The Hong-Sau and Om Techniques
by Brother Ishtananda (excerpts from a talk at 2004 Convocation)
The most vital part of meditation – the whole crux of the matter in attaining the ultimate goal of God consciousness is stillness. When we are still and knowing God as peace, bliss, and love, then the normal sense thoughts are banished and we are in an interior state of consciousness. To commune with God, we need to go into silence. There is a vital point of meditation that is often misunderstood.
Consider what the desired goal of meditation is:
pure God consciousness —
Ordinarily our consciousness is vibrating with thoughts and emotions, and cannot merge with the calm consciousness of divine consciousness.
Stillness of meditation means being absorbed and feeling God’s presence at the spiritual eye. It is in this stillness that we experience communion with God as peace, as joy, as love.
Brother Anandamoy said, “In stillness there is conscious awareness, a deeply alert state without thoughts.”
Jesus taught: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet (withdraw the mind into the silence within), and when thou hast shut thy door (the door of the senses), pray to thy Father which is in secret (in the inner transcendent divine consciousness); and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (shall bless you with the ever new Bliss of His Being).” (The Second Coming, pg 495)
Paramahansa Yogananda said, “True prayer is an expression of the soul, an urge from the soul. It is a hunger for God that arises from within, expressing itself to Him ardently, silently.” (The Second Coming, pg 491)
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t yet enter into this state of stillness - it is a very lofty state. But always set aside a portion of your meditation to try to attain this goal of stillness. It will come through the grace of God and Guru. Our job is to make the effort with the techniques. Recognize and appreciate what that stillness is when it comes, and don’t feel you have to move on in your meditation if you attain this state.
Paramahansa Yogananda said, “In the devotee’s silence God’s silence ceases.” (The Second Coming, pg 495)
How to achieve that state of stillness?
Paramahansa Yogananda said, “When the activating power of the mind is stilled by concentration, restlessness ceases and we become absorbed in the transcendental Bliss of the soul.”
Brother Anandamoy once told Brother Ishtananda that there are two concepts of what concentration means. On a sheet of paper he drew a circle to represent the subject of concentration and inside the circle he drew many dots and dashes, which represented all the different thoughts about that subject. This is the common understanding of “concentration” in the West. Then he drew another circle and poked one tiny dot in the center of it. “That,” Brother told him, “is yogic concentration.”
It is one-pointed focus on the object of concentration, holding the mind steady and absorbed in one object only. The yogi holds the mind still on an object, absorbing the essence of the object of concentration. Paramahansa Yogananda said that meditation is concentration used to know God. We have to be able to achieve this one-pointed concentration to truly meditate.
Don’t be discouraged – it’s not always so simple to achieve this state. In the Gita, Arjuna laments, “Verily, the mind is unsteady, tumultuous, powerful, obstinate! O Krishna, I consider the mind as difficult to master as the wind!” (Chapter VI, verse 34) And Krishna answered Arjuna thus:
“Undoubtedly the mind is fickle and unruly; but by yoga practice and by dispassion, the mind may nevertheless be controlled.”
Hong-Sau is one of those great techniques of yoga for pinpointing the mind. Daya Ma has praised Hong-Sau so much over the years and she says that whenever she has a few moments she practices.
"I am He"—
"I am Spirit".
“Hong” and “Sau” are sacred Sanskrit words that have a vibratory connection with the incoming and outgoing breath and they have a calming effect on the breath. Breath and mind are very much interrelated. Calm breath automatically brings about a calm mind. Restless breath creates a restless mind. Just observing the breath will quiet it down. Hong-Sau is a mantra. It is very simple – basics are simple!
What to do when thoughts come? St. Teresa of Avila gave good advice:
“When unwanted thoughts come, pay no more attention to them than to the words of an idiot.”
If the mind wanders, don’t berate yourself – use it as a reminder to bring it back to the practice of the technique. If during the first few moments of meditation you can get a hold of the mind there will be far less problems. When practiced correctly the breath may slow down - it may even stop – and this is a very desirable state. That is a deep state of stillness. Just enjoy that deep feeling of peace when the breath is not flowing.
Don’t be concerned – the body will breath when it needs to, so don’t fret. And don’t get excited either, thinking, “I did it!!” Just relax and enjoy it. But don’t try to create it.
Don’t try to control the breath –
that is not practising Hong-Sau.
We are trying to be the soul – the silent, conscious witness. Daya Mata says of Hong-Sau: “I didn’t waste my time; I practiced it in spare moments of the day.”
Remember, the techniques are just a means to an end. Don’t waste time. Whenever you have a few moments practice Hong-Sau and then feel the peace – talk to the Guru.
These notes are not an official publication of SRF. They were taken by the devotees during talks given by the monks and nuns. Please be aware that there is a degree of human error involved in taking and transcribing notes.