It [Om] is all-pervasive and complete. When we learn this and every time we utter this mystic Syllable Om, we feel the vibrations. It will change the whole structure and attitude of the mind, and the molecules of the body will begin to vibrate in a different way.…So this is the Name of the Cosmic Being, and every time we utter it, we are lifted up, and we approach the infinite or Cosmic Mind.…Every time we utter this, we shall feel the presence of that Highest, the omniscient Cosmic Mind, and those universal words are: Om, Om.…
Whenever we are in distress or in a disturbed condition of our mind, or whenever anything unpleasant or any misfortune comes, and we do not find any comfort anywhere, if we repeat a few times that mystic Syllable Om, the whole vibration will be changed, and we shall be uplifted. Our mind will be concentrated, and we shall come in direct communion with the cosmic Being. All the revelations and inspirations will come, and we get the most wonderful results by the repetition of the Syllable (Swami Abhedananda, Yoga Psychology, Chapter Sixteen, “Mystic Word and God Consciousness”).
From the Pranava you will get illumination of the atma. Om and atma are closely connected.
[Remembrance of the Pranava] must become so automatic that you cannot breathe without remembering it.
Om is the root of all sounds. Every other sound is contained in that, and it is used to take one beyond all sound.
(These selections from the spiritual counsels of Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi are taken from the diaries of Brahmacharini Atmananda as reproduced in Death Must Die by Ram Alexander.).
Thou hast come out of the Pranava, the seed-word and base of all existence and the truth of all.… The Primal Cause is indicated in the Vedas by the Pranava.
This is from a Sanskrit hymn that emanated spontaneously from Sri Ma’s lips in 1930. It also contains the expression: “Thou hast come out of me,” implying that it is directed to the Divine as revealed to the yogi. Hence “Thou hast come out of the Pranava” indicates that the vision of God–indeed God himself–emerges from the Pranava to the inner eye of the yogi. Here, too, we see that Om is the seed power and the foundation of all existence–being Divinity Itself. Further, Om is “the truth of all”–the sole reality within all things as well as that which reveals that inmost reality.
The one Eternal Word is the prime cause of the universe; with the evolution of that ever-abiding Word, the progress of the material life of creation goes on in parallel lines (From the Chapter entitled “Thought Power” in Matri Darshan by J.C. Roy.).
The entire evolving cosmos is Om itself evolving itself.
Anonymous Commentator on Shankara
The sound Om is the Name and Symbol of Brahman. One realizes Brahman by meditation on this Om. When Om is uttered with concentration there arises the consciousness of Brahman in the mind. [For] Om is the matrix of all sounds. Brahman is the substratum of the whole universe and Om, too, is the substratum of all sounds. Sounds and phenomena are non-different, so the substratum alone remains. Hence Brahman is Om.
The Sacred Word: This is the Word of Glory, the Om. This is the Pranava, the sound of conscious Life itself as it is breathed forth into all forms.… The Pranava, when rightly expressed, demonstrates the Father or Spirit through the medium of the soul. It is the Word of the incarnated sons of God.… This [ is the] secret of secrets, and this [ is the] great mystery of the ages. All that can be done is to collate certain facts about Om, and leave the student to extend the concept and grasp the significance of the brief statements made according to the state of his intuition.
The following statements about the Sacred Word can therefore be made and should be studied with care:
1. Om is the Word of Glory, and is the Christ in us, the hope of glory [Colossians 1:27].
2. The Word when rightly apprehended causes the second, or Christ aspect of divinity to shine forth resplendently.
3. It is the sound which brings into manifestation the incarnated soul (macrocosmic or microcosmic), the ego, the Christ, and causes the “radiant Augoeides” to be seen on earth.
4. It is the Word which is the releaser of consciousness and when correctly understood and used, releases the soul from the limitations of form in the three worlds.
5. Om is the synthesizer of the three aspects and therefore is primarily the Word of the human kingdom in which the three lines of divine life meet–spirit, soul and body.
6. It is also the Word…to reveal in a newer and fuller way the nature of the inner Identity, of the soul within the form, the son of mind, the solar angel, the fifth principle.
7. The significance of the Word only becomes apparent after the “light within” is realized. By its use the “spark” becomes a radiant light, the light becomes a flame, and the flame eventually becomes a sun. By its use the “sun of righteousness arises” [Malachi 4:2] in the life of every man.
8. Each of the three letters [A, U, and M] has relation to the three aspects, and each can be applied to any of the known triplicities.
9. The Master, the God within, is indeed the Word, Om, and of this Master (found at the heart of all beings) it is true that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (thus duality) and the Word was God” [ John 1:1]. Through its use man arrives at a realization of:
a. His own essential divinity,
b. The purpose of the form-taking process,
c. The constitution and nature of those forms,
d. The reality of consciousness, or the relation of the divine Self or spirit to the form, its polar opposite. This relation, in its evolutionary working out, we call consciousness.
If you are a serious student of Vedic mantras, you will chant Om because Vedic mantras begin with Om. Om, or the Omkara, is Krishna. Many people are fond of chanting Omkara. That is also nice, because Omkara is Krishna. If we simply remember, “This Omkara is Krishna,” then we become perfect, because the goal is to become Krishna conscious. So you can become Krishna conscious while chanting Om (“The Taste of Krishna,” Back to Godhead, Sept/Oct 1997, p. 9).
In the Vedas, the chief transcendental vibration, Omkara, is also Krishna. Pranava Omkara is the divine substance of the Vedas. Following the Vedas means chanting the Vedic mantras, and no Vedic mantra is complete without Omkara. In the Mandukya Upanishad, Omkara is stated to be the most auspicious sound representation of the Supreme Lord. This is also confirmed again in the Atharva Veda. Omkara is the sound representation of the Supreme Lord and is therefore the principle word in the Vedas. In this connection, the Supreme Lord, Krishna, says, Pranava sarva-vedasu: “I am the Syllable Om in the all Vedic mantras” [Bhagavad Gita 7:8].…
The goal of Vedantic study, therefore, is to know the Supreme Lord Krishna. This point is stressed in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter Eight, verse 13, where it is stated that by the mystic yoga process, ultimately vibrating the sacred Syllable Om, one attains to his supreme spiritual planet. In the Vedanta Sutras, which you have certainly read, the Fourth Chapter, adhikarana 4, sutra 22, states positively, anavrittih shabdai: “By sound vibration one becomes liberated” (The Science of Self-Realization, pp. 105, 106).
Bharat Giri Maharaj
Q: Is the Pranava the King of Mantras?
A: Yes. Everything in the universe comes out of Om and goes back into Om.… Om is God’s First, Middle, and Last Names.
All yogis meditate on the Bindu of Om. [Here he lifted his hand as if indicating the dot that is made at the top of Omkara when it is written as .] The Bindu means that Om goes on forever. All mantras come out of Om. No mantra exists without Om.
The bindu of Om is the increasingly subtler sound that we experience in meditation, that arises eternally from the depths of God and of us.
Maharishi Dayananda Saraswati
Om is the highest Name of God, and comprises many other Names of God. It should be borne in mind that Om is the Name of God exclusively–and of no other object material or spiritual–while the others are but descriptive titles and not exactly proper names (Satyartha Prakash).
This is an extremely important point: all “names” of God are really descriptive titles, and essentially do not designate God in a “proper” or exclusive manner as they all have meanings of their own, such as almighty, universal, and such like. Om, on the other hand, has no intellectual meaning or designation at all, but is a direct name or indicator of God.
Om should be known. Having known Om, one should not think of anything whatsoever (Mandukya Karika 1:24).
No mantra should be utilized in meditation or japa but Om, for it is the source of all and the means to attain all.
One should concentrate one’s mind on Om, for Om is Brahman beyond fear. For a man, ever fixed in Brahman, there can be no fear anywhere (Mandukya Karika 1:25).
Om is surely the lower Brahman; and Om is considered to be the higher Brahman. Om is without cause, and without inside and outside; and it is undecaying. Om is indeed the beginning, middle, and end–everything. Having known this way indeed one attains immediately identity with the Self. One should know Om to be God seated in the hearts of all. Meditating on the all-pervasive Om, the intelligent man grieves no more. The Om, without measures and possessed of infinite dimension, is the auspicious entity where all duality ceases. He by whom Om is known, is the real sage, and not so is any other man (Mandukya Karika 1:26-29).
(Greatest of the Nath Yogis).
That supreme light, Om, is (that) in whose elements the worlds bhuh, bhavah and svah [the three lower worlds] and the divinities moon, sun and fire exist.
In which the three times [past, present and future], the three Vedas, the three worlds [physical, astral and causal], the three [Vedic] accents, and the three gods [Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva] are situated, that, Om, is the supreme light.
In which action and desire and knowledge, Brahmni, Raudri, and Vaisnavi, the threefold Shakti [of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, is contained, that, Om, is the supreme light.
That Om, in which these three letters A, and likewise U and M, which has the bindu as its mark, exist, is the supreme light.
With the voice one should repeat that bija; one should practice it with the body; with the mind one should remember: That, Om, is the supreme light.
Whether [he be] either pure or impure, one who recites Om continually is not besmeared by sin, even as the leaf of the lotus [is not wet] by water (Goraksha Shataka 84-89).
Mahamahopadyaya Sri Gopinath Kaviraj
The mystic Pranava is the essence of revealed literature and of human sciences, and is the creator of the world, the fount of all vidyas and mantras, and the matrix of all names and forms (Aspects of Indian Thought, pp. 17, 18).
Jnana Shakti [the power of knowledge] is the faculty by which God as well as the liberated souls eternally enjoy the infinite joy of their beatified nature and which is indeed no other than the Shabda Brahman or Pranava (Aspects of Indian Thought, p. 29).
In a footnote he adds: “Srikanta in the plainest language asserts the identity of Uma or the Supreme Power of Divine Knowledge with the mystic Omkara” (Srikanta was a leading commentary on the Brahma Sutras.).
In its essence the Veda is equivalent to the Pranava (Aspects of Indian Thought, p. 31).
(Kabir was a great poet-saint of Northern India in the fifteenth century. These quotations are taken from Songs of Kabir, translated by Rabindranath Tagore.).
All things are created by Om (II. 75).
From the word Om the Creation sprang (III.76).
This is the Ultimate Word: but can any express its marvellous savor? He who has savored it once, he knows what joy it can give. Kabir says: Knowing it, the ignorant man becomes wise, and the wise man becomes speechless and silent (II.61).
Kabir says: Listen to the Word, the Truth, which is your essence. He speaks the Word to himself; and he himself is the Creator (I.98).
Receive that Word from which the universe springeth!
That word is the Guru; I have heard it, and become the disciple.
How many are there who know the meaning of that word?
O Sadhu! practice that Word!
The Vedas and the Puranas proclaim it,
The world is established in it,
The Rishis and devotees speak of it:
But none knows the mystery of the Word.
The householder leaves his house when he hears it,
The ascetic comes back to love when he hears it,
The Six Philosophies expound it,
The Spirit of Renunciation points to that Word,
From that Word the world-form has sprung,
That Word reveals all.
Kabir says: But who knows whence the Word cometh? (1.66).
(Only he who unites himself with it in meditation.).
He who has recognized the Brahmarandhra as the shrine of the divine Self, he who has known the anahata [Om] borne upon the breath: his vain imaginings of themselves have fled far away, and he himself [recognizes] himself as a deva [god]. To whom else, therefore, should he offer worship?” (Lalla Vakyani 33).
This covers a tremendous amount of ground in a very few words: the sahasrara as the natural abode of the Self which is divine, and the dispelling of ignorance and the arising of Self-knowledge through Om joined to the breath–which flows upward into the sahasrara throughout meditation and the japa of Om outside meditation.
He within whom steadfastly proceedeth in its upward course the Syllable Om, and naught but it, and for whom the breath forms a bridge to the Brahmarandhra, he bears in his mind the one and only mantra, and of what benefit to him are a thousand mantras?” (Lalla Vakyani 34).
In this way she affirms the necessity of the rising of Om and the breath into the thousand-petalled lotus of the head, the brahmarandhra, “the gate to God [Brahman].” Because of this she insists that Om is “the one and only mantra” for meditation, and says that a thousand mantras are of no benefit to him who knows to invoke Om, “the word that is God,” through japa and meditation.
With the help of the Pranava Lalla absorbed herself in union with the Light of the Self [Atma Jyoti], and so expelled the fear of death (Lalla Vakyani 76).
When by the concentration of my thoughts I established the Pranava within, I made my body like a blazing coal. The six paths I traversed and gained the seventh, and then did I Lalla, reach the place of illumination (Lalla Vakyani 82).
Through Om even the physical body is transmuted by the divine fire of tapasya. Traversing the six levels of consciousness embodied in the six lower chakras, at last Om brings the yogi to the seventh level of perfect illumination.
I locked the doors and windows of my body. I seized the the thief of my vital airs [prana], and controlled my breath. I bound him tightly in the closet of my heart, and with the whip of the Pranava did I flay him (Lalla Vakyani 101).
The thief of our vital force, which includes the breath, is distraction and ignorance. Through Om we either discipline and bring under control the elements that can be corrected or expel those that cannot be corrected.
By means of the mystic Syllable Om Lalla merged in her Cit-Jyoti, the luminous light of pure Consciousness; and thus dispelled the fear of death (Lalla Vakyani 102).
In Vak 122 Lalla defines God as: he who is the ever-unobstructed sound of Om.
(Founder of the Nath Yogi Sampradaya).
The letter a is Brahma, u is Vishnu, m is Shiva, it is said. Clearly (this Om) is the lord of supreme peace, the ultimate one (Yogavishaya 18).
Guru Nanak, the first guru of the Sikh religion (which during his lifetime was considered a part of Hinduism), began his great work, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which became the holy scripture of the Sikhs, with these words:
The One Omkar is the True Name [of God].
The use of the word (actually number) “one”–ek–had two purposes. One was to emphasize that God is absolutely One, that Om expresses this Perfect Unity. The other was to underline that Om is positively the only true (sat) Name (nam) of God, all others being descriptive titles.
(A Sikh commentator has this to say: “In Hindu mythology the word ‘Om’ always meant [stood] for God as monotheistic. Then they started interpreting it as more than one God. Guru Nanak put an integer ‘1’ before it and a kar (a semi-circle) after it. Thus it becomes ‘Ek-Om-Kar’ and by doing so, he sealed the position for ever meaning ‘There is One and only One God.’ Therefore Guru Granth Sahib uniquely begins with integer One (‘1’). The One Absolute is the monotheistic conception of God and is represented by numerical symbol here. One God does not only mean numerically one but Unique without a second like him.”).
By the time of Nanak many Sanskrit title-names were attributed to God. Some teachers said that only one of these many–the one favored by their school of thought–was the real Name of God, while others said that they were all of equal validity and effect in calling upon God. But Nanak held that only Om was the “proper” Name of God, for it had no secondary meaning as did the others–for example, Krishna means “the Dark One,” Shiva means “the Auspicious One,” Durga means “Hard to Attain,” and so on throughout tens of thousands of names. Om, in contrast has no meaning whatsoever but is a mantric designation of the Absolute, Satchidananda Brahman.
Further, at the time of Guru Nanak there were those who spoke of “the long Omkar” and “the short Omkar,” meaning that the various mantras were extensions of Om and therefore extended or “long” Omkars in contrast to the single syllable Om, the “short” Omkar. Guru Nanak absolutely denied this rationalization for departing from the Vedic tradition, and said that there was only one Omkar: Om itself. Finally, by stating there is only one Omkar, Guru Nanak points out that the only correct practice is the repetition of Om in its simple form.
After stating that Om is the only true Name of God, Guru Nanak continues to describe it as: “Creative Being personified; without fear; without hatred; Image of the Deathless; beyond birth; self-existent; the Guru’s grace.” Om is all this, for Om is Divinity Itself. The final description is most important: “Guru’s grace.” The word guru is two syllables: gu, “darkness”, and ru, “that which removes.” Guru, then, means the Remover of Darkness, and is a Name of God, the Light whose advent removes all darkness whatsoever. A human may be an acharya, a teacher, but only God can be a guru in the highest sense. God in essence is transcendent, silent, and unmoving; yet he has manifested as Om by which all souls (jivas) are drawn back into union with God. Thus Om is the Grace of God and is Itself the Guru.
But Om is not to be respected passively, merely acknowledged and honored. Therefore Nanak then says: “Repeat That which was True [Existent, Real] in the Primal Beginning, True throughout the ages, True here and now–forever and ever True.” Om is all this, as well. It is the japa and meditation of Om that Nanak urges us to do.
In sum Guru Nanak wrote: “The Word is the Guru, The Guru is the Word; within the Word immortality is found.”
Avadhuta Nityananda Paramhansa
(The numbers following the quotations are the numbers assigned to them in The Chidakasha Gita.).
When the mind is merged in Bindu and Nada [of Om], nirvikalpa samadhi is attained. Our attention is then entirely towards ananda (59).
Om–the tower of peace! Om–the form of peace! Om! Salutation to Omkar! (80).
Omkar is one without a second. Omkar is the cause of both creation and dissolution. Omkar destroys manas [the lower mind of the senses and the ego]. Omkar is really the Atman in you. Omkar is indivisible (109).
Omkar is the light of consciousness (110).
Shiva who dwells in the heart-space is the One, everlasting. Shiva is Omkar. Omkar is Pranava. When united with forms, it is Pranava. Omkar is the “unawareness” of bodily existence (121).
Omkar is the most awesome of all forms (122).
One is the dwelling; one is the eternal dwelling (mukti); that dwelling is Omkar (130).
Realization of Omkar is the annihilation of the world. Realization of Omkar is the destruction of the manas (133).
All is he, pervading everything. He is the One, pervading all creatures; qualitiless; the one Omkar; one, whose form is everlasting peace; blesser of those who have faith in him (172).
He [the Lord] is the Omkar, Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara, the origin–Para-Brahma (188).
All things with form is Omkar. Omkar is the divine in them. What is Omkar is the subtle Bindu. Omkar pervades both in and out (189).
A Raja Yogi mahatma is all pervasive Omkar, all pervasive Pranava (194).
The form of God is peace. Om and peace are his forms (208).
Om is without beginning or ending. Omkar is like a stage manager in a drama. As it works through the bodies of men, those bodies are pervaded by Omkar. This Syllable is inside us, outside us and everywhere. It is the cause of everything that exists. That sound exists in everything. This energy is not divisible but indivisible. What is called Pranava is another name for Omkar. When it is united with prana and moves in the body, it is called “Pranava.” When the nature and the subtle [i.e., physical and non-physical], sthula [gross] and sukshma [subtle], are separate, it is Pranava. When we feel both to be one, then it is called the feeling of oneness. This is identical with “Omkar.” At that time, one sees the One everywhere. That which you worship with faith, becomes ALL (259).
That energy called “Omkar” pervades the universe and is formless. It is the light in ALL and the light of ALL (260).
The giver of peace, the Lord of the universe, is the Omkar. Let his bhakti become unwavering in that Giver of Peace. This is real bhakti. This is eternal peace. This is the self-luminous. This is what is called Sat. It is Om the Great, the Movable and the Seen, Om the Essence. It is what is declared by the sages as “The Truth.” Om, Om (286).
All penetrating Omkar is the all penetrating Pranava (194).
Shiva-Shakti is one indivisible. Shiva-Shakti is salvation. It is the Omkar; it is the Pranava. From Pranava is creation. Pranava is consciousness of the body, Omkar is soul consciousness (211).
Where the sound of Omkar is experienced, there is no ignorance (231).
Why is man called man [manusha]? Because he has manas [mind]. The mind must become one with Omkar (270).
Kundalini in the form of Omkar is in the subtle nadis. Let this “subtle” [Om] be known by experience (273).
In the Omkar, let the pure chitta be firmly fixed, following the path of subtle buddhi (284).
The energy of Omkar is like a mine of water. It moves in all directions. It pervades both inside us and outside us in the form of reason. It becomes vibrationless, creating, maintaining, and destroying all. The vibrationlessness becomes one with reason. Reason becomes merged in Omkar. Omkar becomes one with reason. Omkar becomes one with the world. The world becomes one with Omkar. The Omkar and the world become one with akasha. Akasha becomes one with reason. Reason becomes one with akasha. Reason and akasha become one with Omkar (285).
Can’t you fix your mind on the Syllable Om? It will be good if you can do so. The creation of the universe has come from the sound Om. If one repeats the Syllable Om, one can have the vision of God (Go Forward, p. 233).
Om–this is the sound that comes at the beginning of creation. The rishis were able to hear that sound. Even today, yogis hear it at the inner core of creation. There is no sound as pure as this in the whole world. It is the primordial Name of God.…Fix your mind on the sound Om, feeling that it is God himself (Go Forward, pp. 245, 246).
The first word signifying God that was revealed to mankind was Om. On concentrating one’s mind on the word Om, the mind soars above the world and one can feel God, who is the Cause of the world.
According to [Patanjali], a person can attain samadhi even by reflecting on God, who is omniscient, omnipotent, ever free and the supreme Teacher of man. To reflect on him, one has to repeat Om while remembering that Purusha is one. If one does this for a long time, one becomes aware of the jivatman (the individual Self),…. As a result, for such a person no further obstacle remains in the path of progress towards nirvana (complete emancipation).
Swami Rama Tirtha
An American devotee of Swami Rama Tirtha, Mrs. Wellman, wrote: “He was ever filled with bliss and peace and was constantly humming ‘Om’ when not employed in talking, writing or reading.” His biographer, Puran Singh, recorded: “The effect of his presence was marvellous, his joy was infectious, and his ideas still more so, and above all his recitation of ‘Om.’ Every religious seeker who came to him, began reciting ‘Om.’”
Before his lectures Swami Rama Tirtha would have the audience engage in chanting Om with him for quite some time and throughout the discourse themselves he would frequently intone Om. His conversations, too, were punctuated through with chanting of Om.
His life came to an end when he fell into the Ganges. Realizing that he was too weak from a previous illness to extricate himself from the powerful current, he began intoning Om and disappeared beneath the water. A week later his undecayed body was discovered floating on the Ganges, sitting upright in meditation posture with his mouth forming the Syllable Om. By the Immortal Name he had become immortal. [“By the immortal Name one becomes immortal.” Jabala Upanishad 3]
Puran Singh further wrote: “He insisted at times in very emphatic language on the ceaseless repetition of ‘Om.’…I never saw him excuse himself from this incessant labor. ‘“Om,”’ he used to say, ‘is the divine punctuation of life, without it, one cannot breathe the divine breath. Without it one dies.’”
While living in the Himalayas he wrote: “Throw away all books into the Ganges and chant ‘Om’ with every breath.”
In India, in Japan, and in America, Om was his constant companion and was considered the source of many miracles that occurred to and around him. While at Lucknow he would ask those present at dawn to join with him in chanting Om while facing the rising sun in salutation. (Usually the Gayatri mantra is recited at this time, so it in interesting that Rama Tirtha only chanted Om. Sri Ramakrishna had previously said that all the mantras recited at dawn in the ritual known as the Sandhya could be replaced by the Gayatri alone, and that in time the Gayatri would be replaced by Om.).
Sit still, chant Om and then think who is within you.…All the Vedanta, nay all the philosophy of the Hindus is simply an exposition of this Syllable Om. Om has a charm about it, an efficiency, a virtue in it which directly brings all feelings and all thoughts into a state of harmony, brings peace and rest to the soul and puts the mind in a state where it is one with God.…Science may not be able to explain this, but this is a fact which can be verified by experiment. Woe unto science if it goes against the truth connected with the efficiency of the sacred Syllable Om.…The real Self which is knowledge absolute and power absolute is the only stern Reality, before which the apparent reality of the world melts away! Om is the name of this Reality.
Realize it [Om] and sing it in the language of feeling, sing it with your acts, sing it through every power of your body. Let it course through your veins, let it pulsate in your bosom, let every part of your body and every drop of your blood tingle with the truth that you are…the true Self!…A man who sings Om in all these ways, chants it with his lips, feels it with his heart and sings it through action, makes his life a continuous song.…But if you cannot chant it with feeling nor chant it with your acts, do not give up, go on chanting it with your lips. Even that is not without use.…But chanting it through feelings and actions would naturally follow if you commence humming it with the mouth.
Commenting on the depiction of Krishna playing a flute, Swami Rama Tirtha wrote:
One should bring out from the flute of the mind the sacred Syllable Om, which removes all evils.
Before falling asleep, and after waking, firmly resolve to follow the Vedantic discipline. Keep chanting Om.
(These quotations are from Life, Teachings and Writings of Swami Rama Tirtha by Prem Lata).
The literal meaning of Vedanta is the end of knowledge, the end of speech, a point where all speech, all thought stops and for the Hindus the whole of Vedanta is represented by Om (From the introductory pages of volume two of In Woods of God Realization, the collection of Swami Rama Tirtha’s works.).
Chant Om, Om. If you do that for a few moments, your whole being from head to foot becomes Light. Why pray for Light when Light is your own Self? You become Light immediately (Lecture: “The Path of Truth”).
It is this “I Am” that is represented by Om. The pure “I am,” “I am He,” is represented by Om (Lecture: “God Within”).
How to make the mind rise higher into the celestial regions–to make the soul soar away up to the throne of God! When the benign light of the rising or setting sun is falling upon the translucent lids of half-closed eyes, we begin humming the Syllable Om, we sing it in the language of feeling (Lecture: “The Way to Self-Realization”).
“There is but one reality,” this name Om, which is the Holy of Holies, this name Om possessing the highest powers of Divinity or God, should be chanted (Lecture: “Aids to Realization”).
If [you are] distracted by worldly desires, you are not singing Om (Lecture: “Pranayama and Will Power”).
This Atman, this true ocean of Reality, this controlling and governing Self is to be realized, to be felt, to be seen and known in order to be one with the Infinite. This true Self or Atman is called the “I am.” This true Self, the perfect “I” is beyond cause, time and space. This perfect true Self is represented by Om. Om means “I am;” and while chanting Om you have not to address yourself to somebody else. While chanting Om, think not of someone outside yourself whom you are calling. While chanting Om, you must feel your Self to be one with this true “I am.” By this strong feeling, the mind is merged in the Reality. By this strong belief, by this living knowledge of the mind, the mind becomes, as it were, a bubble which bursts into the mighty ocean of Reality. This is the way to Realization; this strong feeling, this living knowledge on the part of the mind laying hold of you, and dehypnotizing your false self, is the way to gain Truth, to free yourself (Lecture: “Class Lectures on Vedanta–III”).
Now Rama shall tell you the method which the sages of India adopted to acquire God-vision.…[In] the Hindu Scriptures, it is stated that all the Vedas are like a tree which sprang from the seed known as Om. This is called the seed from which the tree of the Vedas sprang.…Those people who want to get a higher inspiration, those people who want to acquire that God-vision, who want to rise above the egoistic, personal, little, limited, local consciousness of self, they get the inspiration and light through the chant of Om! Om! Om!
Now it is not the mere chant by the throat, it is something else also. While the lips and the throat chant physically, the mind chants it intellectually, and the heart chants it in a language of higher emotions. Thus the threefold chant of this sacred Syllable Om brings you to that unison and oneness with the All, the Light. This was the method they adopted.…
The life in your breath is Om. The sound which is the soul of your breath is Om. This is then the most natural name for the Heaven within, the God, Supreme Spirit, that enlightens all spirits and all souls; the Soul of all souls, the Life of all lives is Om.…
So Rama says that intonation is connected with the chant of Om and experience has proved that it has a marvellous effect in bringing your soul at one with the soul of the ALL. It has a marvellous effect. If Science cannot prove it today, let it grow, and a little later it will be able to explain it. In the meantime the fact will remain a fact. So on the basis of this experience of the sages, Rama means personal experiences, Rama lays before you this, the treasure of the Vedic philosophy. Thus it is that the Hindus reached the higher vision of clairvoyance, of the inner, spiritual light (Lecture: “The Ancient Spiritualism of India”).
In India there is a beautiful story in the Puranas. It speaks of Krishna jumping into the river Yamuna while his father, mother, friends and relatives stood by struck dumb with amazement. In their very presence he jumped into the torrent. They thought that he was gone, that he would never rise again. The story says that he went to the bottom of the river and there was a thousand-headed dragon. Krishna began to blow his flute, he began to play the mantram Om, he began to kick down the heads of the dragon, he began to crush down the heads of the dragon one by one, but as he crushed the many heads of the dragon one by one, other heads sprang up and thus it was very hard for him. Krishna went on jumping and dancing upon the crested head of the dragon; he went on playing the mantram on his flute, he went on chanting his mantram and still jumping and crushing down the heads of the dragon. In half an hour the dragon was dead; what with the charming note of the flute and what with the crushing of the dragon by his heels, the dragon was dead. The waters of the river were turned into blood and the blood of the dragon mixed with the water of the river. All the wives of the dragon came up to pay homage to Krishna, they wanted to drink of the nectar of his sweet presence. Krishna came up from the river, the amazed relatives and friends were beside themselves, their joy knew no bounds, so happy were they to find their beloved Krishna, their beloved one in their midst again. This story has a double meaning. It is an object lesson, so to say, for those who want to gain an insight of Reality, into their own Divinity.
That lake or river represents the mind or rather the lake of the mind, and whoever wants to become Krishna (the word Krishna means or stands for Deity, God), whoever wants to regain the paradise lost, he has to enter deep into the lake of his own mind, to dive deep into himself, he has to plunge deep into his own nature. Reaching the bottom he has to fight the venomous dragon, the poisonous snake of passion, desire, the venomous dragon of the worldly mind. He has to crush it down, he has to destroy its crests, he has to kick down its many heads, he has to charm and destroy it. He must make clear the lake of his mind, he must clear his mind this way. The process is the same as that followed by Krishna. He is to take up his flute and play the mantram Om through it. He has to sing that divine, that blessed song through it.…In this state of mind, in this peace of heart, with such a pure soul begin to chant the mantram Om, begin to sing the sacred Syllable Om. This is putting the breath of music into the flute. Make your whole life a flute. Make your whole body a flute. Empty it of selfishness and fill it with the divine breath. Chant Om and while doing it, begin that search within the lake of your mind. Search out the poisonous snake with its many tongues. These heads, tongues and fangs of the poisonous snake are the innumerable wants, the worldly tendencies and the selfish propensities. Crush them one by one, trample them under your feet, single them out, overcome them and destroy them while singing the Syllable Om.
Build up a character, make firm resolutions, make strong determinations and take solemn vows so that when you come out of the lake or river of the mind, you may not find the waters poisoned; so that the waters will not poison those who drink from them. Come out of the lake having purified it altogether. Let people differ from you, let them subject you to all sorts of difficulties, let them revile you, but despite their favors and frowns, their threats and promises, from the lake of your mind there should flow nothing but divine, infinitely pure, fresh water. Nectar should flow out of you so that it may become as impossible for you to think evil as for the pure fresh spring to poison those who drink from it. Purify the heart, sing the Syllable Om, pick out all points of weakness and eradicate them. Come out victorious having formed a beautiful character. When the dragon of passion is destroyed, you will find the objects of desire worshipping you just as the wives of the dragon under the river paid homage unto Krishna after he had killed the snake (Lecture: “The Spiritual Law of Character”).
This sacred Syllable Om is the end of knowledge in all the world. It is all the Vedas, all the Kingdom of Heaven.…In order to come by the Treasures within or in order that the Kingdom of Heaven may be unlocked, Om is the key to be used.…This is the seed of all knowledge. Om is the reality which runs through your breath. It is present in all breath of the world, it is the most natural name of the Power which is at the back of all differences, all divisions, all separateness, the most natural name for the Reality.…All Vedanta, nay, all the philosophy of the Hindus is simply an exposition of this Syllable Om. Om covers the whole universe. There is not a law, not a force in the whole world, not an object in all the world which is not comprised by the Syllable Om. One by one you will see that all the planes of being, all the worlds, all phases of existence are covered by this Syllable A-U-M–Om.…Om has a charm about it, an efficacy, a virtue in it which directly brings the mind of one who chants it under control, which directly brings all feeling and all thought in a state of harmony; brings peace and rest to the soul and puts the mind in a state where it is one with God. Science may not be able to explain this, but this is a fact which can be verified by experiment (Lecture: “The Kingdom of Heaven”).
Meditate on Om and be a giver of peace to mankind and not an expectant seeker (From a letter written to Mrs. Wellman, a student, on April 3, 1904.).
Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa
On Sunday, December 30, 1883, Sri Ramakrishna asked a monk: “What is Brahman?” The monk answered: “Brahman is Sound. It is Om.” Sri Ramakrishna further asked: “But there must be something indicated by the sound [Om]. Isn’t that so?” To this the monk replied: “That itself is the thing indicated as well as the indicator.” [That is, Om is both God and the Name (Indicator) of God.] At these words Sri Ramakrishna went into samadhi. That is, the immortal truth of the monk’s words lifted his mind into infinity, thus indicating their truth (See The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 372).
The sound Om is Brahman. The rishis and sages practiced austerity to realize the Sound-Brahman.
What will you gain, some sages ask, by merely hearing this sound? You hear the roar of the ocean from a distance. By following the roar you can reach the ocean. As long as there is the roar, there must also be the ocean. By following the trail of Om you attain Brahman, of which the Word is the symbol. That Brahman has been described by the Vedas as the ultimate goal (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 404).
Another translation, by Sachindra Kumar Majumdar, is perhaps a bit more on target: “Sound Brahman. Rishis and sages used to practice austerities to hear that sound. Upon attaining perfection one hears the sound rising spontaneously. Some say, ‘What will you gain by hearing the sound only?’ You hear the rumbling from a distance. If you follow the roar you can reach the ocean. The roar indicates the presence of the ocean. If one follows the trail of the spontaneous sound one can reach what it indicates. It is this which has been called the supreme status” (5.14.2).
[Anahata] is a spontaneous sound constantly going on by itself. It is the sound of the Pranava, Om. It originates in the Supreme Brahman…. A yogi alone knows that this sound originates from the Supreme Brahman (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 416).
The sandhya merges in the Gayatri, the Gayatri in Om, and Om in samadhi. It [Om] is like the sound of a bell: t–a–m. The yogi, by following in the trail of the sound Om, gradually merges himself in the Supreme Brahman (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 465).
Majumdar: “Twilight devotions merge in Gayatri, Gayatri merges in Om, Om merges in samadhi. It is like the sound of a bell, tam, t-a-m. Going beyond the trail of sound the yogi merges in Brahman” (1.11.2).
The Sandhya is a ritual done at the “junctions” (sandhyas) of the day–dawn, noon, and sunset–during which the Savitri Gayatri is repeated.
By “Gayatri” is meant the Savitri Gayatri, the great Vedic mantra for enlightenment. The idea expressed here is that the other mantras included in the ritual of the sandhya are eventually dropped and only the simple Gayatri is recited. Then, in time, the Gayatri itself is discontinued and only Om is repeated. And by the meditation of Om the aspirant “merges himself in the Supreme Brahman.”
The sandhya merges in the Gayatri, the Gayatri in Om. A man is firmly established in spiritual life when he goes into samadhi on uttering ‘Om’ only once (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 586).
“When one goes into samadhi after uttering Om once, then one is secure” (Majumdar: 4.21.5).
By saying Om just once you get the benefit of crores [tens of millions] of sandhyas (M–The Apostle and the Evangelist, vol. I, p. 80).
One attains the Absolute by going beyond the universe and its created beings conjured up by maya. By passing beyond the nada one goes into samadhi. By repeating Om one goes beyond the nada and attains samadhi (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 263).
“One attains samadhi by piercing nada (the sound barrier). The nada is pierced through repetition of Om and one attains samadhi” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Majumdar translation: 3.4.2).
Om is not counted among words (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Majumdar translation: 3.17.3).
From the same Om have come Om Shiva, Om Kali and Om Krishna (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Majumdar translation: 5.13.1).
Sri Ramakrishna was praying to the Divine Mother: “O Mother! O Embodiment of Om!” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 299).
The Ekakshara [“One Syllable”–Om] shines for ever in the heart as the Self. Who is there anywhere who can write it down? (The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, sixth edition, p. 145).
These two sentences are two lines of a couplet. A devotee of Ramana Maharshi had asked him to write in a notebook “at least an akshara [syllable].” In response the sage wrote these lines containing this valuable information regarding Om:
- Om is the eternal Self–both the individual Self and the Supreme Self.
- It radiates forever in the heart–and is therefore accessible to all.
- As the nature of the Self (Atman) is pure consciousness, Om is not really a sound at all, but Consciousness itself.
- Being Divine, Om is beyond intellect and speech, consequently it can never be “written down.” It is beyond all comprehension and its nature is inexpressible. Om is Brahman itself.
Incantation [japa] reaching to the source of sound is the best course for those who are not firm in consciousness which is the source of the “I” (The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, sixth edition, p. 145).
Pratyahara [interiorization of the mind] is regulating the mind by preventing it from flowing towards the external names and forms. The mind, which had been till then distracted, now becomes controlled. The aids in this respect are meditation on the Pranava and reflection on the Nada [the subtle sound of Om experienced in meditation] (The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, sixth edition, p. 24).
The purport of prescribing meditation on the Pranava is this. The Pranava is Omkara…the advaita-mantra which is the essence of all mantras…. In order to get at this true significance, one should meditate on the Pranava.…The fruition of this process is samadhi which yields release [moksha], which is the state of unsurpassable bliss (The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, sixth edition, p. 25, 26).
Om is the advaita mantra–the non-dual mantra–because it produces non-dual consciousness in those who invoke it. Since Om is the essence of all mantras it can accomplish whatever those mantras can–and much more. This is experienced through the meditation of Om which leads to samadhi that bestows liberation on the meditator.
Maunam [silence] is the state of Shakti [power] that emerges from within as Ekakshara [Om] (Sri Ramana Reminiscences, G.V. Subbaramayya, p. 149).
Silence is both the witnessing of the emanation of Om from our inmost depths and the state attained by tracing that emanation back to its Source.
Yesterday a Hindu asked Bhagavan, “Is Omkara a name of Ishwara?” Bhagavan said, “Omkara is Ishwara, Ishwara is Omkara. That means Omkara itself is the swarupam (the real Self)” (Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, Suri Nagamma, p. 60).
Omkara itself is Brahman. That Brahman is the nameless and formless pure SAT [Reality]. It is That that is called Omkara.…Omkara which is beyond the speech or the mind and which can only be experienced, cannot be described by word of mouth (Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, Suri Nagamma, p. 119).
Om is everything (Day by Day with Bhagavan, Devaraja Mudaliar, p. 214).
Earnest seekers who, incessantly and with a steady mind, repeat “Om” will attain success. By repetition of the pure Om” the mind is withdrawn from sense objects and becomes one with the Self (Sri Ramana Gita 3:10, 11, Ganapati Muni).
Swami Ramdas of Anandashram
This mantra represents both the manifest and the unmanifest aspects of God. Om is the first sound wave that rose from the Unmanifest and is the cause of the universal manifestation–creation, preservation, and dissolution. There are many who repeat only Om, still their minds, and realize the primeval Source of all manifestation. Through Om they reach the absolute, unmanifest Truth.
Sound is very easy for the mind to concentrate upon. As soon as the mind is absorbed in it, we rise higher into a state of superconsciousness. It is said in the scriptures that Brahman revealed itself originally as sound and the first sound was Om. Therefore Om is the nearest symbol of God for helping the concentration of the mind and leading to the realization of Brahman. Om is the Shabda-Brahman [Brahman as Sound], the Brahman which is beyond sound, but which can be attained through sound.
Om is used to serve as a means to the meditation on Brahman. As other scriptures say, This is the best help (to the realization of Brahman) and the highest. [Katha Upanishad 1:2:17]
One should concentrate on the Self, uttering Om [Mahanarayan Upanishad 24:1]. One should meditate upon the Supreme Being only through the Syllable Om (Prashna Upanishad 5:5) Meditate upon the Self with the help of the Syllable Om (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.6) And so on. Although the words Brahman, Atman, etc. are names of Brahman, yet on the authority of the scriptures we know that Om is its most intimate appellation. Therefore it is the best means for the realization of Brahman (Shankara, Commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad).
It is so in two ways–as a symbol and as a Name. As a symbol: Just as the image of Vishnu or any other god is regarded as identical with that god (for purposes of worship), so is Om to be treated as Brahman (Why?) Because Brahman is pleased with one who uses Om as an aid; for the scripture says, This is the best help and the highest. Knowing this help one is glorified in the world of Brahman [Hiranyagarbha] (Katha Upanishad 2:17).
The Supreme Self, being beyond the reach of the eye and other organs, cannot be perceived without some help, therefore the aspirant superimposes it with faith, devotion, and great rapture on the Syllable Om, as people superimpose Vishnu on images of stone etc. with carvings of his features. Whether the unconditioned Brahman or the conditioned Brahman, the Syllable Om becomes a means of realizing it. For another scripture has it, ‘The Syllable Om is the higher and lower Brahman (Prashna Upanishad 5:2).
It [Om] is the Veda, (for) through it one knows what is to be known (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.1.1) There Om is the Veda or Name of Brahman. Through that Name the aspirant knows or realizes what is to be known: Brahman, which is the object signified or designated by the Name. Therefore ‘the Brahmanas know’ that it is the Veda: They mean that as a Name it is intended as a means to the realization of Brahman. Om is enjoined as a symbol of Brahman, for it is coordinated with the word Brahman in the sentence, Om is Brahman. Now it is being praised as the Veda, for the entire Vedas are but Om: They all issue out of it and consist of it; this Om is differentiated into the division of Rik, Yajus, and Saman [Vedic meters], etc., for another scripture says, As by a stick all leaves are pierced, so all speech is pierced by Om (Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.4).
Here is another reason why Om is the Veda–through it, this Om, one knows whatever is to be known; hence this Om is the Veda. The other Vedas owe their Vedahood to this. Therefore Om, being so important, should be used as a means to Self-realization. If it is used as a means to realization, the entire Vedas are practically used (Shankara, Commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad).
One should meditate on the Syllable Om, which is the Udgitha. This Syllable, Om, as the Name of the Supreme Reality, is nearest to him; when it is used He surely becomes gracious just as a man becomes so when his favorite name is used.…It is a symbol [indicator] of the Supreme Self (Paramatma). Thus it is known in all the Upanishads that Om, as a name and as a symbol, holds the highest position of being an aid to the meditation of the Supreme Self. And its highest position is also well known from its being used very frequently at the beginning and end of repetition of holy names, rites, [scriptural] study, etc. Therefore this Syllable Om is to be meditated on in its verbal form. That is, one should continuously concentrate one’s mind on Om which forms a part of rites and is a symbol of the Supreme Reality.
The Syllable Om is the inmost essence of all essences. It is supreme because of its being the symbol of the Supreme Self. It is competent to be worshipped as the Supreme Self. It is competent to take the place of the Supreme Self since it is to be worshipped like the Supreme Self.
It is well known that Om has the quality of fulfilling all desires.
He who meditates on Om becomes possessed of its quality. He who meditates on Om possesses the quality of fulfilling the desires of others. The meaning is that to him comes the result as stated before, in accordance with the Vedic text: ‘He assumes those very forms in [by means of] which he meditates on him.’ [Mandala Brahmana].
Om is also possessed of the quality of prosperity. Being a meditator on Om as possessed of the quality of prosperity, one becomes endowed with that quality.
Now then, since Om is to be meditated on, it is being praised. For through Om the knowledge of the three Vedas is gained. The Vedic rites are meant for the worship of the very Om because it is a symbol of the Supreme Self. The worship of That [Om] is surely the worship of the supreme Self.
Om is possessed of the qualities of being the quintessence, the fulfiller, and prosperity.
Because Om is the symbol of the Supreme Self it is the cause of immortality.
The soul, when it departs from the body, goes upward by meditating on the Self with the help of Om as he did while living” (Shankara, Commentary on the Chandogya Upanishad).
Meditating on Om one is worshipped in the world of Brahman. The idea is this: Getting identified with Brahman, he becomes worshippable like Brahman (Shankara, Commentary on the Katha Upanishad).
Just as the bow is the cause of the arrow’s hitting the target, so Om is the bow that brings about the soul’s entry into the Immutable. For the soul when purified by the repetition of Om gets fixed in Brahman with the help of Om without any hindrance, just as an arrow shot from a bow gets transfixed in the target (Shankara, Commentary on the Mundaka Upanishad).
Om is essentially the same as the Self.…And the Supreme Brahman, too, is but Om.…Om is the same as the supreme as well as the inferior Brahman…by virtue of its being a means for the attainment of Brahman (Shankara, Commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad).
When the Syllable Om is known, one should not think of anything whatsoever, serving any seen or unseen purpose; for he has got all his desires fulfilled.
One should concentrate the mind on Om, which is essentially the supreme Reality, for Om is Brahman beyond fear, because for one who is ever fixed in it, there can be no fear anywhere, in accordance with the Vedic text, ‘The enlightened man is not afraid of anything (Taittiriya Upanishad 2.9).
Om is both the higher and the lesser Brahman. When the letters disappear [in the state of meditation], Om becomes verily the supreme Self that is Brahman.…The idea implied is that it is coextensive with all that is inside or outside; it is birthless; and it is a mass of Consciousness, homogeneous like a lump of salt. Om is the origination, continuance, and dissolution of all–of the whole phenomenal universe.…In this way indeed, having known Om that is the Self, one attains identity with the Self at that very moment.
One should know Om as God existing in the heart of all living beings. Having meditated on the all-pervasive Om, that is the Self beyond the worldly state, the intelligent man does not grieve, for no cause of grief can be possible then, in accordance with such Vedic tests as, ‘The knower of the Self transcends sorrow.’
Om being beyond measures is Turiya, it has infinite dimension and its extent cannot be determined. It is auspicious and holy because of the negation of all duality. He who knows Om is a sage because of his meditating on the Supreme Reality, and not any other man, though he may be learned in the scriptures (Shankara, Commentary on the Mandukya Karika).
As the supreme Brahman cannot be directly indicated by words, etc., and is devoid of all distinctions created by attributes–and as it is on that account beyond the senses–therefore the mind cannot explore it. But to those who meditate on Om, which is comparable to the images of Vishnu and others, and on which is fixed the idea of Brahman with devotion, that Brahman becomes favorable and reveals itself. This is understood on the authority of scriptures. Similar is the case with the lesser Brahman. Hence it is said in a secondary sense that that Brahman which is both lesser and higher is but Om. Therefore one who knows this attains either of the two [Brahmans] through this Om alone; only through this, that is a means for the attainment of the Self, consisting in meditation on Om; for Om is the nearest symbol of Brahman. The One is reached with the aid of Om, which is a vehicle of advance (Shankara, Commentary on the Prashna Upanishad).
By means of the boat of Om that is Brahman one crosses over [samsara, the ocean of birth and death]. The idea is that by controlling the senses through Om the enlightened person should cross over the currents of the river of transmigration with the help of that Om (Shankara, Commentary on the Svetasvatara Upanishad).
One should contemplate in one’s mind, that is, meditate, that Om, as a word, is Brahman. For Om is all this. All that consists of sound is Om, since everything is permeated by Om in accordance with another Vedic text: As by the fibers the leaves are pervaded, so by Om is pervaded all speech (Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.3) And since all that is nameable is dependent on the names, it is said that all this is Om. Om is to be meditated on. Wishing to attain the supreme Self one utters [does japa of] Om; and he does indeed attain Brahman through that Om. The meaning of the passage is that, since the activities that are undertaken with the utterance of Om become fruitful, Om should be meditated on as Brahman (Shankara, Commentary on the Taittiriya Upanishad).
How should one perform devotion to the Lord, and what is the means of that devotion? To explain the form in which the devotee contemplates on him, the sutra says: His designator [vachaka] is the Pranava [Om]. Of the Lord who has been described, the designating Word is the Pranava.
The word Pranava is explained in the following way etymologically: pra stands for prakarshena: ‘perfectly;’ nu (from nava) means nuyate: ‘He is praised.’ Thus Pranava, the word Om, praises (pranauti) the Lord. That is, the Lord is devoutly worshipped (pranidhiyate) through it by his devotees. They bow down (pranam) to him through it. Through it they worship (pranidha) the Lord mentally; here the extra dha stands for the final [syllable] va of Pranava.
It is the Lord who is expressed by the word Om; the sound of the Word accords with its meaning.
From the termination ava is understood avati: he favors. He brings out his devotees from samsara, he leads those in samsara to nirvana, he brings to a devotee unsurpassed joy, he grants him samadhi to lead him to the highest truth. But all these meanings are associated with the most intense love of the Lord.
When the Lord is continuously worshipped in the mind by means of this Syllable, Om, he gives his grace. There are many sacred texts indicating that Om is Brahman.
The relationship between Brahman and Om is that of a lamp and its light.…This is the relationship between the Lord who is expressed and the Pranava which expresses him.
Through Om the Lord is met face to face.
It is proper to employ Om as a means for practicing worship of God.
When the yogi has understood the identity of Om and Brahman he attracts the grace of the supreme Lord through its japa and bhavanam. Bhavanam is setting the heart on the Lord who is designated by Om and brought into the mind by it. Yogis who are engaged in both japa and bhavanam attain one-pointedness of mind. After japa, which causes his mind to bow before the Lord, let him engage in bhavanam. When his mind becomes unwavering from bhavanam on the Lord, let him do japa of Om, for japa leads to bhavanam. When japa and bhavanam of Om come to perfection then the Supreme Lord (Parameshwara), the Supreme Self (Paramatman) who stands in the highest place shines forth for the yogi.
Om is the Name of the Supreme Lord” (Shankara, Commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
Salutations to Dakshinamurti, who is pure and calm, the embodiment of pure knowledge and who is attainable through the Syllable Om (Hymn to Dakshinamurti).
Dakshinamurti: A name for Lord Shiva as the silent teacher. Vedic Religion declares that in every cycle of creation God manifests as Dakshinamurti and becomes the guru of the first human beings–those who were most spiritually evolved in the previous creation–teaching them the path to liberation (moksha).
By means of Om we can align ourselves with him who is the true Guru of all sentient beings and receive his direct guidance.
Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri (Lahiri Mahasaya).
Om is radiant Light. When this Light is spread throughout the body, all is seen; then, there is no desire to speak and to look.
Om is pure Voidness.
Shunyata (voidness), is a technical term for the transcendent Parabrahman who is the No Thing (not to be confused with nothing). In the realm of Parabrahman all “thingness” is negated and only the Absolute exists resting in itself. It is pure Consciousness and pure Silence. Yet it is Om. It is essential for us to realize that the Silence is Om in its unmanifested (avyakta) form. Therefore Om is never transcended or “gone beyond,” for the Beyond is itself Om. Thus when in meditation we enter Silence, Om has not been gone beyond, nor has it “dropped away.” Rather, we are experiencing–we are actually in–the essential form of Om.
The sun is the form of Om.
That is, the sun itself is the radiant form of Om. The power emanating from the sun upon which all life is based is Om. The sun is the most immediate “physical” form of Om we can experience, for it is really solidified, or materialized, Om. As an iceberg is formed of water, so the sun is formed of Om.
The sun is Om to the Source.
To its (and our) very Source, the sun is Om. That is, the sun is “pure” Om. Nothing else. This sentence may also mean that the sun of Om reveals the Source (Brahman) as the external sun reveals all outer objects including itself. Or it may mean that Om illuminates the realm of Brahman and is the means by which Brahman “sees” the entire range of relative existence. Or it may mean that as in meditation we move along the subtle sound of Om to the Source, so by means of the sun we pass to God along the Path of No Return at the end of earthly life.
Animals are enchanted by music; if a man is not attracted by the sound of Om, then he is an ass.
Constant japa of the Pranava, Omkar, which is self-revealing, and constant focus on it as the form of Ishwara, and dedicating all actions to it as if you are not the doer yourself; is Kriya Yoga (Commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
Om is the flawless [pure] crystal Void (Purana Purusha, p. 224).
My [true] form is the formless Brahma Omkar (Purana Purusha, p. 224).
Om is the essence of all the Vedas and reveals the highest Truth. The method of concentration of mind through that Om is expounded for the sake of aspirants after liberation.
Om is the entire universe constituted by the three selves, Vishwa, Taijasa, and Prajna. This is so because there is no ultimate difference between the name and the named and also because the two are never cognized in mutual separation (Panchikarana Varttikam).
Vishwa=the Self in the waking state. Taijasa=the Self in the dream state. Prajna=the Self in the deep (dreamless) sleep state.
Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh
Patanjali insisted that a Yogi should have Om as his Mantra and he should meditate on its significance. Om is the name of the Atman. Om is Satchidananda. Om is omniscience, omnipotence, etc., light, joy and peace. Meditate on these ideas–then you will have Brahmic Consciousness. No doubt about it. Behind all names and forms, you will then perceive the Nameless and Formless Brahman (Inspiring Talks Of Gurudev Sivananda, by Swami Venkateshananda).
Om is everything. Om is the Name or symbol of God, Ishwara or Brahman. Om is your real Name. Om covers the whole threefold experience of man. Om stands for all the phenomenal worlds. From Om this sense-universe has been projected. The world exists in Om and dissolves in Om. “A” represents the physical plane. “U” represents the mental and astral plane, the world of intelligent spirits, all heavens. M” represents the whole deep sleep state, and all that is unknown even in your wakeful state, all that is beyond the reach of the intellect. Om represents all, Om is the basis of your life, thought and intelligence. Om is everything. All words which denote objects are centered in Om. Hence, the whole world has come from Om, rests in Om, and dissolves in Om.…it arouses and transforms every atom in his [the yogi’s] physical body, setting up new vibrations and conditions, and awakening the sleeping power of the body (Japa Yoga).
Pranava (Om) is a ferry-boat for men who have fallen into the never-ending ocean of mundane life. Many have crossed this ocean with the help of this ferry-boat. You can also do so if you meditate constantly on Om and live in the spirit of Om.
Om is the only symbol for that Immortal, All-pervading Self. Think of Om to the exclusion of everything. Repeat Om mentally” (Japa Yoga).
Association with Om is to become one with the thing signified. “Its japa and bhavanam is the way.” You have to take the symbol of Om as Satchidananda Brahman or Atman. This is the meaning.
Meditation on Om with bhavanam and meaning leads to realization of Brahma-Jnana. This is Jnana Yoga. Merging of the mind in Om leads to Nirvikalpa Samadhi.
You will realize your identity with the Supreme Self through Pranava Sadhana. May you meditate on Om and attain the goal of life, the ultimate Reality. May this Om guide you. May this Om be your center, ideal, and goal! (Japa Yoga).
A bija-akshara is a seed letter. It is a very powerful mantra. The greatest of all bija-aksharas is Om or Pranava, for it is the symbol of the Para-Brahman or the Paramatman himself. Om contains within itself all the other bija-aksharas. Om is the general ground or the common seed from which all the particular sounds or secondary seeds proceed. The letters of the alphabet are only emanations from Om which is the root of all sounds and letters.
There is no mantra superior to or greater than Om. Om, as it is pronounced ordinarily, is an outward gross form of the real subtle inaudible state of sound which is called the amatra or the immeasurable fourth transcendental state” (Japa Yoga).
As the various devatas are the aspects or forms of the One Supreme Being, so the various bija-aksharas or bija-mantras are so many aspects or forms of the Supreme Bija or Mantra, viz., Om. Even the letters a, u, and m do not really give the transcendental or original state of sound. Even this triliteral sound is only an expression or manifestation of the highest primal dhvani or vibration. The transcendental sound of Om is heard only by yogis and not by the ordinary ear (Japa Yoga).
Have the picture of Om in front of you. Concentrate gently on this picture with open eyes. Associate the ideas of eternity, infinity, immortality, etc., when you think of Om. The humming of bees, the sweet notes of the nightingale, the seven notes of the scale in music–all sounds are emanations of Om only. Om is the essence of the Vedas. Imagine that Om is the bow, the mind is the arrow and Brahman or God is the target. Aim at the target with great care and then, like the arrow becoming one with the target, you will become one with God. You can also recite Om while meditating.…He who chants and meditates upon this monosyllable (Om), meditates upon and chants all the scriptures of the world (Dhyana Yoga, p. 67).
Om is your best companion in life, because it gives you immortality and eternal bliss (Divine Nectar).
I sat alone on a block of stone
On the banks of the Ganges or Bhagirathi.
Mother Ganges blessed me.
I meditated on Om and its meaning–
The Word that is the symbol of Brahman.
The little personality was lost.
The mortal limit of the Self was loosened.
But there was infinite extension.
I entered into the Nameless beyond;
I realized the quintessential unity of bliss.
No words can describe the thrill of joy,
The magnanimous mystic experiences,
The supremest and divinest height of felicity!
The little “I” fused into the incandescent brilliance.
Two become one now
It was all Tejomaya Ananda–
One Mass of transcendental light Bliss.
(Vairagya Mala, section 61).
The Natha Yogis specialized in the worship of Om along with that of Shiva. To them, Om is the first sound, the most elementary sound, the one unproduced, undifferentiated natural sound, the most spontaneous self-expression of energy or power in audible form. Om is the Name of the Supreme. Every uttered sound is particular, produced from the strokes of the vocal organs, and broken into parts. But Om is an anahata-nada, a universal continuous sound behind all broken sounds. It is in the heart, and the search for it is the search for Brahman. The steady and drawn out repetition of Om is prescribed as an effective help in this search. According to the Natha Yogis, the heart, the seat of the anahata sound, is not located in any particular part of the body, but gradually shifts from lower yogic centers to the higher ones and ultimately to the sahasrara where union of Shakti with Shiva is attained. Om, again, has been identified with the three gunas–sattva, raja and tamas–which constitute the world. It is also regarded as the original bija-akshara, or syllable source (Mother Worship by Swami Swahananda, p. 46).
I. K. Taimni
Dr. I. K. Taimni had a doctorate in chemistry, but was also a profound student of physics–Western and Oriental. Beside this, he was the head of the worldwide Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society (Adyar), and as such was spiritual guide to many aspirants throughout the world. The following is taken from his excellent commentary on the Yoga Sutras, The Science of Yoga.
The result of japa and meditation on the Pranava is the gradual disappearance of the obstacles which lie in the path of the yogi. These obstacles are of various kinds–impurities and disharmonies in the vehicles, weaknesses of character, lack of development, etc. But Pranava, as we have seen, touches the very heart of our being, arouses in the microcosm vibrations which can bring out from it all the latent powers and faculties which lie sleeping there. So all obstacles, whatever their nature, yield to its dynamic stimulation. The deficiencies are made up by the growth of the corresponding faculties or the flow of additional power. The impurities are washed away. The disharmonies in the vehicles are smoothed out and the vehicles become attuned to one another and to the Supreme Consciousness of Ishwara. And so a complete regeneration of the individuality takes place, a regeneration which makes it fit to tread the path of Ashtanga Yoga or Ishwara Pranidhana.…
The seven Sutras from 1:23 to 1:29 form, in a way, a separate set giving the technique of the path of mysticism on which the aspirant goes direct to his goal without studying and mastering the intermediate planes which separate him from the object of his search. On this path self-surrender is the only weapon, and in using this weapon japa and meditation on the Pranava constitute the sole technique. The japa and meditation turn the consciousness of the aspirant right about in the direction of his goal, remove all the obstacles, and self-surrender does the rest.
Dr. Taimni also wrote Gayatri, a study of the Savitri Mantra, the ancient prayer for enlightenment recited daily by Hindus. Since Om is an essential part of that mantra, both beginning and ending it, he has this to say:
The purpose of [Om] as already pointed out is to arouse the spiritual powers which are latent in the heart of every human being and which can be changed from the potential to the active form by the potency inherent in sound. Every Jivatma is a microcosm which contains within itself in a potential form all the powers and faculties which function actively and in their fullness in Paramatma, the macrocosm, just as a seed contains within itself the tree in a potential form. Not only can all the powers and faculties which are functioning in Paramatma gradually find expression in the Jivatma through its evolution but as these powers appear progressively the consciousness which is manifesting through the Jivatma expands and becomes more and more one with the consciousness of Paramatma.
Pranava, Om, can hasten this process through the mantra shakti which is inherent in this particular combination of sounds. It is not an ordinary mantra with a limited objective and scope. Its power is the most comprehensive and fundamental among all the mantras. It affects the very heart of the Jivatma and the most important and fundamental relation existing in Nature, namely, the relation between the Jivatma and Paramatma. It is the vachaka of Ishwara as indicated in the well-known sutra: Tasya vachakah Pranavah (1:27).…Since Pranava is the vachaka of Ishwara the powers which can be aroused in the sadhaka and the expansion of his consciousness which can thereby take place are practically unlimited.
The whole of our religious literature is full of references to Pranava and its importance in the unfoldment of spiritual consciousness. In fact, practically the whole of the Mandukya Upanishad is a commentary on the nature of Pranava.
The goal of the universe is to realize oneness with the Om or One Existence (Jnana Yoga, section III).
Om is the greatest [mantra], meaning the Absolute (The Four Paths of Yoga).
The underlying reality of nature, soul, and God is Brahman; but it (Brahman) is unseen, until we bring it out. It may be brought out by Pramantha or friction, just as we can produce fire by friction. The body is the lower piece of wood, Om is the pointed piece and Dhyana (meditation) is the friction. When this is used, that light which is the knowledge of Brahman will burst forth in the soul (Inspired Talks, Sunday morning, July 7).
Japa is repeating the Holy Name; through this the devotee rises to the Infinite. This boat of sacrifice and ceremonies is very frail. We need more than that to know Brahman, which alone is freedom. Liberty is nothing more than destruction of ignorance, and that can only go when we know Brahman. It is not necessary to go through all these ceremonials to reach the meaning of the Vedanta. Repeating Om is enough (Inspired Talks, Monday, July 8).
Ishwara is the Atman as seen or grasped by mind. His highest name is Om; so repeat it, meditate on it, and think of all its wonderful nature and attributes. Repeating the Om continually is the only true worship. It is not a word, it is God himself (Inspired Talks, Sunday, July 21).
The more you practice [repetition of Om joined with the breath] the calmer you will be. Just think of ‘Om’ and you can practice even while you are sitting at your work. You will be all the better for it (Raja Yoga, Chapter Five).
The commentator says the manifesting word of God is Om. Why does he emphasize this word? There are hundreds of words for God. One thought is connected with a thousand words; the idea “God” is connected with hundreds of words, and each one stands as a symbol for God. Very good. But there must be a generalization among all these words, some substratum, some common ground of all these symbols, and that which is the common symbol will be the best, and will really represent them all.
In making a sound we use the larynx and the palate as a sounding board. Is there any material sound of which all other sounds must be manifestations, one which is the natural sound? Om (Aum) is such a sound, the basis of all sounds. The first letter, A, is the root sound, the key, pronounced without touching any part of the tongue or palate; M represents the last sound in the series, being produced by the closed lips, and the U rolls from the very root to the end of the sounding board of the mouth. Thus, Om represents the whole phenomena of sound-producing. As such, it must be the natural symbol, the matrix of all the various sounds. It denotes the whole range and possibility of all the words that can be made.
Apart from these speculations, we see that around this word Om are centered all the different religious ideas in India; all the various religious ideas of the Vedas have gathered themselves round this word Om. What has that to do with America and England, or any other country? Simply this, that the word has been retained at every stage of religious growth in India, and it has been manipulated to mean all the various ideas about God. Monists, dualists, mono-dualists, separatists, and even atheists took up this Om. Om has become the one symbol for the religious aspiration of the vast majority of human beings. Take, for instance, the English word God. It covers only a limited function, and if you go beyond it, you have to add adjectives, to make it Personal, or Impersonal, or Absolute God. So with the words for God in every other language; their signification is very small. This word Om, however, has around it all the various significances. As such it should be accepted by everyone (Raja Yoga, commentary on Yoga Sutra 1:27).
The first manifestation of the repetition and thinking of Om is that the introspective power will manifest more and more, all the mental and physical obstacles will begin to vanish (Raja Yoga, commentary on Yoga Sutra 1:29).
In the universe, Brahma or Hiranyagarbha or the cosmic Mahat first manifested himself as name, and then as form, i.e. as this universe. All this expressed sensible universe is the form, behind which stands the eternal inexpressible Sphota, the manifester as Logos or Word. This eternal Sphota, the essential eternal material of all ideas or names, is the power through which the Lord creates the universe; nay, the Lord first becomes conditioned as the Sphota, and then evolves himself out as the yet more concrete sensible universe. This Sphota has one word as its only possible symbol, and this is the Om. And as by no possible means of analysis can we separate the word from the idea, this Om and the eternal Sphota are inseparable; and therefore, it is out of this holiest of all holy words, the mother of all names and forms, the eternal Om, that the whole universe may be supposed to have been created.
But it may be said that, although thought and word are inseparable, yet as there may be various word-symbols for the same thought, it is not necessary that this particular word Om should be the word representative of the thought, out of which the universe has become manifested. To this objection we reply that this Om is the only possible symbol which covers the whole ground, and there is none other like it.
The Sphota is the material of all words, yet it is not any definite word in its fully formed state. That is to say, if all the peculiarities which distinguish one word from another be removed, then what remains will be the Sphota; therefore this Sphota is called the Nada-Brahman, the Sound-Brahman. Now, as every word-symbol intended to express the inexpressible Sphota, will so particularize it that it will no longer be the Sphota, that symbol which particularizes it the least and at the same time most approximately expresses its nature, will be the truest symbol thereof; and this is the Om, and the Om only; because these three letters AUM pronounced in combination as Om, may well be the generalized symbol of all possible sounds.
The letter A is the least differentiated of all sounds, therefore Krishna says in the Gita: ‘I am A among the letters.’ Again, all articulate sounds are produced in the space within the mouth beginning with the root of the tongue and ending in the lips–the throat sound is A, and M is the last lip sound, and the U exactly represents the rolling forward of the impulse which begins at the root of the tongue till it ends in the lips. If properly pronounced, this Om will represent the whole phenomenon of sound-production, and no other word can do this; and this, therefore, is the fittest symbol of the Sphota, which is the real meaning of the Om.
And as the symbol can never be separated from the thing signified, the Om and the Sphota are one. And as the Sphota, being the finer side of the manifested universe, is nearer to God, and is indeed that first manifestation of divine wisdom, this Om is truly symbolic of God (Bhakti Yoga, The Mantra: Om: Word and Wisdom).
Remember the saying of the Vedas: ‘Om, this is Brahman; Om, this is the greatest reality; he who knows the secret of this Om, whatever he desires that he gets.’ Ay, therefore first know the secret of this Om, that you are the Om… (The Vedanta).
There is this whole universe, and behind that is the name, what is called the ‘Word’ in all religions, and behind that is God. The universal thought is Mahat, as the Sankhyas call it, universal consciousness. What is that name?…According to the Hindus that word is Om. The old Egyptians also believed that. The Katha Upanishad says, ‘That, seeking which a man practices Brahmacharya, I will tell you in short what that is, that is Om.…This is Brahman, the Immutable One, and is the highest; knowing this Immutable One, whatever one desires one gets.’
This Om stands for the name of the whole universe, or God. Standing midway between the external world and God, it represents both (Addresses on Bhakti Yoga).
‘He whom the Vedas declare, he, to reach whom, we serve with prayer and sacrifice, Om is the sacred name of that indescribable One. This word is the holiest of all words. He who knows the secret of this word receives that which he desires.’ Take refuge in this word. whoso takes refuge in this word, to him the way opens (Notes of Class Talks and Lectures, Thoughts on the Vedas and Upanishads).
That which is manifested by the Pranava is the Lord (Ishwara) himself (Vyasa, Commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
Swadhyaya is repetition of the Pranava (Vyasa, Commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
When the yogi has recognized the power of Om to express its meaning, the Lord, he should undertake japa and bhavanam of it on the Lord who is signified by Om. When the yogi thus engages in japa and bhavanam of Om, his mind becomes one-pointed. So it has been said: After Om japa, let him set himself in yoga [bhavanam], after yoga, let him set himself to japa. When Om japa and bhavanam come to perfection the Supreme Self [Paramatman] shines forth (Vyasa, Commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
When you utter ‘Om’ it travels not only all around the earth but throughout all space and eternity (“The Baptism by the Holy Ghost,” East-West, June, 1932).
Yogananda wrote the following chant:
I am Om, I am Om;
Om, Om, I am Om.
Omnipresent, I am Om.
All-pervading, I am Om
All-blessed, I am Om.
The Word that is God chapters: