Whew! You just made it to your favorite yoga class right before the doors closed! Then you sheepishly squeeze your mat in between two students who, of course, were resting with their eyes closed. You apologize for disturbing their peace, all the while promising yourself like the millionth time to be 10 mins early next time. Somehow in the middle of all the mindless chatter, you hear the chimes and everyone begins chanting ‘AUM’. You join in and by the third round of chanting the entire room seems calmer, not only that your mind is quieter too!
So how does this magical mantra do this? Why is it so revered in the world of spirituality? Let us begin by exploring what the ancients have said about it.

Mandukya Upanishad – the ancient text that explains the meaning and significance of ‘AUM’:

As per the Mandukya upanishad, AUM, which is the symbol of supreme Reality (Brahman), stands for the manifested world, the past, the present and the future, as well as the unmanifested Absolute. It talks about the 4 states of consciousness: the waking state, visva, the dream state, taijasa, the dreamless deep sleep state, prajna, and an indescribable state of spiritual consciousness called turiya. This 4th state also underlies the other 3 states.
The syllables of AUM correspond to these 4 states. ‘A’ stands for waking state, in which one’s perception is only of the external world through the senses. ‘U’ stands for dream state, in which with the senses turned inwards, one enacts the impressions of past deeds and present desires. ‘M’ corresponds to dreamless deep sleep state, in which we experience bliss and peace. The mantra ‘AUM’ and the silence after chanting it stands for the supreme state of turiya, which is a symbol of everlasting joy.
The mantra AUM is a sound that has been realized by the ancient rishis in the highest states of meditation. It is for this reason that continuous and intense awareness of AUM can in turn take the spiritual aspirant to the same states as the ancients who realized it.

Pronunciation Guide

The syllable ‘A’ is pronounced like ‘AH’ (or ‘a’ in the word ‘calm’). The syllable ‘U’ is pronounced ‘OO’ (or ‘u’ in the word ‘pull’). The syllable ‘M’ is sounded after ‘A’ and ‘U’ like a humming sound ‘mmmm…’ with your mouth closed.

How to practice:

  • Sit in a comfortable meditation posture with dignity and ease.
  • Take 3 deep breaths to interiorize your awareness.
  • On your next exhale (outbreath), chant AUM slowly.  Pronounce each syllable ‘A’, ‘U’, and ‘M’, with gradual transition from one to another. Read more on pronunciation guide here.
  • Notice the silence and lingering vibration in your body during the inhale between two repetitions AUM chanting.
  • While chanting you can focus on the vibrations created by your voice or on the space between your eyebrows or at your heart center.
  • Try to be completely aware of the sound of AUM. Feel as though your whole body and mind is resonating in harmony with the sound.
  • You can chant aloud for 12, 24, 36,…or 108, then transition to mentally chant AUM while bringing all your attention to the space between your eyebrows.
  • When you feel a pulse-like sensation at the eyebrow center synchronize it with the mental sound of AUM.
  • Continue in this manner for as long as you have time.
  • End practice by chanting AUM loudly for 3 times.
Benefits of Chanting AUM

Chanting AUM is one of the most powerful methods of quickly relaxing the whole body and mind. You might have already experienced this when you chanted AUM in your last yoga class to let go of mental chatter. Next time you feel stressed, anxious or any other unwanted emotions, then try meditating with chanting AUM. Try to practice this meditation for 40 days straight!

Posted by: Nisha Kunder

Join Nisha for a new 4-week series Healing Vedic Chanting, Wednesdays, 6:30-7:45pm (Pacific), October 14- November 4, 2020.

See more on Nisha’s website.

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