AUM – The Universal Sound
`In the beginning was the word` is the opening statement in St John`s book in the Bible. Christians
may interpret this to mean that John the Baptist was the man sent to spread the word of the coming of Jesus, but we can also
use the expression in yoga to describe the origin of our universe, and to link it in with theories of modern science.
The `Big Bang` theory suggests the universe was created by a huge explosion whose reverberations are still being felt
and heard throughout `space`. We are told that the sound of that explosion can still be picked up by scientific
instruments as it travels through space. We also know that all matter is formed of molecules and atoms.
As we divide atoms into smaller and smaller particles we finish up with only space. In the process
of splitting the atom a terrific amount of energy is released which may be regulated or released in an explosive BANG.
It is only energy which is forming what we see as solid material. Yogis would see this as one more
piece of proof that all of `creation` is only `maya` - illusion.
In yoga we believe
that BEFORE the Big Bang there was already present the POTENTIAL for creation: at that time `God` was sleeping.
When God awoke the explosion of energy was created and formed the sound of AUM. Within aum we are
told are all sounds, all letters, words, languages and mantras, and we could go on to suggest that all stars, planets and
life are also manifestation of that sound. Chanting or hearing aum therefore not only has vibrational physical
effects on the body and the physical brain and mind, but it also links us spiritually with the whole of creation and that
force we may call God.
The written symbol of aum describes the four
levels of conciousness which we may experience. Written like a reversed letter E, with a loop projecting
from the right side, and with above that a crescent supporting a floating spot, the symbol describes the stages we pass through
on the way to realising the transcendental state of Samadhi.
The upper left
facing loop is described as the awake/conscious state of the mind. The lower half represents the dream
state, and the loop the deep dreamless state achieved in meditation. The crescent is known as the `veil
of illusion` or maya. The realisation of the transcendental state represented by the spot or bindu, the
target of our meditations, gives us release from the three previous states and their qualities and limitations, and lets us
experience the sense of `samadhi`, bliss, nirvana or heaven.
Chanting aum orally
begins with a deep physical sound, which we think as originating from the belly and the physical chakras. At
this point the mouth is open and the sound aaaaa is being made. Lower organs of the body are beneficially
affected at this stage. As the sound moves up into the chest and throat, the sound made changes to uuuu,
formed by a partial closing of the mouth into a tighter circle. The thorax and throat are here affected. Finally
the sound mmmm is created as the sound is brought up into the mouth and nasal cavities, by which time the lips are almost
together. At this point the humming vibrations are most likely to affect the brainwaves of the mind, calming
and quietening the mind so that the busy beta waves of active thought are replaced by the calmer alpha waves and finally the
even deeper waves of theta and delta form. As the last vestiges of sound finally extend from the lips into
space there is no point at which there vibration ends. The sound of aum extends into the space around your
body and ultimately out into space.
Aum may be chanted loudly, whispered, or repeated
silently. We are told that for individual use, quiet or silent repetition are the more valuable.
In tradition all mantras are preceded and end with Aum. A common greeting between Hindus, followers
of the Sanatama Dharma is: