The Syllable Om Credit: hinduterminal.org

The Syllable Om
Credit: hinduterminal.org

The somewhat incompatible outcome of the efforts of Upanishadic thinkers to reconcile the contradictions in the concept of Brahman through the dialectics of Realism had left disciples confused regarding the manner in which they were to conceive and meditate on the essence of Brahman. This was brilliantly resolved with the extraordinary intuitive discovery that the truth was not out there but right here within in the self.

Disciples were told that there was only one way the search for unity of Brahman could be successfully experienced – not by looking for it outside in the illusory world of diversity or through strenuous intellectual acrobatics by trying to fathom  and comprehend the qualities and nature of Brahman which was without qualities and incomprehensible. The only way was to look within, for the self was itself the unity they had long been searching for elsewhere.

The Chandogya Upanishad declared:

”As far verily as this world-space extends, so far extends the space within the heart… everything here is contained within it.” This going within to grasp the nature of unity occurs either in dreamless sleep or deepest meditation:

”When one is sound asleep, composed, serene and knows no dream – that is the self.” the unity with Brahman is a blissful state of consciousness in which individuality and all distinctions are overcome.

The short Mandukya Upanishad was the culmination of all Upanishadic thought – it explains in 12 verses the four aspects of the Self (Atman):

The first is the waking state – the individual moving and living in the phenomenal world. It enjoys and consumes gross matter.

The second is the ”Shining One inwardly cognitive” when in dream filled sleep. It enjoys subtle dream objects which arise from dream memories.

The third is the deep sleep state ”just a cognitive mass, consisting of bliss and feeds on bliss”. Here the self becomes undivided in dreamless sleep and is pure blissful consciousness. This indeed is the Lord of All ( Sarveshvar), the Omniscient ( Sarvagyana ), the indweller ( Antaryami), the source of all (Yoni – the great womb), this is the origin and the end of all beings ( an apt description of what we generally term as God ?).

The fourth which is beyond the realms even of deep sleep and beyond the beginning and the end of all beings is the real self to be realized ( through meditation) and is termed Turiya. The qualities of this final level of self is described thus:

”neither inward nor outward turned consciousness, nor both; not a dormant omniscience; neither knowing nor unknowing, invisible, ineffable, intangible, devoid of characteristics, inconceivable, undefinable ( all this because being the only subject there is no object and therefore no comparison to give it any shape,colour, form or attributes) – its sole essence being the assurance of its own Self, the cessation of all development ( differentiated existence), tranquil, peaceful-blissful, without a second (Advaitam) – this isAtman, the self which is to be realized.”

However, all four aspects together constitute the whole of Brahman/Atman.

Furthermore, according to the great Madukya Upanishad ( and specially intended for those who wish to meditate on the self) these aspects together can also be discerned in the sphere of sound ( Hindu creation myths begin with the resonance of sound rather than the unleashing of light) as the syllable Om ( A U M ), each of the states corresponding to one of the letters and the fourth to Silence – A is the waking state, U the dream state, M the deep sleep state and the fourth is silence within which the resonating sound of OM arises, vibrates and subsides. This is a manifestation of Brahman-Atman as a syllable. This resonating sound is the whole of this visible universe, past, present and future and the fourth, silence is what is beyond time. All stages of the sound are as important as the silence which precedes and follows its utterance as it is their totality that constitutes the universal essence of Brahman-Atman.

Practitioners of Yoga  are told that with this resounding sound they can begin to sense the unity of Brahman.

We see that thus was the final unity of Reality reached by the Upanishads, moving from Realism to Idealism.

The syllable Om symbolizing Brahman-Atman has today come to represent Hinduism as the Cross has Christianity, the Crescent Islam,  Yin Yang the Tao and the Menorah and Star of David, Judaism.

I recently happened to come across an excellent series of  five videos on U Tube on meditation which clearly were inspired by Upanishadic concepts though there is a liberal overlay of some New Age concepts also. However to get a vivid idea of the Self within and how accessing it can lead to enlightened states, through the medium of excellent and imaginatively created video footage, it may be worthwhile for those interested to go have a look:

As I said it is on U Tube and is titled – ” HOW TO ACCESS YOUR SUPERCONSCIOUSNESS’ ‘  – really worth a visit.

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