Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Hari OM

Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.

Meditation & Life, with Sw. Chinmayananda (Gurudev).
We are now exploring the writings of Gurudev on our focus subject of Meditation. The book is a thorough treatment of the subject and extends to over 170 pages of closely printed text. No attempt is intended, here, to present the text in its entirety. However, important paragraphs and quotes will be given, within a summary of each section. You are encouraged to use the links on sidebar to obtain a copy for yourselves from CM publications. Please remember that each of the posts under this title is part of a thought flow and it is important to go back and read the previous post in order to refresh and review the context.

The Sacred Mantra Om
[AV-blog; again this has been dealt with at length in earlier posts, but now you are being given the view of Om as provided by Gurudev. Think of this as revision!]

Generally, mantras are provided to student seekers by the Master to whom they have become devoted and trust with their spiritual welfare. Every mantra has it's own inherent power and is associated with a deity who epitomises the essence of that power. Japa repetition is intended, with extended use, to bring that power into the seeker.

There are three types of mantra and as you will now come to understand they relate to the gunas. Every human has a predominant quality (guna) and the mantras are therefore present to best benefit that nature. Therefore there are mantras for the tamasikas, invoking the lower powers of nature; there are mantras for the rajasikas, invoking might and power; and there are mantras for the sattvikas, which invoke higher spiritual experience, peace and serenity.  All mantras also fall into two general categories of application; those that are chanted without necessarily understanding the meaning and those which are of the nature of invocation, thus necessarily require understanding. Some mantras are in prose form and others are poetic; some are quite long, others much shorter.

Of all the mantras, the most powerful and significant is the shortest of the lot… the single syllable called the प्रणव /pranava…

Om has been chanted from the very earliest Vedic times. It is accepted as being Brahman and also the medium by which we reach That. In the Vedas and Upanishads we find the whole history of Om (and many books have been written on it over the centuries). One sutra tells us, 'In the beginning was Prajapati, the Brahman, with Whom was The Word; and The Word was verily the Supreme Brahman.' (Krishna Yajur-veda). Pranava name means something that pervades life as breath does the body.

The central theme of the Maandukya Upanishad is the syllable Om. It assesses the symbol according to Upanishadic doctrine (Vedanta), that it represents all three states - waking, dream, deep sleep - but then moves into a fourth 'state', called तुरीय /turiiya, the place of the non-dual Being.

Om has three aspects. First; sound alone, as produced by the mouth. Second; meaning which is to be realised through feeling. Third; application of the essence and character of Om to one's own personality, action and life. Om represents Self, Supreme, non-dual Reality. All the three states are represented in the three letters (aksharas) which make up the bulk of the symbol.. A-U-M. The turiiya state is silence.

The waking state is assigned to A as this is the most alert and A is the very first sound of every alphabet… in any language. By natural progression in beginning communication, U is the next sound and the second state is dreaming. Then, as sound progresses from us, the lips meet and M is produced and this is associated with deep sleep state. For the intake of breath for the next chant of Om there is necessarily silence and this is represented by turiiya. Each of the aksharas are called मात्राः /maatraas (forms). Turiiya, representing the formless, is called amaatraa-om, signifying the thing-in-itself, pervading the threefold states. Memory is impossible unless the rememberer and the experiencer are one and the same individual. In all three planes, there must be a single common factor that is the witness of all the happenings in all three planes; an entity within us present in waking, dream and deep sleep, yet which is not conditioned by any of them. This is the Real, the Changeless, the Intelligent Principle.

The three states are transformations of the one experience which turiiya represents. A, U and M are as essential as sound, to enhance the background of non-sound upon which they rest. The aksharas having ended with their chant completion, it must be understood that OM, as Brahman the sound of silence, carries on. Indeed, never stops. Equally, when A, U and M are being chanted, the silence is always there beneath them, having no beginning. [… there is much more existential work which can be done on Om, here you have an inkling of the contemplation which can be applied if you choose OM as your mantra.]

Every mantra, regardless of length, includes the pranava. Without Om, no sacred chant has power. Om represents the manifest and the unmanifest, the gross and the subtle, and the subtlest of all, the Brahman.

The Rsis partitioned all possible experiences in life into fourteen लोकाः /lokas (worlds - more strictly, 'fields of experience'). Seven higher worlds and seven lower worlds. Of these, there are three in which the jiiva, the conditioned ego personality, comes to play its cycle of birth and deaths. भुर् -लोक /Bhur-loka is earth as we know it; भुवर् -लोक /bhuvar-loka, the world closes to the physical, but of much finer matter;  स्वर् -लोक /svar-loka, the heavenly world. For the sake of completion here, the names of the remaining four higher worlds are mahar-loka, jana-loka, tapo-loka and satya-loka. The seven lower worlds are known as talas ('hells' - bigger lessons to 'experience'!); Pa-tala, maha-tala, rasa-tala, tala-tala, su-tala, vi-tala and a-tala.

Of the fourteen, bhur-bhuvar-svar are called the व्याहृताः /vyaahRtis. In the Gayatri Mantra, these three are chanted for the chanter to visualise the three worlds in which the jiiva arises, exists in and disappears into OM. These vyaahRtis are also associated with the triavasthaa, waking/bhur, dream/bhuvar and deep sleep/svar.  All of them are represented in the symbol OM.

(c) Yamini Ali MacLean

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