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Wednesday, October 17, 2007
"Om" Chanting techniques
OM symbolizes deep realities: OM Mantra itself is not a mere human invention, going along with particular cultures or groups. Rather, the OM Mantra (or AUM Mantra) is a symbol of deep realities that already exist. For example, the deep vibration quality is definitely experienced by the mystic traveler, whether or not one has ever heard of the OM mantra as such. The levels of gross (A), subtle (U), and causal (M), and the states of waking (A), dreaming (U), and deep sleep (M) are definitely there, regardless of the symbolism captured in the mantra when stated as AUM Mantra. It is these realities that are most useful in our spiritual practices. (See the article AUM and the 7 levels of consciousness)
Making the experience richer: If the OM mantra is repeated just for the feeling, having no sense of meaning at all, the experience can be quite pleasant, calming, and balancing. However, if one has a sense of the deeper meanings of the mantra, and different methods of using it, then the experience can be even richer and more revealing as one progresses in yoga meditation.
Practice one of the seven: Following are seven meanings and methods of using the mantra. By experimenting with the various methods, one of them may emerge that feels most personally in tune. It might be best to practice only one of the seven methods of OM mantra for a while. Gradually the other meanings will come, as they all merge into a unified experience.
Integrate the insights: The use of this mantra can be profound. At first, it is best to use the mantra gently and for short periods of time. The insights from the OM mantra can be significant, and it is good to integrate the insights gradually with daily life.
See also the article:
Bindu: Pinnacle of Yoga, Vedanta and Tantra
1. Pulsing Repetition
Use a speed that is natural and comfortable: There are many rhythms in the body and mind, both gross and subtle. Imagine the sound of OM, rising and falling, at whatever speed is comfortable and natural. It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it may be slower, several seconds for each cycling of OM Mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm... sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods, but still pulsing at that slow rate.
Imagine it somewhat like one of these vibrations:
Meditation time and daily life: This kind of awareness of the OM mantra can be used both at meditation time and during daily life. The OM mantra is allowed to be somewhat of a constant companion. It brings a centering, balancing quality to daily life. This does not mean being in a dull, lethargic state. Rather, done well, it brings clarity of mind and a greater ability to be in the world, and selflessly serving others.
Breaking habit patterns: This is not intended as a blocking mechanism to prevent dealing with one's thought process or with the challenges of life. It is not a method of escapism. However, it definitely can have the effect of bringing focus to the mind, which can break a pattern of disturbing or distracting thoughts coming from the noisy or chattering mind. In this way, one has a greater openness to being aware of positive thoughts and spiritual realities that are always there.
2. With the Flow of Breath
One method: Imagine the sound of OM Mantra internally, in the mind only, making no external sound. Allow the mantra to flow with the breath. Repeat like this:
Exhale: "OMmmmmmmm..." Inhale: "OMmmmmmmm..."
Exhale: "OMmmmmmmm..." Inhale: "OMmmmmmmm..."
Exhale: "OMmmmmmmm..." Inhale: "OMmmmmmmm..."
Another method: Alternatively, imagine the OM mantra only on exhalation, if that feels more comfortable:
Exhale: "OMmmmmmmm..." Inhale: " (silence) "
Exhale: "OMmmmmmmm..." Inhale: " (silence) "
Exhale: "OMmmmmmmm..." Inhale: " (silence) "
Mind, breath, and mantra in unison: In this practice, you come to experience the mind, breath, and mantra flowing in unison. This synchronization has a beautiful effect on meditation. Simply allow the OM Mantra to come and go with each inhalation and exhalation. Allow there to be no gap, no space, no pause between inhalation and exhalation, or between exhalation and inhalation.
The speed naturally slows: As you gently allow the OM mantra to flow with the breath, the mind becomes calm. When the mind becomes calm, the body relaxes, and the breath becomes even soother and slower. That rate of speed at which the OM mantra is being repeated naturally slows down. It is not a matter of forcing the mantra to slow, but rather, this slowing comes quite naturally. Allow the mind to stay wide awake and alert, as the OM mantra and breath become naturally slower and slower. Meditation will deepen.
3. As the Object Called Universe
Words have an object and meaning: Words usually have a corresponding object and meaning to go with that word. If you hear the word chair, then the concept of chair-ness arises in your mind. Some specific chair will probably come to mind. It may be a wooden chair or a metal chair, for example. It may be large, small, or this or that style, and it may be new or old. So, three things are there: 1) the word chair, 2) the concept of chair-ness, and 3) a specific chair.
The object that goes with OM is the universe: When the word OM is heard, what is the concept and object that comes to mind? What is that thing that goes along with that word, OM? The concept that goes with OM is the one-ness or entirety of the universe. The object that goes with the word OM is the entire universe, as a single unit, including the gross, subtle, causal planes of reality, both manifest and un-manifest. It means that whole, as if it was one, single object. It is that infinitely huge object, which is the object that goes with the word OM.
Awareness expands to contain the object: With attention turned inward, and reflecting on chair, the concept and image of chair arises. In the same way, do the same thing with the word OM, and allow your awareness to expand, as if it could contain the whole universe to go with that word.
Stretching the attention: There is a feeling of stretching, as if the attention had to get bigger and bigger, to contain the whole, the same way as the chair has a back, a seat, and legs, yet is collectively a chair. Continue to repeat OM, and continue to expand, so as to allow your attention to contain the whole of the object called OM.
4. Sound Vibration of the Universe
The subtle sound is always there: A vibration exists, underneath all of the grosser aspects of being, like a substratum. The subtle sound of OM Mantra is constantly there, and when heard in deep yoga meditation, sounds like a continuous vibration, ever sounding out mmmmmmm.... At a deeper level, it is extremely loud and serene.
Emerging from OM: The reality symbolized by OM Mantra is the ground vibration out of which all other vibrations, sounds and mantras emerge.
Receding into OM: That vibration represented by OM Mantra is the substratum into which all those vibrations, sounds, and mantras recede when followed back to their source.
Similar words: Some say that this everlasting, all pervasive vibration of OM Mantra is also the source and intent of Amen, Amin, and Shalom. Some say that this sound is the Word of God.
Silence from which OM emerges: Eventually, this leads to a deep stillness and silence, which paradoxically, is experienced as the silence from which the sound of OM itself emerged. In the sections below, the silence is described as being the fourth state, beyond the three sounds of A, U, and M, which are contained in OM Mantra. However, in this practice, as you internally repeat the sound of OM, imagine that underlying vibration of the universe, as if it were coming from all places, and through all things.
Listen to the vibration while remembering OM: There is a sound that can relatively easily be heard in your ears that is more surface level, coming from the brain. Some people experience this as a buzzing or ringing sound. By listening closely, the mmmmmmm... sound can be heard, like the end of the OM mantra (Or you might hear it as eeeeeeeee....) Listening to this vibration, with the awareness of OM is a good way to start with the vibration aspect of OM. Gradually, it will expand to deeper sound of the mantra. Listening in this way can be particularly enjoyable and insightful when recalling some of the other meanings of OM Mantra at the same time.
Allowing thoughts to come and go: While listening, it is best to gently allow other thought patterns to come into the field of attention, and then allow those thoughts to drift away. There is not really any intent of doing anything with these thoughts, either engaging them or pushing them away. In other words, the listening for OM is not used to suppress thoughts and emotions. Rather, attention is allowed to expand, but at the same time, non-attachment is learned by staying with the vibration, and letting go of the thought patterns. This is one way to gain access to the ability to be a neutral witness of the stream of thoughts in the mind, as is sometime described as being like watching leaves, sticks, and logs floating by in a river.
5. Gross, Subtle, and Causal Planes
Remembering four planes with OM: The OM mantra designates the whole of the universe, including the gross, subtle, and causal planes (realms, or levels) and the absolute reality of which they are a part. The explanation below can sound a bit technical, but this truly is a very practical use of the mantra, once you understand the meaning. It does require working with the mantra and the meaning, but then it becomes clearer and quite insightful.
Four parts of OM: The OM Mantra has four parts. First, is the sound like "Ah," then "Uuuu," then "Mmmm," and finally the silence beyond the mantra. Thus, the mantra is also written as AUM, as well as OM. The three sounds, and the silence have the following meanings:
The A sound refers to the gross world.
The U part refers to the subtle realm.
The M refers to the causal plane, out of which the gross and subtle emerge.
The Silence after these three, refers to the absolute reality that is the substratum for each of the other three realities.
Start slowly in remembering the parts: When using the mantra in this way, it is easiest to begin by remembering the mantra very slowly, allowing time to be aware of each of the levels. Be aware of the four parts of the mantra separately (though forming a continuous sound), something like this:
When the "A" of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the gross world, including the objects of the world, the people, and your own physical being. Actually allow your attention to scan these aspects of the world. Do not get caught up in these objects; just be aware of this level of reality, and then let go of it, so as to go beyond.
When the "U" of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware, as best you can of the existence of the subtle or astral realm, including whatever objects you might intuit. As with the gross world, do not get caught up in these objects; just be aware of this level of reality, and then let go of it, so as to go beyond.
When the "M" of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the causal, the background stillness out of which the subtle and gross emerge, and into which they rest when not active. This can be difficult to imagine. It might help to think of it like being the canvas on which a picture is painted, or the screen on which a movie is projected.
When the Silence comes to the mind field, be aware of the absolute reality that permeates each of the other three layers. This fourth level of the mantra the absolute reality, is experienced in a shallow way at first, and only deepens with continued practice of contemplation and yoga meditation. (To better understand this, please refer to the paper on the Mahavakyas, the great contemplations. From that, you will see how the mantra and the contemplations go together.)
6. Waking, Dreaming, and Deep Sleep
Four states of consciousness: The four parts of AUM also refer to the levels of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, as well. The three sounds, and the silence have the following meanings:
The "A" sound refers to the waking state of consciousness.
The "U" part refers to the dreaming state of consciousness.
The "M" refers to the deep sleep state of consciousness.
The Silence after these three, refers to the witness consciousness that is observer of the other three states of consciousness.
The question can arise of why a spiritual seeker cares about the states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. It is said that the states of deep sleep, samadhi, and death are very close together, that they function at the same levels. To understand this further, it would be good to read the paper on OM and the 7 levels of consciousness.
Begin by remembering slowly: As in the last practice, it is easiest to begin by remembering the mantra very slowly, allowing yourself time to be aware of each of the levels. With practice, it moves more quickly, as attention longs to rest in the silence.
When the "A" of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the waking state of consciousness. This does not mean thinking of the objects of the world, but rather, being mindful of your personal waking state, in relation to the world and your inner mental and emotional process. This simply means being aware of being awake.
When the "U" of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the dreaming state of consciousness. This does not necessarily mean that you are experiencing those dreams, but that you are mindful of the dream state that is beneath the waking state.
When the "M" of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the deep sleep state of consciousness. Be aware of how the mind is in complete stillness in that state, where there is no active thought process, no images, no pictures, and no words. All of these have come to rest in a dormant, formless form.
When the Silence comes to the mind field, be aware of the consciousness that permeates all of the other three states of consciousness. In other words, consciousness flows through the waking state, the dreaming state, and even the deep sleep state (although there is no active content in deep sleep). Imagine that you can somehow be witness to waking, dreaming, and deep sleep from a higher vantage point that is aware of all.
Focusing more inwardly: When using the OM mantra in this way, notice how very personal the practice is, in that you are consciously cultivating awareness of the levels of your own internal states. It has an in here focus. By contrast, the use of OM with the levels of gross, subtle, causal, and absolute reality (above) has more of a focus out there. Ultimately, they merge into one awareness.
7. Conscious, Unconscious, Subconscious Mind
Levels of consciousness: The four parts of AUM also refer to the levels of conscious, unconscious, and subconscious, as well as the consciousness that permeates these. (Note that some psychologies or systems use the words unconscious and subconscious in reverse, or use different terms. The meaning is what is important, not the particular choice of words). The three sounds, and the silence have the following meanings:
The "A" sound refers to the conscious level of mental functioning.
The "U" part refers to the unconscious level of mind.
The "M" refers to the subconscious level, the storage place of mind.
The Silence after these three, refers to the pure consciousness, which permeates the conscious, unconscious, and subconscious levels of awareness.
Begin slowly: Once again, it is easiest to begin by remembering the mantra very slowly. With practice, it moves more quickly, as attention longs to rest in the silence.
When the "A" of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the conscious level of mind. The easiest way to do this, is to contrast conscious to the unconscious. There is the conscious, that we are aware of here, in this external world, and there is the unconscious that is not seen in the deeper mind.
When the "U" of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware, as best you can, that your mind is presently functioning at an unconscious level as well. There is a tremendous amount of thinking process normally going on, that is out of view. This is what psychologists call primary process. It is going on behind the scenes, much like the microprocessor in a computer that is invisibly doing its work.
When the "M" of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the latent part of the mind, where all of the countless memories of people, objects, and day to day information is stored. It is there, like the information stored on a hard disk of a computer. Until it is needed, it just sits there in a latent, dormant form (It is actually in a formless form, somewhat like the data on the hard disk that is stored only as raw data, with no images as such). Be aware of that stillness, that is the storage of your deep impressions and habit patterns.
When the Silence comes to the mind field, be aware of the consciousness that permeates all of the other three levels. In other words, consciousness flows through the unconscious functioning. Consciousness is there in the latent part of the mind, even though those objects are not awakened into action at the moment. Eventually, this Silence expands to being the awareness of the other three states. It is at this stage that one is called a Seer, in that all of the other levels of mind are witnessed from this vantage point.
Integration of the Practices
Three methods from same levels: Gradually, one comes to see that the last three methods of using AUM (above) are manifestations of the same levels of being. Notice how the "A" represents, Waking, Conscious, and Gross levels. The "U" represents Dreaming, Unconscious, and Subtle levels. The "M" represents Deep Sleep, Subconscious and Causal. The Silence represents the fourth state, which is above or higher than the other three. These are further described in the paper 4 Levels and 3 Domains of Consciousness.
AUM Name of level States of
Consciousness Levels of
Consciousness Levels of
Reality A Vaishvanara Waking Conscious Gross
U Taijasa Dreaming Unconscious Subtle
M Prajna Deep Sleep Subconscious Causal
Silence Turiya /
Fourth Turiya /
Fourth Consciousness /
Self / Atman Absolute
The one great vibration: One comes to experience that the four aspects of AUM, the vibration of the universe, the object that goes with OM mantra, the flow with the breath, and the countless pulsings of the gross and subtle, are all manifestations of that one great vibration that is represented by OM mantra.
Unity of the methods: In practicing the seven methods above, it is best to focus on one at a time, so as to capture its individual meaning and experience. Eventually, the unity of the methods is experienced.
Gururbrahmaa gururvishnuh gururdevo Maheswarah |
Guruh-saakshaat parabrahma tasmai shrigurave namah ||
Welcome to the spirituality blog
This blog is an offshoot of a website that I had conceived as a result of the spiritual grace and resultant inspiration during Shivaratri Y2K (http://www.jyotirlinga.com) on the joy of Shiva Bhakti and my quest for spiritual progress. Not finding the time (yep, bad excuse!), this blog suits me fine in quickly adding content... my spiritual forays and thoughts - helps log them too. My spiritual journey started with Hinduism and it's simple stories/ teachings as far back as when I was a 2nd grader, with Lord Shiva and has now found convergence with Advaitism / Duality. The Advaitism gurus like Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta Maharaj; they have provided that spiritual boost of energy in many lagging moments and have tremendously influenced me ... little baby steps at a time... that will hopefully all lead upto a final crescendo. The merits of satsangh are many!
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