Of all divine manifestations, Cosmic Sound (AUM) is the most constant and easiest to commune with. Attuning to AUM’s pristine vibration helps one understand that at the very center of movement lies stillness.
AUM is God’s consciousness in vibratory creation. Every atom is a trumpet that proclaims His glory. In AUM one hears the Cosmic Symphony — played by every atom vibrating with God’s bliss. The negative and positive forces in each atom resist each other and produce a quiver. The combined quivers from every vibrating atom in the universe produce the sound of AUM.
Behind every outer sound is the rumble of AUM. Swami Kriyananda recalled as a child riding in a car on long journeys: “I would close my eyes, and listen to the steady swish of the tires on the highway. After a bit, it seemed to me that I was hearing a symphony orchestra playing marvelous melodies.” He continued, “My dome living room at Ananda Village exerted a similar effect on me. As I listened to the distant sounds of the river echoing softly in the room, musical creations came to me almost effortlessly.” When writing music Swami Kriyananda always referred the melody back to the sound of AUM.
Grace Flows Through AUM
The physical world is a reflection of your consciousness. AUM, as the Invisible Mother, becomes visible to create a unique world for each soul. God is more personal than you think. God, Paramhansa Yogananda says, is talking to you all the time through vibration. His Cosmic Energy materializes the ideal environment for you to experience and overcome your karma.
Gaze at the world around you. Everything you perceive — trees, flowers, people, mountains, and buildings, even your own feelings — originate from AUM. Share with God as AUM everything you see, hear, feel, and do. Pray to Divine Mother: “Help me feel Your vibratory presence in all forms and atoms.”
The Power of Chanting AUM
“Through AUM the Lord is met face to face.” (Swami Shankara) For millennia the core practice of many yogic traditions has been the constant chanting of and meditating on AUM.
“AUM is the soul of your breath.” (Swami Sivananda) To immerse themselves in Cosmic AUM, many yogis chant AUM with every breath. Rama Tirtha describes the practice of AUM japa (the constant chanting of AUM) in this way: one’s “lips and throat chant it physically, the mind chants it intellectually, and the heart chants it in a language of higher emotions.”
Chanting AUM transforms every atom in the body and awakens spiritual power. “Chant Om, Om. If you do that for a few moments, your whole being from head to foot becomes Light.” (Swami Rama Tirtha)
To feel AUM’s holy vibrations in your whole being, Paramhansa Yogananda recommends saying AUM mentally in each body part and chakra.
The Supreme Vibration
Everything is energy in condensed form: plants, rocks, stars, and our bodies vibrate at different frequencies. “Because nature is an objectification of AUM, . . . man can obtain control over all natural manifestations through the use of certain mantras or chants.” (Paramhansa Yogananda)
On August 28, 2004, members of Ananda Village witnessed a dramatic demonstration of AUM’s sovereignty over natural phenomena. Late August in California is the height of the fire season, with grasses browned by the summer heat. At 11:30 a.m. a fire started on the steep slope below Ananda’s guest retreat, The Expanding Light. The fire’s location made it especially ominous. Forest fires travel much faster uphill than downhill, because the fire preheats its uphill fuel with the rising smoke and heat.
The blaze spread quickly and raced upward, threatening to destroy The Expanding Light and the Ananda Community. Nine air tankers and helicopters soon appeared and began dropping water and fire retardant. Forty fire engines and four hundred firefighters arrived shortly afterwards to try to contain the growing inferno. As low-flying bombers released red streams of fire retardant into the thick, smoky air, the retreat looked more and more like a war zone. Many community residents and guests were covered with fire retardant.
Everything that could be done on the physical level was being done. Government agencies had responded quickly and capably to the fire. Ananda residents were putting out spot fires, thus freeing the professional firefighters to work on the front lines of the blaze. Fire crews were doing a magnificent job protecting the retreat buildings and slowing the fire’s advance.
Despite the concentration of many fire fighting resources gathered to fight the blaze, the fire chief had the uneasy feeling that this fire was “going to be one of those that go totally out of control and burn thousands of acres and hundreds of homes.” His concern seemed validated when the inferno began moving uphill toward a nearby cluster of twenty Ananda homes. With strong winds pushing the fire upslope, the blaze seemed more and more likely to reach the cluster. Residents of the threatened homes were already packing and evacuating.
At the Ananda Community market and visitor center, located a safe quarter-mile from the fire, retreat guests and community residents had gathered. Seeing that people were frightened, Nayaswami Devi organized a prayer circle. The circle started with twenty people, and grew to fifty. Those gathered blessed the fire fighters, the homes and buildings of our neighbors and of Ananda, the fire itself, and the trees and wildlife living on the land. After each prayer they chanted AUM three times, to energize their petition by the truth of Cosmic AUM. The Cosmic Vibration is beyond duality. The swings of cause and effect (karma) are stilled and nullified by AUM’s pristine vibration. “At first,” Devi said, “the darkness seemed stronger than our prayers. But after two hours of praying and chanting AUM, the darkness felt diminished.”
When the fire chief arrived back at the market area, he was quite pleased. The fire was contained. To the Ananda residents, he said, “You were very lucky. I have never seen winds reverse themselves so dramatically. The fire was heading toward the housing cluster when it suddenly stopped — because the wind suddenly changed direction. I don’t know what you people did. But it worked.”
When you feel worried or anxious, call on Holy AUM. Pray believing in its sovereignty over matter. “Problems . . . that arise when we deal with inert matter will be transformed . . . once we become conscious that we are dealing with a living reality behind [matter].” (Swami Kriyananda) AUM is the living reality behind every joy and challenge in your life. It’s the universal Cosmic Energy that creates, sustains, and destroys universes. AUM is the personal aspect of God — the Divine Mother — Who comforts all those who are receptive to Her sovereignty and love. Remember always Yogananda’s promise: “When you are in the consciousness of AUM, nothing can touch you.”
AUM is the mountain that every pilgrim ascends to merge into the rarified air of Spirit. You can sense AUM’s omnipresence — and your descent from the Cosmic Vibration — by observing how easily musical vibrations influence you. “Because man himself is an expression of the Creative Word,” Yogananda said, “sound has the most potent and immediate effect on him.”
On a remote South Pacific island during World War II, a United States soldier heard the sublime music of Beethoven’s Opus 132 playing in the night. As he listened to its glorious arrangement, he wondered how could any soldier who paused long enough to listen to this soul-stirring music kill another human being.
In 2011, my wife Nayaswami Anandi and I visited Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. The park features a five-and-half-foot-high bell that visitors are encouraged to ring for world peace. Etched on the surface of the Peace Bell is a world map with no national boundaries — to symbolize a united earth. Melodious tolling of the bell — accompanied by the desire for peaceful co-existence of those who ring the bell — continuously reverberates throughout the extensive grounds. Anandi and I were deeply moved to see people ringing the Peace Bell, an act which, to the yogi, symbolizes AUM flowing through the heart chakra. On the Peace Bell is written the words, “Know Thyself.” When you truly do know yourself, you realize that you — and everything you see — are blissful manifestations of AUM.
The eight attributes of God — love, peace, joy, power, wisdom, calmness, light, and sound — emanate from Cosmic Vibration. Living in the consciousness of AUM is the highest way to serve others. Then AUM’s thrilling bliss flows through your inner being and touches the hearts of all creation. “Meditate on AUM,” Swami Rama Tirtha said, “and be a giver of peace to mankind.”
Nayaswami Bharat (Joseph Cornell) is a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and student of Swami Kriyananda, and is a senior minister and longtime resident of Ananda Village. Bharat writes the popular online blog, The Daily Meditator, and frequently teaches classes on AUM, Kriya Yoga, and other inspirational topics at Ananda’s Expanding Light Retreat.
He is the founder of Sharing Nature Worldwide and author of Sharing Nature with Children and other nature awareness books. His new book, The Sky and Earth Touched Me: Sharing Nature Wellness Exercises, will be released in 2014.