Omkara is a sound representation of the Supreme Lord:
The principal word in the Vedas, pranava omkara, is the sound representation of the Supreme Lord. Therefore omkara should be considered the supreme sound…. Omkara is the reservoir of all the energies of the Supreme Lord…. In Bhagavad-gita the Lord has in many places given importance to omkara (Bg. 8.13, 9.17, 17.24). Similarly, omkara is given importance in the Atharva Veda and the Mandukya Upanisad. In his Bhagavat-sandarbha, Srila Jiva Gosvami says: “Omkara is the most confidential sound representation of the Supreme Lord.” The sound representation or name of the Supreme Lord is as good as the Supreme Lord Himself. By vibrating the sound of omkara, or of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, one can be delivered from the contamination of this material world. Because such vibrations of transcendental sound can deliver a conditioned soul, they are known as tara, or deliverers…. In the Mandukya Upanisad it is said that when omkara is chanted, whatever is seen as material is seen perfectly as spiritual. In the spiritual world or in spiritual vision there is nothing but omkara, or the one alternate, om…. As far as the omkara pranava is concerned, it is considered to be the sound incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As such, omkara is eternal, unlimited, transcendental, supreme and indestructible. He (omkara) is the beginning, middle and end, and He is beginningless as well. When one understands omkara as such, he becomes immortal. One should thus know omkara as a representation of the Supreme situated in everyone’s heart. One who understands omkara and Visnu as being one and the same and all-pervading never laments in the material world, nor does he remain a sudra.
Although He (omkara) has no material form, He is unlimitedly expanded, and He has unlimited form. By understanding omkara one can become free from the duality of the material world and attain absolute knowledge. Therefore omkara is the most auspicious representation of the Supreme Lord. Such is the description given by Mandukya Upanisad One should not foolishly interpret an Upanisadic description and say that because the Supreme Personality of Godhead “cannot” appear Himself in this material world in His own form, He sends His sound representation (omkara) instead. Due to such a false interpretation, omkara comes to be considered something material and consequently omkara is misunderstood and praised as being simply an exhibition or symbol of the Lord. Actually omkara is as good as any other incarnation of the Supreme Lord.
The Lord has innumerable incarnations, and omkara is one of them. As Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita: “Amongst vibrations, I am the syllable om.” (Bg. 9.17) This means that omkara is nondifferent from Krsna. Impersonalists, however, give more importance to omkara that to the Personality of Godhead, Krsna. The fact is, however, that any representational incarnation of the Supreme Lord is nondifferent from Him. Such an incarnation or representation is as good spiritually as the Supreme Lord. Omkara is therefore the ultimate representation of all the Vedas. Indeed, the Vedic mantras or hymns have transcendental value because they are prefixed by the syllable om. The Vaisnavas interpret omkara as follows: by the letter O, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is indicated; and by the letter M, the eternal servitor of the Supreme Lord, the living entity, is indicated. Sankara has not given such importance to the omkara. However, importance is given in the Vedas, the Ramayana, and in the Mahabharata from beginning to end. Thus the glories of the Supreme Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are declared.
Teachings of Lord Caitanya
In the Vedas, the chief transcendental vibration omkara is also Krsna. Pranava omkara is the divine substance of the Vedas. Following the Vedas means chanting the Vedic mantras, and no Vedic mantra is complete without omkara. In the Mandukya Upanisad, omkara is stated to be the most auspicious sound representation of the Supreme Lord. This is also confirmed again in the Atharva Veda. Omkara is the sound representation of the Supreme Lord and is therefore the principal word in the Vedas. In this connection, the Supreme Lord, Krsna, says, pranavah sarva-vedesu: “I am the syllable om in all the Vedic mantras.” [Bg. 7.8] The Science of Self-Realization
The three words “om tat sat” are uttered in conjunction with the holy name of the Supreme Lord:
[The] three words, om tat sat, particularly indicate the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Vedic hymns, the word om is always found…. The three words om tat sat are uttered in conjunction with the holy name of the Supreme Lord, e.g., om tad visnoh. Whenever a Vedic hymn or the holy name of the Supreme Lord is uttered, om is added. This is the indication of Vedic literature. These three words are taken from Vedic hymns. Om ity etad brahmano nedistam nama indicates the first goal. Then tat tvam asi indicates the second goal. And sad eva saumya indicates the third goal. Combined they become om tat sat. Formerly when Brahma, the first created living entity, performed sacrifices, he spoke these three names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The same principle holds by disciplic succession. So this hymn has great significance.
Bhagavad-gita As It Is 17.23
“Om” is Krsna:
When we chant the Vedic mantras which begin with om, we can also remember Krsna. Om, like Hare Krsna, is also an address to God, and om is also Krsna.
On the Way to Krsna
All sounds are but reflections of the original spiritual sound “om” or “Hare Krsna”:
Sabdah means sound, and whenever we hear any sound we should know that it is a vibration of the original sound, the pure spiritual sound om or Hare Krsna. Whatever sound we hear in the material world is but a reflection of that original spiritual sound om.
On the Way to Krsna
The sound “Hare Krsna” contains “om”:
[Lord Krsna to Arjuna]: After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets.
It is clearly stated here that om, Brahman, and Lord Krsna are not different. The impersonal sound of Krsna is om, but the sound Hare Krsna contains om. It is clearly recommended in this age that if one quits his body at the end of this life chanting the maha-mantra, Hare Krsna, he will reach the spiritual planets. Similarly, those who are devotees of Krsna enter the Krsna planet or Goloka Vrndavana whereas the impersonalists remain in the brahma-jyotir. The personalists also enter many innumerable planets in the spiritual sky known as Vaikunthas.
Bhagavad-gita As It Is 8.13
“After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets.” (Bg. 8.13) Om, or omkara, is the concise form, or impersonal form, of the transcendental vibration. The dhyana-yogi should vibrate om while remembering Krsna, or Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The impersonal sound of Krsna is om, but the sound Hare Krsna contains om.
The Path of Perfection
The scriptures recommend the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra rather than omkara in the Kali-yuga:
[Sukadeva Gosvami to King Pariksit]: In the Satya-yuga, the first millennium, all the Vedic mantras were included in one mantra-pranava, the root of all Vedic mantras….
In Satya-yuga the only mantra was omkara (om tat sat). The same name omkara is manifest in the mantra Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Unless one is a brahmana, one cannot utter omkara and get the desired result. But in Kali-yuga almost everyone is a sudra, unfit for pronouncing the pranava, omkara. Therefore the sastras have recommended the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Omkara is a mantra, or maha-mantra, and Hare Krsna is also a maha-mantra. The purpose of pronouncing omkara is to address the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva (om namo bhagavate vasudevaya). And the purpose of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra is the same. Hare: “O energy of the Lord!” Krsna: “O Lord Krsna!” Hare: “O energy of the Lord!” Rama: “O Supreme Lord, O supreme enjoyer!”
Although omkara and the Hare Krsna mantra are the same, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommended the chanting of the maha-mantra in this age:
Every Vedic mantra is called brahma because each mantra is preceded by the brahmaksara, aum or omkara. For example, om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (7.8), pranavah sarva-vedesu: “In all the Vedic mantras, I am represented by pranava, or omkara.” Thus chanting of the Vedic mantras beginning with omkara is directly chanting of Krsna’s name. There is no difference. Whether one chants omkara or addresses the Lord as Krsna, the meaning is the same, but Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has recommended that in this age one chant the Hare Krsna mantra (harer namaiva kevalam). Although there is no difference between Hare Krsna and the Vedic mantras beginning with omkara, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the leader of the spiritual movement for this age, has recommended that one chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Chanting the Hare Krsna mantra is more practical than chanting omkara because one can do so without consideration of time and place:
[Narada Muni to King Yudhisthira]: My dear King, in a sacred and holy place of pilgrimage one should select a place in which to perform yoga. The place must be level and not too high or low. There one should sit very comfortably, being steady and equipoised, keeping his body straight, and thus begin to chant the Vedic pranava.
Here the chanting of omkara is recommended because in the beginning of transcendental realization, instead of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, one may chant omkara (pranava). There is no difference between the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and omkara because both of them are sound representations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Pranavah sarva-vedesu. In all Vedic literatures, the sound vibration omkara is the beginning. Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. The difference between chanting omkara and chanting the Hare Krsna mantra is that the Hare Krsna mantra may be chanted without consideration of the place or the sitting arrangements recommended in Bhagavad-gita (6.11):
sucau dese pratisthapya
sthiram asanam atmanah
“To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kusa grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should neither be too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place.”
The Hare Krsna mantra may be chanted by anyone, without consideration of the place or how one sits. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has openly declared, niyamitah smarane na kalah. In chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra there are no particular injunctions regarding one’s sitting place. The injunction niyamitah smarane na kalah includes desa, kala and patra — place, time and the individual. Therefore anyone may chant the Hare Krsna mantra, without consideration of the time and place. Especially in this age, Kali-yuga, it is very difficult to find a suitable place according to the recommendations of Bhagavad-gita. The Hare Krsna maha-mantra, however, may be chanted at any place and any time, and thus will bring results very quickly. Yet even while chanting the Hare Krsna mantra one may observe regulative principles. Thus while sitting and chanting one may keep his body straight, and this will help one in the chanting process; otherwise one may feel sleepy.
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