AOH :: AUM.TXT|
About the AUM Mantra
'Thou art neither earth, water, fire, air, nor ether. Know thy
Self (Atman) as Witness of all these, and different from them,
if thou would'st attain liberation."
Ashtavakra Gita. Chapter 1, verse 3
1. My Experience
Around Spring of 1974 I had been continuing a study of philosophy and mysticism
and I decided one Sunday morning to go for a walk in the countryside with the
intention of finding some solitary place to sit and meditate for 1/2 an hour or
so. I had recently read the Bhagavat Gita and was interested in the meaning of
the symbol AUM, both in a philosophical sense and as a mantra for use in
meditation. I had previously used the AUM mantra for meditaion and felt
comfortable with it. It's use had generated a remarkable inner serenity and an
odd detachement which I found, and still find, difficult to describe.
I travelled to the countryside by bus, on the way reading a little book called
the Ashtavakra Gita (The song of the Sage Astavakra). I was using the verse
quoted at the top of this article as a focus for my naturally wandering mind.
When I arrived, I walked for 20 minutes or so and finally found a spot in the
midst of a hidden copse, which had the added advantage of offering a wonderful
panoramic view over the Medway river valley between Chatham and Maidstone in
Sitting cross legged on the ground I began to meditate. I have never been very
good at it, but had neverthless established a routine which I habitually used.
I would begin by some simple breathing exercises designed to slow down the
thinking rational mind. Then I would give thanks for my blessings and offer
myself up as an instrument for the Divine. I would try to feel compassion to
all life, and to generate a feeling of universal unity (not a particulary easy
thing to do these days). Finally I would begin the AUM chant.
I had read that AUM should be chanted with the emphasis on the 'MMM' sound at
the end but I never felt happy with this. Also, I has also read that the length
of each pronounciation should last for between 10 to 15 seconds. But even
though I would start with the best intentions I always ended with each
pronounciation lasting about 3 seconds with a short pause between each for an
intake of breath. The effect was not to slow my breathing down by any great
extent, but instead to make each breath much shallower. Perhaps the overall
effect is the same.
One thing I have always noticed when chanting AUM in this way (and still do) is
that the chant begins to set up a kind of resonance in the mind. As the chant
proceeds the mind becomes aware of 'something else' which is present along
with the sound of the voice. It is difficult to be more precise, but the effect
of this 'resonance' or 'echo' is to catch the attention. When this happens
there is a simultaneous feeling of upliftment at the very moment that the mind
catches this echo. One gets the impression that were the mind capable of
holding on to this experience then something of permanent and lasting value
would result - although exactly what is not clear.
Anyway, on this particular occasion I continued to chant the AUM syllable for
perhaps 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour. My eyes were closed and apart from the usual
extraneous thoughts which always crop up during meditation, I was fairly deeply
absorbed. Then I must have made some kind of unconscious decision that it was
time to move on, because I stopped the chant and opened my eyes. I immediately
realised that something was unusual. I could still here the AUM sound!
I did a double take! I literally had to check that I was not continuing the
chant without realising it. I was not. But the AUM vibration was as plain as
any sound I have ever heard in my life. Furthermore, it was not simply a sound.
AUM was coming at me, flowing through me, from all directions. It came from the
sky, it came from the ground, every leaf on the surrounding trees and bushes
was singing this beautiful vibration. Also, the experience had a celestial
quality - as if it would be the natural song of all the angels in the highest
heaven I could imagine. I could see AUM and feel it. Its power was
unbelievable, it seemed limitless, but at the same time benign and loving.
If anybody has ever felt truly blessed it was me at that moment.
I was not in a hurry to go anywhere in particular, so I wandered around the
countryside, listening to - no! revelling in, this experience. There is a
catholic monastary not far from where I was. A lovely place. I walked there and
exchanged pleasentries with a couple of monks. It is no word of a lie when I
tell that for those few hours I loved everybody in the world. The people I
met, the plants, even the ground, all shone with a kind of inner light. It
reminded me of something I had read by Aldous Huxley in his book 'The Doors of
Perception' when he described his mescaline experience. He said that for a time
the world looked to him as it must have looked to Adam on the morning of his
creation. So it looked to me, but I had taken no drugs. And the visual side of
the experience was only one side of somthing multi-faceted.
Eventually I had to make my way home. The experience slowly faded over a
couple of hours, but its echos were strong enough to keep me walking six
inches above the ground (or so it felt) for some time afterwards.
In fact the echoes are still with me now - and always will be. I have tried on
a number of occasions to repeat the experience, but although I can become
quite absorbed with the AUM chant, it has never returned to the same degree.
The bottom line for me was that afterwards I was a changed person. Not overtly
though. My belief system didn't change, nor did my social habits or my
relationships with people close to me. What I gained was a sense of absolute
certainty, an unmovable foundation based in experience from which all other
considerations are judged. Man IS inherently Divine, despite the worst
appearances. The destiny of our race is to re-discover this inner Divinity
and move closer to our origins in the ABSULUTE!
2. What the books say
After I had the experience described above I decided to do some research to
discover more about what is said concerning the AUM vibration in traditional
I first looked in the Bhagavad Gita. The copy I mostly use is a translation
into English verse by Sir Edwin Arnold, published by the Self-Realisation
Fellowship, Los Angelese, California. (This is indeed a most wonderful
In chapter 8 (Religion by Devotion to the One Supreme God) Arjuna asks Krishna
about the death experience. An extract from Krishna's reply is as follows:
That way - the highest way - goes he who shuts
The gates of all his senses, locks desire
Safe in his heart, centers the vital airs
Upon his parting thought, steadfastly set;
And murmuring AUM, the sacred syllable -
Emblem of BRAHM - dies, meditating Me.
For who, none other Gods regarding, looks
Ever to Me, easily am I gained
By such a Yogi; and attaining Me,
They fall not - those Mahatmas - back to birth,
To life, which is the place of pain, which ends,
But take the way of utmost blessedness.
And again in chapter 9 (Religion by the Kingly Knowledge and the Kingly
Mystery) Lord Krishna says:
I am the Sacrifice! I am the Prayer!
I am the Funeral-Cake set for the dead!
I am the healing herb! I am the ghee,
The Mantra, and the flame, and that which burns!
I am - of all this boundless Universe -
The Father, Mother, Ancestor, and Guard!
The end of Learning! That which purifies
In lustral water! I am AUM! I am
Rig-Veda, Sama Vede, Yajur-Ved;
The Way, the Fosterer, the Lord, the Judge,
The Witness; the Abode, the Refuge-House,
The Friend, the Fountain and the Sea of Life.....
Having read these uplifting passages I decided to look at some of the many
commentaries to the Bhagavat Gita. The best I have come across is one called
"The Yoga of the Bhagavat Gita" by Sri Krishna Prem published by Element
Books, ISBN 1-85230-023-X.
On page 72 in the chapter corrsponding to the 8th chapter of the Gita he says
in a footnote that
"A lot of nonsense has been written in the West about OM
and its 'vibrations'.", and
"The true meaning of the word should be studied in the
And so I obtained a copy of the said Mandukya Upanishad (among others).
This Upanishad is very short, but also very important. To quote the brief
summary at the beginning:
"The life of man is divided between waking, dreaming, and
dreamless sleep. But transcending these three states is
superconscious vision - called simply The Fourth."
The Mandukya Upanishad describes the symbolism behind the three elements of
the A-U-M syllable. The 'A' corresponds to the Self as the universal person in
his physical being - awake and conscious only of external objects. The 'U' is
the universal person in his mental being - dreaming and conscious only of his
dreams. The 'M' is the universal person in dreamless sleep - without desire -
the origin and the end of all.
The Fourth, the Self, is 'AUM', the indivisible syllable - unutterable and
beyond mind. In 'AUM' the manifold universe disappears. It is the supreme
good - One without a second. Whosoever knows 'AUM', the Self, becomes the
This is indeed an uplifting message - but a little frightening to me. I had an
experience of 'AUM' - that fact is undeniable - but this Upanishad implies
that great achievements can come from this - but I can lay claim to none of
Other Upanishads also refer to AUM.
For example, the Mundaka Upanishad states that:
"AUM is the bow, the arrow is the individual being, and
Brahman is the target. With a tranquil heart, take aim.
Lose thyself in him, even as the arrow is lost in the
There are many such references in the Upanishads - far to numerous to mention
here - but the theme is always the same. AUM is the eventual destination,
the means to get there, and the foundation of that which is doing the
Meditation on AUM does not only mean meditating on its meaning. THE SOUND
ITSELF HAS POWER! This fact I simply cannot stress enough.
My last references here are from a book I came across by chance in a junk shop
one day many years ago. (Was it waiting for me - who knows?). It is called
'Hindu Mysticism' by Mahendranath Sircar and was published in 1934.
In a chapter on symbolism he says:
The symbol AUM has deeper significance. It unfolds the finer
sensibility and perception. It can move the inner spirituality
of man. It stands for the cosmic harmony. It presents the
rhythm deeply lain in spirit.
And a final quote:
AUM is significant of a meaning and indicative of a value.
It is a source of arousing the spiritual possibilities. It
represents the essence of spirit and is therefore powerful
enough to move the spirit to intense activity in us.
In this indissoluble union of power and meaning, meaning and
object, can we see the true significance of symbols, especially
of AUM. Without this supposition no satisfactory explanation can
be given of the subtle mystic powers and experiences it evokes
and the encompassing vision it commands. The knots of psychic
life are torn asunder, the waves of the lower being are quelled by
the spiritual influence of AUM.
In this sense it is the symbol of the dynamic divine. (.....)
AUM wakes up the delightful harmonies. It unties the complex
knots of our vital and psychic life. It frees us from the
doubts of a reflective mentality. It gives us the surity of
intuitive consciousness. It removes the complexities of our
psychic being. It makes it transparent and vibrative enough
to reflect true spirituality.
The AUM symbol and mantra has had the most profound effect on my life. It is
surely right and proper that this message should be spread as far and as wide
as is possible. Because of my experience I cannot imagine that the use of the
AUM mantra could be misused. At worst it may produce no effects, at best it
transforms the nature of personal consciousness. No contest.
This is the justification for this message. If just one person reads this and
as a result has an experience anything like mine then it will have been more
than worth the effort of the writing.
As to how to do the AUM chant - I don't know. I know what worked for me, but
that was much different from the earlier descriptions I had read.
If anybody out there wishes to try this then I would suggest that the best
attitude to adopt is one of experimentation. Find out what suits you best. It
may be a longer chant than my three second effort. It may have more emphasis
on the 'MMM' part. Who knows?
The best way I can think of to describe the actual vocalisation I use is that
it is a little like the 'MEEOW' of a cat, but without the 'MEE at the beginning
and with the 'MM' at the end. I put the effort into making the change of
tone (?) as smooth as possible.
If anybody does attempt this I will be more than just interested to hear of
the results - whether successful or not.
Thank you for reading this File
Chatham, Kent, UK
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