Saturday, March 3, 2012

THE MANTRA: AUM: WORD AND WISDOM

In the universe, Brahma or Hiranyagarbha or the Cosmic (Mahat) first manifested himself as name, and then as  form, i.e. as this universe. All this expressed sensible universe is the form, behind which stands the eternal inexpressible (Sphota), the manifester as Logos or Word. This  eternal Sphota, the essential eternal material of all ideas or names, is the power through which  the Lord creates the universe; nay, the Lord first becomes conditioned; as the Sphota, and then evolves Himself out as the yet more concrete sensible universe. This Sphota has one word as its only possible symbol, , and this is the (Om). And as by no possible means of analysis can we separate the word from the idea, this Om and the eternal Sphota are inseparable; and therefore it is out of this holiest of all holy words, the mother of all names and forms, the eternal Om, that the whole universe may be supposed to have been created. But it may be said that, although thought and word are inseparable, yet as there may be various word symbols for the same thought, it is not necessary that this particular word Om should be the word representative of the thought, out of which the universe has become manifested. To this objection we reply, that this Om is the only possible symbol which covers the whole ground, and there is none other like it. The Sphota is the material of all words, yet it is not any definite word in its fully formed state. That is to say, if all the peculiarities which distinguish one word from another be removed, then what remains will be the  Sphota; therefore this Sphota is called the (Nâda- Brahma), the Sound-Brahman. Now, as every  word-symbol, intended to express the inexpressible Sphota will so particularise it that it will no longer be the Sphota, that symbol which particularises it the least and at the same time most approximately expresses its nature, will be the truest symbol thereof; and this is the Om, and the Om only; because these three letters, this is the Om, and the Om only; because these three letters, (A, U, M), pronounced in combination as Om, may well be the generalised symbol of all possible sounds. The letter ( A ) is the least differentiated of all sounds; therefore Krishna says in the Gita, —“I am A among the letters.” Again, all articulate sounds are produced in the space  within the mouth beginning 'With the root of the tongue and ending in the lips-the throat sound is A, and M is the last lip sound; and the U exactly represents the rolling forward of the impulse  which begins at the root of the tongue till it ends in the lips. If properly pronounced, this Om will represent the whole phenomenon of sound production, and no other word can do this; and this, therefore, is the fittest symbol of the Sphota, which is the real meaning of the Om. And as the  symbol can never be separated from the thing signified, the Om and the Sphota are one. And as  the Sphota, being the finer side of the manifested universe, is nearer to God, and is indeed the  first manifestation of Divine Wisdom, this Om is truly symbolic of God. Again, just as the “One only” Brahman, the Akhanda-Sachchidânanda, the undivided Existence- Knowledge-Bliss, can be conceived. by imperfect human souls only from particular standpoints and associated with particular qualities, so this universe, His body, has also to be thought of along the line of the  thinker’s mind.

This direction of the worshipper’s mind is guided by its prevailing elements or Tattvas. The result is, that the same God will be seen in various manifestations as the possessor of various  predominant qualities, and the same universe win appear as full of manifold forms. Even as in the  case of the least differentiated and the most universal symbol Om, thought and sound-symbol are seen to be inseparably associated with each other, so also this law of their inseparable association applies to the many differentiated views of God and the universe: each of them therefore must  have a particular word-symbol to express it. These word-symbols, evolved out of the deepest  spiritual perceptions of sages, symbolise and express, as nearly as possible, the particular view of God and the universe they stand for. And as the Om represents the Akhanda, the undifferentiated Brahman, the others represent the Khanda or the differentiated views of the same Being; and they are all helpful to divine meditation and the acquisition of true knowledge.

A sacred sound in Hinduism, composed of three syllables— A-U-M—merging into each other. The sound is used to preface and end the reading of sacred scriptures and prayers and is used in most mantras. AUM is also the subject of intricate mystical symbolism as a subject for meditation and is said to contain the origin of the alphabet and all sounds. In this respect it parallels the Shemhamporash of  Jewish mysticism and the creation of the universe. The Hindu scripture Mandukya Upanishad is devoted entirely to an exposition of the mysticism of AUM.

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