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Falling in love with Aum
“Before its incarnation the soul is sound.
It is for this reason that we love sound.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan
Aum and our True Nature
Throughout my twenties I was drawn to and curious about “alternative health” – my inner wounds and Soul-self drawing me towards a healing path that never stops. Many times in workshops we would chant Om – or Aum – but with no explanation. Whilst I could physically feel the vibration going through my body, and noticed how calm I was mentally, beyond that it didn’t mean anything.
How many people chant Om – and have no concept of the breadth and depth of this sacred sound? No notion that this incredible primordial vibration holds all of Universal, Divine Consciousness – which is our True Nature?
So how do we connect to, and experience, our true nature through chant? Mantra offers us a practice that stills the mind. As the mind becomes calm, spaces begin to emerge between our thoughts; and in those spaces there is a stillness – and within that stillness is the opportunity to touch on something beyond our human experience, beyond our misconceptions of who (or what) we are. We can be in the presence of “What Is”. That utter stillness where everything falls away, leaving us with a sense of timelessness, ultimate Being as opposed to doing. A vastness that is indescribable.
According to Patanjali, Om is hailed as the goal, means and way to reach supreme reality. In this ancient text, there are verses which describe the importance of Om for Self-realisation.
tasya vachakah pranavah ||27||
तस्य वाचकः प्रणवः ॥२७॥
tasya vācakaḥ praṇavaḥ ॥27॥
The word expressive of Ishvara is the mystic sound OM
[Om is God’s name as well as form]
[Ishvara in medieval Hindu texts refers to God or Supreme Being]
Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras gives examples of the multiple names for God – yet at the same time acknowledging you cannot name an unlimited, nameless, infinite vibration. He explains:
‘Because it is difficult to explain anything without a name, Patanjali wants to give the supreme Purusha (universal principle in Samkhya philosophy) a name. Even if Ishvara (the Supreme Soul in Hinduism), doesn’t have a particular form, there should be a name. But “Ishvara” is limited; “God” is also limited because the very vibration of the letters are limited. Patanjali wants a name that can give an unlimited idea and vibration and which will include all vibrations, all sounds and syllables, because God is like that – infinite. So Patanjali says Ishvara’s name is “Mmmm”. We can’t easily say “Mmmm”, so it is written as OM. OM is called pranava, which simply means cosmic sound or the humming.
Patanjali goes on to explain that whilst there are hundreds and thousands of names for God, none of them can describe the indescribable. “They may give a picture of one aspect of God, but not the fullness. God is, was and always will be – without beginning or end, infinite and omnipresent.”
Chanting the name/s of God (in this instance OM) will not only express the expansiveness of the Divine, but it should bring God to you. My own chant teacher, Pat Moffitt-Cook PhD, Founder and Director of The Open Ear Center, New Mexico, U.S.A, has always taught that mantras draw you closer to that which is
already within; so whilst yes, chanting can bring God closer to you…fundamentally it is a way to reconnect to the divine spark that we already have or indeed are. And that applies to any mantra – drawing on the power of Ganesha to remove obstacles, is really igniting that which already exists within you – the power to bring obstacles to the surface and then work through them to release. Or, creating the right internal and external energetic environment to remove whatever challenges may be blocking your way.
“By chanting and meditating on this Om, one will realise the Self within and
all the obstacles will be removed.” [Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali 1.29]
The Mandukya Upanisad – A – U – M
When I was belatedly introduced to The Mandukya Upanishad, translated by Eknath Easwran, I can’t quite describe the visceral response; awe, wonder, excitement, tears, joy. Even now, writing this essay and reflecting once again on the translation by Easwran, just stops me in my tracks. For me this is heart opening, a sense of coming home and an inner knowing.
It opens with:-
AUM stands for the supreme Reality
AUM represents also what lies beyond past, present and future.
It is a symbol of what was, what is and what shall be.
Brahman is all and the Self is Brahman.
This Self has four states of consciousness.
These four states of consciousness are represented by the four sounds or stages; A U and M and silence. Returning to Patanjali he describes it thus:-
“A is the beginning of all sounds. Every language begins with the letter A or Ah. A is pronounced simply by opening the mouth and making a sound. That sound produced in the throat where the tongue is rooted. So audible sound begins with A. Then as the sound comes forward between tongue and the palate up to the lips U or “oo” is produced. Then closing the lips produces M. So the creation is A, the preservation is U and the culmination is M. So A-U-M includes the entire process of sound and all other sounds are contained in it. OM is the origin, or seed, from which all other sounds and words come. In actuality, OM is dormant in all other words.
After the verbal sound ends there is still vibration. That is the unspoken, or anahata, sound which is always in you, even before saying the A and after finishing M. There is always a sound vibration in you that can
never be destroyed. You can always listen to that sound if you remain quiet. This is Ajapa, unrepeated sound – or does not need to be repeated.
That silent, cosmic sound vibration or hum is called pranava because it is connected with prana; the basic force or vibration of life itself.
 The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Translation and Commentary by Sri Satchidananda. Integral Yoga Publications2017