The Praśnopaniṣat – Part 11
The Fifth Question has been asked. The question is about the meditation on the syllable ‘Om’. Respected Sir, supposing a rare one commits himself to the meditation on the syllable ‘Om’ throughout his life, that is up to the death, with extreme concentration by withdrawing himself from the external objects, that is, by controlling the senses, making the mind one-pointed, surfeit with devotion to Brahman in the syllable ‘Om’. He maintains the Ātman-thought flow without break, by carefully avoiding the thoughts of non-Ātman to intervene, just as a lamp placed in a windless location glows unwavering. Such is the way the word ‘meditation’ is used in the mantra 5.1 (that has been stated in Part 10 of this article series) is to be understood. What are the disciplines the meditator endows himself with? The list of the vows is given out:
Satyam (sticking to truth), brahmacharyam (celibacy/continence), ahimsā (non-injury), aparigraha (non-acceptance of objects that are not essential), tyāga (renunciation of possessions), sannyāsa (renunciation of worldly ties), śoucha (purity of body and mind), santoṣa (contentment with what is had without any special effort), amāyāvitvam (free from beguile), etc. These are the several vows grouped under the main disciplines called ‘yama’ (self-control) and ‘niyama’ (observances). These are essentially to be followed for the effective conduct of the sādhana aimed at an exalted goal such as liberation.
Satyakāma asks to know what destination that an aspirant taking up the above-described sādhana, strictly maintaining these vows, reaches. This is asked since there are indeed many destinations, loka-s, that are attained by a sādhana involving the combination of action (karma) and meditation (jñāna, meaning upāsana).
तस्मै स होवाच । एतद्वै सत्यकाम परं चापरं च ब्रह्म यदोंकारः । तस्माद्विद्वानेतेनैवायतनेनैकतरमन्वेति ॥ २ ॥
तस्मै to him स he ह indeed उवाच said एतत् this वै however सत्यकाम O Satyakāma परं higher च and अपरं lower च and ब्रह्म brahman यत् which is ऒकारः Om तस्मात् therefore विद्वात् a knower एतेन by this एव alone आयतनेन support एकतरम् one of the two अन्वेति attains
2 He replied: O Satyakāma, the syllable AUM is the Supreme Brahman and also the other Brahman. Therefore he who knows it attains, with its support, the one or the other.
To the question of Satyakāma, the venerable Āchārya Pippalāda, replied: This is what he would attain, O Satyakāma – This Brahnan which is both Supreme and lower. The Supreme Brahman is Satyam, the Eternal, Imperishable, called the ‘Puruṣa.’ The lower Brahman is called ‘Prāṇa’, the first-born. This is verily the syllable ‘Om’ since it is having for itself the symbol ‘Om.’ In other words, the Supreme and Lower Brahman is meditated upon with the symbol, pratīka, ‘Om.’ The Higher or Supreme Brahman, as not capable of being pointed to by using words (sound), etc., and free of all attributes, is impossible to be apprehended by the mere mind. The Supreme Brahman is devoid of sound, touch, form, taste and smell. Hence, it would be impossible to point to It by describing the sound, etc. attributes. When, however, the syllable ‘Om’ is employed as a symbol, means, just as one would meditate on an idol of any deity such as Viṣṇu, by imbibing devotion, bhakti, then Brahman, the meditated upon, becomes realizable to the aspirant. The same holds good with the apprehension of the lower Brahman as well. Even though the lower Brahman is not as extremely subtle as the Higher Brahman, yet, being a cosmic entity, no form can be attributed to it. Hence there is the need for a symbol such as ‘Om’ to realize even that. Therefore alone both the Supreme and the Lower Brahman get the name, by courtesy, ‘Om’. Thus, the knower, by resorting to ‘Om’ alone, which is the means to attain the Ātman, by intensely meditating on ‘Om’, attains either the Supreme (param) or Lower (aparam) Brahman. The syllable ‘Om’ is the closest support one can resort to with respect to Brahman.
स यद्येकमात्रमभिध्यायीत स तेनैव संवेदितस्तूर्णमेव जगत्यामभिसंपद्यते । तमृचो मनुष्यलोकमुपनयन्ते स तत्र तपसा ब्रह्मचर्येण श्रद्धया संपन्नो महिमानमनुभवति ॥ ३ ॥
स he यदि if एकमात्रम् one letter alone अभिध्यायीत meditates स he तेन by that एव itself संवेदितः enlightened तूर्णम् quickly एव itself जगत्याम् in the earth अभिसंपद्यते born तम् him ऋचः Ṛks मनुष्यलोकम् the world of humans उपनयन्ते lead स he तत्र there तपसा by austerity ब्रह्मचर्येण by celibacy श्रद्धया by faith संपन्नः endowed महिमानम् greatness अनुभवति enjoys
- If he meditates on one letter (mātrā), then, being enlightened by that alone, he quickly comes back to earth after death. The ṛk verses lead him to the world of men. By practicing austerity, chastity and faith he enjoys greatness.
Even though an aspirant does not know all the ‘mātrās’ (letters/constituents) of the syllable ‘Om’, yet by virtue of meditating on the ‘Om’, he certainly attains to an exalted goal. Just because he does not possess the total knowledge of the syllable ‘Om’, but only a partial knowledge (as to what the constituents of ‘Om’ are), he is not denied the fruits of both action (karma) and meditation (upāsana). What indeed does one get as the reward to such (partial) knowledge of the syllable ‘Om’?
Even though an aspirant, not knowing the complete aspects of ‘Om’, meditates devoutly without break, on even one aspect (letter) of ‘Om’, then, by virtue of even that meditation qualified by just one letter, becoming enlightened, quickly, without delay, he attains to this earthly world. That is, he attains a human body in this world. Many are the bodies/species that are possible on this earth. As a result of his meditation the Ṛk mantras lead him to the human body/world. The first letter of the syllable ‘Om’ that is meditated upon is the Ṛks alone, that is, is of the form of the Ṛg veda. Consequently that aspirant, born as the foremost among the twice-born (Brāhmaṇa), endowed with tapas (austerities), brahmacharya (celibacy/continence), śraddhā (supreme faith), enjoys great glory. Never does he end up being one devoid of faith, or reckless in action. In other words, he sticks to the do-s of the scripture and never falls into the don’ts. Thus someone who has not attained the goal of yoga, even though dedicating himself to its practice, never comes to grief. He indeed has applied himself with utmost faith and diligence to Brahman, even though endowed with partial knowledge of the syllable ‘Om.
अथ यदि द्विमात्रेण मनसि संपद्यते सोऽन्तरिक्षं यजुर्भिरुन्नीयते सोमलोकम् । स सोमलोके विभूतिमनुभूय पुनरावर्तते ॥ ४ ॥
अथ again यदि if द्विमात्रेण with the second letter मनसि in the mind संपद्यते meditates सः he अन्तरिक्षं intermediate plane यजुभिः by the Yajur mantras उन्नीयते led सोमलोकम् to Soma loka स he सोमलोके in Soma loka विभूतिम् greatness अनुभूय having enjoyed पुनः again आवर्तते returns
- If, again, he meditates on the second letter, he attains the mind and is led up by the yajur verses to the intermediate space, to the plane of the Moon. Having enjoyed greatness in the plane of the Moon, he returns hither again.
Here is the case of an aspirant endowed with the knowledge of the two letters, who meditates on the second letter of the syllable ‘Om’. He concentrates on this letter with the locus as the mind which is the abode of dream, and which is also the object of meditation. As a result he attains an identity with the presiding deity of the mind, Soma. Upon death this aspirant is led by the Yajur mantras whose abode is the plane that is intermediate between the earth and heaven. The Yajur mantras are of the form of the second letter of the syllable ‘Om.’ The Soma loka has for its support the intermediate plane. The Yajur mantras lead the aspirant to this Soma loka enabling him to get a birth therein. There he enjoys the glories appropriate to that loka and upon expending his puṇya meant for that enjoyment, returns to the world of humans.
यः पुनरेतं त्रिमात्रेणोमित्येतेनैवाक्षरेण परं पुरुषमभिध्यायीत स तेजसि सूर्ये संपन्नः । यथा पादोदरस्त्वचा विनिर्मुच्यत एवं ह वै स पाप्मना विनिर्मुक्तः स सामभिरुन्नीयते ब्रह्मलोकं स एतस्माज्जीवघनात्परात्परं पुरिशयं पुरुषमीक्षते । तदेतौ श्लोकौ भवतः ॥ ५ ॥
यः he who पुनः again एतं this त्रिमात्रेण by third letter ओम् ‘Om’ इति thus एतेन this एव alone अक्षरेण letter परं supreme पुरुषम् Puruṣa अभिध्यायीत meditates स he तेजसि in effulgence सूर्ये sun संपन्नः attained यथा just as पादोदरः snake त्वचा from slough विनिर्मुच्यते separated एवं thus ह verily वै indeed स he पाप्मना from sins विनिर्मुक्तः freed स he सामभिः by the Sāma mantras उन्नीयते is led ब्रह्मलोकं to brahma loka स he एतस्मात् from this जीवघनात् essence of jīvas परात् greater than परं great पुरि in the body शयं residing पुरुषम् Puruṣa ईक्षते realizes तत् that एतौ these श्लोकौ mantras भवतः are about
- Again, he who meditates on the Highest Person through this syllable AUM consisting of three letters, becomes united with the effulgent Sun. As a snake is freed from its slough, even so he is freed from sin.