PRANAVA – OBJECT OF CONTEMPLATION
Pranava is an upasana or meditative discipline. It is concerned with everything that is embodied in the sound, mantra and symbol of Aum. Praised as the password to enlightenment, Aum is sacred, as it encapsulates the secrets of the universe. Using the mantra Aum is said to enhance all areas of life. Hence the greeting Hari Om, which means ‘All is Om’.. let all be enhanced. Pranava is mostly linked with Nada yoga and Kundalini yoga.
Swami Sivananda explained “the whole world has come from aum, rests in aum and dissolves in aum.” He also states that: “When chanted with faith and rhythm, aum fills one with a spiritual strength, new vigour and energy.”
Aum is regarded as the great sound of divinity. It is easy to say and can be used by any one of any faith, in any circumstance. Aum is multi-purpose mantra that can be attached to any practice.
Even though Aum is mostly noted in the Vedic scriptures, other versions of it include the Christian and Judaic word Amen, the Islamic Ameen and Alm, the Buddhist Om and the Sikh Omkara. The widespread references to Aum, not only point to the common origins of religion, but also suggests that all scripts grew from a similar root language.
In Nada yoga there are 4 classifications of sound: baikari (audible) upashnu (whispered) manasi (mental) and para (supreme or transcendental)
Aum expert Dr Nagendra outlines three phases when chanting aum:
1) The descending phase where one feels aum waves engulfing the body
2) The ascending phase where one feels uplifted, lighter and expansive
3) The silent interval when a deep serenity may be felt
Pranava is also referred to in Anahata chakra, which means ‘unstruck’ . This is considered the ascending path for the wise. This pure vibration is for the soul or atma and links the manifest to the unmanifest – unification with Brahma, the formless dimension of luminosity and pure vibration.
This diagram shows that the breath is the link between body and mind. Indirectly the breath also affects the unconscious mind while practicing the mantra Aum.
The table below I have created myself after reading the relevant chapters of Chudamani Upanishad – Crown jewel of Yoga by Swami Satyadharma. The three letters and three columns emphasizes the ‘Power of Three’ which is omnipresent in every culture, in every art representation, mathematics and in all biological development as the magic symbol of Phi, or the Golden Ratio, Divine proportion.
|When all three dimensions are merged a super-conscious state is reached or Turiya- illuminated by Pranava
Also named the infinite library of wisdom
|State of consciousness
|State in Sanskrit
|Heart, seat of soul or atma. Here the external and internal awareness merge
|Brahma the Creator born from rajas
|Vishnu the Preserver
born from sattva
|Rudra the Destroyer
Born from tamas
|Red (passion, fertility
|Black (all colours are merged, loss of identity)
|Vibrations and chakra location
|Merges one with Supreme reality
The meaning of the AUM symbol: Not only does the sound vibration of the AUM/OM represent four levels of consciousness, so too does the visual symbol.
- The lower curve represents conscious state – A of OM Mantra.
- The center curve represents subconscious state – U of OM Mantra.
- The upper curve represents unconscious state – M of OM Mantra.
- The dot, point, or bindu represents the fourth state, the absolute consciousness, which encompasses, permeates, and is the other three – Silence after A, U, and M of OM Mantra
- The arc below the dot symbolizes the separateness of this fourth state, standing above, though ever remaining part of the other three.
Why we chant 3 oms
Yoga students often ask why we chant Om three times at the beginning and or end of a class. There are many possible answers.
- Some say for peace in the physical dimension, the mental dimension and the spiritual dimension.
- Another plausible reason is concentration on the granthis. The word granthi means ‘knot’. The yogic system recognizes three granthis (at Mooladhara, Manipura and Ajna) or knots in our bodies.
- These three main chakras also represent our personal core. Sounding om for Mooladhara acknowledges our physical existence, Manipura our ego and what we do(action),) and finally sounding om for Ajna acknowledges our wisdom/intelligence.
- On a more worldly level we acknowledge our birth, life and death.
- Three oms can also be seen as the triple manifestation of the holy trinity.
Taking the numerology a little further:
- As each om represents a triple power, by chanting it three times, we arrive at the powerful number 9.
- The importance of number 9 in yoga, we see in the numbers of beads on a Yoga mala: 108 (the sum of its numbers being 9). 9x 12= 108. Nine planets, 12 zodiac signs, 12 months. Also the malas of the Jain, Islam, Buddhist, Sikh and Chinese tradition count 108 beads.
- 108 is a Harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits (Harshad is from Sanskrit, and means “great joy”)