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Beyond The Word

Hari OM

Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!

We are now undertaking basic technical discourse on Vedanta. The text forming the basis of these posts is 'Kindle Life'. Please do reread previous posts using the labels 'Workings-days' or 'Kindle Life'.

Ch. 28 गायत्री मन्त्र /gaayatrii maantra (cont'd).

The syllable OM symbolizes both the spheres: (1) the phenomenal, visible sphere of the जगत् /jagat - world, wherein the manifestations of time and space appear and perish, and (2) the transcendent, timeless sphere of the Imperishable Being, which is beyond and yet one with it. Thus, A the 'waking state', U, the 'dream', and M, the 'deep sleep', and the silence, 'turiya', all the four together comprise the totality of this manifestation of Atman­ Brahman as a syllable. Just as the sound M manifests itself, grows, becomes transformed in its vocal quality and finally subsides into the silence that follows, so too the four 'states', or components of being, ultimately merge into the homogeneous silence of the turiiya. The other three states are transformations of the one experience, which taken together constitute the totality of its modes, whether regarded from the microcosmic or from the macrocosmic point of view.

The A and U are as essential to the sound as M, or as the silence against which the sound appears. Moreover, it would be a mistake to say that AUM did not exist while the silence reigned; for it would be still potentially present even in the silence. The actual manifestation of the syllable, on the other hand, is fleeting and evanescent, whereas the silence abides. The silence, indeed, is present elsewhere during a local pronunciation of the AUM - ­ that is to say (by analogy), transcendentally during the creation, manifestation and dissolution of the universe. It may be asked as to why this particular word 'OM' should be chosen as the word representative of the 'thought' out of which the universe has become manifest. The answer may be given in Swami Vivekananda's own words: "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 worlds, yet it is not any definite word in its fully formed state. That is to say, if all the particularities which distinguish one word from another be removed, then what remains will be the sphota. Therefore, this sphota is called the Naada-­Brahman, the sound-­Brahman. Now, every word symbol intended to express the inexpressible sphota, will so particularise it that it will no longer be the sphota. That which particularise 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 A, U, M, pronounced in combination as OM, can alone be the generalized symbol of all possible sounds. The letter A is the least differentiate of all sounds. Again, all articulate sounds are produced in the space within the mouth – beginning with the root of the tongue and ending at the lips – the throat ­sound is A and M is the lip­ sound and U exactly represents the rolling forward of the impulse which begins at the root of the tongue, continuing till it ends in the lips."

Image result for swami vivekananda on OM meditation
Sw. Vivekananda
If properly pronounced, this OM will represent in itself the whole phenomenon of sound production; no other word can do this and this, therefore, is the fittest symbol of the sphota, which is the real meaning of the OM. Also, as the symbol can never be separated from the thing signified, the OM and the sphota are one. As the sphota, being the finer side of the manifested universe, is nearer to God and is indeed the first manifestation of Divine Wisdom, this OM is truly symbolic of God.

OM thus represents the entire manifest world and the unmanifest, as well as that which lies beyond both the manifest and the unmanifest – the Brahman, which is the changeless substratum for the changing objects of the world of experience. To every mantra, OM, the Praanava, is added. Without 'OM' no sacred chant has its power. Just as a living body has no vitality when the life­ giving breath is not flowing through its veins, so too, a mantra has no life in it without the addition of the Praanava.

Vedantic students generally practice the repetition of and the mediation upon the symbol provided by the Praanava; ­ this is called the Praanava upaasana (drawing near to the source-breath). OM represents, in its silent significance, both the manifest and the unmanifest, which together constitute the entire subtle and gross world.

The word लोक /loka in Sanskrit is generally translated as 'world', but, in its etymological meaning, it signifies 'a field of experience'. The entire possibility of experience in life has been terraced by the rsis into fourteen worlds; seven higher lokas and seven lower worlds. There are three worlds in which a limited ego-­centre (jiiva) comes to play its game of reincarnation and repeated deaths: these are भूर्लोक /Bhuur­loka, the physical earth; भुवर्लोक /Bhuvar­loka, the world next to the physical and closely connected with it, but constituted of finer matter; and स्वर्गलोक /Svarga­loka, the heavenly world. Beyond these are the four other 'worlds' wherein the ego comes to move about and enjoy in its higher evolutionary life;  they are called the Mahar­loka, Jana­loka, Tapa­loka and Satya­loka. In the Hindu literature we also find reference to other 'worlds' such as Indra­loka, Chandra­loka, Suryaloka, Pitra­loka, etc., which are special 'realms of experiences' located within the above regions...suburbs, if you like!

Below these seven 'worlds' there is yet another set of seven 'worlds' called the talas. They are named as Pa­talam, Mahaa­talam, Rasa­atalam, Tala­atalam, Su­talam, Vi­talam and A­talam.  [AV note; these have not been given in Devanagiri as they will be little referenced here.]

Of these fourteen 'worlds', Bhuur-­Bhuvar-­Svar, denoting the 'three worlds', are called the व्याहृताः /vyaahRtis. In the Gayatri Mantra, when these vyahRtis are chanted, the meditator can visualise the 'three worlds' as arising from, existing in and disappearing into AUM. He can subjectively identify them with the waking, dream, and deep ­sleep conditions of consciousness, transcending which extends the realms of the Infinite. All of them are represented in the symbol OM. In this sense, the vyahRtis in the Gayatri represent in one sweep the entire 'world' of the subjective and the objective experiences of man.

Next week, we enter study of the Great Gaayatri Mantra proper.

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