KANAK KATIK JAL TARANG JAISA.
THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU(GOD) AND ME AS THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GOLD AND ITS ORNAMENTS, BETWEEN WATER AND ITS WAVES.
Ko’ham - ’Who am I’? Vedanta provides the answer, So’ham - ’I am He’. So’ham (Sah =myself; aham = I; asmi = am), is the vibration of prana, the illuminator of sentient and non-sentient things in the world (Atharva Veda, 11.6.4.). Prana is brahman- existence, consciousness and bliss - in its absolute state, hiranyagarbha, ’womb of god’, in its creative aspect, and vayu, wind, in its elementary form, in the physical body. So is the sound of inhalation, and ham of exhalation. Taken together, so’ham (sohang) affirms that one is alive. In normal course, few observe this natural phenomenon. So stands for universal consciousness, and ham for individual consciousness. Due to dualistic perception of the Supreme reality, the two appear to be different. In Tantric metaphysics, Shiva is symbolised by so, pure awareness and Shakti by ham, explicit energy; this is unity in duality or duality in unity in the existential realm. So’ham is called Ajapa Gayatri: ajapa because it resounds without repetition and gayatri because it is powerful like the Vedic mantra of twenty-four syllables in gayatri-metre. In reverse order, so’ham becomes hamsah (hamso), another powerful mantra used for self realisation. In Indian spiritual tradition, hamsa, swan, is believed to possess the faculty of separating milk from water. The word is also symbolic of a puissant soul. Ham is bija-mantra, seed-letter of akasha tattva, the element ether. It is in vishuddha chakra that is situated in the sushumna-conduit at the base of throat. The presiding deity of vishuddha chakra is the hermaphrodite Lord Shiva. That explains why among Shaivites, in-breath is represented by Shiva and out-breath by Shakti. The colour of ham is white as per mystics. When, during so’ham-sadhana, prana flows through sushumna, every atom and molecule of the body is filled with divine light.’O Bullah, recognize your own true self:You are everlasting bliss, you are resplendent light....The light of so’ham ever swings round you....’Repetition of so’ham is synchronised with methodical breathing, so as to coalesce the primal sound reverberating in the cosmos with one’s inner being. Chanting is done either verbally or mentally, to turn the physiological process of absorbing oxygen into the bloodstream while inhaling, and breathing out carbon dioxide while exhaling, into a consciousness- transforming exercise. While vedantists utter the syllable so during inhalation and ham during exhalation, followers of the Trika school of Kashmir Shaivism, do the reverse. Some divine masters advice the chanting of so’ham hamsah, hamsah so’ham, om so’ham, om hamsa, and the like, for greater esoteric effect. So’ham-sadhana regulates breathing, increases concentration, and brings one in tune with the inner self. So’ham can be repeated (japa) as one word or split up into two: so and ham, and uttered with a prolonged o and m. Japa of syllables can be of as short duration as 1-2 seconds or as long as 10-15 seconds or more, as per one’s capacity. It can be in cycles of auspicious numbers, like 108, 1008, or more, or uttered without counting. Breathing pattern during chanting should be natural. But one may resort to alternate breathing by inhaling air though ida, left nostril, and exhaling it through pingala, right nostril. So’ham is a sattvic, pure, mantra, as it is never repeated for cursing, casting spell, magic, witchcraft, acquisition of siddhi, supernatural power, or for the fulfillment of worldly desires. Its purpose is to raise human consciousness from material to spiritual plane. When the meaning of so’ham is contemplated upon and realised with each breath, one exclaims like Guru Ravidas: Tohi mohi mohi tohi antar kaisaKanak katik jal tarang jaisa’What is the difference between you and me or me and you; the difference is only like gold and its bangle or water and its wave.’ (SGGS, page 93).The spiritual practitioner becomes aware that each human being is a unit in the eternal, infinite, unbroken, ever-pure, consciousness, called god; that the little selves in the realm of plurality, are a part of the boundless self, that individual minds are a part of the universal mind, that self awareness is sustained by universal awareness; that the breath of life is common to all living beings; and so on.According to Gheranda Samhita (VII.11), the knowledge of so’ham is gained by Rasananda Yoga Samadhi in which bhramari mudra - producing the buzzing sound of a bee during breathing - is practiced along with the hearing of divine music within.Mystics of the Bhakti school believe that so’ham resounds in the spiritual realm, called bhanwar gupha, ’whirling cave’, when the soul soars up to infinity. The vibration felt here has been compared to the plaintive sound of the flute. The experience is ennobling but inexpressible, as observed by the medieval sant-poet, Keshavdas:’How can anyone ask a moth to describe the lamp, When it has already become one with the flame.’ (Dr Satish K Kapoor, former British Council Scholar and former Registrar, DAV University, is a noted author, educationist, historian and spiritualist based in Jalandhar city)