Categories: Hinduism and Science

Pranava Yoga:The Sacred Practice of Aum Meditation

Pranava yoga, also known as Aum yoga or Aum yoga meditation, is a form of meditation deeply rooted in ancient texts like the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It revolves around focusing the mind on the sacred mantra “Aum (Om)” while synchronizing it with the breath. The purpose of this practice is profound – it aims to liberate practitioners from suffering and limitations.

The essence of Pranava yoga is beautifully encapsulated in the Prashna Upanishads, where it describes the profound outcomes of meditating on the sacred syllable “Aum” until the end of one’s life. According to this text, those who engage in such meditation achieve a profound unity with the ultimate reality, Brahman. This union leads them to a transcendent realm characterized by qualities such as boundless light, tranquility, immortality, fearlessness, and supreme existence.

The Power of Om (Aum)

Om (Aum), in Hindu philosophy, is seen as the original sound that created the universe. It’s also known as the Pranava, a powerful word recited as a mantra. Mantras are special because they aren’t just words with meanings; they carry inherent power that can affect us physically and mentally. The term “mantra” comes from Sanskrit and means “a transforming thought,” suggesting its ability to help us overcome life’s challenges.

In yoga, Aum is considered the most sacred mantra. It’s also called the Pranava, meaning it controls and gives life force. A quote from the Atharvashikha Upanishad describes it as what makes life forces bow before the Supreme Being, merging with it. Aum is also referred to as Shabda Brahman, representing God as sound or vibration.

Yoga teaches that the universe came from this primal vibration in God. By focusing on Aum during meditation, practitioners can gradually reconnect with the divine, moving towards ultimate union with Brahman. This journey involves tracing Aum to deeper levels of awareness within oneself.

Insights from Upanishads

The Upanishads, both major and minor, extensively discuss the significance of the sacred syllable “Aum” and the practice of meditating upon it. Here are some notable references:

In the Taittiriya Upanishad (1.8.1), it is stated that uttering “Om” with the intention of attaining Brahman leads one to actually attain Brahman.

The Mandukya Upanishad (1.8.12, 2.2.3) describes the Self as being of the nature of the syllable “Om” and recommends meditating on it.

The Atharvashikha Upanishad (1:1,2) emphasizes that meditation on “Om” is essential for seekers after liberation, as it signifies Brahman, the Supreme Reality.

According to the Svetasvatara Upanishad (4:17), “Om” is equated with God, and from it proceeds the Supreme Knowledge.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (5.1.1) declares that “Om” is Brahman itself, the primordial essence, and through it, one gains knowledge of the ultimate reality.

The Chandogya Upanishad (1.1.1) advises one to meditate on the syllable “Om” as a spiritual practice.

The Mundaka Upanishad (2.2.4) metaphorically compares “Om” to a bow, the individual self as the arrow, and Brahman as the target, emphasizing the unity achieved through meditation.

These references highlight the central role of “Aum” in spiritual practice within the Upanishadic tradition, serving as a gateway to realizing the ultimate truth or Brahman.

Bhagavad Gita’s Perspective

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reveals that he is embodied in the sacred syllable “Om.” He emphasizes its significance in various verses, stating that among words, he is the monosyllable Om. He instructs that through the practice of concentration and uttering Om, one can connect with the divine. By remembering him constantly and daily, a steadfast yogi can easily attain the supreme goal of union with the divine. This practice leads to the attainment of Krishna, who is ever accessible to those who remember him faithfully.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, an ancient and authoritative text on Yoga, explains the purpose and process of yoga. It states that Ishwara, or God, is a particular Spirit untouched by life’s challenges, actions, or their outcomes. Ishwara possesses supreme knowledge and is unaffected by time. The sacred sound of Om represents Ishwara. Constant repetition and contemplation of Om help eliminate obstacles and focus the mind inwardly.

Various distractions like disease, doubt, laziness, and worldly attachments hinder mental clarity. Symptoms of a distracted mind include pain, despair, and agitation. To overcome these obstacles, one must consistently practice focusing on Om. This practice helps to alleviate distractions and promotes inner peace and stability.

Varied Perspectives

The opinions about the sacred syllable “Om” vary among different spiritual leaders and traditions. Sri Anandamoyi Ma emphasizes the importance of constantly remembering “Om,” suggesting that it should become as natural as breathing. Sri Aurobindo sees “Om” as a powerful mantra that symbolizes the consciousness of Brahman across different planes of existence, aiming to expand one’s awareness towards realizing the unity of all things. A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada links “Om” with Krishna consciousness, suggesting that chanting it can lead to spiritual perfection. Swami Dayananda Saraswati highlights “Om” as the highest name of God, exclusive and encompassing other divine names. Kabir describes the ineffable joy and transformative power of experiencing “Om.” Lahiri Mahasaya sees continuous chanting and focusing on “Om” as a form of Kriya Yoga. Avadhuta Nityananda Paramhansa advises fixing the pure mind firmly on “Om” through discrimination. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa compares following the sound of “Om” to following the roar of the ocean to attain Brahman. Ramana Maharshi explains the significance of meditating on “Om” to attain samadhi and ultimate liberation (moksha). Amit Ray emphasizes that chanting “Om” is a creative practice, with each utterance being unique and fresh, reflecting our individuality.


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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