The Yoga Tutor

Pranava AUM

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page vi ]

"The Yogis say the cosmos vibrates to the pranava, the cosmic sound of AUM, the 'Mantra of Mantras', the Vishnu Nama, universal name of God. This Mantra is said to be the abode of cosmic consciousness and those who are able to absorb themselves in it become One with the Highest."
~ Yoga Life, March 2006

All manner of religions and peoples, since time immortal, have sanctimoniously embraced and vehemently contested the name of God. Yahweh, Allah, Jehovah, Brahman are all various sacred utterances representing the same, underlying Supreme Force of Creation.

The great Rishis of ancient India foresaw the confusion and ultimate violence that arose out of the vainness of defending and imposing these names upon others -- a futility of naming that which, by its very nature, is beyond name.

The Rishis sought to convey God as the 'all-encompassing totality', which they referred to as the 'Universal Consciousness'. They understood that to use any manner of word or combination of words from any language was to impose a limit upon that which is

This ultimate Supreme Power, they knew, is beyond the sum total of all sensations and experiences, and hence beyond even the sum total of all thoughts, actions, and languages.

Even to create a name that included in it the totality of the entire alphabet of every language known to man, not only today, but in the entire history of mankind and into the infinite future too, plus all their codes, gestures and symbols as well, would still fall short, because the description of God must be even still beyond all of this—beyond all words, all thoughts, all symbols and beyond the very capacity of the human mind to even conceive!

At the end of all this futility stands the Pranava AUM (Om) -- not as a simple symbol, but as a profound representation of the inexplicable totality, that which lies behind and beyond everything.

The Pranava is a marker, directing us toward the highest -- beyond which lies the source and substance of all that is, was, and ever could be.

The Sanskrit word Pranava comes from the roots pra, which means "pre" and nava, or "new". Literally, it means "that which existed before anything (that is new)," or even "that which existed before existence itself."

This cosmic sound AUM (Om), then, is considered to be the supreme of all mantras, the original 'cosmic sound' -- the primordial vibration constituting the beginning and the end of creation. It is the name of God in vibration.

Though the Divine is beyond time, space and causation, it can be experienced through its prime manifestations of pure light and pure sound (or vibration) that is the Pranava AUM.

It is referred to in the NADA BINDU UPANISHAD, one of the ancient books of the VEDAS, as Vairaga Pranava, which means "resplendent humming universal vibration."

Sometimes simply written OM, it is the most sacred of mantras. To intone the Pranava AUM is to evoke the most potent of all powers. It is used in yoga as a universal invocation of the 'Supreme' before all rites, rituals and other mantras...


NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

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