Primordial Sound Meditation
A part of Dr Sahdev’s ‘Breathe and Heal’ Therapy (DSBH Therapy)
AUM and Primordial Vibration
OM or AUM is the most important and significant Mantra. It is considered as the root mantra of all mantras. In fact, all mantras start with OM. OM is the most often chanted sound among all the sacred sounds on earth. The one mantra you start your yoga class with and end with, is the mantra OM or AUM. It is the most important mantra of Yoga. This mantra has been handed down to us by sages; Maharishi Vishwamitra discovered this sound during meditation.
It is believed traditionally that every ‘thing’ that we see or feel, comes from Primordial Vibration, which is symbolised by AUM. This sound is considered as the sound of the existence. It is believed that the whole universe, in its most fundamental form, is made up of vibrating, pulsating energy. Vibration produces sound and AUM is considered the humming sound of this cosmic energy. AUM is said to be the primordial creative sound from which the entire universe has manifested. It is also known as the ‘Anahat Nada‘, the “Unstruck Sound“, meaning, the sound that is not made by striking of two things together. If you observe the nature of sound you’ll find that all ordinary audible sounds are produced by the striking of two objects. All sounds within our range of listening are produces by things visible or invisible, striking each other or vibrating together, resulting in pulsating waves of air molecules which we interpret as sound.
In contrast to this, AUM is the sound which is not the result of the striking of two objects. It rather emanates on its own. It is the primal sound of the universe that contains all sounds in itself. All material objects, all living beings, including each of us, all spiritual teachings, including Yoga, all languages, including Vedic language, all scriptures, including the Vedas, everything has emanated from this primordial vibration!
Human system is capable of producing only three fundamental sounds – A, U and M. All other sounds are produced by permutation and combination of these three sounds. AUM is the marriage of these three fundamental sounds – A, U and M. Let’s do an experiment: Keep your tongue still – hold it with your hand. Then try producing different sounds. You’ll be able to produce only three sounds – A, U and M. Tongue is that ingenious instrument, with the help of other parts of oral cavity, which helps you produce all different types of sounds. That is why these three are called the root sounds.
Let’s do another experiment: sit down straight and chant A…, U…, and M… one by one. Do you feel any vibration anywhere when you chant them separately? A vibrates Manipura chakra (lower abdomen) to chest, U vibrates upper chest to throat, and M vibrates the whole head. This one sound AUM vibrates your whole body from inside! There are 72,000 nadis in the body and they meet 3/4th of an inch below naval. The sound of AUM produces vibration in this Manipura chakra. Each one of these sounds activates certain nadis and produces effect in certain dimension of your energy system. Vibration produces sound and sound produces creation…! Sound can create, maintain or annihilate.
Science tells us that all matter is formed of molecules, which are further made up of the smallest indivisible particles called atoms. Atoms are further made up of sub-atomic particles – electrons, neutrons, protons, pi-ons, mesons etc. Each one of these sub-atomic structures is particulate as well as wave in nature. Each sub-atomic particle is further divisible into quarks which are only wave in nature, a form of energy. So, all of us are, in the true essence, made up of energy. We are just condensed energy forms! Einstein formulated his famous equation that E = mc², where E stands for energy, m stands for mass, and c is a constant. So, this equation shows that energy is directly proportional to the mass, meaning that mass cannot be destroyed or created; it can just change from one form into another. OM or AUM symbolises that everything in any macrocosm or microcosm, is a state of energy originated from that primordial vibration.
But unlike all other mantra, there is no meaning of OM. It is actually not a word, it is a sound. As per Hindu tradition, OM is the purest name of God. It is the sound of the supreme consciousness. So when you repeat OM, you actually take the name of God. Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati was founder of the ‘Arya Samaj’. He used to write ‘ Ao3m
' instead of 'Aom ‘. The ‘3 ‘ (Devanagari digit 3) between O and M is called ‘ploot’. Swami Dayanand used ‘ploot’ to emphasize long pronunciation of ‘O’. Only followers of Swami Dayanand Saraswati (members of ‘Arya Samaj’) write ‘ Ao3m
' instead of 'ॐ'. The syllable that is prior to a ploot is pronounced for a longer time/period (more than double). So ' Ao3m ‘ is to be pronounced as OOOm (o…m).
Om in Sanatan Dharma. Sanatan means old. Indian mystical and philosophical thinking is impregnated with Om, mentioned widely n the Upanishads, Tantras, Puranas, Samkhyas and Yoga Vashishta. It symbolises the essence of Sanatan Dharma (the Eternal Way), commonly known as Hinduism – the tolerant and profound conglomeration of spiritual thinking and practice from which Yoga has come. Om is widely known as the ‘Mahat Mantra’ – ‘the great mantra’. Om is not directly mentioned in Rig Veda, probably because it was considered too sacred to utter or even write down. Om is first mentioned, albeit indirectly, in the Yajur Veda in verse 1:1 where it is known as the ‘pranava’ – ‘the humming sound’- or ‘udgitha’ – ‘the elevating chant’. Interestingly, no graphic representation of Om has yet been found in the extensive excavations of the so called Indus Valley civilization (circa 3000 BC, though probably much older). The reason may be either that Om was considered too sacred to be graphically represented, or that it had not yet been realised and brought into mainstream spiritual practice. The oldest direct references and descriptions of Om are to be found in the Upanishads which are considered to contain the essential teachings of the Vedas.
Om in the Mandukya Upanishad. The Mandukya Upanishad is the shortest of the Upanishads – the scriptures of Hindu Vedanta. It is in prose, consisting of twelve verses expounding the mystic syllable Aum, the three psychological states of waking, dreaming and sleeping, and the transcendent fourth state of illumination (Atyanta shunyata). This Upanishad has been greatly extolled. Muktikopanishad, says that the Mandukya Upanishad alone is enough for salvation. According to Dr Radhakrishnan, it contains the fundamental approach to reality.
The Mandukya Upanishad is exclusively dedicated to explaining the significance of Om. It says that Om symbolises everything manifest and yet it has its origin in the Unmanifest. In its analysis it writes Om as Aum with each of the three syllables having specific significance.
There are three mātrās (“letters”, syllabic instants in prosody) in the word aum: ‘a’, ‘u’ and ‘m’.
The ‘a’ stands for the state of wakefulness, where we experience externally through our mind and sense organs. The ‘u’ stands for the dream state, in which inward experiences are available. In the state of deep sleep, represented by the sound ‘m’, there is no desire and consciousness is gathered in upon itself.
But there is a fourth, transcendent state, that of one “who is neither inwardly nor outwardly aware, nor both inward and outward, nor with consciousness infolded on itself, who is unseen and ineffable, ungraspable, featureless, unthinkable and unnameable.” The fourth state (turīya avasthā) corresponds to silence as the other three correspond to AUM. It is the substratum of the other three states. It is referred to as atyanta-shunyata (absolute emptiness).
Om in Indian Classical Music.
The phonemes of the Vedic hymns and the seven fundamental nodes – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni of the Indian classical music have originated (distinctly recognized by the Rishis) from the vibrations of the sublime sound of Om in the Nature. The Vedic quote – ‘Ekoham Bahusyami’ implies that all the sounds, all the energies, all the motions and everything existing in the universe have originated from the vibrations of this single anahata nada. This is the source of the manifestation of the Shabda-Brahm and the Nada Brahm.
Om in the Bhagavad Gita. Om is widely mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita where the mantra Om is an essential part of its teachings and practice. Krishna tells Arjuna:
‘O Arjuna, I am the taste of pure water, and the light of the moon and the sun.
I am the essential nature of the mantra Om mentioned in the holy scriptures,
the sound in ether, as well as the courage and virility of human beings.’
Krishna, who symbolises underlying Intelligence or Consciousness, is the essence of Om. Om, as sound vibration, is an expression of this underlying Consciousness. Therefore, by practising Mantra or Gyana Yoga (or even Bhakti Yoga) we can trace Om back to its source. In this way, we are enabled to realise the nature of Consciousness.
Krishna talks of death and the importance of chanting Om at the time of death:
‘The mantra Om symbolises Reality. At the time of death, repeat Om and you will go forth from the body and attain the Supreme Goal.’
From the Yogic viewpoint, death is not just the time of disintegration of the physical body, but also a golden opportunity of directly realising our Immortal or Deathless Essence. Chanting Om at the point of death can be a valuable part of this process.
Krishna also says that all spiritual practices should be initiated with Om:
‘Before starting sacrifices, holy practices and austerities (as prescribed by the scriptures), serious spiritual seekers should chant Om.’
Indeed, this is what we often do before starting Yoga practice or Meditation – we chant Om a few time, either aloud or mentally, whether alone or in a group. Try it! It works wonders.
Symbolism of the Syllables of Aum. A, U and M, both as syllables and as sounds, as well as the silence after chanting Aum, symbolise a number of different things as follows:
Aum can be chanted by feeling the resonance of ‘A’ in the abdomen, then allowing the ‘U’ to resonate in the chest and finally, feeling the ‘M’ vibration in the head.
A = abdomen
U = chest/throat
M = head
After the sound of Aum there is silence; this symbolises that which is ‘above’ the head (i.e. beyond thinking), the ineffable: Spirit, or Consciousness.
According to the Mandukya Upanishad, the syllables of Aum represent the following realms of experience:
A = jagrat (waking state)
U = swapna (dreaming state)
M = sushupti (deep sleep state)
After chanting Aum there is silence; this symbolises the spiritually awakened state, which transcends the previous three states.
The three syllables of Aum symbolise the three levels of mind as follows:
A = conscious
U = subconscious
M = unconscious
After chanting Aum there is silence; this represents the Super-consciousness state which transcends the previous three states.
According to Yoga, Tantra, Samkhya and Vedanta, the whole of nature, including the human mind and body, is made up of the three gunas (Sanskrit, ‘guna’, qualities):
- sattwa (harmony, clarity and light);
- rajas (passion and dynamism); and
- tamas (ignorance, darkness and inertia).
The three syllables of Aum symbolise these three gunas as follows:
A = tamas
U = rajas
M = sattwa
After chanting Aum there is silence; this symbolises the state of trigunatita (Sanskrit, tri, three; atita, beyond) – that which transcends the three gunas, i.e. Pure Consciousness.
The three syllables of AUM symbolise the three principles of existence symbolised by Brahma, the creative; Vishnu, the sustaining; and Shiva, the destructive:
A = Brahma
U = Vishnu
M = Shiva
After chanting Aum there is silence; this symbolises underlying Reality which is the substratum behind, and beyond, creation (Brahma), sustenance (Vishnu) and destruction (Shiva).
The three syllables of AUM symbolise the three realms of time: past, present and future:
A = Present
U = Past
M = Future
After chanting Aum there is silence; this symbolises underlying Reality which underlies and yet is beyond past, present and future; the Timeless out of which time emerges.
Beyond Aum-the Transcendental. According to the Mandukya Upanishad, the Transcendental State is called turiya (Sanskrit, the fourth) – that which is beyond and yet encompasses the three states symbolised by A, U and M. Hence, in order to discourage us from putting a concept on something which is beyond concept, it is simply and succinctly called ‘the fourth.’
Turiya can be symbolised as follows:
The circle symbolises Turiya, underlying Reality. It includes jagrat, the conscious waking state (A); it includes swapna, the dream, or subconscious state (U); and it includes and yet is beyond shushupti, the causal, unconscious state (M). Though not necessarily visible to eyes, the first three states exist in, and are part of, the manifest universe.
Turiya includes all of these three states or levels of manifest reality, and yet it is beyond them. It encompasses them and yet transcends them.
It is the unseen substratum which can only be realised when our mind dissolves into Consciousness – when, to use an expression attributed to the sage Ramakrishna, the ‘salt doll dissolves in the ocean.’
Plunging through the Centre of Infinity. There is a well-known and ancient hermetic statement:
‘Reality is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is no-where.’
There are many levels of interpretation, one of which was pointed out by Giordano Bruno. He said that whereas finite space, no matter how large it is, can have only one centre, infinite space has its centre everywhere. Mathematically, infinite space has an infinite number of centres.
One hundred years later, Leibnitz, the German mathematician, inspired by Bruno’s thinking, tried to explain the same thing with his theory of the Monad (‘monas’ is ancient Greek for ‘unit.’). Leibnitz described each centre of infinity as a ‘monad.’
Each single monad contains the reflection of the entire universe – which is in agreement with modern Quantum theory as well as many mystical systems including Yoga and Tantra.
The Hua Yen (or Kegon) School of Chinese Buddhism has tried to explain this even further with the image of Indra’s Jewel Net where there are an infinite number of jewels in each of which is reflected all the other jewels together. Also, each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel also reflects all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process going on. This gives an idea of infinitely repeated interrelationship among everything in the universe.
In Yoga, each centre of infinity is called bindu. Each monad, each particle of existence, is impregnated with energy and Consciousness. Each bindu is in intimate contact with every other bindu. Each bindu shares with the Totality and the Totality shares with each bindu. The Primordial Vibration, symbolized by Om, resonates through each of these infinite number of centres. By chanting Om (or any other mantra), we move from a state of extroversion and dissipation to a more introspective, harmonious state.
Centring ourselves in Meditation, we are able to ‘touch’ the bindu (the Transcendental Point, symbolised by the dot in the top of the Om symbol Å). Plunging through this Bindu (which exists everywhere), we can realise the nature of Reality.
The Bindu of the Human Personality. Each and every embodied being is an expression of Shiva (Consciousness; underlying Reality) acting through the medium of Shakti (Energy; the Quantum Vacuum). As we have already said, each bindu (particle) of existence acts as a conduit for the flow of creative energy represented by the raif.
But the bindu of the human personality is known as the Anandamaya Kosha, the Blissful Sheath or Causal Body. This is the nucleus of our existence as an embodied being. In Meditation, we are in contact with this level of our being, and we can be catapulted into osmotic contact and realisation of underlying Consciousness. As Eckhart, the medieval German mystic, said:
“The eye with which I see God is the same as that with which He sees me.”
That is, Reality ‘sees’ us (i.e. is in constant and intimate contact with us) through the bindu, but we can also reciprocate by ‘tuning’ into Reality through the bindu (by ‘seeing’ through the same ‘eye’). The bindu, here the Anandamaya Kosha, allows us to realise Reality. Or, more correctly, we should say that the bindu is the point through which the Cosmic Consciousness realises itself through the individual consciousness.
When we chant Om we focus on the resonance which is the raif. Our being gets absorbed in this vibration and this has the power to lead us back, via the bindu, to realise the underlying nature or Consciousness which is beyond the bindu.
All this is indicated by the symbol of Å: it is a symbol of the process of manifestation or creation, the means by which we exist as embodied beings. But, at the same time, Aum also symbolises the process of return, where through practice (Sanskrit, sadhana) we can realise our essential Roots.
The Analogy of the Lotus. The lotus flower is an archetypal symbol of the evolutionary potential and development of each human being.
The lotus has three stages of growth and can be related to A-U-M as follows:
The roots that sink deep in the mud correspond to ‘A’; the stem, as it grows through the water, corresponds to ‘U’; and the bud and the flower above the water facing the Sun is ‘M’. We are born in the womb, the matrix of matter (the roots in the mud); we grow up, developing the intellect, learning about our emotions and the ways of the world (the stem in the water of life); finally, we can blossom like the beautiful lotus flower when we realise our eternal connection with Spirit (our petals unfurl in the Sun).
Put in other terms, we can say that the lotus symbolises our growth in life as we pass through the three gunas: where we start in the mud of tamas (ignorance; identification with our physical form), pass through the waters of rajas (emotions, passion, ambition and furious activity) and finally, through refinement of our understanding (perhaps having practised Yoga or some related system), we arrive in the fresh air and clear sky of sattwa (harmony, joy and clarity). Then we are enabled to realise the Reality (the sun) which far transcends our individuality (symbolised by the lotus).
A-U-M and the lotus symbolise this whole process to supreme fulfilment of our lives.
From the Circle to the Point. During chanting, the sound of Om starts with a circle and ends with a point. During pronunciation, the lips are slightly apart with ‘A’, slowly starting to close with ‘U’ until they are completely closed with ‘M’.
There is, at first, expansion outwards and then contraction inwards. Try it for yourself.
This indicates the path of Yoga: starting from a more or less (mentally and emotionally) dissipated state (represented by the circle), where we search for meaning externally, in the world at large, we start Yoga and progressively move to a more unified state where we are centred in Being (represented by the point). Every time we chant Om we are symbolising the path towards Unity.
Om in other Mantras. Om is an integral part of most other mantras used in Yoga (Om Namah Shivaya, Gayatri Mantra, Mrityunjaya Mantra etc.). Om precedes other mantras since it symbolises Consciousness and without Consciousness, nothing can exist. Without the presence of underlying Intelligence, the mantra has no value and no power to transform; indeed it cannot even exist! Om is the very core, the bed-rock, of all sounds and all other mantras. Without that which is symbolised by Om nothing can exist, including each of us.
Om takes us Home. Our essential nature, our original home, is Consciousness. H-O-M-E is composed of OM encompassed by HE; Therefore, OM is the essence of HE (Underlying Intelligence). Chanting Om helps us to realise the roots of our Being, and in the deepest sense takes us homeward.
- The vibration of God.
- Truth, the Absolute.
- The ‘hum’ of the universe.
- Liberation and the means to it.
Om Symbolises and Encourages:
- The descent of Universality into the human heart.
- The descent of the Infinite into the finite.
- The expression of the Unconditioned into the conditioned.
- The descent of the Formless into form.
How to chant AUM
AUM can be chanted slowly or quickly. Each method is as good as the other and you must experiment yourself to find out your own preference.
Benefits of chanting AUM
- AUM, pronounced correctly, arouses and transforms every atom in the physical body, setting up new vibrations and conditions, and awakening the sleeping power of the body.
- The chanting of AUM drives away all worldly thoughts and removes distractions.
- If you are depressed, chant AUM for 10 minutes, you will be filled with new vigour and strength.
- Chanting of AUM gives energy.
- Continuous practice of AUM helps in improving the brain capacity and memory. Our capacity to grasp any knowledge increases. Our mind becomes more active and we are able to take decisions quickly. Chanting of AUM stimulates sleeping brain centres.
- Just 5 minutes of AUM chanting gives calmness and relaxation to our body and mind. Chanting of AUM improves confidence level and prepares us to face the adverse circumstances of life.
- AUM removes nervousness and fears from the mind.
- Chanting of AUM before bed gives sound sleep. The problems of Insomnia and scary dreams are addressed by AUM chanting.
The Science behind Pranav Jaap, or Udgitha, or Primordial Sound Meditation, or AUM Chanting
How to do Pranav Jaap or Primordial Sound Meditation
Open this presentation and follow instructions. There is a practice-along video inside.
The chanting of Om and reflection on its meaning helps to bring about a transformation in our perception so that we can start to realise the meaning of the above.
► OM – AUM – AMEN – AMIN – OGHAM…….
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