Meditation on Aum (Om)
Pranava,* the sound of the creative Aum vibration, is the mother of all sounds. The intelligent cosmic energy of Aum that issues forth from God, and is the manifestation of God, is the creator and substance of all matter. This holy vibration is the link between matter and Spirit. Meditation on Aum is the way to realize the true Spirit-essence of all creation. By inwardly following the sound of Pranava to its source, the yogi's consciousness is carried aloft to God.
* Pranava: literally "that which is sounded out loudly"; something that pervades life, or runs through prana or breath; the primal sound vibration.
In the microcosmic universe of the body of man, the Aum vibration works through the vital activities in the astral spinal centers of life with their creative vibratory elements (tattvas) of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Through these, man's body is created, enlivened, and sustained. These vibrations emit characteristic variations of Pranava as they operate. The devotee whose consciousness becomes attuned to these inner astral sounds finds himself gradually ascending to higher states of realization. (p.116, God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda)
Patanjali says that attainment of the highest samadhi is possible "by profound, devoted meditation on (the Lord) Ishvara (1:23).... His symbol is Aum (1:27)."
By a guru-given technique of meditation on Aum (Om), such as I have taught to Self-Realization Fellowship students (available in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons), the sacred Aum vibration of the Holy Ghost can be heard in meditation through the supersensory medium of intuition. First, the devotee realizes Aum as the manifested cosmic energy in all matter. The earthly sounds of all atomic motion, including the sounds of the body—the heart, lungs, circulation, cellular activity—come from the cosmic sound of the creative vibratory activity of Aum. The sounds of the nine octaves perceptible to the human ear, as well as all cosmic low or high vibrations that cannot be registered by the human ear, have their origin in Aum. So also, all forms of light—fire, sunlight, electricity, astral light—are expressions of the primal cosmic energy of Aum.
This Holy Vibration working in the subtle spinal centers of the astral body, sending forth life force and consciousness into the physical body, manifests as wonderful astral sounds—each one characteristic of its particular center of activity.
These astral sounds are likened to melodic strains of the humming of a bee, the tone of a flute, a stringed instrument such as a harp, a bell-like or gong sound, the soothing roar of a distant sea, and a cosmic symphony of all vibratory sound.
The Self-Realization Fellowship technique of meditation on Aum teaches one to hear and locate these astral sounds. This aids the awakening of the divine consciousness locked in the spinal centers, opening them to "make straight" the way of ascension to God-realization.
As the devotee concentrates on Aum, first by mentally chanting Aum, and then by actually hearing that sound, his mind is diverted from the physical sounds of matter outside his body to the circulatory and other sounds of the vibrating flesh. Then his consciousness is diverted from the vibrations of the physical body to the musical vibrations of the spinal centers of the astral body. His consciousness then expands from the vibrations of the astral body to the vibrations of consciousness in the causal body and in the omnipresence of the Holy Ghost.
When the devotee's consciousness is able not only to hear the cosmic sound of Aum, but also to feel its actual presence in every unit of space, in all finite vibrating matter, then the soul of the devotee becomes one with the Holy Ghost. His consciousness vibrates simultaneously in his body, in the sphere of the earth, the planets, the universes, and in every particle of matter, space, and astral manifestation. Through the expanding power of the Holy Ghost, the all-spreading Aum-vibrating sound heard in meditation, the consciousness then becomes immersed, or baptized, in the sacred stream of Christ Consciousness.
These progressively higher states of realization are attained through deeper and longer meditation as guided by the guru. But from the very beginning, the blessings of contact with Aum become increasingly manifest. (...)
In deepest meditation, as practiced by those who are advanced in the technique of Kriya Yoga, the devotee experiences not only expansion in the Aum vibration "Voice from heaven," but finds himself able also to follow the microcosmic light of Spirit in the "straight way" of the spine into the light of the spiritual eye "dove descending from heaven."
First, the life force and consciousness must be withdrawn from the senses and bodily restlessness, and must cross the portals of Cosmic Energy represented by the golden ring of the spiritual eye. Then the consciousness must plunge in the blue light representing Christ Consciousness. Then it must penetrate through the silver star opening into Spirit, in the boundless region of Infinity. This golden, blue, and silver light contains all the walls of rays—electronic, atomic, and lifetronic—of Cosmic Vibration through which one has to penetrate before one can reach heaven.
In these highest states of meditation, the body itself becomes spiritualised, loosening its atomic tenacity to reveal its underlying astral structure as life force. The aura often depicted around saints is not imaginative, but the inner divine light suffusing the whole being. (p.123-125, The Second Coming of Christ by Paramahansa Yogananda)
From the realization of the potencies of these vibratory bija or "seed" sounds, the rishis devised mantras that, when properly intoned, activate these creative forces to produce the desired result. Mantras, therefore, are one means of tuning in with subtle or divine forces. Too often, however, the inquiring seeker focuses on the forces of nature, and the resulting effects are thus in the realm of phenomena and powers, an entrapment to be avoided by the sincere devotee who seeks union with God. Those sacred mantras that are a part of the Kriya Yoga science, including meditation on Aum as mentioned in 1:15-18* (and other techniques and instructions of the Kriya path), take the devotee's consciousness straightway to God.
* Aum is the supreme mantra, the primordial manifestation of Spirit (Para-Brahman) as cosmic creative vibration, known as Shabda-Brahman, or Spirit in its manifested aspect as sound. It is therefore the source and container of all other vibratory sounds.
I have mentioned in this commentary the various vibratory seed sounds and their derivations because they are a part of the details of the yoga science. They need not be concentrated on, however; their effects will be automatically realized by the advanced devotee, as follows:
When the devotee's mind is concentrated at the coccygeal center, he hears the vibratory sound between the coccyx and the sacral centers; he then understands the domain of desires. This center is the first stopping place.
When the devotee understands the vibration of the seed sounds in the dorsal center, he is enabled to feel his coccygeal, sacral, lumbar, and dorsal centers simultaneously, and comprehends the mysteries of their subtle powers. This stage constitutes the second stopping place.
When the advancing devotee understands the vibration of the seed sound between the cervical and the medulla-Christ centers, he understands the six centers (the elements of earth, water, fire, air, ether, and superether) in their subtle, separated state; and understands, further, the combinations of the elements that take place in order to produce man's illusion of the solid, physical body. (p.131, God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda)