Pranava means “cosmic sound” in Sanskrit. It is the name for the mantra, Om (or Aum). It is an important symbol in yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Meditating on pranava leads to liberation because it brings about unity with Brahman, the Absolute Truth.
Pranava yoga is a technique for meditation which is considered by many to be one of the classical forms of meditation. It is described in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, as well as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. To perform Pranava yoga is to focus the mind on the mantra, Om, and to contemplate its sacred nature, repeating the mantra with each breath. It is also sometimes called Om meditation.
From The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Book 1 – The Problem of Union
Alice Bailey & Djwhal Khul
27. The Word of Ishvara is AUM (or OM). This is the Pranava.
(See Book I Sutra 1.)
Students should remember that there are three basic Words or sounds in manifestation. This is the case as far as the human kingdom is concerned. They are:
- The Word, or note of Nature. This is the Word or the sound of all forms existing in physical plane substance, and as is usually known, it is sounded on the fundamental note “FA.” It is a note with which the white occultist has nothing to do, for his work is concerned not with the increase of tangibility but with the demonstration of the subjective or the intangible. This is the Word of the third aspect, the Brahma or Holy Ghost aspect.
- The Sacred Word. This is the Word of Glory, the AUM. This is the Pranava, the sound of conscious Life itself as It is breathed forth into all forms. It is the Word of the second aspect, and just as the Word of Nature when rightly emanated provides the forms which are intended to reveal the soul or second aspect, so the Pranava, when rightly expressed, demonstrates the Father or Spirit through the medium of the soul. It is the Word of the incarnated sons of God. In such a short commentary as this, it is not possible to write a treatise on this secret of secrets, and this great mystery of the ages. All that can be done is to collate certain facts about the AUM, and leave the student to extend the concept and grasp the significance of the brief statements made according to the state of his intuition.
- The Lost Word. The idea of this Lost Word has been preserved for us in Masonry. It is the Word of the first aspect, the spirit aspect, and only the initiate of the third degree can truly begin the search for this word for only the freed soul can find it. This word concerns the highest initiations and it is profitless for us further to consider it.
The following statements about the Sacred Word can therefore be made and should be studied with care:
- The AUM is the Word of glory, and is the Christ in us, the hope of glory.
- The Word when rightly apprehended causes the second, or Christ aspect of divinity to shine forth resplendently.
- It is the sound which brings into manifestation the incarnated soul (macrocosmic or microcosmic), the ego, the Christ, and causes the “radiant Augoeides” to be seen on earth.
- It is the Word which is the releaser of consciousness and when correctly understood and used, releases the soul from the limitations of form in the three worlds.
- The AUM is the synthesizer of the three aspects and therefore is primarily the Word of the human kingdom in which the three lines of divine life meet – spirit, soul and body.
- It is also the Word of the fifth, the Aryan race, in a special sense. The work of that race is to reveal in a newer and fuller way the nature of the inner Identity, of the soul within the form, the son of mind, the solar angel, the fifth principle.
- The significance of the Word only becomes apparent after the “light within” is realized. By its use the “spark” becomes a radiant light, the light becomes a flame, and the flame eventually becomes a sun. By its use the “sun of righteousness arises” in the life of every man.
- Each of the three letters has relation to the three aspects, and each can be applied to any of the known triplicities.
- The Master, the God within, is indeed the Word, the AUM, and of this Master (found at the heart of all beings) it is true that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (thus duality) and the Word was God.” Through its use man arrives at a realization of:
- His own essential divinity,
- The purpose of the form-taking process,
- The constitution and nature of those forms,
- The reality of consciousness, or the relation of the divine self or spirit to the form, its polar opposite.
This relation, in its evolutionary working out, we call consciousness and the essential characteristic of this consciousness is love.
- The Guru or Master who leads a pupil up to the door of initiation and who watches over him in all the initial and subsequent tests and processes likewise represents the Word, and through the scientific use of this great sound He produces a certain stimulation and vitalization in the centers of the disciple, thus rendering certain developments possible.
More about the Sacred Word is not advisable to add here. Enough has been given to indicate to the aspirant its purpose and potency. There will have to be communicated in other ways and at other times further information as the student – through study and self initiated effort – arrives at just conclusions. It might be added, that this great Word, when meditated upon, gives the clue to the true esoteric meaning of the words in the Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky:
“Life we look upon as the One Form of Existence, manifesting in what we call Matter; or what, incorrectly separating them, we name Spirit, Soul and Matter in man. Matter is the vehicle for the manifestation of Soul on this plane of existence, and Soul is the vehicle on a higher plane for the manifestation of Spirit, and these three are a Trinity synthesized by Life, which pervades them all.”
28. Through the sounding of the Word and through reflection upon its meaning, the Way is found.
This is a very general paraphrase but conveys nevertheless the correct significance of the terms used in the Sanskrit. Only Vivekananda, among the many translators, gives this interpretation, putting it as follows:
“The repetition of the OM and meditating upon its meaning (is the Way).”
The other translators omit the final three words, though the inference is clear.
The expression “the sounding of the Word” must not be too literally interpreted; the esoteric “sounding forth” is based upon a study of the Law of Vibration, and the gradual tuning of the lower vibrations of the sheaths or vestures of consciousness so that they synchronize with the note or sound of the conscious indweller. Speaking correctly, the Word is to be sounded by the soul or the ego on its own plane, and the vibration will subsequently affect the various bodies or vehicles which house that soul. The process is therefore a mental one and can only really be done by those who – through meditation and discipline, coupled with service – have made a conscious at-one-ment with the soul. Aspirants to this condition have to utilize the potent factors of the imagination, visualization and perseverance in meditation to reach this initial stage. It should be noted that this stage has to be reached, even if only in a relatively small degree, before the aspirant can become an accepted disciple.
The process of sounding the Word is dual, as is emphasized here.
There is, first of all, the act of the ego, solar angel, higher self or soul, as he sounds out the Word from his own place, on the abstract levels of the mental plane. He directs that sound, via the sutratma and the vestures of consciousness to the physical brain of the man in incarnation, the shadow or reflection. This “sounding forth” has to be constantly repeated. The Sutratma is that magnetic link, spoken of in the Christian Bible as the “silver cord,” that thread of living light which connects the Monad, the Spirit in man, with the physical brain.
Secondly, there is the earnest reflection of the man in his physical brain upon that sound as he recognizes it. The two poles of being are hinted at here: the soul and the man in incarnation, and between these two is found the thread, along which the Pranava (or word) vibrates. Students of the esoteric science have to recognize the technique of the processes outlined. In the case of the sounding forth of the Word we have the following factors:
- The soul who sends, or breathes it forth,
- The sutratma or thread along which the sound vibrates, is carried or transmitted,
- The vestures of consciousness, mental, emotional and etheric which vibrate in response to the vibration or breath and are stimulated thereby,
- The brain which can be trained to recognize that sound and vibrate in unison with the breath,
- The subsequent act of the man in meditation. He hears the sound (called sometimes the “still small Voice,” or the “Voice of the Silence”), he recognizes it for what it is and in deep reflection he assimilates the results of his soul’s activity.
Later when the aspirant has passed on into the mysteries and has learnt how to unify the soul and the lower man so that they function as a coordinated unit on earth, the man learns to sound the Word on the physical plane with the object of awakening the forces which are latent within him and thereby arouse the centers. Thus he participates increasingly in the creative, magical and psychical work of manifestation, with the object ever in view of benefiting his fellow men and thus furthering the plans of the planetary hierarchy.