Swami Sivananda on OM and Soham
- SIVANANDA DAILY READING FOR 13 SEPTEMBER
PHILOSOPHY OF OM
The sound produced in the flowing of the river Ganges, the sound that
is heard at a distance, the sound that proceeds from the bustle of
the market, that is produced by the fly-wheel when it is set in
motion, that is caused when it rains, or there is a conflagration, or
thunder - it is all Om only. Split any word and you will find Om
there. Om is all-pervading, like akasa (space), like Brahman, the
Om is the symbol of Brahman. It is the word of power. It is the
sacred monosyllable. It is the essence of the vedas. It is the boat
to take you across to the other shore of fearlessness and
The word Om is the most appropriate name of Brahman. By its
application, by its chanting, he becomes propitiated Om is emblematic
of Brahman, as images are of material objects. When you hear the
sound 'tree'. you at once understand it has a root, a stem, branches,
leaves, flowers, fruits, etc. Similarly too, when you hear the sabda
(sound) Om it denotes satcidananda Brahman - existence absolute,
knowledge absolute, bliss absolute.
Sabda (word) and artha (meaning) are inseparable. All collections of
words (speech), terminate in one sound - Om. All objects are denoted
by sounds, and all sounds merge in Om. The whole universe comes out
of Om and is absorbed into Om. Hence Om is very important.
Om should be worshipped. Om should be chanted loudly. Om should be
repeated mentally, with deep meaning and feeling. Om should be
Watch the breath. When you inhale, the sound so is produced. When you
exhale, the sound ham is produced. You are naturally uttering soham -
I am he -- or - he am I - with every breath. The breath reminds you
that you are in essence identical with the supreme self.
In soham the s and the h are consonants. If you delete them you get
oam or om. Consonants depend on vowels for their existence. S and h
represent names and forms, or this universe which is phenomenal or
relative or empirical or dependent existence. Om is the only solid
reality. Om is the soul of your breath.
As soon as you sit for meditation chant Om loudly, three, six or
twelve times. This drives away worldly thoughts from the mind and
removes vikshep (tossing of the mind). Later you may take to the
mental repetition of Om.