Beware, this is going to get a little sexy.
When I was in India, I did not get a mantra initiated to me by a guru. While at Sivananda’s I wasn’t feeling called to request it; and whenever we were asked to “repeat mentally our mantra or any other sacred symbols” I simply used Sat Nam (this is used in Kundalini yoga, and comes from Sikhism, and is in the language called Gurmukhi) It is generally translated to mean something like, “there is one truth/one God” and in this application it further means “I embody that truth” (…it is recommended by Guru Nanak to repeat Sat-Nam to realize the All-pervading Supreme Reality). Anyway, it was working for me, I would breath in Sat and breath out Nam…knowing that I was concentrating on evoking an image of the “true reality that involves me”.
After spending some time at Ammas, and meditating with her. I adopted the basic (but wholly profound) mantra they suggest at meditation (in her words–as expressed by the translator):
” Mentally breath in MA (as the syllable representing universal cosmic love) and breathe out Aum (as the symbol of universal cosmic light)”
When I looked up “Ma” in sanskrit, I found its relative meaning to be “Natural Mother”–I see the relationship–your natural mother is the source of ultimate compassionate love (or so she should be…) and natural mother can refer to the earth, or Mother Nature who of course, ceaselessly and tirelessly supports us everyday in everyway.
I assumed I understood the general meaning of Aum, but decided to research it again. Here is a brief summary of some of the most important points:
AUM ॐ is generally described as all-encompassing mystical entity–and that’s what makes it so intriguing.
“Om is not just a sound or vibration. It is not just a symbol. It is the entire cosmos, whatever we can see, touch, hear and feel. Moreover, it is all that is within our perception and all that is beyond our perception. It is the core of our very existence. If you think of Om only as a sound, a technique or a symbol of the Divine, you will miss it altogether. ….. Om is the mysterious cosmic energy hat is the substratum of all the things and all the beings of the entire universe. It is an eternal song of the Divine. It is continuously resounding in silence on the background of everything that exists.”
–Amrit Ray (Om Chanting & Meditation)
Before creation, there was “Shunyākāsha”, an emptiness or void. Shunyākāsha literally means “no sky”–BUT it is more than what we conventionally think of as “nothingness”–because in this void, everything existed in a latent state of potentiality. As creation began, the Divine, all-encompassing Consciousness took the form of the first-original vibration, and manifested as the sound “OM”. AUM is said to be the primordial sound that was present at the creation of the universe. It can be called the Name of GOD, or the Vibration of the Supreme. It is said to be the original sound that contains all other sounds, all words, all languages and all mantras.
(How do they know this? Enlightened beings know everything–they become knowledge itself--but that’s another topic…)
The syllable consists of three phonemes,
When taken letter by letter, A-U-M represents the Divine Female-Energy (Shakti) uniting with its three elementary aspects: Bhrahma Shakti (creation), Vishnu Shakti (preservation) & Shiva Shakti (liberation/ destruction). Keep in mind that “Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva” is the Divine Male-Matter.
“A”-kara means form or shape, like earth, trees, or any other object. “U”-kāra means formless or shapeless like water, air or fire. “Ma”-kāra means neither shape nor shapeless (but still exists) like the dark energy content of the Universe.
“AUM” then, is the reflection of the absolute reality. Essentially, upon full-enlightenment one is able not only to see existence for what it is–but to become one with it. When one gains true knowledge, there is no split between knower and known: one becomes knowledge/consciousness itself. In essence, Om signifies the ultimate truth, that all is one.
Yet another translation:
Aum has three syllables. A represents the waking state. Urepresents the dreaming state. M represents the state of deep sleep. Aum in its entirety, plus the moment of silence which follows it, represents shanti–the peace beyond understanding.
The first syllable is A, pronounced as the English word “awe,” but prolonged: “aaa.” The second syllable is U, as in “roof,” pronounced “oo” but prolonged: “ooo.” The third syllable is M, pronounced “mm” with the front teeth gently touching and the sound prolonged: “mmmm.” Each repetition is sounded for about seven seconds, with two seconds on A, two seconds on U and three seconds on M, with a silence of about two seconds before the next repetition. The three syllables are run together: AAUUMM (silence), AAUUMM (silence), AAUUMM (silence). On the first syllable,A, we feel the solar plexus and chest vibrating. On the second syllable, U,the throat vibrates. The third syllable, M, vibrates the top of the head. Thus, proper chanting of Aum also is a high form of yoga, moving energy from the lower chakras of the body up to the highest chakra, or energy center — the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head.
For both Hindus and Buddhists this syllable is sacred, and so laden with spiritual energy, that it may only be pronounced with complete concentration…it is also recommended that you have a good understanding of its meaning.
Now that you do, I will remind you that it is said:
That one, uttering the monosyllable Aum at the time of departing the body (death), attains the Supreme Goal (enlightenment).
<Must remember that!>
Anyhoo…back to my story.When you receive darshan, a blessing from Amma (in her case–a hug) you may attempt to talk to her, ask her questions, ask for a mantra, ask for a spiritual name, or have things or people blessed. I believe I asked for a mantra 2 times from her, maybe 3? I know for sure that the last time I requested mantra, I was more determined to get it and so I waited until the very end and was virtually the last person to go through. This I did, so that I would be around for when she gives mantras–which, if she sees fit, happens at the end of Darshan. She didn’t see fit…again!!! I must say I did feel a little left out in the cold…Apparently having a mantra initiated to you is like having a life-preserver…whenever you are in trouble, stressed, feeling disconnected from the truth and or your guru…a mantra will bring you back–save you, as it were. In fact, chanting your mantra should become so second nature to you that even when you don’t think about it, it should be playing in the back of your mind….keeping your mind constantly tuned towards enlightenment and reducing the endless chatter of the busy monkey mind. I thought, how could she let me leave her ashram without giving me a so-called “life preserver”?…Anyway, apparently you aren’t suppose to question what a Satguru does…they do everything for your own good and their only goal in life is to lead as many people as possible towards enlightenment. So, mildly concerned, I left her ashram with nothing but “Ma Aum” to keep me warm at night! I have been using Ma Aum, regularily. I am happy to report that I don’t believe I have missed more than one day of meditation since I have come home…I have most regularly been doing 5-15 minutes every morning, but on occasion have also done a little more during the day or at night before bed. At first I found Ma/Aum to feel inverted, I felt almost as if I wanted to Inhale Aum and Exhale Ma…even though the directives were the opposite. In my quest to perfect this mantra and use it to the best of its ability, I have added a visualization to it. I inhale Ma and visualize sunlight coming into my head and flooding down my body. To keep myself from “thinking & talking to myself” I concentrate on really “feeling” this as a sensation of “pure love”–characterized by that ethereal sensation of being awed & embraced by nature. Then on the exhale Aum, I visualize myself emanating light & compassionate love primarily from my heart (chakra) center, thru my arms and hands–I try to “feel” it flowing from me and surrounding my family, friends and the world at large. With rather consistent practice over the last couple of months I have gotten much better at concentrating and keeping focused. I have decided to attempt to keep a some distance between Paul and I; and one of the main steps was to create my own bedroom and little spiritual sanctuary out in the Studio. It has taken me until now to get it ready for habitation. I thought I would begin to stay in it as of next week. But a very agitating blow-up with Paul’s mother drove me into it earlier than expected. I have now slept peacefully in my own space for 2 nights. Before this however, I was still sharing a bed with Paul. It has been a very ambiguous time, in theory we are separated–but still co-habiting, and until now, still sleeping in the same bed…we still love each other in someway…not all ways, nor always…but some ways and sometimes; And I, for one was told by the vedic astrologers not to hold back affection for Paul despite the situation–“that love is always good”. So I came back with the mindset to continue to be affectionate and try to be loving no matter what–I also think it is in Ginger’s best interest to see her parents being affectionate. The last couple of weeks sharing a bed has been a weird experience, especially since I feel so distanced from Paul, and yet so familiar–despite our troubles, my natural instinct has always been and still is, to curl up to him to steal some of his abundant heat, to caress his skin , scratch his back or to hold his hand. It was clear from Paul’s icy cold approach to me, he wasn’t interested in being touched by me. But it was difficult, unnatural and uncomfortable to refrain from this. So sometimes while I was awake crawling-the-walls with the timeshift, I would just sit up and meditate in bed “Ma Aum” and hope beyond hope, that I could affect some positive change, some healing in Paul by virtue of his close proximity. Generally I didn’t register any noticeable success, until one day after about 10 nights of practicing. Paul lay there fast asleep, I laid my hand upon his chest/heart and meditated with deep concentration and focus, I visualized Amma sending her abundant pure-love out into the world (as described above), I visualized myself receiving it while I inhaled “MA” and then I exhaled “Aum” and visualized/felt love, light and healing coming out of my hand into his heart. I felt myself sending him my equanimity…I managed to concentrate enough energy and focus to truly have a concrete sensation of this exchange. I based this experiment on something that I had read that very day in a book from Amma….apparently Amma just cured someone of leprosy and the devotee is staring awestruck at her…Amma says: you are wondering how I performed this healing? then she laughs…the devotee says: why are you laughing? Amma says: you have this power too, but you don’t know it. Previously I had also read a book called the Intention Experiment and it contains many descriptions of how healers work; how they focus their energy and concentrate it into their hands…this is verifiable by various scientific machines which show the heat and light emanating from the healers hands…(yes, believe it or not, our bodies, yours and mine, all emit a low level light all the time…) Remarkably, within seconds of finishing and returning to my mind–Paul woke up, immediately begun to gently caress me and for the first time since I had come home…showed me some real affection (wink wink) That is not the truly sexy part of this story though…The truly sexy part is an amazing revelation that came to me yesterday. As I said, I had this big blow-up with my MotherInLaw. It happened the day before yesterday; I didn’t say much, but she had some choice things to say to me–enough that I realized having dinner at her place was not really going to be very comfortable after-all and I excused myself and retired, for the first time, to my own little spiritual sanctuary…I like to call it my “cave”. The agitation that this situation aroused in my mind instantly caused me to seek my inner depths where I know the waters of my soul were still & crystal clear–so I did some meditation and successfully wrote a good chunk of a chapter for the book, and felt initiated to my cave by a great night’s sleep! The next day, Paul took Ginger out of the house. This left me time to think of the inevitable conversation I would have to have with his mother. I realized that I really desired some good cardio-vascular exercise, and since getting in shape is part of my mandate this winter…I thought I should jump on the elliptical trainer. I blasted tunes from Radio Paradise on-line, climbed on and began moving. As I began to rev up, I realized that without thinking about it, I had begun chanting Ma Aum in my laboured breath…then I realized that my breathing sounded the same when I used to jog…(even though I didn’t know it at the time, Jogging had become a meditation for me–it always made me feel terrific, my mind would feel clear and free…I always said it was like doing mental housework). Whats more though, I realized that my breathing sounds the same when, when,…you know…then… By this time, I was fully immersed in movement, breath, rhythm and thought–my whole body from my head to my butt was swaying to the music …Then it hit me; the free-swinging arm on the elliptical trainer–it hit me in the head !! I had been lolling my head to and fro, completely oblivious to the moving arms of the machine, I was holding the steady ones in the middle! But then this hit me; something I have always tinkered with in my mind, but have been reluctant to talk about. This suspicion I have that finally reaching enlightenment is going to be like a giant cosmic/spiritual orgasm– leading to an eternal state of pure-bliss; And the closer you get to it, the more fervently you want it… This mantra, Ma Aum can really sounds like the sounds of lovemaking…of the climb to climax (and based on its meaning, really are the sounds of love and creation–love & making). Also interesting to note is that Ma is a “bi-labial sound” (meaning it requires two lips) while Aum causes opens those lips. Accordingly, Ma acts as the receiver ( the inhale) and Aum the giver (the exhale). (By the way, why do we call it lovemaking, when surely lots of us do it without “Love” actually being involved?…maybe that’s a clue to the deeper spiritual association that we inherently know should be there…) Think about this too, it is a known fact that most people, from most cultures around the world, religious or not, ALL call out to God in seeking sexual climax; and as we know, in English it is usually preceded by “Aum”…as in “Aum-my-god”…sound familiar? (another side thought, I think many women, including myself make some kind of Aum sound when finally giving birth) They say that enlightenment is a protracted state of ultimate pure bliss…therefore it is not inconceivable to relate it to the moment of orgasm and beyond, when shakti (female energy) meets male-matter, when creation begins, when everyone squeals an ecstatic variant of “Aum”; and then finally rests in a perfect savasna-bliss. “Enlightenment”…it really is THAT GOOD!! (this could be mostly just blither that I wrote…)