Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation
For the next stage of our investigation on meditation, we are going to study - and practice! - japa as a means to tame the mind and we shall investigate the Gayatri Mantra.
Following on from last week's discussion on sphota, we can now take up a response given by Swami Vivekananda to the question as to why OM was chosen as the 'thought concept' out of which the universe became manifest. He wrote:
"This OM is the only possible symbol which covers the whole ground, and there is none like it. The sphota is the material of all words, 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, [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 particularizes 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 OM only. These three letters A,U,M, pronounced in combination as OM, can alone be the generalised 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 the A, the U is the rolling forward of that sound over the tongue and echoed in the palate, and finally the lips come together as the sound presses still more forward, giving the vibration of M.
If properly pronounced, this OM will represent in itself the whole phenomenon of sound production and no other word can do this. This therefore, is the fittest symbol of the sphota and, as the symbol can never be separated from the thing signified, the OM and the sphota are one. The sphota being the essence of the manifest universe, it can thus be said that OM represents the creative principle, the Divine Wisdom…"
By now, you are grasping the importance of sphota… that part of sound to which we are mainly deaf but which affects us deeply. Its purest nature is expressed through OM and thus OM represents the entire universe, manifest and unmanifest - the Brahman - the substratum which is changeless and upon which all this world can play.
The importance and prominence of OM is now revealing itself. It is for the reason of its representation, that no mantra ever begins without the pronunciation of OM preceding it. Without OM at its head, any mantra loses its power - these bodies we inhabit are nothing without the breath we take and OM, as 'pranava', is the very breath of mantras. Vedantic students do well to meditate upon and to chant the single-syllable mantra that is OM; it is called pranava upaasanaa. What was not mentioned in Vivekananada-ji's quote, is the silence which prevails at the end of the M and before taking up the A once more. Turiiya is an important part of the chanting, as it represents the unmanifest and also that to which all returns.
Beyond this word, though, are the other mantras. We are going to be looking at one in particular, but before that, there is just a little more to understand; we shall take this up next week.
Keep up your practice of aasana, prana, japa, using OM alone.