INTRO / ON BRAHMACHARYA / THE ESSENCE OF YOGA | THE PROBLEM | ON PREPARATION | ON MEDITATION | ON INNER DIVINE LIGHT | ON AUM | ON THE 4TH PRANAYAMA | ON SAMADHI
The Yoga-Sutras On Aum
When the "fourth kind" of pranayama of Verse 2:51 is practiced, the sound of God cited in Verses 1:27 and 1:28 is heard. Now the religious person has the best of all meditation techniques before him. This will be an extended commentary on the pranava, Aum, and the Sutra verses touching it. These verses have been poorly interpreted thus far in all English commentaries that I have seen. (Though I have no doubt that different commentaries do exist, whether in English or not.)
Pranayama is one of the yogic techniques that gradually uncovers the pranava, Aum. When Aum is heard, dharana becomes easy because Aum is all satisfying, all-attractive, and all-absorbing far beyond the crass and absurd world. Once this reality of Aum as an inner, heard divine sound of God is understood, the Sutra verses bearing on it will yield to you their wealth..
In the above section the Sutra states that the mind can be made still by "Special devotion to the Lord." That is, by bhakti. Then it briefly but beautifully discusses the Lord God, which the yoga tradition calls "Isvara." It says that our true Father is a particular individuality just as we are, that He is free of karmas and has never suffered. (Thus we come into his suffering-free nature by bhakti.) Then it states that his designator or indicator is Aum. I will now turn to the translations of other authors for the security and insight of the religious reader.
evidence is the Pranava, Aum.
important Yoga-Sutra verse is commonly misunderstood and
explained. This comes after the Sutra introduces God as a "particular
purusha" untouched by suffering and karma, and uses the name Isvara.
I rendered it as: "His
evidence is the Pranava, Aum." Let's look at five of the
best English versions of the verse:
"His designator is Om."
Verse 1:27, I.K. Taimni, "The Science of Yoga"
"The Sacred Word Designating
is Pranava Or The Mystic Syllable OM."
Hariharananda Aranya, "The Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali"
"Of him, the expression is pranava (OM)."
Trevor Leggett, "Sankara on the Yoga Sutras"
"The Sacred word connotes Him."
Rama Prasada, "Patanjali's Yoga Sutras"
"His indicator is the "word of glory.
M.N. Dvivedi, "The Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali"
From Dvivedi's Commentary:
"The 'word of
glory' is the
literally means that which glorifies well."
The above translations all spell the word "Om" instead of "Aum." The word is more proper and conveys more information spelled A-U-M. But more on that later. This Sutra verse, like most of them, is deliberately brief and minimalist. As stated, the Yoga-Sutra is an advanced text. It talks about rarefied things that most will never even know in this life, yet does not explain much. At this time, the real meaning of this verse can be brought out.
Notice the use of the words "designator" (twice),"connotes" and "indicator" as they translate the Sanskrit. None use the simple phrase "Aum is the word for God" or "Om means God." And yet most commentators proceed as if that is what the verse said.
The verse really means that when the yogi encounters Aum, he can know that is God. It is like saying: "The sign that you are near the sea is the smelling of moist, salty air." Or "The indicator that you are near the edge of the forest is the appearance of Chokecherry flowers." His designator is Aum.
Sutra verse 1:27 really means that the heard inner Aum is the sign, indicator, or evidence of God.
translation gets us closer by retaining the term"pranava"
instead of Om, which is the actual word used in the Sanskrit. Pranava
has two usages: First, it specifies the inner
heard Aum. Second, it's a fancy term for the
word Aum. Most yogis
when speaking of the inner,
heard Aum use the term pranava
which means "unstruck sound" or sound with no
material cause. Pranava
is a form of nada
subtle sound. Pranava
is the great nada.
The Leggett verse was: "Of him the expression is pranava." The aspirant and religious person seeking God through yoga (meditation) can then rephrase this to "God expresses as Aum." God shows, presents, or manifests as Aum.
Truly, this Yoga-Sutra verse,
like most of them loaded with condensed
meaning,refers to God experienced within by the
the inner divine sound of Aum.
is the true and central import and thrust of Yoga-Sutra verse
or renderings to transmit its real meaning would then look like this:
-- "The heard Aum is the sign, indicator,evidence, or manifestation -- of God."
-- "The Lord
presents as Aum."
-- "The Lord presents Himself
to the bhakta and yogi as Aum."
"The Lord expresses Himself as Aum."
-- "The bhakta and yogi know
and experience God as Aum."
-- "The Lord manifests to the
yogi as Aum."
-- "The Lord is known as Aum, and known by Aum, and truly known in the form of Aum." (Truly known and experienced, not merely referred to.)
-- "God's indicator is Aum."
I have hopefully made this clear for the loyal people.
Further adducement of this is
easily found in the Upanishads. Aum is
spoken of as a goal to be attained. Here Yama the God of Death says to
"I tell you
briefly of that goal
which all the Vedas with one voice propound, which all the austerities
speak of, and wishing for which people practice Brahmacharya: it is
this, viz Om."
First Katha 2:15, "Eight
The conscientious and careful translator Max Muller put the verse this way:
"Yama said: That word (or place) which all the Vedas record, which all penances proclaim, which men desire when they live as religious students, that word I tell thee briefly, it is Om."
2:15, "The Upanishads," F. Max Muller
Obviously one can ask,
why a man would
"desire" Om if it has already been freely given; if he already has it
(like everybody from New York to Berkeley knows the word) and
may meditate on it at any time? The "desire" referred to by Yama is the
desire to know the real
Muller's phrase "which all penances proclaim" is delightful. It is those who practice penances who proclaim -- testify -- to this Aum. "Penances proclaim" contains a 2nd pretty angle: Penances reveal it. The purpose of "penances" or asceticism (fasting, silence, meditation, long posture) is to break the connection between the mind and the body and attenuate the distractions that bodily discomforts and cravings create in the mind. Yogananda said that hearing of the pranava requires the whittling down of "body consciousness." These connections are all clearly seen in the beautiful verse above.
Do notice that chastity (brahmacharya) is required to hear it. Without being chaste the creative power that is Aum has nothing, in the devotee, with which to interact. Nothing to catch hold of, nothing like Itself. When a match is struck along a friction strip, fire is created because the two are like one another. Both contain grit or resistance. If there is no grit on the friction strip, the match has nothing to interact with and nothing of itself to catch, so the match doesn't light. Moreover, the religious person (yogi) cannot cope with Aum unless he has been continent. When a man becomes replete with the creative power within through chastity (except for producing a family), then he is a finally a prospective match for the great Creative Power or Aum. He can then interact; God has something real to interact with.
Now, there is a whole sequence of Upanishad verses in which the character Yama, the God of death, speaks about Aum. Each verse is illuminating and supports the case. Comes the next verse following that above:
"This is the best support, this is the highest support; he who knows that support is magnified in the world of Brahma."
First Katha 2:16, "The Upanishads," F. Max Muller
Nikhilananda, Radhakrishnan, and R.E. Hume all use "support" here like Muller. Radhakrishnan's rendering of the Upanishad is: "This support is the best of all." Again, if the extent of Aum is known simply by being given the word, and all with a passing interest in these texts have heard of the word Om, why does the verse speak of "he who knows" it; and "knowing" it gives such superlative results? S. Radhakrishnan's version of the verse states more explicit and astounding results for those who "know" Aum:
"...knowing this very syllable, whatever anyone desires will, indeed, be his."
2:16, "The Principal Upanishads," S. Radhakrishnan
Not a rather vague 'magnification in the world of Brahma,' but total wish-fulfillment is the result of knowing the Word according to this cosmopolitan Indian translator who respected the text. Now, is it the experience of those who use Om as a mantra that they get whatever they desire? No. Yet the verse is true. "Knowing" Om in these verses does not refer to simply being told the word or using it as a mantra. It refers to those who come into the pranava and absorb themselves in it.
Gambhirananda in this verse refers to Aum as a "medium," which is an evocative concept in addition. The word they translate is alambra. An alambra is something that the mind holds onto as a meditation object. An alambra can be a mantra, and also the heard pranava.
Here I have to mention one of the incidents in which the vaunted commentator Sankara makes a mess of the Upanishads. Immediately after the rishi, writer of the Upanishad, has lauded Om as the "best" meditation object and said other superlative things about it, Sankara contradicts the Upanishad, insults Aum, and insults Saguna Brahman. He stupidly clucks:
"For those aspirants of medium and inferior quality, Om has been indicated both as a medium (for meditation on), and a symbol (for worship) of, the Self which is devoid of all attributes and which was inquired about...and It has also been presented similarly, for similar aspirants, who wish to know the inferior Brahman."
Sankara's commentary on Verse 2:17, Ghambhirananda trans.
So even though Yama, the God of Death just said this...
"I tell you briefly of that goal which all the Vedas with one voice propound, which all the austerities speak of, and wishing for which people practice Brahmacharya: it is this, viz Om"...
...Sankara has no use for it.
For Sankara, there is nothing worth talking about other than his "viewpoint yoga" in which one convinces himself that nothing has been created. According to him, Aum is just a mantra, a "symbol." This understanding of Aum is no better than what you'd expect from a young woman moonlighting as a W.A.B.Y. practioner upon cornering her with questions in her Yoga Studio. Further, this thing that the Upanishads call the best meditation vehicle, and is synonymous with Purusha, is only for devotees of "medium and inferior quality." Not something for big thinkers like him. A brief detour to comment on Sankara's occasional rubbish commentaries...
This is one more case in which Sankara's commentary has three execrable traits: 1) He either fails to comprehend or ignores all yogic and esoteric content of a verse; he is seeing Om as a mere word and mantra with not even a glancing reference to inner heard Aum, and 2) He attempts to trash Saguna Brahman (the knowable God with attributes, Isvara, God, etc.), which is a bad habit of his, and 3) He hoists his path of ratiocination and analysis up above over all other paths, this notwithstanding the same Upanishad's very statements the Self cannot be known by "much study" or "through the intellect." (2:23)
As a commentator Sankara's purpose is ostensibly to bring meaning out of these verses, so rich in yogic significance. He continually fails, only wishing to direct the reader to his Non-Dualistic viewpoint. Truly, I have no idea why Sankara is so often allowed to lie on top of, flop all over, straddle, and befuddle beautiful and pregnant yogic verses in so many publications with his fluff-filled parsing exercises, as if the Sankara commentary is somehow essential to the Upanishads; and as if the man was somehow qualified to comment on the vast panoply of Indian scriptures. My impression is that he was no accomplished yogi. If he had been, he would have commented on these verses differently or at least made allusions to their true subject. In no instance have I ever heard Sankara make even allusions to Aum as inner heard sound (pranava) even when verses are clearly referring to that. Similarly, he fails to picks up on verses that are clearly about bindu; inner light. (This will be brought out in discussion of Sutra 1:36 in the section on Meditation Objects.) In the present book I will point up other instances of Sankara "fails." Could it be that Sankara was not a continent man? Some of his shifty and ambivalent commentaries on scriptural chastity references seem to imply this.
In Sankara's commentary above he sniffs that Aum, which he does not understand in the first place, is useful for those who merely wish to know the "inferior Brahman." (The Lord God, Creator of the Universe.) The idea is that Sankara is exclusively interested in Nirguna Brahman, usually termed simply "Brahman." Nirguna Brahman is usually styled as "pure consciousness" by Sankara and others. He loves to say that It has no attributes. Yet he regularly must pilfer attributes like bliss, or light to dress up his Brahman. He handles this by saying that bliss (ananda) is not really an "attribute," but the very nature of Brahman. That's all fine, but bliss belongs, in truth, to both Saguna and Nirguna Brahman; not Nirguna only. My goodness, I have even seen human beings and embodied gurus having bliss! And light. Must we think that the Lord, Isvara, is not full of bliss and consciousness? But I digress.
Suffice it to say that Sankara had a tendency to discredit Saguna Brahman, while taking even verses that reference Saguna Brahman and retooling them to refer to Nirguna. So, above the bloodless Sankara says that Aum is only for inferior aspirants and slackers who want to know the blissful and omnipotent Father of the Universe. Fine. Yet here is how Gambhirananda translates 1st Katha 2:15:
"This letter (Om), indeed, is the (inferior) Brahman (Hiranyagarbha); and this letter is, indeed, the supreme Brahman. Anybody, who, (while) meditating on this letter, wants any of the two, to him comes that."
First Katha 2:16, "Eight Upanishads," Gambhirananda
So the pranava puts the devotee into touch with both -- the Lord God Isvara or Brahma, and the Unmanifest Absolute, or Atman. So I guess Sankara missed out on some things along his path.
"Inferior Brahman" refers to Saguna Brahman, God with form and attributes, Isvara, Brahma, etc. (His first manifestation in the relative universe is called Hiranyagarbha). The translator Gambhirananda does not mean to speak disrespectfully. "Inferior" here has a technical purpose. I don't credit Sankara with the same attitude. "Supreme Brahman" refers to the unmanifest absolute sometimes called Pure Consciousness. In practice, the yogi will hear Aum for some time, whether years or incarnations; then in the nirvikalpa state, should he wish to abide in it, that is a soundless state. It should be noted that Aum is blissful in a savikalpa way; that is, it is the rich and sweet dualistic bliss human beings crave.
Many of Sankara's writings seem
like a presentation of existing yogic
ideas as a kind of librarian; not that he necessarily experienced much of what he wrote about. What was it that Sankara experienced, beyond a
"point of view on the world" arrived at by analysis?
I also disagree with Sankara's devaluation of family and a father's duty to family, and creating a gulf and dichotomy between the total monastic life and the spiritual possibilities for the householder. I discuss this elsewhere. Could it be that Sankara did not experience the "transcendental perceptions" discussed by the Yoga-Sutra because he wasn't really continent? In one verse he defined celibacy as "lack of sexual relation" which is a misstatement. Could it be that he had too-sophisticated private notions about what brahmacharya was and wasn't? I have found many of his responses to scriptural cites on celibacy to be weak or dissembling. It would explain a lot. There is no question that his Non-Dualistic philosophy is a great contribution to religious knowledge and that he was one of the world's greatest minds. But I see much of Sankara's commentary can be questioned or criticized by devout raja-yogis.
glorious and glorifying
The M.N. Dvivedi translation of the Yoga-Sutra, critiqued above, has at least a great familiarity with yogic tradition. He quotes that lore which calls pranava"the word of glory"and "that which glorifies well."
One of the impressions the religious person will have of the inner aum is that it is glorious. It is blissful and glorious. How many sense glory simply by seeing the printed word Aum? Or hearing it or saying it? Thus pranava properly refers to the inner divine glorious sound.
Our Christian ancestors, actual bhaktas as they worshiped in church, often used the word "glory" to refer to the blissful feeling of worship or bhakti. That bliss or ananda, which they called "glory" in their hymns, is God himself. The only reason they thought to speak so often of "glory" is because they experienced God's glory within by God-worship. God is both blissful and glorious, and glory is really a marvelous European synonym for God's bliss nature or ananda, an intrinsic attribute. How can anybody properly speak of "glory"if it's never known or experienced? Yet Christian hymns are full of references to God' glory. The God-worshiper inevitably experiences and touches the blissful, glorious nature of God. Only in God-love and God-worship does one experience either glory or bliss. This is the heritage of our Christian ancestors, and this is the mystery of bhakti-yoga.
There is a further transmission
When hearing that,the western Christian mindset would take it to mean "Aum glorifies God well." God can't actually be glorified by anybody, as in provided with glory, as he is already glorious. However, he can be worshiped and the devotee, full of thanks and overflowing bliss, loves to "glorify" him as worship. A different insight is that he who immerses himself in Aum is profoundly benefited, uplifted, and made good. In other words, immersion in pranava lifts up the devotee. It glorifies him, even as the father in the "Prodigal Son" parable immediately lifted up his returned son. That is, in fact, what salvation is like.
In this connection Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said a wonderful thing full of this truth: "Being glorifies karma." It means that when the jiva with its dualistic karma touches Pure Being (Sat), his karma is burnt, or refined, burnished, and upgraded. The pranava or heard Aum is indeed sat-chit-ananda, or pure being, consciousness, and bliss which is the Vedic definition of God Himself. This contact with God, by the meditating aspirant, thus upgrades his or her fortunes and karma. And that is, again, salvation.
All this is, indeed, packed into the one short Sutra verse.
word as "synonymous with God"
A certain Vedic theory -- that
object and the word denoting it are
metaphysically one and inseparable -- is seen as this verse's central
theme by many commentators. The sage Vyasa started this response and
others follow him. The discussion is a tangent, yet
commentators -- even ancient ones --dwell on that question
as their whole commentary. They debate "Why should Aum be the
one true name for God?" Or: "How can it be that
a word and the thing it signifies are inseparable? Is it so? Why then
do we see alternate words used for the same object, yet they
successfully denote that object?" Rather than comprehending the verse,
the statement "Om denotes Isvara" simply appears to embarrass the
They defensively acknowledge that word usages change, with alternate
terms signifying the same thing. A child may now be called a 'kid' yet
it still signifies a child. There are different terms for
a food remains food and all understand the various words. They
discuss this problem, often
with confusing results as they either pay obeisances to a doctrine that
God is intrinsic to the word Aum, or else deny it.
meaning of the word
'father' is the result of a thinking
process... Isvara is also the product of a similar thought-process.
Unless certain faculties implied by words are thought of, no conception
can be had of Isvara. The thought-process associated with Isvara has
been symbolized by the word OM."
Hariharananda is stating
things. He is observing that some
words require a thinking process or associations to have meaning for
us, and that words for God such as Isvara are among these. He seems not
to be oriented to the surrounding verse territory. We are in a section
of the Yoga-Sutra ostensibly about mantra meditation which involves the
banishing of thinking processes and conceptions. Moreover, the direct
perception of Aum-Isvara as described does not require conceptions.
Pranava arises when conceptions and thoughts are banished, and
conceptions and thoughts would only limit and block it. Meanwhile,
Hariharananda has still not solved the so-called 'problem' that Vyasa
placed on the table: To show how the word 'Aum' is distinctly tied to
God (Isvara). Now he does his best:
"Although words and their meanings are invariably related, the same words cannot always have the same meanings, because men might change the convention from time to time."
Hariharananda is pointing out the problems with Vyasa's statement. He is getting ready to contradict Vyasa and to finally imply that Om is not intrinsic to God but just an established convention:
word OM has been used to imply Isvara
not only in this creation but in previous creations. The symbol has
been re-introduced in this creation by omniscient persons who have
recollection of their previous births."
So its use is a mere tradition
handed down by yogis who remembered what
God was called in past lives and re-promulgated it.
particular reason why in
the Sastras framed by Rsis the
word OM is so much liked is that there is no other word which
can bring about calmness of mind as this word can."
Even though there's nothing
intrinsic between Aum and God, Om has
practical advantages. (Sad!) The rishis simply like the word very much
because it is calming when said. He labors to cite more good things
about Aum, which is advantageous, useful and handy:
in prolonged continuity, vowels
however can be so pronounced. The syllable OM is comparatively easy to
pronounce. When this word is uttered mentally, a sort of effort moves
from the throat to the brain which Yogins utilize towards
contemplation. Continuity of thought in the mind cannot be mastered
without continuity in the utterance of words. Thus the symbol OM is
useful in all respects."
This from an Indian acharya no
less! Sounds no better than the way
Americans invent shallow and materialistic explanations for things over
their heads, all based on some practical mechanistic understanding.
There is an inner movement associated with various words and mantras,
but this commentary is desultory. Certainly India must have far better
texts than what we get in the west!
The Rishis' Attempt to
One aspect of the mystery is
straightforward: The rishis sought to
write the divine sound in a word form. For those who know it, their
word A-U-M is a good logical attempt at a word that suggests it. It
would be more like those three letters sounding at once, plus all
transitional sounds that form in the places between those three, plus
many other sounds. The Sikhs have constructed the word "Shabd" to try
to represent the same divine sound. The truth is, Aum cannot be
expressed in one word. It contains all tone and all sound. It also
changes form (is heard differently) according to the development of the
yogi or his concentration at the time. Different aspects of Aum can,
moreover, be focused upon by the yogi. However, the three letters a-u-m
are an adequate word cipher to represent the divine sound in some of
its main forms.
Nothing comes closer, with its great, majestic, washing chords -- to Aum -- than the church organ created by the White Europeans for their churches and devotional religious services. If you want to get some physical representation of the sound of Aum, listen indeed to the great phasing sound of the organ used by White people in their churches. It is a testimony to me, based on the fact that my religious ancestors created this instrument for their worship, that my people through their piety were indeed close to Aum, eternal sound of Saguna Brahman.
gave us a word to suggest the sound, Aum, then this word came to the
Europeans through their guru Christ in the form of "Amen." The
word is inadequate to convey the pranava. It is one
beautiful words for God. But because it references a directly heard
reality that is indeed God, and because the pranava to which the word
refers contains all letters and sounds, it is intelligent to
it as a sacred word. A religious person who masters yoga will
easily agree to it as the highest and best word for God if he likes.
The Inner Positions Inherent in Aum
The human mind and beneath it,
vocal expression, contains certain inner
positions that are synonymous with positions we take on the enunciation
of letters. The "A" position is an emotional position of opening,
creating, receiving, and calling for example. Notice that when a baby
calls for its mother, wanting to receive her, its vocal position and
expression are an open 'A!' In like manner, when people fall from a
great height, about to meet their death, they call out to God in an
open 'A' sound. When people drink things down and receive sustenance,
half of their vocal position is the open 'A.' For the devotee, 'A' is
the position of calling to God and receiving. For God, it is a position
of creating and expanding. 'A' is synonymous with one of God's pranas.
The first three quarters are the inner positions of A, U, and M respectively. The fourth is the soundless state and is called the state of turiya. This particular division of Aum relates to the material just above about inner positions, and to the 4th state of pranayama (kumbhaka). In particular, the open "A" posture of the mind is occultly associated with the waking state, the material creation, and the prana of the material creation. It can take in all of virat. In this inner posture one can draw on limitless prana, commune with The Lord as akasa, and be in a receiving attitude toward the One Deity. The "U" position is related to the dreaming state or taijasa, and the "M" position to the state of dreamless sleep (prajna). This is revealed in the First Mandukya Upanishad verses 8-24. The Upanishads imply that by emphasizing those three main modes of Aum one can conquer the three states of consciousness and those three worlds.
"24: One should know Om, quarter by quarter...22: He who knows with firm conviction, the common similarities in the three states is a great sage, worthy of adoration and salutation by all beings."
First Mandukya 24, 22, "Eight Upanishads, Volume Two," Swami Gambhirananda
This knowledge is at the heart of mastery of the "fourth pranayama," kumbhaka, and the "upward breath" referenced so often by Nityananda. Sages like Nityananda were lovers of the "first quarter of Aum," in a state of permanent worship and receivership. The pranic inbreath is synonymous with the "A" of Aum.
Realizing God Through Word
This is how the question "Is
the same thing as God" begins to arise
and have meaning. Secrets of God do exist in the very letters of "Aum,"
when understood. Then there is a basis for saying that God exists as
creative sound. On an occult level, sound is God. More properly, divine
sound is God and the grosser sounds are themselves grosser vibrations
clothing divine sound.
argue about the correct
name for God, the correct mantra and
its pronunciation. Listen: A father has many children all at different
ages. Some approach him saying "Pitta" (father) correctly. His littlest
can't pronounce it. She lisps out 'Piba.' Still, the father knows who
she intends and doesn't turn her away."
Does the baby need to pronounce
words right to get the mother's
attention and care?
Now the next verse comes, which speaks of meditating on Aum. Oh, my goodness, how famous this verse must be. I will lay out some of the translations of others:
Sacred word connotes Him...
1:27-28, Rama Prasada,
"Patanjali's Yoga Sutras"
It And Contemplate Upon
"The Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali"
of it and meditation
on its meaning"
Leggett, "Sankara on
the Yoga Sutras"
constant repetition and
meditation on its meaning."
Taimni, "The Science of
So, some translators say
"meditation on," some say "understanding of,"
others "contemplation of" the 'meaning' of Aum. This verse has also
missed and misunderstood. By all appearances, from the idea of Aum as
an esoteric heard sound it seems we're back to
the everyday concept of repeating it as a mantra. On the surface 1:28
appears discontinuous with the prior commentary, as if my commentary
was far too esoteric. But such is not the case. This verse too has been
poorly translated and had desultory commentaries. (Though Mother India
is great, and so are the saints there.) Words they each might have
used, to be closer to the sutra's intent, would have been "realization
of" and "identification with." I will establish the truth of this
Verse 1:28 is indeed saying that the devotee should, in a continuous manner (japa) come into identification and mergence (bhava) with the richness and wealth (artha) of Aum.
All devotees and religious
who contact Aum will understand and
agree immediately. One of the inner reactions and perceptions of Aum
that the yogi gets is that Aum is powerful. Another perception is that
Aum is rich. Everything good is in it. Wealth (artha) or richness, the
Sanskrit word actually indicated for the devotee's contemplation in
Aum, is a right descriptor of the pranava.
-- The yogi should constantly
direct himself (be in japa) to Aum and
unite himself with its richness.
And my rendering of 1:28 is:
"(Samadhi is attained) by meditation on the richness of the pranava."
As I said, the Yoga-Sutra is an advanced text. And I assert that this is, indeed, the prime meaning of 1:18. Now, suppose we want to get more intellectual about artha. Pandit Usharbudh Arya of The Himalayan International Institute has a scholarly and detailed glossary in the back of his two volumes on the Yoga-Sutra. His 1st choice for artha is "a matter." He seems to mean "substance." Let's try that out:
"Samadhi is attained by meditation on the the substance of the pranava."
The pandit's 2nd choice is "meaning." His 3rd definition for artha is "reality." Let's try the verse out using "reality":
"Samadhi is attained by meditation on the reality of the pranava."
Delightful. His fourth choice for artha is "an actual substance." Let's try that one:
"Samadhi is attained by meditation on the actual substance of Aum."
The pandit's fifth choice for artha is: "actual state or object that is realized."
This yields us:
"Samadhi is attained by meditation on the actual state and object of pranava."
It all works very nicely. Meditation on Aum is meditation on the actual heard pranava.
Yet good verses have levels. The
verse can still easily be understood in
the conventional sense of "meditation on Aum as a mantram." Thus the
verse teaches on these two levels:
One of the utterances of
regarding the inner heard Aum was
"Trust in Aum." For those religious persons who are uncovering God as
aum this also is a devotional (bhakti) attitude and brings bhava with
Aum, as the Sutra directs.
First Mandukya, Verses 25-29, "Eight Upanishads, Volume Two," Translation of Swami Gambhirananda
"...Om is Brahman beyond fear..."
"...Om is without cause, without inside and outside, and without effect; and it is undecaying."
"Om is indeed the beginning, middle, and end of everything. Having known Om in this way indeed one attains immediately (identity with it)."
"...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."
When understood as the pranava such statements become comprehensible to the devotee. The heard Aum gives all knowledge, destroys dualistic karma, and brings the religious person into God's grace nature.
The Revealed Aum as a
This brings me to a final point
about Aum. The great difficulty in
meditation is that our mind and its movements attract us more than does
an unknown or the darkness within. Our moving minds and
impressions hold our minds more than one conception or one
word. Thus meditation -- focusing the mind on one thing steadily -- is
the most difficult human endeavor. In the religious path that is yoga,
this difficulty becomes greatly assisted with the dawning of the
mind is made clear
Verses 1:33, 35
Trevor Leggett, "Sankara on the Yoga
The inner heard Aum is indeed
of the "supernormal perceptions"
meant by Patanjali, and it is also one of the perceptions "beyond
sorrow." (The reference to a "radiant perception" also refers to inner
seen light, called bindu. Both the inner light and inner aum are felt
to be beyond sorrow.)
"Meditating on the meaning
Now I will return to the commonly used term "meaning." I have explained the the proper use of Aum as a mantra precludes "thinking about" Aum or God, as the purpose of this repetition is to halt discursive thinking. I have stated that artha which translators render as "meaning" is more straightforwardly translated as wealth or cause, and how this is the central import of the verse, that the yogin meditates on the richness of Aum.
Now, there is on sense of
"meaning" that you can, indeed, apply
to this practice. One Upanishad speaks of the difference between
meditating on Aum without understanding its meaning, compared to the
one who understands its meaning. It states that the latter yogi gets
far more out of his meditation. So this will now be revisited.
Now, a yogi or yogess can get tips and clues about this practice from the Upanishads which speak about Aum, or the Yoga-Sutra verses about Isvara. For example, the Mandukya Upanishad says Aum is "undecaying." Thus while listening to Aum the devotee should say "Thou art undecaying!"
The Yoga-Sutra states that Aum is Isvara, and that Isvara is untouched by suffering or karma. Thus while listening the devotee can think: "This is untouched! Thou art untouched! Thou art beyond karma!"
The same Upanishad says Aum is "auspicious" or all-good. Thus the religious person should think "This sound is all auspicious!" while merging with it.
The Upanishad says Aum is "all-pervasive." Thus the devotee should think "This is all-pervasive!" while listening.
Verse 29 says Aum is "without measure and possessed of infinite dimension," thus the yogin should ponder that idea while listening to the Pranava.
Verse 28 (of the Mandukya) states that Aum is "seated in the hearts of all." Thus the yogi can think "This is seated in the hearts of all!" while meditating on the Pranava.
This is the central import of the verses that refer to meditating on the "meaning" of Aum. Finally, in the same way that 'viewing a word as God' will produce divine results, as stated above, a new meditator may indeed meditate on the mantra Aum, viewing the word a God, and this will be good. This is an aspect of good mantra meditation in the first place: To view your mantra as sacred, divine, and auspicious. Attitude is a fundamental key in religious development and samadhi. To have reverence for your mantram itself -- whether Aum or another -- is very lucky.
One can even take those ideas listed above and apply them to the mantra-Aum. It will only serve to increase his concentration on the mantra. This is why sages say to say your mantra reverentially. However, "thinking about God" is not the purpose of mantra meditation. When using a word-mantra, there should be one single "thought" as it were: An attitude of aspiration or soul-call to God. With mantra meditation you present your attitude to God more than thoughts about Him. Then when you hear Him in the form of the Pranava, it is suitable to think about it some, with these "realization" thoughts which make you grateful, receptive, and amazed.
Any religious thing that evokes the feeling of reverence, such as the interior of a church, a religious object like a crucifix, or the sight of a nun -- is auspicious and lucky. To get into the state of reverence is lucky, lifts your shakti up the spine, activates the serpent energy. So by all means, the religious person should view his mantram as meaning God, and be reverent toward it. Then upon hearing the pranava, because of devotion, meditation, and chastity -- realize "This is God."
The techniques that reveal
First, let's go back to basics. The Yoga-Sutra has already listed five foundational conditions and techniques that reveal Om:
-- Austerities (tapas), celibacy (brahmacharya), devotional attitude toward God (bhakti), japa (mantra repetition), and pranayama
All of these are significant in revealing the divine sound within the religious person. Now again, I have listed austerities first just as Patanjali listed this the first activity of yoga. Yogananda writes in his meditation lessens, published by Self-Realization Fellowship, that hearing Om requires a reduction in "body consciousness." That means the aspirant must have less of a tether to his body. Austerities in general cut the tie to the body. Thus I was fortunate to be born into the Catholic Church in which the monks and nuns had an austerities ethic, and poor little me had to kneel for eternities in church. It may be significant in my own development that I took to fasting by my teens, partly through the inspiration of the Christian saints and partly as a health interest. Fasting very much reduces the tie to the body and its comfort. Now for many years I only eat once a day. I have coffee in the morning and never eat a thing till late afternoon or early evening, then I don't eat much. I am completely comfortable with this, and fasts played a big role in this development. Then chastity makes one worthy of Om and able to withstand it. The devotional attitude toward God attracts Om. Japa, which brings the mind to stillness, draws it near. Finally, pranayama is an uncoverer of Om.
Special Meditation Techniques That Reveal Aum
Then finally there are at least two meditation techniques that, combined with the above in a religious person, reveal the divine sound of Aum. Both are used in Yogananda and Nityananda's path, and in the path of the Sikhs. The meditation techniques that reveal Aum should be gotten from a bhakta and yogi who is chaste and has the signs of shaktipat.
First preparation for hearing the Pranava should be the development of the devotional and reverential attitude toward God. This can be cultivated by sitting in beautiful churches and singing religious songs. The next fertile ground is morality or consecrating the sexual instinct only to marriage and procreation, the rest sacrificed and sublimated up to God. With these two, devotion and chastity, you will be given the right meditation technique and then it will be fruitful.
Om is all satisfying and blissful, giving you contentment. Aum is the Purusha, the Lord. With aum, you lose interest in the false thrills of the exterior world and anything but duty. You attain real vairagya (dispassion). Now Sutra 1:16:
In the highest vairagya, because of contact with Purusha, there is cessation of the least desire for any experience of the created world.
COPYRIGHT 2011 Julian Lee.
All Rights Reserved.