21. This text is also known as the Vaishnava Dharmashastra or the Vishnu Sutra.).
The identical passage is to be found in the second section of the Manu Smriti, but since this is a better translation I am giving it and commenting on it here.
All religious (dharmic) acts are said to perish because the positive karma engendered by them can be used up like a deposit in the bank. Also, the right times for them to be done can pass or the elements needed for them can become unavailable. Since Om is imperishable, so is the positive force produced by its invocation. Being infinite, its effect is also infinite. Being divine, it bestows Divinity. Powerful as the Vedic rites certainly are, mental repetition of Om is a thousand times more powerful. Moreover, the essential Four Daily Sacrifices, consisting of offerings to God, sages, human beings, and animals, as well as all other rites prescribed in the Vedas, when combined produce but a small percentage of the effect of the japa and meditation of Om, which produce the effect of all those sacred rites together–and vastly more, for liberation (moksha) itself will be attained by the yogi who meditates upon Om throughout his life.
In this quotation we see that Brahminhood is a matter of spiritual character and not birth. And that quality which marks out a Brahmin is benevolence towards all creatures. We have already seen in preceding sections that japa and meditation of Om are declared to benefit all creatures as well as the creation. So the Om Yogi is beyond doubt a Brahmin of the highest order.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Ishwara [God] is a particular Purusha [Spirit, Person] who is untouched by the afflictions of life, actions, and the results and impressions produced by these actions. In him is the highest limit of omniscience. [“In him becomes infinite that all-knowingness which in others is only a germ”–Swami Vivekananda’s translation of the Yoga Sutras.] Being unconditioned by time he is teacher even of the ancients. His designator [vachaka–spoken form] is the Pranava [Om]. [“His manifesting word is Om”–Swami Vivekananda’s translation of the Yoga Sutras.] its japa [constant repetition] and bhavanam [meditation] is the way [or: should be done]. From it result [come] the disappearance of obstacles and the turning inward of consciousness. Disease, languor, doubt, carelessness, laziness, worldly-mindedness, delusion, non-achievement of a stage, instability, these cause the distraction of the mind and they are the obstacles. [Mental] pain, despair, nervousness, and agitation are the symptoms of a distracted condition of mind. For removing these obstacles [there should be] the constant practice of the one principle [the japa and bhavanam of Om] (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:24-32).
The latter part about obstacles and their removal by Om is found virtually verbatim in the Varaha and Yoga Tattwa (B) Upanishads.
The Cosmic Spirit utters Om and by pure will creates the various objects (Yoga Vashishtha 3:67).
The holy word, Om, bestows the highest state (Yoga Vashishtha 5:54).
Pranayama is accomplished by effortlessly breathing and joining to it the repetition of the sacred Om with the experience of its meaning, when the consciousness reaches the deep sleep state (Yoga Vashishtha 5:78).
I abandon all thoughts and notions; contemplating Om, I shall remain in the Self, in total inner silence (Yoga Vashishtha 5:81).
I shall now enter into the Self by the Self indicated by the culmination of the Om-sound as a lamp without fuel (Yoga Vashishtha 5:87).
My heart is established in the peace indicated by the resonance of Om (Yoga Vashishtha 5:87).
Brahman is the Truth that is indicated as Om (Yoga Vashishtha 6:1:30).
[The turiyatita state] is the Eternal, beyond the eternal and the transient; it is a pure mass of consciousness. In it there is no question of diversity. It is all, it is supreme blessedness and peace, it is beyond expression. It is purest Om. It is transcendent. It is supreme (Yoga Vashishtha 6:1:34).
He should repeat Om till the mind gains perfect peace (Yoga Vashishtha 6:1:128).
She [Mahashakti] is known as Uma because She is the very essence of the sacred monosyllable Om.…Since She exists as a ray of light in one who has been awakened by the contemplation of the subtle inner vibrations produced by the sound of Om, She is known as Indukala [ray of the moon] (Yoga Vashishtha 6:2:84).
The one that is awakened is the inner Self, that is the Supreme Self whose name is Om (Yoga Vashishtha 6:2:48).
The Word that is God chapters: