June 20, 2020

Sutra 1.27-1.28: A U M

Samadhi Pada: Yoga of Being in the Now

    1.27 Tasya vachakah pranavah
    1.28 Tajjapah tadarthabhavanam
    • tasya = that
    • vachakah = symbol / expression
    • pranavah = humming / AUM

    • taj = that
    • japah = repetition
    • tad = that
    • artha = meaning / purpose
    • bhavanam = contemplation / absorbing

How many things in yoga do you do and accept as true because a teacher told you that's the way it is. For the most part, in the beginning, I think we all do this. I replied 'Namaste' at the end of classes for a long time just because that's what you're supposed to do. What did it mean? I had no clue. But then I started to practice and study with teachers who encouraged me to question everything. Do the practices they taught, hear about the benefits and effects, but question if this truly was my experiences with these practices. I consider these next sutras an opportunity to question and experiment to see how it lands in my overall practice.

These next two sutras go into depth about the meaning and use of the symbol and sound 'AUM'  I'm sure we've all heard this sound and associate it with yoga, but what does it actually mean? The short explanation is that AUM represents Ishvara. Remember Ishvara (from the last few sutras) is difficult to explain but is associated with the divine, universal intelligence, god, allah, yahweh, light, etc and it's the idea that you are guided and supported by something more than you, and something that has a greater knowledge of universal workings. The longer explanation is that AUM is everything that is. For example, it's:

  • a map to the journey of connecting to the whole
  • the sound that encompasses all of the sounds (A=an open mouth sound, U=rolls from open to closed, M=closed mouth sound, silence=all/no sounds) 
  • a symbol that contains all aspects of time - past, present, future
  • something that represents all states of consciousness: A=waking state, U=dream state, M=deep sleep state, silence=pure infinite consciousness
  • a mystical/sacred sound - 'amen' for Christians and Jews, 'amun' for Egyptians, 'amin' for Muslims, 'hum' for Tibetan Buddhists all carry the same sounds and meaning as AUM
And these are just a few of the examples of the energy that this symbol/sound holds!

While sutra 1.27 explains that AUM (or OM) represents Ishvara, sutra 1.28 encourages the practice of japa meditation. Japa meditation involves the repetition of a mantra. This sutra encourages using the mantra/sound AUM. Japa sounds like it could be easy - simply repeat the mantra over and over either out loud or in your mind. But, sutra 1.28 stresses that it's not only the vibration that's important, but also the meaning of the mantra. So, though there may be the urge or the tendency to fall back on simply saying this sound in a parrot-like manner, it's important to feel the vibration through the body and reflect on the sacredness and 
deep meaning of all that this sound/symbol represents. 

Next week's sutra 1.29 will tell us about the benefits of this practice of japa meditation on the sound AUM. But, let's first test it out for ourselves and question what we do or don't personally experience. For the next week, join me in the challenge of focusing on this sound during meditation. You could repeat it 3 times, 9 times, 108 times or anywhere in between, but see if you can consistently do this for the whole week and make note of what effects it has on you (if any) over the course of the week. Need help or more guidance for this practice? Feel free to connect. Otherwise . . . . .  happy chanting!   

Sutra 1.27 That (ishvara) is expressed through the sound OM.
Sutra 1.28 Repetition and contemplation of that (OM) reveals its meaning.

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