Omkar and Pranayam
“Listen to the primeval Pranava, OM, resounding in your heart as well as in the heart of the Universe”.
OM is the sacred symbol for the Hindus. For them it is synonymous or equivalent to God. It is an all comprehensive symbol and name of God. It is also called the Mahaamantra, the best aid and means for man to realise God. In the Shri Satya Sai Sarva Dharma symbol Hinduism is represented by OM.
In the timeless beginning it is said Brahman alone was. It was a nature of supreme silence. Out of this emerged the Naada Brahman or the sound aspect and expression of God. This was the primeval sound OMKAARA. Out of this primeval sound emerged the creation composed of the five elements: space, air, water, fire and earth. OMKAARA is the life principle of creation. That is why it is also called Pranava meaning that which runs through Praana or pervades all life. There is a lot of literary work available on the significance of this word. Nowhere in the world can we find another sacred symbol that has got such a vast significance.
The entire history of this syllable is given in the vedas and upanishads.
There is a Vedic Verse as follows:
Prajaapatir Vai Idam Agra Aaseet Tasya Vaak Dviteeyaa Aaseet Vag Vai Paramam Brahma
“In the beginning was prajapati, The Brahman with whom was the word, the word itself was the supreme Brahman”.
The same idea is expressed in the Gospel of St. John in the New Testament:
“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God”. OM is itself God and it is also a means for realising God. Other faiths too have a holy word like this OM but is in a little different form. To the Christians it is Amen. Muslims call it Amin; although their interpretation and usage is not quite identical with that of OM.
OM symbolises the names and forms of personal God. Since it is difficult to concentrate on a formless (Niraakaara) Brahman we have various forms of Goddess and God suited to our liking so we have the tradition of Ishta devataas. OM however encompasses all the names and forms of God.
Every name has a key letter-Beeja Akshara. Based on this A is believed to represent Brahmaa, U – Vishnu & M – Maheshwara as OM encompasses the triple aspect of God. Since Saraswatee resides on the tongue of Brahmaa and Lakshmi on the Vakshasthala of Vishnu, OM includes the names of these two Goddesses as well. Paarvati being the shakti aspect of Shiva and a part and parcel of the half form of Shiva, who is Ardhanaareeshwara, the half male and female form, the M symbol of OM indicating ‘Maheshwara’ thus includes Paarvati also. In other words all forms of God respond when OM is chanted. That is why it is said that OM is the direct telephone number of Baba. If we say OM, we are instantly connected to Baba, whether He be in Puttaparthi, Brindavan, Anantapur or anywhere on tour. Baba says Omkaara and Raama’s name are identical. Raama is symbolised by the pranava and the supporting sounds A, U and M represent Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugna respectively.
OM is the material and basis of the world of sounds and is the basis for the science and phenomenon of phonetics. All sounds and words have their origin in pranava shabda. All sounds that can be produced or uttered by combination of different letters or any alphabet come under the three main sounds produced by A, U and M. Since it (pranava shabda) contains all the breath sounds, it is said the OM is the sum and substance of the Vedas. Pranava contains all the names; is the basis of all different forms of worship and all names by which God is adored.
OM represents all the states of consciousness, the physical as well as the spiritual and our awareness from the physical to the transcendental (divine) state.
The Upanishads say that OM represents self (the non-dual reality, Brahman or Aatmaa). This self has four states of Consciousness –
- Waking – Jagrat
- Dreaming – Swapna
- Deep Sleep – Sushupti
Most of us experience these 3 states.
4. Tureyaavasthaa – higher plane of consciousness (only Yogis experience this). This is also the Samaadhi Avasthaa. Thus we see that OM signifies all these four states of consciousness.
A – represents waking state U – represents dream state M – represents deep sleep state
When OM is pronounced there is a telling silence (Ashabda). This rich humming sound of silence is Amaatra OM, self or Aatmaa. This is the basis and substratum of our very being (state of divine consciousness).
OM must be chanted as slowly as possible. A emerging from the throat (originating in the region of the navel and U rolling over the tongue in the ascending tone until the sound reaches the peak and ending in M at the lips. Then, it must take a curve at M and descend as slowly as it rose, taking as much time as it took to ascend, and with Amaatra OM it must gradually merge into the silence reverberating in the cavity of the heart.
One who has a subtle ear can hear OM, proclaiming the Lord’s presence in every sound. All five elements vibrate with this sound. Like the temple bell ringing AUM, the OM sound constantly goes on silently in our body. This silent sound in our sushumnaa naadi, which our gross hearing facility cannot hear; is AUM only. It goes on humming, “SO HAM”. SO means He and HAM meaning I (Aham) (individual self). Thus it is a medium connecting Man to God.
The names of God although they are great in themselves need to be preceded by OM. Before any ritual or worship, a Ganesha pooja is done. Likewise OM has to precede all sacred chantings, even chanting of the Name of Ganesha who is Himself Pranavaakaara.
We say “OM GANESHAAYA NAMAH” etc. It is therefore understood that when OM is added as prefix to any name or mantra the power of the Mantra or name increases several fold.
THE DIFFERENT MODES OF OMKAARA CHANTING
Vaikharee – first stage of sound process (incantation) when it is repeated in a loud voice (to concentrate the mind).
The second stage is Madhyamaa where the sound process (incantation) is not heard but only the lips move. It is a stage between sound and soundlessness.
The third stage is Pashyantee where it is soundless. There is no open or covered recitation but Japa still goes on in mind without an effort.
In the Fourth paraa stage of Japa the Mantra itself is forgotten and only its impact remains. This is the tureeya state of complete bliss, happiness and joy..
We have to practise OMKAARA chanting with a conscious effort. We can also add the name of our Ishta-Devataa to it. This process of chanting should become a part and parcel of ourselves like our breathing.
OMKAARA bestows liberation and immortality and unites us with the God for ever. In the 8th chapter of the Bhagawad Geetaa the “Aksharaparabrahmayoga” Lord Krishna says “uttering the one syllabled OM, Brahman and remembering me, he who departs leaving the body attains the supreme goal.”
OM chanting should be our constant habit. Unless our breathing is deep, rhythmic and regulated our physical health suffers and mental calm and peace is disturbed. OM chanting helps us to regulate our breathing. It also bestows on us mental calm and peace. Our power of concentration and memory power increases.
Let OM chanting be our constant companion from today. Let our mind cling to it. With every single chanting of OM, we are marching one step nearer to Baba. Sooner or later, we are sure to reach his lotus feet and become the nearest and dearest to him.
Omkaaram Bindusamyuktam Nityam Dhyaayanti Yoginah Kaamadam Mokshadam Chaiva Omkaaraaya Namo Namah
The OMKAARA written with a dot (bindu) signifies that we are bindus (drops) of that OM from which we have come. The yogis always meditate upon it, keeping this truth ever present in their mind. Through the recitation and understanding of the Pranava, one experiences the high bliss and attains liberation. I bow down before the pranava.