An Inquiry Regarding Om Yoga
Questions by various friends, and Answers by Swami Nirmalananda, abbot of Atma Jyoti Ashram
I have recently started Om Yoga practice. Getting right to the point, I am puzzled by what seems to be the lack of practitioners of Om sadhana. Other than your web site, and references by early twentieth century masters (Swamis Sivananda, Rama Tirtha, etc.) there seems to be little support for the practice other than "lip service" to it being the highest mantra, etc. But then it is appended to a longer mantra, not used by itself–almost as if it is "mantra light." For example, I have seen many references which say something like, "If you are not comfortable with these mantras, you can always just use Om"–like it is a safe old afterthought.
One other thing: many references indicate that a mantra is useless unless empowered by a master. Is this universally true?
Considering the amount of material on Om sadhana to be found on our website in THE WORD THAT IS GOD, especially the section: "The Glories and Powers of Om," it is incredibly amazing that more people (at least in India) do not practice it. The majority of dasanami (Shankara) sadhus do practice Om sadhana, and in India most of those in the non-SRF/YSS lineage of Lahiri Mahasaya (Shyama Charan Lahiri) also do japa and meditation of Om in addition to their pranayama practice. Virtually all Arya Samaj members do Om sadhana. The Jains also meditate on Om. Still, the percentage is small. This is because of the terrible degeneration of Hinduism that has been going on since the death of Krishna and the advent of the Kali Yuga.
Here is the section entitled "Initiation?" from the third chapter of the complete Om Yoga book:
"It is commonly believed that an aspiring yogi must be empowered for yoga practice through some kind of initiation or transference of power. There are many exaggerated statements made about how it is impossible to make any progress, much less attain enlightenment, without initiation. But they have no relevance to the practice of Om Yoga, which requires no initiation because it is based squarely on the eternal nature and unity of the jivatman and the Paramatman–what to speak of the nature of Om Itself. The japa and meditation of Om are themselves expressions of the eternal nature of God and man. The eternal spirits need no external input to return to their Source.
"It is when the individual perpetually experiences the eternal point where Om is common to both itself and God that it can know its oneness with God, and separation from God is impossible for it. Yet it is still itself, still distinct, though its consciousness is totally absorbed in God and it sees only the One, and can say, 'God alone exists. There is no other but God.'
"All we need is God Himself in the form of Om."
As far as needing a "master" is concerned, here is the preceding section from the third chapter, entitled: "God is guru in the form of Om":
"Immediately after telling us that God is the Guru, Patanjali says: 'His spoken form is Om.' In a hymn of the poet-saint Kabir, an Indian mystic of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there are two important statements: 'That Word is the Guru; I have heard it, and become the disciple.…That Word reveals all.'
"Beautiful as the thought of God being the guru may be, is it true? If so, how is God the guru?
"From the depths of God's Being, Om is eternally present, is eternally flowing or rising, and the same is true of each individual spirit. The heart-core of God and the core of the individual spirit are the same in non-dual unity. Om is flowing from the single point where the spirit and the Spirit are absolutely one. God is eternally stimulating or 'teaching' the spirit to emanate Om as the agent of its evolution and perfection. In this way God is the guru of each one of us. One finite spirit may reveal to another finite spirit the way to realize its oneness with God, and thereby momentarily become a spiritual teacher for that spirit; but God alone will be the Sat (true and eternal) Guru.
"Om is the ultimate guru, the infallible teacher and guide from within. Yet, according to Vyasa there is another teacher: our yoga practice itself. He says: 'It is yoga that is the teacher. How so? It has been said:
"Yoga is to be known by yoga; Yoga goes forward from yoga alone. He who is not careless [neglectful] in his yoga For a long time, rejoices in the yoga."'
"Shankara, commenting on these words of Vyasa, discusses the reaction that the awakening person has upon learning about the possibility of liberation from his present state of bondage: 'Meditation on his own being, which is the cause that should lead to liberation, begins of itself, caused by karma of a previous life or else by steadfastness in renunciation in this present one. And it goes on of itself, without instruction from a teacher.'
"The experience gained from yoga practice itself teaches us the reality and value of yoga. But even more, it opens our intuition and enables us to comprehend the inner workings of the subtle levels of our being and its mastery. Yoga truly becomes our teacher, revealing to us that which is far beyond the wisdom of books and verbal instructions. Moreover, it is practice of yoga that enables us to understand the basis and rationale of its methods and their application. The why and wherefore of yoga become known to us by direct insight."
The bottom line, however, is your own experience through practice. This is the only way the validity of any methodology can be known. Just see how both here and in India people are laboring away at all kinds of exotic "yogas" that have no real basis in the pure Sanatana Dharma tradition. They get nowhere, but because they have accepted a great deal of exaggerated praise about the practice and the guru, they waste decades in "faith" instead of using good sense about their own perceptions–or lack thereof. People often lament their lack of progress, but mistakenly blame themselves instead of facing the truth that their practice is worthless–and so is their guru.