Tag Archives: Om

mandukya upanishad

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The theme of the Mandukya Upanishad is an exposition of the Mystic Syllable, Om, with a view to training the mind in meditation, for the purpose of achieving freedom, gradually, so that the individual soul is attuned to the Ultimate Reality.

The basis of this meditation is explained in the Vidya (meditation), known as the Vaisvanara Vidya. This is the secret of the knowledge of the Universal Being, designated as Vaisvanara. Its simple form of understanding is a transference of human attributes to the Divine Existence, and vice versa. In this meditation, one contemplates the Cosmos as one’s Body. Instead of one contemplating oneself as the individual body, one contemplates oneself as the Universal Body. Instead of the right eye, there is the sun. Instead of the left eye, there is the moon. Instead of the feet, there is the earth. Instead of the head, there is the heaven, and so on. The limbs of the Cosmic Person are identified with cosmic elements, and vice versa, so that there is nothing in the cosmos which does not form an organic part of the Body of the Virat, or Vaisvanara. When you see the vast world before you, you behold a part of your own Body. When you look at the sun, you behold your own eye. When you look above into the heavens, you are seeing your own head. When you see all people moving about, you behold the various parts of your own personality. The vast wind is your breath. All your actions are cosmic movements. Anything that moves, does so on account of your movement. Your breath is the Cosmic Vital Force. Your intelligence is the Cosmic Intelligence. Your existence is Cosmic Existence. Your happiness is Cosmic Bliss.

Though the Mandukya Upanishad gives certain symbolic instances of identification of limbs with the Cosmic Body, the meditator, in fact, can choose any symbol or symbols for such form of identification.

The Vidya has its origin, actually, in the Rig-Veda, in a famous Sukta, or hymn, called the Purusha-Sukta. The Purusha-Sukta of the Rig-Veda commences by saying that all the heads, all the eyes, and all the feet that we see in this world are the heads, eyes, and feet of the Virat-Purusha, or the Cosmic Being. With one head, the Virat nods in silence; with another face He smiles; with a third one, He frowns; in one form, He sits; in another form, He moves; in one form, He is near; in another form, He is distant. So, all the forms, whatever they be, and all the movements and actions, processes and relations, become parts of the Cosmic Body, with which the Consciousness should be identified simultaneously. When you think, you think all things at the same time in all the ten directions; nay, in every way.

Excerpt from the Introduction to the Mandukya Upanishad by Swami Krishnananda

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the unstruck sound

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Om Mane Padme Hum by Jalai Lama

Ancient teachings and modern science agree: you, I, all living things, all things in existence are made up at their most essential level of vibrating, pulsing energy.

For millennia, mystics have recounted their experience of this energy, which is said to manifest in our hearing awareness as a humming vibration around and within everything else.

In the Sanskrit tradition, this sound is called “Anahata Nada,” the “Unstruck Sound.” Literally, this means “the sound that is not made by two things striking together.” The point of this particular distinction is that all ordinary audible sounds are made by at least two elements: bow and string; drum and stick; two vocal cords; two lips against the mouthpiece of the trumpet; the double reed of the oboe; waves against the shore; wind against the leaves. All sounds within our range of hearing are created by things visible or invisible, striking each other or vibrating together, creating pulsing waves of air molecules which our ears and brain interpret as sound.

So, sound that is not made of two things striking together is the sound of primal energy, the sound of the universe itself.  Joseph Campbell likens this unstruck vibration to the humming of an electrical transformer, or the (to our ears) unheard hummings of atoms and molecules.

And the ancients say that the audible sound which most resembles this unstruck sound is the syllable OM. Tradition has it that this ancient mantra is composed of four elements: the first three are vocal sounds: AU, and M. The fourth sound, unheard, is the silence which begins and ends the audible sound, the silence which surrounds it.

The lovliest explanation of OM is found within the ancient Vedic and Sanskrit traditions. We can read about AUM in the marvelous Manduka Upanishad, which explains the four elements of AUM as an allegory of the four planes of consciousness.

“A” (pronounced “AH” as in “father”) resonates in the center of the mouth. It represents normal waking consciousness, in which subject and object exist as separate entities. This is the level of mechanics, science, logical reason, the lower three chakras. Matter exists on a gross level, is stable and slow to change.

Then the sound “U” (pronounced as in “who”) transfers the sense of vibration to the back of the mouth, and shifts the allegory to the level of dream consciousness. Here, object and subject become intertwined in awareness. Both are contained within us. Matter becomes subtle, more fluid, rapidly changing. This is the realm of dreams, divinities, imagination, the inner world.

“M” is the third element, humming with lips gently closed. This sound resonates forward in the mouth and buzzes throughout the head. (Try it.) This sound represents the realm of deep, dreamless sleep. There is neither observing subject nor observed object. All are one, and nothing. Only pure consciousness exists, unseen, pristine, latent, covered with darkness. This is the cosmic night, the interval between cycles of creation, the womb of the divine Mother.

It might be said that the ultimate aim of Yoga is to enter this third dreamless realm while awake. Yoga means “yoke” or “join.” Through yoga we “join” our waking consciousness to its “source” in the world of pure, qualitiless unconsciousness.

Which brings us to the fourth sound of AUM, the primal “unstruck” sound within the silence at the end of the sacred syllable. In fact, the word “silence” itself can be understood only in reference to “sound.” We hear this silence best when listening to sound, any sound at all, without interpreting or judging the sound. Listening fully, openly, without preconceptions or expectations. The sound of music, the sound of the city, the sound of the wind in the forest. All can give us the opportunity to follow the path of sound into the awareness of the sound behind the sound.

Excerpt from Article A-U-M Silence: The Ancient Sound of Om by David Gordon


yoga is om

Swami Sundaranand on the definition of yoga.

On mantra.

On pranayama.