Communion with AUM
AUM is God
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God (John 1:1)…, All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3)… And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)
As explained by Master Paramhsansa Yogananda ji and other self realized Masters, that primordial Word or more correctly that first vibration mentioned in the Holy Bible and other scriptures is none other than AUM. The great sage Patanjali also goes on to authorize a similar claim in his Yoga Sutra 1:27 – tasya vachakah pranavah, literally translated as AUM or Pranava is the manifestation of Ishvara or God.
We may have come across these verses many times but if we just wait enough to ponder over the magnanimity of this claim. The claim that AUM itself is none other than God is really mind boggling and deserves a moment of contemplation. This bewilderment is also primarily because we are used to thinking of God as either a personified embodiment of the perfection of anthropomorphized qualities (taking inspiration from the fact that Man is made in the image of God) or an impersonal abstraction of infinitude. But what exactly are those qualities of the vibration of AUM that qualifies its stature as God manifested.
AUM also commonly referred to as Pranava, means that which infuses and controls the life force, and is described as an inarticulate mantra in our scriptures emphasizing its ethereal presence. AUM is described as the essence of all vibrations i.e. physical (including auditory, visual, sensory etc.), mental or spiritual. Spanda Karikas, which is one of the most important works in Kashmir Shaivism, describes absolute consciousness or the fundamental aspect of the creative matrix in terms of Spandas which are creative pulsations of primordial life. This is also the reason AUM is sometimes referred to as Shabda Brahman or Nada Brahman i.e. manifestation of the non-dual absolute in the form of vibration.
AUM is the unstruck sound
The cosmic vibration of AUM is created by the primordial movement of infinite potential of God as it separates in duality. The fundamental chronology of creation as explained by Swami Sri Yukteswar ji, starts from the manifestation of the divine will within the complete stillness of God to share and manifest his infinite joy. This results in the primary division or creation of duality between the still potentiality (God beyond creation) and dynamic potentiality (Prakriti). It’s this Prakriti which then in its exuberance manifests this fundamental vibration of AUM. This same fundamental vibration of AUM later divides into different aspects to create different dimensions of creation like Time, Space and Atoms.
This entire setup of manifestation is built on the only solid ground of AUM. The different vibratory patterns of AUM bring different aspects of reality into creation. In fact, as per one of the four Mahavakyas of Upanishads, Prajnanam Brahma, our consciousness is the absolute ground of existence and hence has the ability to reflect it or in other words to listen to it. Some of us who still remember our high school Physics, can recall the vivid display of a vibrating tuning fork making another stationary tuning fork vibrate at the same frequency when brought in contact. Similarly when our consciousness attunes to the ever vibrating cosmic sound of AUM, our consciousness also gets attuned to that very primordial movement of creation. For those who are scientifically disposed, this is observed even at quantum scales in the phenomenon of quantum coherence. Where two quantum particles by the way of their physical engagement can get entangled and exchange information even when seperated by huge spatial distance called as ‘spooky action at a distance’ by Albert Einstein. In fact our empirical science also, is now catching up to these physical and metaphysical theories. Scientists are creating such quantum scale mechanisms to observe and measure literally the symphonies of atoms. Interestingly such discoveries are not just limited to quantum scale. With the development of large observatories like LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), scientists are now able to capture signature of such fundamental movement in the very fabric of spacetime by measuring the gravitational waves generated by large scale cosmological events like merging of black holes and supernovas even billions of years ago. It’s like even at a physical level in this ascending Dwapara Yuga, humanity has now tools to listen to the cosmic sound of AUM generated from the very first explosions of creation to the quantum kitchen of current reality. Interestingly again, Master in his poem OM writes:Whence, whence this soundless roar doth come,
When drowseth matter’s dreary drum?
On shores of bliss, Om, booming breaks!
All earth, all heaven, all body shakes!
AUM also reserves its glorious mention in various scriptures like Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads. Mandukya Upanishad which is one of the most important and shortest Upanishad (consisting of only 12 terse verses) and recommended unequivocally by Adi Shankaracharya himself, is entirely dedicated to the meaning and importance of AUM towards spiritual realization. It starts as Aum ity etad aksharam idam sarvam i.e AUM is the entire visible universe. Later it describes AUM as the manifestation of all the states of consciousness. ‘A’ represents Jagrati (waking), ‘U’ represents Swapna (dreaming), ‘M’ represents Shushupti (deep sleep) and beyond all three the ‘Omkar’ represents Turiya (transcendental or unblemished consciousness). On a related note AUM also represents the three universal energies of creation, sustenance and dissolution as reminded in the way we chant AUM at Ananda. First in a high and ascending pitch and then a constant and sustaining pitch and then in a low and descending pitch, which finally dissolves in a vibrational hmmm.
AUM is protection
So if we think about it, there could be no better candidate to capture the infinite essence of supreme lordship than the cosmic vibration of AUM, but it’s not just that. Master in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita describes, that in the Bible Saint John tells us: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am ‘ Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”—the omnipresent Aum vibration by which God created the heavens and the earth. Devotees who ”can spiritually commune with Aum and understand its omnipresent significance are able to feel God the Father, beyond creation, manifested in creation as the creative Cosmic Vibration.”
Explaining the role of AUM, Master in commentaries on Bhagavad Gita explains that AUM in Christian theology represents the Holy Ghost or the great comforter of the Holy Trinity along with the Holy Son or the Christ Consciousness and the Holy God or the Father beyond creation. This is also in correspondence to Aum-Tat-Sat of the Indian Scriptures. Master explains that it’s called the Holy Ghost because it acts like an invisible force guiding the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ through the transcendental Christ consciousness. Jesus Christ himself is attributed to saying, “The comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance.” If we think about it, it’s an incredible promise of the awakening of our Smritti or divine memory through the personal communion with the great comforter or AUM. Master describes that in this way Kriya Yoga establishes that blessed promise of Christ by giving people a tangible and scientific technique for practicing this communion with the Holy sound. This is really important because most religious cultures and spiritual circles even after realizing the fundamental promise of this inner communion fail to understand the inward meaning of this promise. Most people ignorantly believe that just by chanting AUM either softly or loudly they can achieve superconsciousness. However, as Master explains, those who are Kayasthas (not the North-Indian caste), meaning those still attached to kaya or body consciousness cannot perceive the true AUM sound. Only by an inward attunement to the cosmic sound as it reverberates through the ether, one can commune with AUM. Hence this inner communion is not a physical or mental imitative vocalization of AUM, but the hearing and merging into the actual cosmic vibration. Master also explained that being the Holy comforter, no harm can touch one who’s in the vibration of AUM.
Following story mentioned in the book AUM: The Melody of Love by Nayaswami Bharat describes the protection of AUM as promised by Master.
While backpacking in California’s Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, three women from Ananda Village had a dramatic experience of the power of AUM. On the fourth day of their trip, a furious thunderstorm caught them at 10,000 feet. Loud cracks of lightning and massive explosions of thunder crashed around them. Torrential rain fell; then hail began to fall harder and harder. Desperate for shelter, they ran to a couple of small trees, which soon proved inadequate protection against the pounding hailstorm. Seeing a large tree nearby, they bolted for its sheltering branches. Already wet, they struggled out of their packs and dug for their rain jackets. The temperature, meanwhile, had plummeted, and the hail began to fall even harder. They knew they were in trouble. In their drenched condition, hypothermia was a real possibility. They badly needed shelter. Yet, standing under the highest tree around wasn’t wise—because tall trees are perfect lightning rods. They wondered aloud, “Do we risk hypothermia or lightning strikes?” Both options were dangerous. Then one of the women began chanting the all-pervading AUM. The two other women quickly joined in. Suddenly, they felt as if a bubble of protection surrounded them. Their fear was gone—a feeling of awe and gratitude filled their hearts. For twenty minutes, they chanted and enjoyed the majestic show of lightning and hail. After the storm, everything was transformed into a white wonderland; they felt blessed beyond measure by the love and protection of AUM.
Master established the importance of AUM on the path Kriya by giving AUM technique as one of the four fundamental techniques on this path along with Energization Exercises, Hong-Sau and Kriya Yoga technique. Swami ji also led by example the importance of AUM technique on our path. The first technical question posed by him to Master at TwentyNine Palms was, how does one listen to the AUM. But even after such strong emphasis on the role of AUM technique, sometimes we tend to skim over the amount of attention it deserves. Either we start skipping the practice or fail to build on it over time. Hopefully It will be nothing short of a supershot of inspiration to know that Lahiri Mahasaya, who was a Yoga-Avatar himself, is attributed to saying that “To listen to AUM is the only work that has been allocated to man”.
AUM is the way
Master in his commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita uses the tumultuous setting from the starting of Mahabharata (the epic battle of Kurukshetra), where all the mighty warriors are blowing their conch shells. To describe the process through which a devotee gradually ascends the rungs of deeper states of Samadhi as the Holy vibration of AUM sequentially intones the respective spiritual centers corresponding to respective elemental energies in the spine. When concentrating on the lowest Muladhara chakra or the coccygeal center, Master describes, the devotee hears the AUM vibration sounding like the drone of a honey-mad bee or a bumblebee. As he starts to wonder about the physical or astral origin of the sound. He gets absorbed in the state of Savitarka Samprajnata Samadhi or doubt ridden state of inner absorption. Next as his concentration deepens in the Swadhisthana chakra or sacral center, his mind is lifted above the doubt and hears the sweet flute-like sound. As the doubting ceases, his intellect beginning to fathom the origin of the sound and settles in the sweetness of the astral flute, he reaches the state of Savichara Samprajnata Samadhi i.e. intellectual or reason driven inner absorption. Moving up concentrating on the Manipura chakra or the navel center, the doubting mind transforms into joy-permeated self absorption or Sananda Samprajnata Samadhi listening to the sound of astral harp or veena. Next comes the Anahata chakra or the dorsal center, where the devotee listens to the long drawn sound of deep astral bells. After dissolution of the mental, intellectual and perceptive states he comes to the state of inner bliss absorption with a pure sense of individualized I-am-ness i.e. the state of Asmita Samprajnata Samadhi. And then after concentrating on the Vishudha chakra or cervical center and after having dissolved the mental, intellectual, perceptive and egoistic identifications, devotee listens to the all pervading etheric sound of AUM sounding like a thunder or a distant roaring ocean basking in the pure intuitive perception of limitless bliss in Asamprajnata Samadhi. Finally at the Ajna chakra or united Medulla and Christ consciousness center, in the symphony of the five sounds he hears the undifferentiated sound of AUM, receiving full realization of God in his creative aspect. Going even further, Master explains that once the devotee lifts the consciousness further up to Sahasrara or Cosmic consciousness he can enter this state at will and can remain there for as long as he desires. And in time he is blessed with the experience of the supreme ecstasy of Nirvikalpa Samadhi which is the final undifferentiated state.
AUM is grace
It goes without saying that while it is one of the core practices on the path of Kriya, most of us feel discouraged once in a while when we aren’t able to hear those wondrous melodies of universal bliss. Swami Sri Yukteswarji mentioned in Holy Science that, Aum is heard through cultivation of Sraddha (heart’s natural love), Virya (moral courage), Smriti (memory of one’s divinity), and Samadhi (true concentration).
If we translate these, practicing Sraddha means intensifying our heart’s natural desire for divine communion and following this technique with reverence. There’s a story about Jesus once being surrounded by a jostling crowd with many people touching Jesus. Among them a sick woman of great faith quietly and lovingly reached out and touched his robe and was instantly healed. Upon which Jesus asked his disciples, “who touched me?”. This depicts the power of a loving prayer to naturally attract and draw out the divine grace.
To strengthen our moral courage, we should follow a strong and steady disciple in our practice and our spiritual life in general including the practice of Yamas and Niyamas. This also implies committing to a disciplined routine of practicing AUM Technique. This can take the shape of practicing it twice daily and then doing longer sessions whenever we have more time.
To awaken our Smriti or divine memory means to remember our true position as a child of God and being open to receiving his grace in every moment. It would also mean remembering to listen to AUM anywhere we are in space, time and in consciousness, as we know it pervades all. Especially seeking this when we are in nature and away from man made cacophony. Famous Persian poet and mystic Rumi said, “Seek the sound that never ceases”, so trying to seek it in the touch of the swift breeze, in the brilliant radiance of sunshine, in the splendid fragrance of colorful flowers, in the juicy fruits of nature’s labors, in the restlessness of the reflected Sun and in the rich melodies of nature’s music. As Master describes in his poem Om,From Om the music of the spheres!
From Om the mist of nature’s tears!
All things of earth and heaven declare,
Om! Om! Resounding everywhere!
And finally to build on the muscles of concentration, we should focus on our practices of Hong-Sau and Kriya technique. Not just during the meditation but also in our outward activities being able to hold on to the moment to moment awareness and inner communion by practicing the presence of God and Gurus. Master used to say that holding our awareness at Christ center helps us listen to the ever present vibration of AUM. In practice we can mentally chanting AUM Guru throughout the day to hold our awareness at the higher chakras. AUM Guru used to be the most common mantra shared by Master to his devotees. Master explained this as asking Gurus to introduce us to AUM, and once we have that experience, AUM itself becomes our Sat-Guru. Finally, after doing all of these practices we should follow the supreme virtue of contentment and leave the outcome in the hands of the divine. As Swamiji used to say,“Contentment leads ultimately to the realization of Divine Bliss in every atom of creation, even beyond creation.”