Realizing the point of the sacred sound syllable AUM

“Archimedes,” says Swami Rama Tirtha, “used to say: ‘I can move the whole world if I can get a fixed point,’ but the poor fellow never found it. The fixed point is within you; get hold of it, feel it, feel it, realize it, realize that you are the Divinity, that you are the Lord of lords, the Arbiter of all justice, the Source of all beauty, all force, all power, realize that you are the King of the whole world; you are That and this realization of your true Self will of itself conquer the whole world, will give the world life, will set it agoing.”

When man strives to conquer the world without reference to the Divinity, the Fixed Point of which Swami Rama Tirtha speaks, when he tries to conquer anyone or anything by imposing his own point of view upon them, the time will come when, through personal failure, he will realize his own impotence and feel that he has somehow missed the point of life. A sense of emptiness, of meaninglessness, of pointlessness will invade him. Nature, however, abhors a vacuum— questions will begin to rise up: “Who are you,” cries the Swedish writer Per Lagerkvist, “who fills my heart with your absence, who fills the whole universe with your absence?” Hopelessness goads a man to hope. “I seek only that most unreasonable thing,” said Dag Hammarskjold, “that life should have a meaning.” Is it unreasonable to ask if fullness of life rather than emptiness be not man’s final and destined goal? If in the absence of man’s self-centredness there is not the presence of the infinite centre of all. To a serious enquirer Yoga offers complete assurance, a Supreme Vision of life and a great Key by which it may be unlocked. The Vision is that of the infinite inmost Self of man and the Key is the sacred sound syllable AUM. “In the beginning was the Word .. .”

HARIH AUM. AUM, the Word, is all this,,,,,,,,,All that is past,
present and future is verily AUM. That which is beyond
the triple conception of time, is also truly AUM.
(Mandukya, Upanishad I.i.)

AUM is the Supreme Vision of life, for all that can be seen and imagined and all that cannot be seen and cannot be imagined is, verily, AUM. It is ALL. It is the mystic symbol in which all the symbols of all religions are included. Like a sacred veil it compassionately conceals as well as conveys the truth, that man under its protective influence may slowly learn to bear its light. Its esoteric meaning is known only to the enlightened; all that can be said of it is exoteric knowledge only. Yet this exoteric knowledge serves as a sign, a pointer to the final goal, a Fixed Point in a life of seeming chaos or emptiness, urging the aspirant to come to the point by the traditional discipline and to realize the point of life itself, while yet alive.

Missing the Point.

That man ‘may have life, and have it more abundantly’ he has first to face the abject poverty and stupidity of life lived for purely individual ends. He must see that while he is bent on securing advantages for himself, he will inevitably experience disadvantages. While he is pleasure bent, pain will come and rend him; while power is his aim, the fall from the pedestal is certain; while he is dreaming of a heaven according to his fancy he has to face the fact that all hell can be let loose at any time, for he is in fact missing the point, overlooking the Divinity within him. Once, however, he begins, through study and discipline, to seek the light through the great symbol AUM, he will begin to see that while he lives for himself he is virtually imprisoned in his three states of waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep.

These three states, represented by the letters A, U and M and the three lower curves in the accompanying diagram, are inter-related and their binding influence can be observed by taking a look, a new look at life. Man wakes up, dreams of pleasure and power, works trying to materialize his dreams; tired out he sleeps. He wakes and works, succeeds; he is excited, elated; tired out he sleeps. He wakes and works and fails; he is depressed and full of fears; tired out he sleeps. Day after day he wakes and dreams and sleeps, wakes and dreams and sleeps, year after year, life after life.When, ask the yogis, will he wake up to the point of it all? When will be cease to be involved in his three states and seek the Fixed Point, that stands freely above them, the point which according to Yoga represents his real eternal nature, his Absolute Self, beyond time and space, beyond pleasure and pain, success and failure, the point at which all action, speech and all thought end—the broken Circle indicating at once the infinitude and inconceivability of truth ? When, ask the yogis, will man transcend his frustrating finitude and know the truth about himself—when will he be free?

 

 

 

While the three states can be summed up, unified in the single sound of AUM, the Point above them stands for the Silence in which alone they are transcended and the truth can be apprehended. Missing the point man not only sleeps physically but spiritually and in ignorance he gives reality to his states, which, being passing, they do not have. Turning and re-turning in the wheel of night and day, life and death, it slowly dawns on him that nothing he can personally achieve in life, nothing that can happen to him personally can relieve him from the pain that is interwoven into the life of transience. Nothing can prevent his body and the bodies of those he loves from decay, and everyone who lives must die. Is he born so that, like the latest bit of machinery, he too, is to become obsolete?

‘Set thy whole desire on that whereof thou hast no hope,
For thou hast come thus far from original hopelessness.
Be silent that the Lord who gave thee language may speak
For as he fashioned a door and lock, he has also made a key.’

Shamsi Tabriz.

“When you live life as Reality,” said Dag Hammarskjold, “then the question as to whether life has a meaning becomes itself meaningless.”

Coming to the Point.

The whole life of the aspirant is concerned with coming to the Fixed Point within himself through which he can live the Real Life. It is the point of release from identification with the three states turning on their ego-centric interests. Man, said Dr Shastri, is a universe in miniature. By moving a certain part of himself he can move the macrocosmic counterpart in the universe of matter and create stupendous changes. Just as, according to the Veda, the materialisation of the original sound AUM caused the One to appear Many and man to appear as an individual unit, turning in his three states, so the de-materialisation or spiritualization of his whole life restores him to his sense of unity with the three worlds, their macrocosmic counterparts. The deep satisfaction of this restoration removes the personal wants and worries and awakens the dormant power of intuition that lies sleeping in the soul. But the aspirant must believe in the power of AUM, must train himself to sleep to multiplicity through the peace inherent in the sacred syllable which relaxes the tensions of the egotistic life and releases the capacity to love and serve the whole.

AUM, says Swami Rama Tirtha, has a charm about it, an efficacy, a virtue which brings the mind of one who chants it under control. When it is under control it is in a position not merely to listen, but to take in the teachings. Shravana or listening to the truth, is the first great step towards transcendence. It is a real discipline to learn to listen to words that bubble up from the fountain-head of truth rather than to the empty, evaporating outpourings of error. Unless this first great step is taken, manana or reflecting on the truth will hardly be attempted, for who will want to cogitate upon that to which he has not even given ear? The second step is the way the aspirant deliberately steps on his own dreams of pleasure and power that he may rise to the source of all true pleasure and power, the Universal Self of all. The more intently he listens to the subtle cadences that issue from the sound of truth, from AUM or from the mystic poetry of the Upanishads, the more his dreaming state will be transformed into a yearning state that will control his mind far more effectively than any self-imposed ascetic discipline can do. Then the mind will be prepared for the third great step, Nididhyasana, or contemplation of the truth, by which it seeks inundation by successive waves of ever more bearable and desirable waves of light. “I cannot think God’s thoughts,” wrote a Christian thinker, “but God can think His thoughts in me.” That the mind may ultimately become a clear channel of the truth, meditation is performed. Not for its own sake, not as a form of escape from the responsibilities of life is meditation to be performed, but that through the mercy of the most High God, the Spirit may descend into the meditator’s mind and be the inspirer of his inmost thought.

AUM. O OCEAN OF LOVE, STILLNESS PROFOUND,
LIGHT AND LIFE TO ALL WHO COME TO THEE,
DRAW US INTO THY PEACE, THAT THE NOISE OF THINGS BE STILLED,
AND THE MUSIC OF THE SOUL BE ALL ONE NOTE—
THYSELF ALONE, MY ATMAN, MY ALL. AUM.

Just as the three states are inter-related, so also are the three great steps. Life without Light and Love is a perpetual oscillation, interruption and contradiction, but life in which Shravana, Manana and Nididhyasana are carried on will gradually lose its chaos and slowly enter the larger life, the life of order and pure beauty that is cosmos. The three are transitional, they extricate the soul from the tunnel of the transient into the transforming rhythmic universal dance of life which is reflected in the creativity of Nature, in the re-creational activities of Art, and above all in the beauty of the life of the enlightened.

Even while his mind is pestering him with desires, even while he is afraid of what is going to happen to him if he gives them up, while the seemingly built-in desire for self-preservation haunts him at every bend of the road, the aspirant must go on chanting AUM, AUM, AUM, must continue studying its inner meaning, reflecting on its application to his life, meditating on his independent, painless, perfect nature, that is—if he would be free. That he may come to know the Fixed Point, the Divinity, the Infinity, he must cultivate conscious and ever- increasing love for the Truth in its conditioned form, that is, the three great curves in their Macrocosmic connotation, the Universal Body, the Universal Mind and the Universal Soul or Cause of all. Coming to the point by the three great steps, treading steadfastly upon the transient, fixing his gaze on the Timeless and the True, one day it will dawn on him that it is the Truth that has all the time been gazing upon him, only too willing, when he is willing, to eliminate his limitations. For AUM, it must be remembered, is not a charm by which the ego can possess the knowledge of the truth. It is ALL, it is that Knowledge which can charm and possess the one who stoops to let it conquer him through Love and its ego-obliterating Light.

Realizing the Point.

For incarnations man is impelled by the desire for pleasure to pursue the aims and ambitions of the world. Only when he realizes that pain is interwoven into the fabric of the finite will he make real efforts to set fire to it, to transcend it. Enquiry has been likened to a fire in which the false ‘I’ is burnt up and what remains is Self-Knowledge. Shri Shankara in the Thousand Teachings says that when you really query the validity of the whole experience of pain and ask the question ‘Am I really the sufferer?’ you will get the correct and desired answer: ‘Suffering does not really exist’ It will come from the Fixed Point within, the point which represents the ever-existent bliss consciousness, the Self. Just as air cannot be burned or blamed, so the free spirit cannot be harmed by anyone or anything, it is only the erroneous sense of identity with the three states that bars you from the consciousness of bliss.

If you can, therefore, find the fixed point within you and seek union with it even when it seems like uniting with the point of a bayonet, you will be free, you have transcended suffering and, resting in your own true nature, will be able to serve all in the three worlds, you will be able, as Swami Rama Tirtha says, ‘to give the whole world life, to set it agoing.’

 

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