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The Omkara

I would like to discuss, in an easily understandable way, the concept of Primordial Sound, the Omkara. The chanting of the Omkara is not generally understood in the West. Many people chant it, some regularly, however the deeper significance of this great bija or "seed mantra" is not generally understood.

In order to accomplish this, we will discuss the word "Om" and how it's utterance may be applied to personal practice or sadhna. Having done this, we will discuss its applications to consciousness studies and spiritual realization with regards to the four levels of consciousness, that being vaishvanara, taijasa, prajnaandturiya.

Finally, it will be my intention to demonstrate how anyone can apply the Omkara to the quest for spiritual development in order to achieve self realization, enlightenment, or God consciousness.

The benefits of the Omkara are immense. Never again will you rely on someone else's vision of reality. Through mindful recitation of this ancient mantra anyone can tap into the Life Force of the universes and attain inner peace and joy. In short, each of us can, as Moses, Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed, Guru Nanak, Lao Tsu and other realized souls, find the Truth within ourselves, and thus truly become the Masters of our own lives. Karma may deal the hand, but you will know how to play the cards!

Many people in the West, when they hear the wordOm think of nude hippies sitting in a circle, holding hands and chanting. I am happy to be one of those hippies! At first, for me, the chanting of the Omkara was just another 'trip,' a novelty. With practice however, I came to realize that there was much more to it then that. I experienced my consciousness raising and my awareness becoming more keen. Things I had always taken for granted began to demand a second look. As a result of this, I began asking questions about the mantra, how does it work? Why does it work? What makes this sound so different from all others? In my quest, I read countless books, sat with many swamis and holy people, and gradually developed a real taste for its sweet nectar.

As you will see, there is a clear science behind the mantra and, as practice will demonstrate, its results are sweeter than sugar cane!

Om is the said to be the most ancient of all Indian mantras or sound vibrations. It is called the mula, or seed mantra, in that most other mantras are based to some degree on it (such as Om Rama, Om Bhur Bhuvaha Svaha, Om Mani Padme Hum and so on.

According to the Shree Brahma-Samhita, Om is the sound manifestation of the God Vishnu. By uttering it, one enters into direct communion with God. The bliss of Turiya, which I will discuss shortly, is seen as the spiritual presence of Vishnu. For the non-theist, Om is the primordial emanation of nirguna brahman into saguna, which is to say, through It, the Unmanifested Totality becomes manifest. According to the Mandukyopanishad, which is a treatise on the Omkara, Om is the primal manifestation of nirguna brahman. All existence, both imminent and transcendent, is identical with the Om. In other words, the Unmanifest Reality is first conceived through the Omkara. When Om manifests, it takes on the physical forms of individualized matter. Technically, this existence is known as Prakriti. Again, the bija, or essence of Prakriti is Om. Since matter, according to the Sanatana Dharma, is only a dense form of the sound or sabda Om, through knowledge of the mantra one can vitalize matter and ultimately transcend it.

The Mandukyopanishad explains that there are four 'quarters' or aspects of an individual. These manifest through the four states of consciousness. These are listed as follows:

The Omkara

Individual/Microcosmic Universal/Macrocosmic
Waking State Vaishvanara or Vishva
=Physical condition
='A' of AUM
=Cosmic manifestation
Dream State Taijasa
I=Mental condition
='U' of AUM
=Universal Mind
Sleep State Prajna
=Intellectual condition
='M' of AUM
=First Cause or God
Turiya The transcendental state which permeates
all others. Basis of self-consciousness.
Sum total of the lower three states
and therefore both the fourth quarter
and the whole
=OM as a soundless, single syllable.

Unified consciousness is therefore conceived of as achintya bhedabheda (Inconceivable and simultaneous oneness and difference), while the supreme Godhead is achintya bhedabheda tattva, the very embodiment of inconceivable oneness with and difference from the created qualities.

Our daily consciousness, the level of awareness in which we spend most of our time, is known as Vaishvanara. You will understand that the first state of consciousness corresponds to the physical condition and the 'A' in AUM, when it is composed of three distinct letters or sounds.

Om, in Devanagari (the written form of Sanskrit), is a single letter consisting of three distinct parts, A, U and M. Each of these three vibrations correspond to a particular state of consciousness. When these three are united in Turiya, they become the single letter or sound vibration Om.

As consciousness passes through the lower states of awareness it remains in saguna, the manifest universe of duality. When consciousness transcends these states however, it merges with the universal consciousness of Turiya in nirguna, in the state Unity. This is the transcendental state which permeates all other conditions. This is the basis of self-consciousness. It is the sum total of the lower three states and is therefore both the fourth quarter and the Whole simultaneously, (as in netti-netti or en-Soph). In Turiya, one is freed from material limitations and becomes one, in some way, with the nirguna brahman or absolute Oneness.

There is much debate about the nature of this state of consciousness. For instance, does one maintain individual existence/awareness as Shree Ramanuja and Shree Caitanya suggests, or is one so utterly merged with the Cosmic Wholeness that no individualization is possible, as Shree Shankara and the Mayavadi contend. I will not go into this here, except to submit that for one who is so absorbed in this state of absolute bliss, known as Sat-chit-ananda, or eternity, knowledge and bliss, the question is surely moot.

There are many methods of meditation which utilize the Omkara. I would now like to offer one of them for your consideration.

Before I do however, I would like to mention something about the tradition from which the mantra comes down to us. The Bharata or Indian seers used the term "Sanatana Dharma" to describe their over all belief system. The name 'Hinduism' is a late product of Moslem origin. By referring to the teachings as the Sanatana Dharma or Universal Truth, the sages confirmed that the mantras are not the possession of any nation, people or religion. They are for all the world, no, for the universes! As one practices the mantra therefore one should feel free to customize it in personal ways. For instance, in India the Omkara is often joined to Sacred Names. When it is, it is known as nam-japa or recitation of the Holy Names. This is done by adding the mantra as a prefix or suffix, such as in "Om namah Shiva" "Om namah Vasudeva" etc. The mantra, should be utilized to fit individual needs and piety. In the same way, Christians could chant "Om Yeshua Yeshua Om" and so forth. The method I offer now, therefore, is merely an example.

Sit in a comfortable way with your back basically straight and free from obstructions.

Now, take a moment to look back up at the illustration. Don't worry about the Sanskrit terminology, simply get a feel for how the sound Om rolls off you tongue and mind.

As you begin, take a comfortably deep breath, shake your arms and legs so as to allow yourself to relax. Your eyes may be open or closed. Don't force either extreme. Again, be comfortable.

Gently focus your gaze on the tip of your nose (don't go cross-eyed!), just let your attention gently rest there.

Now, softly, gently, begin to repeat the mantra, AUM... Ah Uu Mm... Ah Uu Mm... Let the sound flow through you, upwards from your inwards parts, let it gently arise and escape through you mouth.

As you allow the mantra to flow from within, you will begin to experience a peace, a sense of balance. Be aware of your surroundings, your Vaishvanara state of mind. In time you will enter into the state of Virat on your way to universal harmony with the totality of being.

As you continue to chant, the mantra flows serenely, effortlessly.

Allow your consciousness to float freely. As you experience your body all pain and discomfort washes away, all dis-ease departs and you know with an inward certainty that all is well. Even now you realize yourself existing in a state of balance and inward harmony.

As you continue to chant, the sacred sound naturally, of it own accord, transforms into a more unified sound, as "Om". As it does, you slip quietly, calmly into the state of Taijasa where you flow with transcendent awareness.

As the various mental images begin to subside and the consciousness is quieted, meditation becomes automatic. Outer and inner sounds fade calmly away. You lose all sense of having a material body. You realize yourself to be a spirit entity. That sense of peace is Ishvara, the presence of God. As you continue to drift on this sea of bliss nothing remains except the mantra, which now chants itself.

As you return to waking consciousness do so gently, easily. The four states must not be forced. Flow gently from one state of consciousness to the next, knowing that the warmth you feel is the arms of the eternal Beloved.

~From a class taught by Jagannath Prakash in Nov. 1988

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May we suggest:

Paramatma: God Within, God Without

Go to the Roam'n Church Presents: Reaching for the One

Go to the Roam'n Church Presents: Hindu Dharma

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