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 Meditation 6 (according to Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir)

The way of Praṇava


 Introduction

According to Trika, there are three main means to attain to the Supreme Self. The Supreme Self is called Paramaśiva or simply Śiva in Trika, and to attain to Him is to become one with Him. When you completely identify yourself with Him in the form of "Paramaśivo'ham" (I am Paramaśiva), you have gotten to the highest state of consciousness. Ego (Gabriel, John, etc.) is only a tiny "clipping" of something much greater. Your own Self is much, much bigger than your mere "ego". Ego or Ahaṅkāra is certainly one of the roles that Śiva plays in the process of the world manifested by Himself, but this role is not at all representative of the whole Reality. For example, you work as a waiter eight hours a day in a bar. However, this is only one of the roles you play. During the remaining sixteen hours, you may be a father, a husband, etc., and even during those eight hours you are person with an inner life, with thoughts and feelings apart from those related to be a waiter, aren't you? Likewise, even though Śiva plays the role of Gabriel, John, etc., He is someone much greater and more transcendental.

Some consider the ego to be something completely separate from Śiva, and thus they are all the time fighting the ego... and losing every battle, haha. On the other hand, others consider the ego to be the real Self and they become identified with him in the process. The vast majority of people in this world follows this way of thinking. They are convinced that Gabriel, John, etc. (or whatsoever their names may be) are themselves, and accordingly they suffer horribly due to their error. Look around if you do not believe me. The poor suffer because they are poor and need more money. The rich suffer because of his own wealth, and so on. Nobody is really happy in this world, except the wise people. Wise people understand that the ego is not their real Self but a extremely limited "clipping" of a divine Reality lying behind. So, they attempt to attain to that Reality by renouncing the ego, and not by ignorantly fighting against him. Ego is a tattva (15) in the Trika system, which plays a crucial role for the mental and physical worlds to be manifested. You cannot annihilate the ego, but you can "spiritually" expand him and make it abandon his inherent limitation. As the ego is a clipping of Śiva, when you "spiritually" expand him, the ego returns to God from whom he had originally come out, got it? Of course, by "expansion of the ego", I am not referring at all to the "worldly" expansion in which you strive to become the most conceited and vain person of the world. I am referring to a "spiritual" expansion in which you change the object of identification, that is, you substitute Śiva or Paramaśiva for Gabriel, John, etc. Thus, you experience "I am Śiva, I am Paramaśiva" instead of "I am Gabriel, John, etc.".

In this document, you will learn how to use the pronunciation of Praṇava to become one with the Highest Reality. But, what is Praṇava?

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 What is Praṇava?

The term "Praṇava or Praṇava" literally means "the mystical or sacred syllable Om̐". It is derived from the root "praṇu" (to roar, bellow, sound, reverberate, make a humming or droning sound, utter the syllable Om̐, praise). This is the meaning that you find in a Sanskrit dictionary, but it is not correct to say that Praṇava is only Om̐. OK, the word is commonly used as identical with Om̐, but this is "technically" incorrect, as there are in fact three Praṇava-s, one of which is Om̐.

The term "Praṇava or Praṇava" has three additional meanings:

  1. Prakarṣeṇa navīkaroti --That which renovates thoroughly--. In this case, "pra" in "Praṇava" would be derived from "prakarṣeṇa" (thoroughly, in a high degree), and "ṇava" from "navīkaroti" (it renovates).
  2. Praṇūyate --That which is praised--. Here, the word "Praṇava" would be derived from "praṇūyate" (it is praised) or Passive Voice of the root "praṇu" (to praise).
  3. Prāṇānavati --That which protects the prāṇa-s or vital forces--. This interpretation states that "Praṇava" would be derived from the aforesaid acrostic form that means "it protects (avati) the prāṇa-s or vital forces (prāṇān)".

In short, Praṇava is a most sacred sound which is the core of all sacred words or mantra-s. As I said before, there are three Praṇava-s:

  1. Śaivapraṇava (pertaining to Shaivism or Śaiva tradition) is हूँ (Hūm̐).
    Anunāsika (half-moon/dot) is a nasal sound (like "ng" approximately) pronounced with the mouth open (never close it or the sound will be led to your mouth or nose). If it goes to your mouth, it becomes "m", and if it is led to your nose, it is turned into Anusvāra (ṁ). To keep one's own mouth open allows the sound to go up to the crown of the head. Thus, Anunāsika must be always pronounced with the mouth open.
  2. Śāktapraṇava (pertaining to Shaktism or Śākta tradition) is ह्रीँ (Hrīm̐).
  3. Vaidikapranava (pertaining to the Veda-s or Vedic tradition) is (Om̐).

Vaidikapraṇava was formerly called and pronounced Aum̐. Aum̐ is generally known as Praṇava, but you know now that this is not completely correct as there are other two Praṇava-s. Well, let us focus our attention on Aum̐. This Praṇava is the primeval Sound from which the entire universe arises. From Aum̐ everything and everyone is manifested. Aum̐ is the sound-form of God, no doubt about it. If, while you pronounce this sound, you develop a profound understanding of what Aum̐ really means, the whole universe along with "you" will come back to the original Aum̐, which is indeed Paramaśiva. The flow of Śakti or Power usually goes down to the gross manifestation (material objects and the like), but through a continuous and intense repetition of Aum̐, that process is reverted. You are then led to higher tattva-s (3 to 5), passing through mental and causal levels, until you arrive in the original Supreme Consciousness (Paramaśiva). This Supreme Consciousness is the real "You" in "you". Thus, you use Aum̐ as a sort of stairway to attain your true Self. This stairway consists of twelve steps (or stages), out of which only the first three need your own effort in the form of a serious, deep and continuous repetition of Aum̐, while the remaining nine stages occur by themselves, in a spontaneous and natural way.

Let us go deep into the first three stages.

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 The first three stages

The repetition of Aum̐ at this gross level containing the first three stages follows all those rules and instructions I established in Meditation 3. As I said above, your only effort on the path of repeating Praṇava consists of the present three stages. Let us list them:

  1. A - When you repeat "A" in "Aum̐", it is to be felt in the navel.
  2. U - When you repeat "U" in "Aum̐", it is to be felt in the heart.
  3. - When you repeat "M̐" in "Aum̐", it is to be felt in the mouth.

Anunāsika, that is M̐, is very much like the sound of "ng" and your mouth must remain "open" when you pronounce it. Do not close it, please. Aum̐ is sometimes written simply "AUM", but the original Vedic character has Anunāsika (do you see that half-moon with a dot above?... well, that is Anunāsika and not exactly M).

Akaara Ukaara Anunāsika
Akāra or letter A Ukāra or letter U Anunāsikakāra or letter Anunāsika (commonly known as Makāra stage though)
Granted, when you combine A and U into AU, the resulting "ancient" character is »»
This character is modernly written as "O" (), anyway
Ancient AU

The first stage is technically called Akāra or the stage of the letter (kāra) A. The stage of Akāra marks the lowest level in the entire process of universal Manifestation by Śakti or Divine Power (See Tattvic Chart for more information). All tattva-s or categories of Manifestation have been "manifested" by Śakti and thus the universe is completely visible and revealed. Therefore, when you pronounce A you start your journey "back" to Śiva. The normal stream of Śakti is downward, but you want to go upward and consequently use the sounds of Aum̐ as a sort of stairway. Understood?

The second stage is technically called Ukāra or the stage of the letter (kāra) U. The stage of Ukāra marks the level from which Śakti begins "actually" manifesting different "material" objects as apparent separate independent entities. That is why, the stage of Ukāra resides in Prakṛti (tattva 13). As you know, the tattva known as Prakṛti is the source from which all tattva-s from Buddhi (intellect or determinative faculty) down to Pṛthivī (earth element or solidity) are born. Prakṛti can be said to be the "material" cause of this universe indeed. When you pronounce U, be sure you have advanced from the lowest level of Creation (symbolized by A) up to the thirteenth level or Prakṛti (symbolized by U).

The third stage is technically called Makāra or the stage of the letter (kāra) M. I would call it Anunāsikakāra or stage of the letter (kāra) Anunāsika instead, as I have expressed above. The stage of Makāra marks the level from which Śakti produces "diversity" in That (Śiva) which is devoid of all differences. That is why, the Makāra stage moves in Māyā (tattva 6). At this level, the material objects are not still manifested but their causes, which rest in Māyā. This Māyā is the matrix giving rise to all causes that will end up bringing about the whole aggregate of objects and subjects in lower tattva-s or categories. When you pronounce M (in fact, M̐ or Anunāsika), be sure you have gotten to Māyātattva, the sixth level in the entire process of Manifestation by Śakti. From here upward, the process occurs in a natural spontaneous way. Your only effort, "as it were", is to become conscious of which stage you are experiencing as your perception gets subtler and subtler. If you do not understand what I mean, do not worry, because I will make this point completely clear for you later in our study.

Besides, there is a measure of the time you must dedicate to each of those letters: "A, U and M". It is called "mātrā". Technically speaking, one mātrā is tantamount to the time you need to pronounce a "short" vowel such as "a", "i" and "u". In Pronunciation 1, you can learn how to pronounce them properly. Pay attention to the amount of time required in their pronunciation, as that is the measure of one mātrā.

Well, the time taken to pronounce "A", "U" as well as "M" must be "one mātrā". Thus, the three letters would take "three mātrā-s". Understood? Well done. Since each of those three letters lasts 1 mātrā, the whole set of three letters lasts 3 mātrā-s. I am a genius! Joking apart, I am emphasizing this point because many people have the tendency to protract the sound of final "M" too much... AUMMMMMMMMMMMM. No! Even though this kind of protraction may sound nicely, it makes the sound weak. When you "protract" the pronunciation too much, the sound loses power. Keep this in mind always when you repeat Mantra-s. Hence the measures or mātrā-s assigned to every letter must be kept at all costs.

So, you repeat Aum̐, by feeling A in the navel, U in the heart and M (in fact, M̐ or Anunāsika) in the mouth successively. This is all that is asked from you. Granted, as I said before, what I established in Meditation 3 about the repetition of a Mantra is valid here too. In other words, the repetition should not be a mechanical one, but full of awareness of the source from which the Mantra is arising, and so forth. Read that document for more information, please, if you did not yet.

These first three steps of Aum̐ are still at a gross level on account of their being heard by the ordinary ears. However, though the gross aspect of the sound ends in the mouth, its subtle aspect does not end there, but it becomes subtler and subtler as it ascends to the crown of the head and even beyond. Let us study the following three stages.

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 Fourth to Sixth stages

Since the gross utterance ended in the previous third stage (Makāra), the following three stages occur by themselves as a upward movement of prāṇa or vital energy contained in Aum̐. These three stages are as follows:

  1. Bindu - Appearing as a dot (bindu) of light in the space between the eyebrows.
  2. Ardhacandra - Appearing as a half-moon (ardhacandra) in the forehead.
  3. Nirodhikā or Nirodhinī - Appearing as a straight line in the upper part of the forehead.
Bindu Ardhacandra Nirodhikaa/Nirodhinii
Bindu Ardhacandra Nirodhikā or Nirodhinī

The fourth stage is called Bindu because you perceive a dot of light right in the middle of the eyebrows. The stages 4 to 12 are subtle and ever present every time you repeat Aum̐. However, according to how conscious you are of them, you perceive one, two, three... nine, or none! The first three stages, on account of their existing in a gross level of utterance, can be perceived by everyone though. Thus, some people repeating Praṇava have only experienced Bindu but not Ardhacandra, and so on. Proportionally to your level of consciousness, you will experience lower or higher stages, but the whole set of 12 stages is always completely developed since they have to do with tattva-s which are fully displayed. If it were not so, the universe might not exist right before your eyes because some tattva-s would be missing, hehe. In other words, you do not create the stages of Praṇava but you realize them alone.

The entire group of 36 tattva-s, as stated by the Trika system, is fully developed and their display is not dependent on the limited individual, but on Śakti. Śakti is the whole time operative and nobody can stop Her activity. By "nobody" I am referring to conditioned individuals. The only task to be accomplished by a paśu or limited soul is to become conscious that all is Śakti, even himself. When that paśu realizes the truth that nothing exists apart from Śakti, he also perceives that he never existed as a paśu, that is, he was not ever separate from Śakti. In fact, he will realize that his existence as paśu (Gabriel, Andrés, John, Mary, Natasha, etc.) is just an "invent". These Gabriel, Andrés, John, etc. are inventions made by Śakti Herself in Her creative universal display. This paśu is nothing but a conglomerate of mind and body. The different thoughts, feelings and the like which emerge in the mind, turn a particular paśu into a unique individual. This is backed up by the unique characteristics of his physical body. Thus, because this conglomerate is apparently unique and different from other conglomerates, the notion of "someone" existing as a separate individual is secured. Of course, this is merely the display of the Supreme Power of Śakti, since the poor paśu cannot exist without the support of this Śakti behind.

Accordingly, some systems state that this paśu is like a puppet under the guidance of the Supreme Puppeteer who controls the movement of the threads. Trika affirms that there is neither puppet nor puppeteer, but an only Divine Power or Śakti becoming the individuals by contracting Herself. Anyway, all individuals are totally dependent upon that Divine Power and there is no doubt about that. Finally, death arrives and dissolves the conglomerate formed from mind and body, which was always just Śakti. Even though the conglomerate was removed, Śakti was not removed at all. Life is only the permanence of the psychophysical conglomerate, while death is just the dissolution of that conglomerate. However, whether or not the conglomerate experiences permanence or dissolution, Śakti remains behind like the eternal Force. The conglomerates, though real while they last, are ephemeral in the long run. Only Śakti is everlasting and the final Reality or Vastu behind all conglomerates. This Śakti is your essence, and if you do not realize Her you will just live as a mere conglomerate. Granted, there are many types of conglomerates, some better, others worse. Most people are completely dedicated to improve their lives as limited conglomerates. For example, some of them want to be a "famous" conglomerate, or one with plenty of money and power, etc. But the wise, realizing how ephemeral all that is... yes, even in the case of a famous, wealthy and powerful conglomerate... look to attain Śakti, that is, to realize the Cosmic Force who manifested, sustains and will dissolve all these fleeting agglutinations of mind and body in Her own Self. Become a sage then.

A simple way to realize the Cosmic Force behind all conglomerates is to pay attention to the gaps existing between the thoughts. Remember that the thoughts belong to the conglomerate, but That which exists between them does not belong to it. That is Śakti or Divine Power, which is not thinkable but the thinker himself. She behaves like a thread connecting many thoughts which are strung together in Her like beads in a necklace. Do not pay attention to the beads (thoughts), but to the thread (Śakti). You are inherently Śakti who is not different from Śiva. That is why, when you mind stops and you do not think at all, you keep existing yet. The cessation of mind is not tantamount to your own cessation. Why are you then so identified with your mind when you are the independent Self residing behind the mind? Ponder over this mystery. The technique of meditating on the gaps between the thoughts is known as Unmeṣa and it is a direct way to realize your essential nature as Śakti. Practice it and become That which you already are.

Well, the word Bindu literally means "dot", but also "knower" (from the root "vid", to know). Bindu is a dot of massive agglutination of all objective phenomena. In other terms, the entire objective universe is condensed in the form a dot. When you are able to see this Bindu, a process of gradual realization or illumination in respect of all objective phenomena will be developed. You will become gradually conscious of the whole range of objective phenomena, as Bindu is a mass in which the whole universe consisting of objects is compacted. What else might I say? Experience it by yourself.

The stage of Bindu exists in the fifth tattva or Sadvidyā (the abode of Kriyāśakti or the Supreme Power of Action) and it lasts 1/2 mātrā. See Tattvic Chart for more information.

Omnipotence or Sarvakartṛva is the absolute capacity for manifesting all kind of forms as desired. This is an inherent feature of Kriyāśakti. And since Bindu contains all forms that exist in this universe, if you are fortunate enough to experience that dot of light, you must realize that what you are beholding in the space between your eyebrows is Omnipotence itself.

The fifth stage or Ardhacandra (half-moon) is the first stage in which Nāda or divine sound appears. Nāda is not uttered by anyone, but it occurs by itself. Keep in mind that the stages 5 through 8 are all composed of Nāda. Each of these stages is merely a phase in the development of Nāda.

When you enter this stage, you will see a half-moon or Ardhacandra in your forehead. This half-moon is just the original Bindu or dot (the previous stage) but eclipsed. Look:

Eclipsed BinduAs you can see, Ardhacandra (half-moon) is the consequence of Bindu being eclipsed or darkened. As Bindu is a dot representing the entire range of objective phenomena, its eclipse or darkening indicates the cessation of the predominance of the objects and the rise of the Supreme Subject. However, the objects have not disappeared completely, as a thin half-moon still persists.

Therefore, when you experience Ardhacandra appearing in your forehead, be sure you are entering the stage of Nāda or divine sound, which is mainly related to the subjective aspect of Creation, that is, You. Bindu is related to the objective aspect, as I have explained to you before. It might be said that Nāda-Bindu is the same thing as Subject-Object respectively. In Bindu, there is predominance of Śakti, who is responsible for the manifestation of the objective universe. On the other hand, in Nāda, there is predominance of Śiva, who is the eternal Subject.

Ardhacandra resides in Īśvara (tattva 4), the abode of Jñānaśakti (the Supreme Power of Knowledge). Omniscience or Sarvajñatva is the main feature of Jñānaśakti. In Īśvaratattva, Nāda or divine sound still has a "slight" trace of objectivity, which is indeed the half-moon in the eclipsed Bindu above. The significance of this, in the opposite direction (i.e. from Īśvara down to the lower tattva-s... remember that you are going upward with the help of the stairway of Praṇava), is the following: Śakti begins to tend toward the manifestation of objects, little by little. In the normal direction of Śakti, that is, from the higher tattva-s to the lower tattva-s, Śakti goes through the stages of eclipsed Bindu (Ardhacandra or half-moon) and full Bindu, in this order. In short, when you practice the repetition of Praṇava, you are going in the opposite direction to the normal flow of Śakti. This is the reason behind all the difficulties on your way Home. Your divine Home is upstream, haha. You are quite a salmon.

The Ardhacandra stage lasts 1/4 mātrā.

The sixth stage is Nirodhikā or Nirodhinī. The word Nirodhikā or Nirodhinī literally means "that which obstructs" (from the root "nirudh", to obstruct, hold back, etc.). This stage is known by that name for two reasons:

(1) It does not allow undeserving yogī-s to keep ascending toward higher levels

(2) It prevents deserving yogī-s from falling again into the hole of ignorance

In Nirodhikā or Nirodhinī, Śakti assumes the form of a straight line. Objectivity is now vanished, and only the subjective aspect of the universal Manifestation still remains. However, it might be said that Nirodhikā is not working in a universal way. No, she is operating in a particular or limited way indeed in that of selecting the souls that deserve to keep ascending to higher tattva-s. Nirodhikā resides in Sadāśiva (tattva 3), the abode of Icchāśakti (the Supreme Power of Will). As you know, will is always linked to "desire and decision". In this particular case, Icchāśakti in the form of Nirodhinī selects the yogī-s who deserve to keep ascending and discards those yogī-s who, at least momentarily, does not deserve to ascend to higher realities. This act of separating the deserving souls from the undeserving ones is a solid proof that Icchāśakti is fully operative in this stage.

When you are able to experience the straight line in the upper part of your forehead, be sure you are in Nirodhikā stage. If the subsequent higher experiences beyond Nirodhikā are open to you or not, that will be decided by Nirodhikā herself, which is Nāda in that form. And Nāda is, obviously, Śakti. Your only choice here is to wait in queue. Finally, when you deserve to keep ascending, Nirodhikā will assume her essential form as the original Nāda (the next stage).

The Nirodhikā or Nirodhinī stage lasts 1/8 mātrā.

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 Seventh to ninth stages

As you keep going upward, the subtlety of the realities you come across makes difficult to describe them. The following descriptions of these stages may sound strange and hard-to-understand to rookies in Yoga, but they are common and easy-to-understand to veterans in Yoga. The stages 7 to 9 are as follows:

  1. Nāda - Experienced as an inarticulate sound not produced by percussion (Anāhata), which expands from the crown of the head through Suṣumnā. Suṣumnā is the central channel which penetrates the main Cakra-s in the subtle body. Suṣumnā runs along the spinal column, as you surely know. Nobody is sounding Nāda, but Śakti is producing it by Herself. Nobody can stop it either. The sound is very much like the humming of bees or the sound produced by the rapids of a river. Well, something like that.
  2. Nādānta - Experienced in Brahmarandhra (the hole of Brahmā). Brahmarandhra is situated on a level with the distance covered by twelve fingers from the space between the eyebrows. Thus, it is "slightly" above the summit of the head. The sound you experience there is similar to that which is produced by a bell.
  3. Śakti or Āñjanī - Experienced in the skin as a surge of divine Ānanda or Bliss.

The seventh stage (Nāda) is really the eight one (Nādānta), but now spreading through Suṣumnā. Suṣumnā is a "nāḍī" or subtle channel running from the base of the spinal column up to the crown of the head. It pierces all main Cakra-s (Mūlādhāra, Svādhiṣṭhāna, Maṇipūra, Anāhata, Viśuddha, Ājñā and Sahasrāra) in her ascent. It is like a thin tube made with three thinner concentric tubes, one within the other.

The external tube is called "Tāmasikasuṣumnā" and its color is igneous red. As it is indicated by its name, Tamas or Tamoguṇa is predominant here (See Prakṛti, tattva 13, in the Tattvic Chart). The middle tube is known as "Vajra" or "Vajriṇī" and its color is golden. Vajra is mainly composed of Rajas or Rajoguṇa. Finally, the inner tube is known by the name of Citriṇī and its color is white. Citriṇī mainly consists of Sattva or Sattvaguṇa. Within Citriṇī, you find Brahmanāḍī or the path through which Kuṇḍalinī ascends, etc. etc. Well, enough of this. The important thing here is that you will experience Nāda as an expanding sound traveling through Suṣumnā, from the summit of the head down to the base of your spinal column. The experience is worthy of being experienced, no doubt.

Nāda is then the expansion of Nādānta (the following stage). This Nāda seems to fill up the entire universe with that sound like the humming of bees or the rippling produced by the rapids of a river. Nāda resides in Sadāśiva (tattva 3) and lasts 1/16 mātrā.Brahmarandhra or the Hole of Brahmaa, situated over the summit of the head

On the other hand, the eighth stage known as Nādānta --lit. the end part (anta) of Nāda (divine inarticulate sound) is similar to the sound produced by a bell. You hear this sound right in Brahmarandhra. Brahmarandhra is on a level with the distance of twelve fingers measured from the middle of the eyebrows upward. Brahmarandhra or the Hole (randhra) of Brahmā floats over the fontanels. Even though I have drawn it as a fulgurant light in the figure on the left so that you may have an idea of what really it is, it cannot be properly described as a light or anything of this limited world. It is just... Brahmarandhra. Experience it by yourself if you want to know what it is like!

The inner bell sounds in Brahmarandhra and that is Nādānta. When you listen to that sound in Brahmarandhra, you feel really surprised at first. According to my own experience, when the bell sounds, you feel as if someone was softly touching your fontanels or something like that, and the sound of the bell I could hear is not like that produced by a big bell, but like the sound produced by a little one... but not too little, say like a cowbell. Yes!, when I first heard it, I thought of a cow indeed. Maybe someone else might hear a sound produced by a different type of bell, I am not sure, because the texts describing Nādānta I have read are not too specific in regard to the details of that sound. This sound of the bell marks the first audible aspect of the Absolute Sound or Śabdabrahma, which is not truly a sound in its essential form. Śabdabrahma is essentially Consciousness, but it becomes an audible sound from Nādānta downward. Beyond this stage, Nāda ceases completely. Nādānta also resides in Sadāśiva (tattva 3) and it lasts just 1/32 mātrā.

The ninth stage is known as Śakti or Āñjanī and marks the stage from which the sense of identification with this physical body is completely discarded. From abandoning the false notion of "I am the body", your knowledge becomes unlimited, as the only thing which restrained it was that attachment to the body. For an omniscient mind, all is occurring in "a kind of eternal present", but when the attachment to the body is developed, the perception gets heavily limited. When your perception assumes this limitation, you feel that there is "time" appearing in a triple way: Past, Present and Future. Then, you call all that you can perceive at a particular moment "present", and you call all that you "think" you have not perceived yet "future". In turn, "past" would be for you all that you have apparently experienced before according to your limited viewpoint. Look:

Time according to a limited mind

These experiences are obviously related to your various interactions with objects and subjects. Thus, all objects and subjects are also included in those experiences. Since you can remember the past experiences, the past "must" be here somehow. And, since you speak of the future as a "real" thing to come, the future "must" be here somehow too. Notwithstanding, you speak of them (past and future) in a strange way, as if all that was nonexistent. For example, you say: "Well, I had a girlfriend thirty years ago. She was really cute as a teenager, but now she is a mature woman and not so cute as before. Oh, I would like to come back to that time and enjoy that girl again... but this is impossible, I know". You speak the whole time like that. But, you are able to remember your past though, and when you do it, you experience that once more "here"... because it is here! If the past experiences were not here, you might not remember them. As you can do that, those experiences have to exist now somehow. You call them "memories", as your conditioned mind cannot see them as such, that is, like they looked when they were experienced in the form of "present" at that moment. No existence can arise from nonexistence. Therefore, if those "memories", as you call them in your conditioned state, are existent, they must arise from something actually existing right now. Past and future are not nonexistent, because if they were so, no existent things might emerge from them.

On the other hand, you speak of the future in a similar way: "Oh, I will have to die some day in the future. How sad! I am so scared indeed!". There are two strange things here that you generally take for granted. Firstly, as you affirm that you will die some day in the future, the future must be "real" and "existent". If not so, your statement would be mere nonsense, without any kind of support. But you know, somehow, that is with support. Thus, future must be here in some way. In turn, you are affirming that you are frightened of a thing (death, in this case) you still have not experienced. How might you be afraid of something you have not experienced? You may say, "Although I myself have not experienced that, I have seen others experiencing it, and hence my fear"... it sounds logical... apparently... but all this is very strange and illogical if you ponder deeply over the subject. The problem with a limited being is that he takes for granted almost all in his life.

The answer to all those questions is as follows: as you are inherently Śiva, the Supreme Being, even though you went through limitation and conditioning, you retained, "somehow", a little your previous omniscience, as it were. That is why, you feel that past and future are "here" despite your limited mind and senses cannot perceive it at present. You knew that, but you ignored "so far" how you knew it. You feel thus, because your omniscience underwent a process of contraction due to your identification with the body, etc., but still it retained some of its essential power. Granted, this is a limited way to describe a process that is even beyond speech. Again, you fear death because you already experienced it... how? Look the following figure in which it is represented the scene as experienced by a superior mind full of divine omniscience:

Time according to a superior mind

When you finally abandon your identification with your own body, that is, when you get to the stage of Śakti or Āñjanī in your practice of pronouncing Praṇava, your knowledge becomes fully expanded. You recover omniscience once again, which, paradoxically, you had never lost... just contracted or limited. When that omniscience appears, it illumines all. In other words, you are able to perceive all your life (past, present and future) "now" simultaneously, in a sort of "Eternal Present", as it were. As a matter of fact, the term "Eternal Present" is just a manner to describe something that is beyond time. Consequently, you experience your own birth together with your death... and the intervening lifetime... in unison. It is not possible to think of it with a conditioned mind, anyway. So, if you have one, do not try to think about it, please. In the stage of Śakti, the perception of "all" occurring simultaneously is limited to your own life, though. At least, this is my own experience regarding this stage. Afterward, in the next stage called Vyāpikā or Vyāpinī, you will come to perceive all that exists (not only the experiences pertaining to your limited individuality) occurring right now, in this type of Eternal Present, which is indescribable. But do not hurry up, hehe.

That is why, when a person is on the verge of death, can see his entire life occurring in an instant. The reason for the emergence of that omniscience regarding his life is the detachment in respect of body. That individual stops experiencing "I am the body", and omniscience is unleashed.

Therefore, time is merely "a creation of your mind" to explain "that which you feel it is here, but do not currently perceive as present, as it were". Time is only in your mind, friend! If your mind moves in the direction of detachment regarding your body, your perception of time will be dramatically changed. That is why, even in a conditioned mind, you can change your past from present itself, and not only your future. For example, if you did evil actions one year ago, you can clean that up by practicing opposite pious actions right now. The present pious actions will affect both your past and future directly. It is as if your entire life would look like a wire. When you heat a particular point of this wire (which you call present), heat runs in both directions, backward and forward. In other words, it reaches past and future in the same way. For this reason, nothing that you have previously done is impossible to change. Yes, you can change that by simply performing proper actions at present or by developing divine knowledge, etc. However the means you may use, the result will be the same thing. The fact that is of great importance here is that time exists only in your mind.

As past and future are here along with present, you may alter them directly now, even though your mind experiences conditioning. In turn, if your mind is not conditioned and experiences the totality of experiences simultaneously, any kind of alteration you make at a particular point of your entire life, will subsequently alter the rest of it. Thus, you might change that process called "your life" at will by altering "any" of its phases and experience that "new" life simultaneously again. It is indescribable but real, anyway.

The word Śakti literally means "Power" and "Āñjanī" is "Collyrium". In this stage, Śakti appears as the Manifesting Power (Śakti) and opens the eyes of His Lord Śiva (You). Hence She is called Āñjanī. Others say that She is prone to manifest the objects arising from the Cosmic Mind, and that is why she is known as Āñjanī. As a matter of fact, it is Samanā herself (the eleventh stage) who becomes Śakti (the present ninth stage). Therefore, the Śakti stage resides in Śaktitattva (tattva 2) and it is felt in skin. According to my own experience, when you get to this stage, you feel an explosion of energy occurring along your spinal column and spreading into the rest of your body. Waves after waves or divine bliss flood your whole body. The experience is one worthy to be experienced, no doubt. The Śakti stage lasts 1/64 mātrā.

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 The last three stages

The tenth stage is called Vyāpikā or Vyāpinī. Both words literally mean "pervading". This name has been properly assigned to this stage because when you get to it, you goes beyond the limits of your own body and become all-pervading like the space. The scope of Śakti stage (the former stage) was just the body, but now, that limitation has been transcended. Vyāpikā or Vyāpinī is really Samanā (the eleventh stage) but acting as the power or śakti withdrawing all objects residing here as thoughts into herself, which are her own manifestation. As you get to the state of all-pervasiveness, the objects that emerged from the Cosmic Mind or Samanā return to their essential source or Samanā Herself.

According to my own experience, in this stage you experience that Eternal Present you began to feel in the Śakti stage but now encompassing all possible experiences in this universe, not only those corresponding to your individual existence. In short, you experience "all that exists at the same time". You can see everyone being born, living and dying simultaneously, and thus you conclude that both birth and death are merely steps in a bigger process. All those people who have passed away and all those people who are to be born, appear before you in this Eternal Present. The experience is worthy to be had, really. Then, you realize that nobody never has died or been born in this universe, just it was the only Self appearing in different ways.

Vyaapikaa, Samanaa and Unmanaa stagesIn fact, birth and death, although really occurring, are contemplated as ephemeral and you lose interest in them. Common people are delighted by birth and sorrowed by death, but for the wise, both realities are fleeting experiences happening in the Supreme Consciousness while this Consciousness retains them. For the wise, birth, life and death mean nothing, as they understand that the Self exists forever. Nobody can really be born or die, because he is essentially Śiva Himself. Attempt to understand this and live fearlessly. The Self cannot be born or die as He is the Highest Reality... and You are the Self, the only inhabitant in this world!

Vyāpikā or Vyāpinī also resides in Śaktitattva (tattva 2) and lasts 1/128 mātrā. She is felt or experienced at the root of the śikhā (the tuft on the head). This tuft is situated exactly where the usual tuft of hair is worn by some devotees and yogī-s. The tuft is composed of three zones: the root (in which the Vyāpikā stage is felt), the śikhā or tuft itself (in which the Samanā stage -the eleventh one-- is experienced) and the last part or tip (in which the Unmanā stage --the twelfth one-- is perceived).

The eleventh stage is then known as Samanā. This term literally means "endowed with mind". At this point, all temporal and spatial conditioning has been thoroughly transcended. There is no objects being thought of either, as they already were dissolved in Vyāpinī or Vyāpikā. Only an activity of thinking without any object of thought is left here. You may wonder, "how is it possible?". Well, it is not possible to grasp the core of this by means of the ordinary mind. It is just a matter of experience.

Samanā Herself is only Unmanā (the last stage) appearing as a mere cosmic thought, without any type of object being manifested in Her. Yes, Samanā is the Cosmic Mind. When you get to it, you become established in all powers which, paradoxically, were always your possession, that is, omniscience, omnipotence, etc. However, if you do not pay attention to those powers and only look to attain Unmanā or the Supreme Reality... you attain That.

According to my own experience, when you reach the Samanā stage, you have doubtless attained to a higher stage of Samādhi or Perfect Concentration. Nevertheless, due to the presence of all those powers (omniscience, omnipotence, etc.), that Samādhi is prone to unleash the universe again, since such powers are useless as autumnal clouds (which do not rain) if there is no object. Thus, when you renounce those sublime powers, you prevent the universe from being manifested again, as you do away with the cause of it. Well, this is my humble experience about Samanā. Someone else might have had a different experience of Samanā, anyway.

The Samanā stage also resides in Śaktitattva (tattva 2) and lasts 1/256 mātrā. It is experienced in the śikhā or tuft on the head.

Finally, the twelfth stage is called Unmanā (lit. "with no mind"). Unmanā is Śiva Himself (tattva 1), who is completely devoid of mind, even Cosmic Mind. This stage is attained when you renounce the powers of omniscience, omnipotence and so on, and direct your attention to the Highest Reality underlying all. In Unmanā you only find Consciousness... no time, no mind, no space, nothing... just Consciousness existing in its pristine form.

Unmanā is synonymous with Final Emancipation and cessation of all universal manifestation. Nonetheless, in Śiva Himself there is a slight movement of will that is ultimately responsible for the manifestation of Śaktitattva (tattva 2). So, the universe never ceases forever on account of that creative seed in Śiva. Thus, even though you will have to return to your origin later on, you will probably be "spitted" again into manifestation. When? It is irrelevant, as there is no time in Unmanā. In fact, everyone will end up coming back to Unmanā, sooner or later because Unmanā is the ultimate refuge for all. Everyone and everything arose from Unmanā, and to Unmanā everyone and everything will come back in due course.

Although one can establish the presence of people who have attained Enlightenment (i.e. Unmanā), and at the same time perceive that others have not attained it yet, all that is just a way to speak and view the things. Enlightened and non-enlightened are only mere mental concepts, since all is the only Self. You will lastly realize that there is no Enlightenment really, but only one Self playing multiple roles. Enlightenment exists in one's own mind alone. Absence of Enlightenment also exists in one's own mind alone. Śiva is the only Being existing here. Śiva is Pure Conciousness. From pure Consciousness emerge all these beings and things and to pure Consciousness will they return. Therefore, only pure Consciousness is the Highest Reality. The rest is so ephemeral as a dream. Abandon the dream and merge your limited self into the Supreme Self.

Despite the Unmanā stage is said to last 1/512 mātrā, it is "amātrā" (beyond mātrā or measurement). In turn, although it is said to be experienced in the last part of the śikhā or tuft on the head, you cannot say where you are experiencing it really. According to my experience, when you emerge from that experience due to that aforesaid movement of will in Śiva which spits you again into the world, you do not know what happened, where you were all that time and so forth. It is as if you had been sleeping deeply, but there is no feeling of stupor anyway. It can be described as a void similar to that of deep sleep, but it is not exactly so. When you experience the void (śūnya) of deep sleep, you emerge from it with a feeling of heaviness and stupor. The only object you experienced there was the void itself, which is a form that your own mind assumed at that moment. Still, in Unmanā the void is not produced by any mind, even a cosmic one. It is the Highest Void because there is neither objects nor even ordinary void (śūnya) here. When you emerge from deep sleep, you know that you experienced a kind of void, as deep sleep is a modification of your own mind and consequently it can be "remembered". Nonetheless, the Supreme Void of Unmanā cannot be remembered as it is not a mental modification. You know that something occurred but you cannot tell what, where, when and so forth. Enough of describing this mystery. Experience it by yourself! A summary now.

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 Summary

Here you are a table summarizing all that you have learnt in this document:

STAGES DURATION
in mātrā(s)*
POINT OF EXPERIENCE TATTVA EXPERIENCE ACTING AS A MILESTONE OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS AND FEATURES
1 AKĀRA Gross
utterance
1 In the navel The lowest ones The sound A is felt in the navel The journey back to Śiva starts from here.
2 UKĀRA 1 In the heart Prakṛti
-13-
The sound U is felt in the heart Realization of Prakṛti or the undifferentiated source from which this "material" universe has arisen.
3 MAKĀRA  1 In the mouth  Māyā
-6-
The sound M (really M̐ or Anunāsika) is felt in the mouth Realization of Māyā as the matrix giving rise to all causes that will end up bringing about the whole aggregate of objects and subjects in lower tattva-s or categories.
4 BINDÚ Generic
light
1/2 In the space
between the
eyebrows
Sadvidyā
-5-
The vision of a dot of light in the middle of the eyebrows Realization of the entire universe as compacted in the form of a dot of light (Bindu) symbolic of your present condition as the knower of that universe. Omnipotence dawns here.
5 ARDHACANDRA Forms
assumed
by Nāda
or divine
inarticulate
sound
1/4 In the forehead Īśvara
-4-
The vision of a half-moon in the forehead, which results from the eclipse of Bindu You get to a state in which the objects stop being predominant and arises the predominance of the Supreme Subject. Omniscience dawns here.
6 NIRODHIKĀ
or
NIRODHINĪ
1/8 In the upper part
of the forehead
Sadāśiva
-3-
The vision of a straight line in the upper part of the forehead Objectivity is vanished and only remains the subjective aspect of the universal Manifestation. If you deserve to keep advancing, you will be able to do it, but if you do not deserve it, you will not be able to go beyond this stage... until you deserve it really. Nobody decides that but the Supreme Consciousness.
7 NĀDÁ 1/16 In Suṣumnā Sadāśiva
-3-
A sound similar to the humming of bees or to the rippling produced by the rapids of a river, is heard You feel that sound fills up the entire universe. Nāda is in fact a form assumed by the Nādānta stage itself.
8 NĀDĀNTA 1/32 In Brahmarandhra Sadāśiva
-3-
The sound of a bell (a cowbell indeed) is heard in Brahmarandhra Perception of the first form taken by the Absolute Sound (Śabdabrahma) in his movement toward the universal Manifestation.
9 ŚAKTI
or
ĀÑJANĪ
Forms
assumed
by Samanā
Herself
1/64 In the skin Śakti
-2-
Waves after waves of sublime bliss are felt in the skin, along with a perception of all experiences (past, present and future) in one's own life as occurring right now in a kind of Eternal Present Cessation of the identification with the physical body and the subsequent expansion of knowledge. Omniscience that had merely dawned in the fifth stage of Ardhacandra, is now developed in the sphere of one's own individual life.
10 VYĀPIKĀ
or
VYĀPINĪ
1/128 At the root of the
śikhā
Śakti
-2-
Perception of all that existed, exists and will exist as existing right now in a sort of Eternal Present, simulta-
neously
All objects residing here as thoughts are withdrawn into the Supreme Śakti or Power. Omniscience is fully developed.
11 SAMANĀ 1/256 In the śikhā Śakti
-2-
Experience of an activity of thinking without any object of thought All temporal and spatial conditioning has been removed. Omnipotence, Omniscience and similar powers are at one's disposal.
12 UNMANĀ The Highest
Reality
1/512
(but it is really
amātrā)
In the last part
of the śikhā
Śiva
-2-
Experience of the Highest Consciousness... what else might one say about it? FINAL EMANCIPATION
* "Mātrā" is tantamount to the time taken in pronouncing a short vowel like "a", "i", etc.

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 Concluding remarks

Thus, the practice of pronouncing Aum̐ has been described together with a detailed study of all 12 stages emerging as a consequence. Your only effort consists of the gross utterance of Aum̐, that is, the first three stages. The remaining nine stages occur by themselves. Just realize them as they arise. However, these stages are not something new, really. Only their perception by you will be something new. Those stages are eternally there only for you to become conscious of them. So, become conscious of them!

I have also added my own experiences and viewpoints to enrich the description of the stages in the utterance of Aum̐, even though a yogī or yoginī should never talk about his/her spiritual experiences, specially in inadequate environments. The phrase "inadequate environments" is synonymous with places where people are not interested in these spiritual subjects and so on. Granted, in adequate environments, he/she "might sometimes" exhibit his/her achievements to a certain extent, or also when requested by his/her own guru or spiritual preceptor. Notwithstanding, I wanted to share these experiences with you in order to help you understand some things that are not explained in the scriptures themselves, at least, in those I have read so far. I have added the words "according to my" or simply "my", not for someone to express: "What a good experience that guy (i.e. me) had!", but to clearly point out that those are personal experiences that you may or may not have. Still, even in the event you do not experience "exactly" what I myself have experienced, the experiences I have described, as a whole, may be similar to yours.

Keep repeating Aum̐ and attain to your own Self, who, paradoxically, is always yours.

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 Further Information

Gabriel Pradīpaka

This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.

For further information about Sanskrit, Yoga and Indian Philosophy; or if you simply want to comment, ask a question or correct a mistake, feel free to contact us: This is our e-mail address.