Prasna Upanishad (Part-5)- Why meditate on AUM

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THE TEXT

FIFTH  QUESTION

MANTRA  1

atha hainam saibyah  satyakaamah paprachchha | sa yo ha vai tabhdagavanmanushhyeshhu  praayanaantamonkaaramabhidhyaayiita | katamam vaava sa tena lokam jayatiiti |  tasmai sa hovaacha || 1||

Then Satyakama, the son of  Sibi, asked Pippalada; Sir, if a person goes on meditating on the syllable AUM  throughout his life, which world, verily, does he win by such meditation?  Pippalada told him:

Impelled by the desire to know  Brahman (Atman), Satyakama, the son of Sibi, thereupon asked Pippalada as to  what world is attained by a person who meditates upon Om (AUM) with  single-pointed devotion till the end of his life. This question presupposes  that meditation on Om is to be carried out  throughout one’s life and that many are the worlds that spiritual seekers may  attain after death. Om is the symbol of both  Lower Brahman and the Higher Brahman and a seeker can worship Brahman in any of  its aspects. This is explained by the teacher now in the following Mantras.

MANTRA  2

etadvai satyakaama param  chaaparam cha brahma yadonkaarah |  tasmaadvidvaanetenaivaayatanenaikataramanveti || 2||

He replied: O Satyakama, the  syllable AUM is the Supreme Brahman and also the other Brahman. Therefore he  who knows it attains, with its support, the one or the other.

Pippalada replied that in as much  as Om is the symbol of both the lower and the  higher (Saguna and Nirguna) Brahman and as it is very close to both of them, it  is deemed to be identical with both. Therefore one who meditates upon it  attains to anyone of the Brahmans as he likes.

The words used here are the  Supreme Brahman which is Nirguna, devoid of all characteristics and cannot be  known through words or thought. It is also called Para Brahman, Higher Brahman.  Other Brahman which is Saguna that which is with attributes. It is also called  Apara Brahman, Lower Brahman. This is the first manifestation of the Absolute  or Pure Consciousness also designated as Hiranyagarbha, Maya and Prana.

Brahman, being transcendental in  nature and attributeless, cannot be directly comprehended by our mind. Hence an  indirect method is prescribed in the scriptures to meditate on Brahman and one  such method is through a symbol or pratika. Such a symbol can be thought  of in two ways - 1. One as associated with the original and 2. As the thing  itself or as good as the original or equivalent to the original. Just as salagrama is considered as a symbol of Vishnu, the syllable AUM is considered nearest to  the Brahman.  Thus by contemplating the  Supreme Brahman through AUM, one  realizes the highest plane and by using AUM as  a symbol one attains the lower plane.

BENEFITS  OF CONTEMPLATING ON THE DIFFERENT MATRAS OF AUM

MANTRA  3

sa  yadhyekamaatramabhidhyaayiita sa tenaiva sa.nveditastuurnameva  jagatyaabhisampadhyate | tamricho manushhyalokamupanayante sa tatra tapasaa  brahmacharyena shraddhayaa sampanno mahimaanamanubhavati || 3||

If he meditates on one letter  (matra), then, being enlightened by that alone, he quickly comes back to earth  after death. The rik verses lead him to the world of men. By practicing  austerity, chastity and faith he enjoys greatness.

Though AUM is only one syllable  which is to be meditated upon by uttering it as one unit, it can be uttered and  meditated upon by using the sounds produced by pronouncing its three different  parts (matras) viz. A, U, M. While meditating the syllable as a whole  leads to the higher Brahman, meditating on its different matras leads  one to the lower Brahman, the fruit of which is either return to the mortal  world or liberation in gradual stages.

The person who meditates on the  first matra ‘A’ (sound produced by pronouncing ‘A’, the first letter in the  alphabet) is born again in the mortal world and endowed with austerity,  chastity and faith enjoys the glory and power of spiritual life. This is  possible because the matra of AUM indicated by ‘A’ constitutes in  essence the hymns of the Rig Veda which alone has the power to bestow human  body in the next birth. Thus even those who are ignorant of the meaning of the  whole syllable AUM and meditate only on ‘A’ are not deprived of any spiritual  reward but reap a good fruit and no calamity befalls on them. Such is the  greatness of AUM.

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