[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Sanatana Dharma for Kids: Sacred Symbols: AUM

Nov 01, 2005 06:54 AM
by saidevo

"Today we'll discuss AUM, the most sacred of the symbols of Sanatana 
Dharma", said daddy, as they sat for dinner. 

Mummy had prepared vegetable briyani with onion raita and green 
salad, and the usual curd rice with mango pickles for dinner. Two 
large bowls of briyani and curd rice with the side dishes in 
satellite bowls were neatly arranged on the table. The aroma of 
briyani wafted in the air, increasing everyone's appetite. 

"Before we start eating", said daddy, "let us close our eyes for a 
full minute and intently listen to this sacred mantra." He pressed 
the Enter key of his laptap on the tall stool, and the sacred sound 
of AUM reverberated in the room, wave after wave, as the computer 
played the sound file for a full minute. 

The children had promptly closed their eyes as had the elders, and 
everyone listened to the mantra. When it was over, daddy said, 
"Don't open your eyes now, but repeat the mantra AUM inside 
yourselves, with your mouths closed, pronouncing every sound as you 
heard just now, for another thirty seconds." 

The children did as they were told, and finally opened their eyes at 
their daddy's word. Daddy asked mummy to serve the dinner, and 
started his discussion. 

"The mantra you heard now is called the mula mantra or the root 
mantra. AUM is also known as the maha mantra. First you should know 
how to pronounce this mantra. Any idea, children?" 

"Daddy, we have been pronouncing this mantra as simply om", said 

"Yes dad, we pronounced the vowel O for a longer time than the 
consonant M. We sarted with Ohhhhhhh... but stopped rather short at 
the M, without humming it properly as your demo showed now." 

"How did you pronounce the mantra?" daddy asked mummy. 

"Well, I knew that the mantra is written using the three letters A, 
U, M. But I have not been articulating it the way we heard it here." 

"I have also been guilty of your mummy's habit", admitted daddy. 
"From now on, let all of us give due regard to this great mantra and 
articulate it properly, in the way we heard it here. Reciting the 
mantra correctly will greately benefit us." 

Daddy continued: "Even though the mantra has three sounds A, U and 
M, it is considered as a single letter and as a single syllable. You 
already know that it is written as a single letter, and now you know 
that it is pronounced with a long AU sound, which starts with a 
short, bursting Ah sound, followed by a long O (or Oo as in moo) 
sound, and an equally emphatic humming sound M, which gradually 
wanes into silence. A single chant of the whole mantra takes at 
least five seconds." 

They continued eating the delicious briyani, between bites on their 
green salad. When they paused for a second helping, daddy asked the 
children, "Did both of you utter the mantra inside yourselves?" 

"Yes, daddy", said the children in chorus. 

"Well, did you notice or feel anything?" 

"Yes daddy", said Padma. "It slighly choked in my throat." 

"And it seemed to pass out of my ears", said Arvind. 

"I felt peaceful", said mummy. "What did you feel?" 

"Well, since I knew how it would feel, I did not feel anything 
today!" said daddy. "My mind was preoccupied with how to teach this 
great mantra to the children in a way that they will never forget." 

"Did we feel the correct way, daddy?" 

"Is there anything more, dad?" 

"You are both wonderful children. I am really blessed to have you 
two and mummy for a family", said daddy, his tone echoing his 
gratitude and pride. "All the three of you felt it exactly the way 
it would be felt. And there is a lot more to it." 

The children looked at each other with widened eyes. 

"There are three ways of reciting a mantra personally. In the adhama 
or inferior way, a mantra is uttered loudly, as most of us do. Some 
people just lisp a mantra, pronouncing the words without sound, but 
with their lips moving. This is the madhyama or the medium way. The 
uttama or the best way is to recite a mantra inside us with our 
mouths closed, mentally listening to the articulations of the 

"We chant the mantras loudly in the morning assembly at school", 
said Padma. 

"The pundits chant the Veda mantras out loudly dad", said Arvind. 

"Both are examples of community chanting", said daddy. "In a family 
or community chanting of a prayer or a ceremony, the mantras are not 
chanted for personal gains, so they must be recited out loudly. 
Vedas are chanted by a group of pundits in order that the vibrations 
set forth by the mantras benefit the people around, and the house 
they are chanted at. In a personal chant, a mantra is best recited 
in the uttamic way, because its vibrations mainly need to propagate 
in the inner space." 

"And how does this uttamic chanting of AUM benefit us, dad?" 
reminded Arvind. 

"As you say the AUM mantra inwardly, it reechoes inside you, causing 
vibrations in your throat and ears. The vibrations travel upward to 
the skull and downward to the navel. If the mantra is chanted with 
pure aspirations and devotion, these vibrations calm the nerve 
centers and tune up your chakras for meditation." 

"But I didn't feel anything in my skull or navel", said Padma. 

"I think I felt a slight knotting up in my navel", said Arvind. 

"Padma felt the vibration in her throat, Arvind in his ears and 
mummy had a peace of mind. So all of you are on the right track. 
With sincere practice and when you learn yoga and meditation, the 
benefits of AUM will be felt more and more. Yogis hear this pranava 
sound in their meditation." 

"Mummy has told us that Ganesha is the symbol of pranava. What 
exactly is pranava dad?" 

"The term pranava is from the Sanskrit roots pra + nu, and means to 
utter or bring forth a droning or humming sound. This sound is AUM, 
with which Brahma created the world. This is the primordial sound of 
the universe, and is the base of every form of manifestation. 
Pranava pervades everything from the macrocosm of the universe to 
the microcosm of the atoms, from the outer space to the inner space, 
so the term stands for these two forms of manifestations, as well as 
Brahman from whom it all originates." 

"That is why Brahman is also known as the Nada Brahman", said mummy. 

Daddy nodded at her and continued. "In the term pranava, the suffix 
nava indicates new. Every moment something is born and something is 
destroyed. As modern science has discovered, atomic particles turn 
into energy and energy crystallizes back into particles. Our cells 
die and are replaced constantly. This is why Shakespeare said, And 
so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, And then, from hour to 
hour, we rot and rot; And thereby hangs a tale.." 

"I think the quote is from the play As You Like It", said mummy who 
was an M.A. English. "Jaques used these words of the court jester 
Touchstone, remarking that he met that motley fool in a forest." 

"You have a good memory", said daddy. "Mandukya Upanishad has the 
AUM mantra for its entire subject matter. Of the three letters of 
this mula mantra, the letter A represents the Adimatwa or the 
beginning, the letter U represents the Utkarsha or progress and the 
letter M represents Mitti or limit or dissolution. Thus the letters 
A, U, M stand for creation, preservation and dissolution, and 
represent the Trimurti--Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva." 

"How deep and correlating our concepts are!" exclaimed mummy. 

"There are other correlations. The letter A stands for the Satva 
guna, U for Rajas and M for Tamas, which are the three gunas or 
qualities of Prithvi or Nature. And then, the letters also stand for 
the three worlds: A stands for the earth, the Bhurloka, U for the 
astral world, the Bhuvarloka and M for the heavens, the Svarloka". 

"Wonderful", said mummy. 

"There is more", said daddy. "Children, don't worry if you can't 
follow the relationship between AUM and yoga meditation that I am 
going to explain now. Just listen to these advanced concepts without 
seeking any explanation. Things will be clearer to you as you grow 
older and practice meditation." 

"I heard that AUM has a significant role in meditation", said mummy. 
"But I am not familiar with the details." 

"To understand the details, you need to know that the mantra AUM has 
actually four parts: the three sounds A, U, M--and silence. These 
four parts are associated with the four levels of consciousness. The 
sound A represents the waking level, called vaishvanara. The sound A 
has a bursting quality. It arises quickly, in a flash from the 
previous level of silence." 

"I see. The sound O is actually a diphthong, comprising A and U", 
said mummy, drawing on her knowledge of the English language. "Of 
these two sounds A and U here, A is short and U is longer. Together 
they make the O, pronounced Oh... and then Oo... in AUM. So AU is 
svara and M anusvara that completes the vibration into silence." 

"Nicely put", said daddy. "The U sound represents the dreaming level 
of consciousness, called taijasa. The M sound stands for the deep 
sleep level, called prajna. The fourth level is turiya which is 
Consciousness itself permeating all other levels. At this level, the 
observer, the observed and the process of observing all become one." 

"Is turiya the equivalent of samadhi?" said mummy. 

"Turiya is said to be a case of high samadhi. You might say that 
turiya is the highest level of consciousness that results in the 
state of samadhi." 

The children appeared dumbstruck and were eating the curd rice 
silently, as daddy continued his Vedanta. 

"It is not just the sacred sound, but the very letter AUM 
represents the four levels of consciousness.", said daddy, pointing 
to the AUM letter displayed on the laptap screen. The children 
looked up eagerly. 

"The lower curve of the letter represents the waking level, the 
right curve represents the dreaming level and the upper curve stands 
for the deep sleep level." 

"Above the upper curve is an arc, daddy" said Padma. 

"On top of that is a dot" said Arvind. It was obvious that the 
children wanted at least a small part in the discussion of which 
they understood nothing. 

Daddy smiled at them benevolently. "The dot or point or bindu 
represents the fourth level turiya. The arc below the dot indicates 
that the bindu or turiya level is separate from the other three, and 
oversees them silently, standing above as well as permeating them. 
Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati, popularly known as Swami J, of the 
Himalayan Yoga tradition, has a very detailed analysis of all the 
aspects of yoga meditation as he calls the process, in his Website A nice feature of this Website is that the 
concepts expounded by Swami J are those of Vedanta. This Website is 
a treasure house of pure spiritual information and instructions." 

Mummy closed her eyes and took a deep breath, savouring the 
pronouncements made by daddy. She said, "I have a question. When you 
say that the individual sounds of AUM represent a level of 
consciousness, what exactly does that mean in practice?" 

"A good question. Swami J says that as you medidate, when your 
awareness is on each sound of the AUM mantra, 'you cultivate and 
train yourself to have a simultaneous awareness of each level of 
consciousness' at the personal microcosm and gradually transfer it 
to the universal macrocosm. I think this is something like 
meditating on successive chakras, starting from the muladhara, the 
base chakra." 

They had finished their dinner a little while back and their hands 
started to dry up. Daddy belched loudly and said, "AUM is also used 
in Buddhist and Jain rituals. Well, I think that's all I can explain 
about this great mantra." 

"I have a question, dad" said Arvind. "How do you spell the mantra 
in English--AUM or just OM?" 

"You can spell it either way. You can also pronounce it AUM with 
full articulation or the simpler OM that we say in our shlokas. The 
AUM articulation, however is used in meditation, and as a personal 
mantra for the spiritual benefits it offers." 

"The mantra is captivating daddy", said Padma. Arvind played the 
sacred sound once again on daddy's laptap. With their eyes glowing, 
the children played the mantra repeatedly for sometime, before they 
dispersed to complete their school homework. 


[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application