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Beach 1: The First Prostration
Wave 2: Names ad infinitum for the nameless
Drop 9: The tAraka mantra AUM or OM


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The unmistakable central chord that vibrates throughout the vast tradition and literature of the Hindu religion is the power of the mantra. In fact if there is one thing that is common to all the votaries of the religion, spread through its multifarious sects and schools, it is the value and significance that get attached to mantras -- though the mantras themselves may differ from sect to sect and from school to school. The mantra may be just a name, naama, the name of a deity enshrined in a temple or of an avataara of God or of God thought of without any reference to a temple or location. Nowhere else in the world do we have anything to match the long streamlined poems, densely packed with meaning and seemingly endless recitals of the Lord's names, glories and splendours, with no sacrifice of poetic elegance or grace. The rhythmic sound effects and the elevating moods that these poems of praise can produce must be heard to be believed. The names of God have been given great sanctity by the vedas themselves. That is where we find the basic mantras such as Om namah sivaaya, Om namo naaraayanaaya, where the names themselves contribute to the significance of the mantras. Omby itself is the mystic word which is most important for the religious and spiritual pursuit of a Hindu. Without an explanation and understanding of this word no study of Spirituality in Hindu religion may be complete. The word consists of a triad of three sounds (maatras), namely 'a' (as the 'u' in 'but'), 'u' (as the 'u' in 'put') and 'm'.This is why many texts referring to this word use the spelling 'aum' thus emphasizing the three 'maatras' which make up 'om'. The term maatra is used for the upper limb of the deva-naagari characters and a syllabic instant in prosody. The esoteric significance of these three maatras and the myriads of connotations that they stand for are the subject matter of many passages in the Upanishads, the Gita and other scriptures.

In fact, a whole Upanishad (though a very small one), namely, Maandookyopanishad, devotes itself entirely to the explanation of the word Om. This Upanishad for this very reason, has been termed the quintessance of vedanta. Om is spoken of here as the primeval word which stands for the entire universe permeated by Brahman and therefore Brahman itself. The three sounds that go to make up Om constitute symbolically the entire universe of words. For, 'a' is the sound with which the human mouth is opened to speak any word and 'u' is the sound which allows the tongue all positions from the palate to the lips, and 'm' is the vocal movement one makes to close the lips. Every sound which man can produce is between the extremes of 'a' and 'm' and so, together with the intermediate stage of 'u' it represents everything words represent.


Esoteric significance of OM


Esoterically the 'a' stands for the first stage of wakefulness, where we experience, through our gross body and the senses and the mind the totality of external experiences. The 'u' stands for the state of dream sleep in which mental experiences are available, though erratically, by the mind which is the only thing awake, without the help of the external sense organs or the presence of the discriminating intellect. The two kinds of experience, namely, those of the waking state and those of the dream state, contradict each other, in the sense that a man may experience hunger in a dream though he has eaten in the waking state a few minutes earlier. In the state of deep sleep, represented by the sound 'm' there is no consciousness of any experience; even the mind has gone to sleep. But still there is an awareness after the deep sleep is over that one has been sleeping. The Maanduukyopanishad says that in the state of deep sleep the aatman which is always present, has been the witness to the sleep of the body and it is this which brings back the memory. It is the aatman which is also present beyond the three states of experience and this fourth state (turiiyaa-vasthaa) corresponds to the silence that ensues after one has steadily pronounced 'om'. It is the state of 'no maatraa' ( = amaatraa). In that state of silence Consciousness alone is present and there is nothing else, and therefore nothing is to be cognized or be conscious of. So when we recite 'om' we are advised to meditate on this common substratum of all the three states of experience, and, during the silence that follows, merge in the Consciousness that alone persists as a substratum. That Consciousness is theaatman, that isbrahman. Such is the symbolism behind the scriptures' repeated insistence that the word OM i s the supreme aalambana (= prop) to reach brahman, it is the one thing which is talked about by all the vedas and it is for this alone that sages do penance and undergo austerities. It represents both the brahman with attributes and the brahman without attributes. It is a reminder of the true state of being .Hence it is that OM is repeated at the beginning and conclusion of everything. It indicates that we, as part of the universe, emanate from brahman and finally dissolve into brahman. The jiiva which leaves the body in the midst of conscious OM recitation is said to merge in brahman itself, that is, attain moksha. The essential condition for this conscious recitation at the time of death is the undeviating memory of the Divine throughout life, through all its ups and downs. Hence it is that all mantras begin with OM. Meditation on the word is recommended for the yogi as a direct path to realization. As the generality of men cannot realize the ultimate reality which is beyond all categories of time, space and causation, the Maanduukyopanishad and its commentator, Gaudapada, recommend the contemplation of the three sound symbols as the three states of man's totality of experience and thus, analysing one's experience, the student endowed with the mental and moral qualifications required for the understanding of vedanta, is helped to reach ultimate reality. Specifically, if one identifies the amaatraa state of silence with the fourth state of experience and meditates on it without intermission, one realizes one's self and 'there is no return for him to the sphere of empirical life'.