The Pranava – AUM

The Pranava AUM has enchanted students of this great science of yoga for millenia. Let’s take a closer look at this mystifying and quintessential yoga symbol …

“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’. 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 ‘limitless’.

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 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

Not just a mere physical symbol, the Pranava is a profound representation of the inexplicable totality, that which lies behind and beyond everything. It is a marker, directing us toward the ‘highest’, beyond which lies the source and substance of all.

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 ‘that which existed before existence itself’.

This cosmic sound AUM, 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” as Vairaga Pranava (resplendent humming Universal Vibration). To intone the Pranava AUM is to evoke the most potent of all powers.

Hence, OM is the most sacred of all mantras. It is used in yoga as a universal invocation of the ‘Supreme’ before all rites, rituals and other mantras or prayers …

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