Lecture delivered at the Hermetic, Brotherhood Hall, San Francisco, on December 22, 1902
the other day a few words were spoken on the sacred mantram OM and it was also explained that the subject could not be exhausted in seven or eight lessons. Volumes have been written in the Sanskrit language and are still being written today on this sacred syllable. In fact, all the Vedas, all Vedanta, all the sacred Scriptures of the Hindus are contained in this syllable OM.
There fire many different sects in India, but all the sects pay their heartfelt homage to OM. The Hebrews, the Mahomedans, and the Christians, all end their prayers with ‘Amen‘. Mahomedans also do that, although they do not pronounce the word as ‘Amen‘ but ‘Ahmeen‘.
In your ordinary prayers what part does ‘Amen‘ play? It comes in at a place where all speech stops, where all talk terminates at a point where the soul melts into divinity. You go on pouring the language of the heart until that point is reached where the whole being is about to be melted into divinity. Where the ineffable, the unspeakable, the inexpressible is reached, there is Amen. Then what is Amen? It is OM, nothing else. In all your sacred prayers Amen or Ameen occupies a place that exactly satisfies the meaning of the word Vedanta or ‘end of speech‘ and very nearly represents the essence of Vedanta, that is, OM.
The literal meaning of Vedanta is the end of knowledge, the end of speech; a point where all speech, all thought stops, and among the Hindus the whole of Vedanta is represented by OM. The meaning in which that word is used in the Vedas will now be brought to your notice -OM, A.U.M.
The Tantrics explain OM in their own way. The Shaivas have their own way, the Vaishnavas have their own interpretation, and all other Hindu sects have their peculiar explanation, but the interpretation that is about to be given is universal; it is to be given at the very fountain-head of the Vedanta.
OM consists of A. U. M. The sound A in accordance with the teachings of Vedanta represents the so-called material universe, the solid-seeming world, the world of gross senses, all that is observed in your wakeful state. All the experiences of the dreamland are represented by U (oo). The observer as well as the things observed, both the subject and the object of the dreaming state, are denoted by the sound U. The psychic or astral plane, the world of spirits and all the heavens and hells are signified by U. M represents all the unknown in the deep sleep state and even in your wakeful state all that is unknown, all that is beyond comprehension of the intellect.
Thus OM or A-U-M covers all the three-fold expressions of man and stands for all the phenomenal worlds. There is in A-U-M the common principle called Amatra, that which signifies the imperishable, immutable noumenon or the thing-in-itself running through and pervading the three fold phenomena. That Amatra will be treated fully in another lecture. Suffice it to say that OM represents the All.
All the philosophy of the Europe and America is based on the experience in the wakeful state and takes little or no notice of the experience of the dreaming or deep sleep state. The Hindu says, “You start with imperfect data. How can your solution to the problem of Universe be correct?”
Philosophers limit themselves to the wakeful state. Mill, Hamilton, Berkeley, even Spencer and all of them base their discoveries and investigations on the experience gained in the wakeful state alone. There they want to discover the fountain head of all force, energy or any name they may please to give it. But see here, if you are given a mathematical problem and are asked to draw a conclusion, all the premises, the whole hypothesis you will have to consider. How can you solve a problem correctly when you take up only a part of the data? Vedanta takes the whole data. Your data are threefold, your worldly experiences are threefold, and all these should be considered. The world of wakeful state disappears entirely in the other states, and yet you, that is to say, the Self lives in the dream state and in the deep sleep state; you are not dead, are you? The intellect and personal consciousness vanish entirely in the deep sleep state and yet the real Self, the real ‘you‘ remains the same. The unchangeable and immutable principle, this reality runs through the threefold worlds as your true Atman or Self. This is OM. You have no right to take mind, intellect or brain as yourself. How do you know that the world exists, how do you know that the Universe is here? Because you touch things, you see things, you hear things, you taste and smell things: that is the only proof. If you say, here is Victor Hugo, Robert Ingersol, Emerson, all these great thinkers are writing so much about this world and so the world must exist. But, we ask how do you that religious books are there? You know they are there through the senses. Your senses are the only direct or indirect proof of the existence of this world.
Sensation is the primary cause of all perception, intellection, etc. Sensation is not limited to your wakeful state. In your wakeful state, your senses are in the gross form, but do you not sense and perceive in your dreams, have you not sense organs peculiar to that state? The outer eyes and outer ears are not working there. In the dreamland, you create you objects or senses and the corresponding sense organs or senses simultaneously. Thus we see that in dreamland the senses and the objects sensed are like the positive and negative poles of the same power or as the obverse and reverse of the same coin. In dreams the subject and the object spring up together. Both the subject and the object of dreams are comprised by the sound U in A-U-M and the underlying reality in which both the subject and the object appear as waves, is the real Atman or OM. According to Vedanta, just so in your wakeful state your senses and the objects are correlated to each other as the positive and negative poles of the same power. In dreams even though the objects are produced instantaneously, they appear to have a long past of their own. Similarly in the wakeful state the object of the world together with their past history make their appearance simultaneously with the percipient subject. And when you say that this world is real, this is the solid, rigid world, the statement is entirely founded on the evidence of the perceiving senses or subject, and is equivalent to the dreaming ego calling the objects of the dream real, or to the man on canvas calling his dog on the picture real, whereas in reality both are unreal.
What brought the senses into existence? The elements. How do you know of these elements? Through the senses. Is not that reasoning in a circle? This establishes the illusory nature of the world in the wakeful state. As in dreamland, so long as you are dreaming, the objects are real. Those objects are no more when in the wakeful state. In the wakeful state all things are solid but when in deep sleep state, where is the world? Nowhere, gone, -gone. Here we see that the definition of reality does not apply to the phenomena of the waking or dreaming state.
The Hindus define reality as that which persists in all circumstances. That which appears to be at one time and like a shadow disappears after a while must be a delusive phenomenon. The same definition of reality is given by Herbert Spencer.
Why do you say that the dreamland is unreal? Because when you are awake it is not there. Then so does this very definition of unreality apply to the wakeful state. When in dreamland or deep sleep state, the wakeful world is no longer.
The sound A in A-U-M indicates the apparent subject and object of the wakeful state as mere manifestations of the underlying Reality, Me.
What a prejudice has overtaken the heart of man. They say “I have hard cash. This is real, this gross, solid-seeming world.”O fool, the only hard reality is yourself -Unchangeable, eternal is yourself, that is the only hard thing. The rest is all a trick of the senses. Some people do not like to accept this conclusion, because it is derived from considering the dreaming and deep sleep states as rivals of the wakeful state. A few words will be said for their consideration. Over one-half of the surface of this big cipher of the Earth there being always night, almost half the population of the Earth is always in the dreaming or deep sleep state. Everybody at some place passes through the sleeping experience just as much as through the wakeful experience. Is not the whole of childhood a long sleep? Death again is sleep. Well, the first three or four years you have been all along asleep. Now count the time, the hours passed in the wakeful state; you will be astonished to see that one-half of your life is passed in sleep aid one-half in waking. What right have you to take into consideration what took place in the wakeful state and not what took place in the sleeping state? Are you dead when you are asleep? No; the experiences of your dream-state are also experiences, then why not take them into consideration? If the wakeful state be more powerful, why is it that even the strongest and wisest without exception, are, as it were, bound hand and foot by sleep and laid flat on the sofa or couch every night? The inexorable power of sleep takes no account of their ardent desire to keep awake. The sleep state has a world of its own as has also the wakeful state. Then if the wakeful world has any claim on attention, the dream world also must be duly considered.
Americans and Europeans determine everything from the stand-point of majority. Well then, the dreaming state as well as the deep sleep state are also to have a vote. If on the authority of wakeful experience the dreaming experience is unreal, no is the wakeful experience non-real on the authority of dreamland and deep sleep state. Again, here are plants in a state of perpetual deep sleep and here are animals in the constant dreaming state, as it were. To them the world appears quite different from what it does to you; why not regard their experience? To the ant’s eye, the frog’s eye, the owl’s eye, the elephant’s eye things are quite different from what they are to you. O, but you say man’s experience alone must be considered and the wakeful state or the wakeful world must be called real. But if you rightly take the experience of all the perfect men, even that will convince you that this solid-seeming world is unreal. You will ask how this is so? Here are our Scientists, Philosophers, Huxleys and Spencers. All lay immense stress upon the reality of the wakeful world. How can their experience show the unreality of the world? Just reflect. Will you believe them at their best or at their worst? You will not take into consideration their remarks made when they are asleep or snoring. In what state are these great writers at their best? They are at their best and worthy of all credit and reverence when knowledge is as it were issuing forth and springing from them. When in that highest state, go to them and see if every pore of their body, every hair on their skin is not lecturing as it were as to the non-reality of the world and proclaiming non-duality? In that state there is no meum. tuurn, no duality, no plurality; no personality, no world. All phenomenon is melted down to nothing. The thinker is in a state of concentration, a state of abstraction, a perfect state, a state where all knowledge is naturally oozing forth from him, a state where all knowledge naturally comes from him as does the light from the sun. Being in that state he does not talk; talk comes when he is just emerging from that plane; discoveries and sublime thought are emanating from him. Thus the actual experience of all great thinkers when at their highest, testifies to the non-reality of the world. This may be made more clear. What do we do when we think? When you think you proceed by dwelling upon a topic. You take up one point, excluding all other subjects; you concentrate on it with your whole mind; all your energies and powers are brought to bear upon that particular point. The mind becomes saturated with that idea. The result is that the idea disappears and absolute super-consciousness results, absolute consciousness which is the fountain-head of all knowledge.
According to a well established Law of Psychology, in order to be conscious of one thing we must have something different beside it. When there is no duality in the mind, then all object-consciousness is at rest and thus the point of inspiration is reached.
When Tennyson is Beyond all idea of Lord Tennyson, then alone is he the poet Tennyson. When Berkeley is no proprietary, copyrighting Bishop, them alone is he the thinker Berkeley. When Hume is above his personality which the biographer proclaims, then alone is he the philosopher Hume. When Huxley is not the historian’s Huxley and is the all, as it were, then is he the Scientist Huxley.
When some grand and wonderful work is done through us, it is folly to take the credit for it, because when it was being done, the credit-seeking ego was entirely absent, else the beauty of the deed should have been marred. The consciousness of “I am doing” was altogether absent. The thing came from God of its own self. Thus we see that these people, thinkers or great writers, whoever they may be, if we take their judgment, their opinion when at their best, they are found lecturing and preaching by their acts, nay through every pore of their body, that the world is unreal. Acts speak louder than words. In battle we see great warriors and great heroes; being at their best they go on fighting; bullets fly thick and fast all about them, here is a bullet, there is a wound; blood gushes from their bodies; their bodies are torn to pieces, still they press on and on; in such a state pain is no pain. Why? Because practically the body is no body and the outside world no world. In the language of Energy he is giving a lie to the world and body. Thus your Napoleon, your Washington, your Wellington, and all others tell you through their acts, in spite of the belittling intellect they tell you that when the real Self, which is all Energy, asserts itself, the world is naught. The real Self, which is Knowledge Absolute and Power Absolute, is the only stern reality, before which the apparent reality of the world melts away. What makes the arms of the warrior strong? It is coming into unison with the stern, hard and fast reality of the true Self.
What causes so many discoveries and inventions to be suggested to the mind? Simply the intellect or mind’s absorption for a short time in the hard, stern reality of the real Atman, God, That you are, Ye are that Reality, Ye are the Light of the Universe, the Lord of lords, the Holy of holies, the Highest of the high.
In the mantram OM (A-U-M), the first letter, A stands for this stern Reality, your Self, as underlying and manifesting the illusory material world of the wakeful state, U represents the psychic world, and the last letter M denotes the Absolute Self as underlying the chaotic state and manifesting itself as all the Unknown.
When chanting OM, the wise have to concentrate their attention and put forth feelings in realising their Self to be the stern Reality which manifests the three worlds and also destroys the three worlds, just as the sun reveals the colours at sunrise or dawn and also absorbs them back into himself before noon.
These worlds are phenomenal. In your dreaming state you see a wolf and fear that the wolf will devour you; you are frightened but it is not a wolf that you see, it is yourself. So Vedanta tells you that even in the wakeful state it is “Ye that are the enemy or the friend.”Ye are the sun and the pond in which the sun is reflected. Ye are the lamp and the moth. The bitterest enemy that ye have, ye are that enemy, nobody else. While chanting OM, you have to work your mind up to such a pitch of realisation of this fact that all jealousy and ill-will may be rooted out of the mind, may be voted out. Weed out this idea of separateness. The figure and form of the friend or foe is a mere dream. You are the friend and you are the foe. Are the things you did yesterday with you today? Are they not a dream? They are gone. The things of yesterday where are they, are they not gone? In this sense also the experience of the wakeful state is a dream; the experience of the dream state is a dream. The real, the hard cash, the stern reality, the real Self, is behind them. Realize that. Some people want to materialise thought instead of realising all matter to be mere thought. They regard the material plane to be real as compared with the Astral world or the world of thought. According to Vedanta, the material as well as the Astral worlds are unreal. You must rise above both because rest, true peace, happiness can be had only when the reality, the hard cash behind the scenes, is realised.
In AUM, A (ah) is sometimes called a Matra or form, U is often called a Matra or form, M is called a Matra or form; but OM does not stop at Matra or form, it stands for the reality, the hard cash which runs through, which underlies all these Matras. People say “We want life, we don’t want mere ideas.”O, what is Life? Is it the life of the dream-state or the deep sleep state or is it the life of the wakeful state that you want? All this is only apparent. The reality, the true life is your Self. There are stern laws which will not allow you enjoyment of pleasure forever through the senses. Is it possible for you to sell yourself to the senses, to the Sense-plane and be happy? No, it is impossible. There are most unrelenting, unrestrainable laws which cannot allow you to be happy in sensual pleasure.
The Atman is the real life, the hard cash. Realise that and these material pleasures will begin to seek you. Just as the moth comes to the burning flame, just as the river flows to the ocean, just as the small official pays his respects to a great Emperor, just so will pleasures come to you when you have perfectly known and felt your true Self, your divine majesty, the real glorious Atman. This Atman is represented by OM.
It has been shown how out of A-U-M, these three Matras, the Hindus, especially the Vedas, give you a clue to the underlying reality that you are. OM means the underlying Reality behind the scenes, the eternal Truth, the indestructible Self that you are. Thus when you sing this sacred man tram OM, you will have to throw jour intellect and your body into your true Self, make these melt into the real Atman.
Realise it and sing in the language of feeling, sing it with your acts, sing it through every pore of your body. Let it course through your veins, let it pulsate in your bosom, let every hair on your body and every drop of your blood tingle with the truth that You are the Light of lights, the Sun of suns, the Ruler of the universe, the Lord of lords, the true Self. The sun and stars are your handiwork and the heavens and earth your workmanship. Everything declares your glory, and all Nature pays you homage.