The calendar of the human’s spiritual culture counts thousands of years. The achievements of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Indus Valley and Chinese civilizations are considered to be the foundation and development of many different religious cultures. Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, buddhism, different movements of Hinduism and Islam – have become hearths of the spiritual culture and sources of inspiration for many seeking souls. All those spiritual teachings are united in a theological approach to attempt to describe the ideas of the Divine immanence and transcendency. In different moments of history, in different corners of the world, speaking different languages, people have felt this special need in interpreting and stating their religious views that reflect the properties of God, his acts, the ways of cognition of the supreme knowledge and moral concepts.The knowledge has reached us in the form of sacred texts, attributes and symbols.
Evidently, dependence on circumstances of any text is a characteristic feature.
Time itself, ideologies, personal interests of historical characters had and still have their authority and power over the written. The texts have been edited, altered and commented many times over, at times becoming an ideological instrument.
Where a more permanent way of transmitting information is through a symbol.
The symbol may form the basis of interpretation in most reliable ways, that will give the idea of the subtle forces and phenomenas of higher order.
Creating sacred symbols, each religious community has seen as the way to impact aesthetically on the consciousness, as well as to provide guidance to the basic concepts of the teaching and its format.
At times in different directions of religious concepts occurs absolute identity of symbols and their inner meaning. As an example we have the six-pointed star (hexagram) and the five-pointed star (pentagram), the cross or the swastika. Perhaps this suggests that different cultures at different stages of history were one whole, or were influenced by each other, without losing any relevance on their own not in the least. One of the few sacred signs that hadn’t undergone any alterations since ancient times is the symbol of OM. Accepted in every Hindu and Buddhist tradition, the Om maintains its sacred status.
The very first mentions of it are found in the most ancient Indian Civilization books. It is similar in all of the written religious traditions of India, retaining its basic features. OM – is the embodiment of the Supreme and its properties, manifested in the symbol. The symbol Om is found in various classical texts of Hinduism. The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, yogic texts give the idea of the nature of this sacred sign.
Essentially, The Om is the expression of the Divine. That is what beholds in itself the knowledge and the power, the cause and effect of all observed in the Universe, the process of creation, development, transformation and destruction of all subtle and gross. When one grasps the meaning of this sacred symbol, no more goals, nor desires remain. The symbol Om – is the mean and purpose of all. There is no knowledge higher than the knowledge of Omkara.
“Aum! It is the seed of all that exists! The past, the present, the future – all that is the sound Aum. And that which is beyond the three times – it is also Aum.
It is the universal lord, it is the all-knowing inner ruler, it is the source of everything, the beginning and the end of any being.
It is the Atman in regard to sounds, the sound Aum in regard to particals. The feet (Of the Atman) – are parts, and the parts – are feet. The sound A, the sound U, the sound M. ”
“Om – is space, it is Brahman, the original space. It is the Veda, which brahmans know. Due to it they know, what must be known.”
Perhaps, because of the variety of beliefs of Hinduism and because of the unity of views, we can discourse about the OM as being a unifying symbol, that in order to systematize one has absorbed a large number of interrelated concepts. Indeed, it seems quite difficult to find anywhere else such a wide range of metaphysical principles. OM as a sign of supreme holiness is presented in each text, which has any religious significance, in variety of mantras and prayers. OM as a designation of the Supreme consciousness in the form of sound is called – Mantra, and as a graphic symbol it is called – Yantra. This is what you can see and hear. Through the attainment of the sound and the image OM one can experience the Divine.
Omkara in the Natha Yoga Tradition.
It should be noted that the designation of the symbol Om presented in two sounds “O” and “M” is not quite objective. When we take a more precise look on the first letter O, it occurs to be the result of joined pronunciation of the sound “A” and “U”. The consilidation of the two long vowels had given the idea of a single sound “O”.
Through yogic experience Natha yogis developed their own metaphysical view of the nature and properties of the sacred symbol. The quintessential ideas of the Sampradaya became that what had the most significancy from the point of view of the Nath Siddhas.
According to the Nath Sampradaya yogis the Omkara is the source of all being, immanent and transcendent.
“The three times, three worlds, three deities reside in them. It is Om, the higher light. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara – these three deities reside in three matras of Om. It is Om, the higher light.
Kriya, Ichha and Jnana, Brahmi, Raudri and Vaishnavi – this trinal shakti resides in the three mantras of Om. It is Om, the higher light.”
The symbol is schematically represented by five elements. The point above is the Bindu, as the cause of all Creation. The semicircle in the bottom is the designation of Shakti, which represents the three gunas: Rajas as Brahma and the sound “A”, Sattva as Vishnu and the sound “U”, Tamas as Rudra or Shiva and the sound “M”. In a such way the Natha yogis see the cosmogenic principles, discovering the nature of Creation, preservation and destruction, represented as the basic Vedic deities.
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of identities associated with the construction of the symbol OM. The five described components are considered to be forms of consciousness, such as the following states: wakefulness, dreaming state, deep sleep state, the state of transcendental experience and the state which is beyond the understanding and comprehension.
In addition to the four Vedas, known as the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Samveda, Atharva Veda, Nath yogis also mention the Sukshmavedu. It was obtained by the practice of yoga, and the further expansion of its knowledge has provided the other four books of the Vedas, which contain all the knowledge about the subtle and gross. The Vedas were obtained through sound and further, as gross, displayed in Sanskrit letters. It is for this reason that the Sanskrit alphabet is regarded as sacred and holy. Thus, this aspect obtaines not only physical nature, but also metaphysical. Nath yogis point out the peculiarity of some alphabetic characters: groups of letters with proper pronunciation generate one or another of the five Pranas manifested in the body. Letters Ka, Ga, Cha, Ja, Ta, Dda, Tta, Da, Pa, Ba – lead to the activity of the pranavayyu. Kha, G’ha, Ch’ha, Jha, T’ha, R’ha, D’ha, P’ha, B’ha, Ha – activate the apanavayyu. Na, Pa, Na, Ma – udanavayyu. Ya, Ra, Ja, Va, Sha, Sa – samanavayyu. The human activity is completely determined by the state of the five primary Pranas localized in the human body. Each of them is endowed with special functions that regulate the gross and subtle.
Pranavayyu is localized in the chest, it regulates the function of absorbing energy and controls the breath.
Apanavayyu is located inside the body near the anus and controls the elimination of waste products through the excretory systems and the exhale.
Udanavayyu relates to the area of the throat and controls the ability of contraction in body parts, movements in the throat and the activities of the senses.
Samanavayyu is localized in the abdomen and controls the magnetism and balances all pranas in the body.
Vyanavayyu is distributed throughout the whole body and connects all five Pranas, ensuring their interaction, blood circulation and stimulates the chakras.
The regulation of prana is obtained through the practice of Hat’ha yoga. The activity of Prana and Apana lead to their interconnection in the Samana, by this they balance the body’s functions, and thus they balance the consciousness. The functioning and balance of the vital powers and consciousness are due to the process of Prana interaction. There is another feature: all Vayu in the human body has an absolute analogy in the body of the Universe. Prana in the body of the Universe regulates all types of motion. Apana has the properties of fire. Vyana has the properties of the Moon. Udana regulates the presence of the smallest particles. Samana retains the balance of forces. The proper understanding of these processes through sadhana balances the ratio of all pranavayyu and Mahabhuta. Thus, the prana is seen not only in the applied use, but as a manifestation of the Supreme consciousness and creative energy. Sadhana is an instrument for the identification of these processes, the expansion of perception. Should be added, that one of the attributes of the Natha tradition, the nadi-janeu, presented as a black cord and the five elements arranged in a certain order, is considered as the materialized Omkara by the Nath yogis. The black lacing – is a symbol of the Void; the ring on which the items hang – is Shakti; the coral, crystal and the rudraksha are associated with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The last item is in the form of a Nadi whistle, it is analogous to the bindu. Thus, the nadi-janeu is constantly worn by the yogi, always reminds him of the basic beliefs and values of the Sampradaya.
Pranava is inseperably linked to OM. The word Pranava consists of three abbreviation sounds. The first part – “PRA” – means delusion, fallacy. The second part – “NA” – is a particle of negation, denial; and the third part – “VA” – means “those who possess knowledge.” Thus, the Pranava Om, from the point of view of Nath yogis, is the most effective and easy way to acknowledge the Absolute. We can not observe it visually or by the organs of hearing. The Absolute can not be understood through reasoning, yet the recitation of the syllable OM opens up the possibility of direct experience.
“If a yogi constantly practices pranava Om, clean he is or unclean, he does not get affected by sin, as the lotus leaf does not get wet from the water.”
Whilst repeating the mantra, it is highly important to understand the basic principles of the symbol. Om is considered as a Bija sound. “Bija”, translated from Sanskrit, means “seed”. Bija Mantra OM is the primal sound from which all the other sounds of the universe occured, it is fundamental for all existing mantras, including Bija sounds throughout the whole chakra system, used as mantras for the rise of Kundalini shakti. By reciting the mantra OM 21 times the yogi purifies the body’s 21 elements. These are five jnanendriyas, five karmendriyas, five pranas, five koshas and Atma. The Omkara is desirable to use as a Japa Sadhana in the performance of asanas, pranayama and dhyana. While practicing dhyana, the length of the syllables pronunciation should be divided into three parts, and each sound is to be distributed into three parts of the body. The sound “A” must be lifted from the bottom of the abdomen. “U”-sound rises from the middle of the body to the upper chest. The “M” sound continues to rise to the top of the head, where it spreads out in an area that is called Brahmarandhra. All feelings are dissolved in the experience of emptiness, and the “I” merges with the supreme consciousness. Thus, Omkara unites the granth system, namely Brahma Granthi, Vishnu and Rudra Granthi, Rajas, Tamas and Sattva, prana and apana, and through the rise of the Kundalini one can achieve the highest state of consciousness evolution. OM – is the most subtle of all existing vibrations and the highest form of energy. For this reason, the OM is regarded as a manifestation of God. Pronouncing Pranava Om sincerely, in a concentrated way and with understanding, leads to overcoming all obstacles and reaching the main goal of yoga – happiness and satisfaction at this point become attainable. When Omkara fills the body and the mind, the perception of what is called Alakh Niranjan goes beyond the body and expands the properties of this holy sound in the space around. And then nothing and nobody remains unsanctified by the Omkara.
Yogi Kripanath Maharaj