The Mantra ‘AUM’; Short-Stops


The Sanskrit MantraAUM‘ [the ‘Queen of Mantras’] is made-up of four elements. The beginning vowel ‘A’, the ending consonant ‘M’, and the middle ‘oo!’

They, between their stretch capture all of spoken sound and symbolically mark all ‘Expression’.

But the heart of the Mantra, the fourth element Turiya, is the unheard silence that complements the sonant expression itself. 

Turiya translates literally as ‘The Immaculately Pure’. The original term for Shūnyam was as Pujyam: ‘That worthy of worship’. ‘AUM‘ as the auditory parallel to Shūnyam, as ‘True Nothing’ and ‘Not-True Nothing’, must be evident.

And just as with ‘True Nothing’ getting calcified as ‘Being’, Turiya gets conceptualized and reified, assigned aspects and characteristics, by the religious-minded. Just as the symbol ‘0’ acquires ‘properties’ in the hands of the Mathematicians.

Soon, inscrutable connotations are imputed to ‘AUM’, secret formulas devised to reveal them and prayers rendered to access their powers. In time Turiya the Silence is declared the source of Sound itself and gets mystified into a perfect superstitious-laden opacity. 

[This of course has a long history in religious literature, the ‘Creatio Ex-Nihilo‘ idea. The unburnt remains of an elevated modeled-understanding’.]

If someone stops by your door and asks: ‘What is Truth?’, you pack him a sandwich, show him the ‘Backward Step’, and suggest that he watch-out for falling rocks and deceptively shallow puddles. Other than that, you don’t say a word. [The late-stage teachings were Rahásya, ‘Secret’; ‘Mute’, from the Sanskrit Mūka. See the Posts on ‘Silence’].

If you must say a word, it may only be as Self-Eating Expression. And its limit is as the Symbol ‘0’.

The layered term Upakausalya is effectively translated into English as ‘Skillful Means’, a term applied to the methods of a Teacher. To render Upakausalya is to speak at the speed of listening of the listener.

As one early text defines it: ‘As a learned grammarian would even teach the alphabet to a beginner’. Pedagogic expediency with eyes wide open.

But there is a big difference between using a Name in an act of ‘Skillful Means’ and applying one that emerged in a short-stopped denouement. A difference of night and day.

There is a serious risk that ‘Skillful Means’ ends up being very unskillful. With the wrong teacher or a misjudged audience, it can quickly take on a life of its own. Over the years I have witnessed impenetrable drivel spewing forth from an ambitious Guru being treated as deep teaching meant only for the ear of the ready devotee. 

And Skillful Means has its counterpart in the the listening audience, one of a very unskillful listening. Skillful Means is only meant to come half-way. You have to reach out to get it.

Religion in its broadest sense begins with the assignment of a Name other than as ‘Nameless’, a certified Self-Negating Expression.

An far back as the early Upaniṣads, names proliferate: Subtle Essence; Imperceptible; Omniscient; Omnipresent; Omnipotent; Unattached; Unfetterred.

Cherished human virtues are foisted on top of them: Compassionate, Happy, Generous, Just, Kind, Loving, Merciful, Motherly and so on. The standard wish-list of the beginning practioneer.

You will find close variants of this list in every formal religious tradition. Just skim the opening pages.

Here is a short-list, premature photographs clicked in a stopping-short of Shūnyam. 

‘The All’, Absence, Awareness, Being, [A Physical] Body, [A] Code, Co-Dependence, Consciousness, Emptiness, Energy, Essence, Existence, Form, Groundlessness, Impermanence, Infinity, Inner-Being, Intelligence, Life-Force, [Man-Made, Man-Like] Gods, Mind, No-Mind, No-Thought, Nothingness, Now-ness, Nullity, Organizing-Principle, Presence, Silence, Soul, Space, Spirit, Stillness, Totality, ‘True-Self’, Unconscious, Unity, Void…[I have a much longer list but I shall spare you; this is adequate to make the point.]

Many on the above list are in fact perfectly good Self-Eating Expressions [‘The All’, for example]. The problem is that they have not been recognized as such and the self-scuttle is prematurely truncated. [That is, truncated before a sighting of ‘True Nothing’]

Then come the new vocabularies denoting mysterious, self-sustaining higher-powers and self-tripping abstractions coming out of Universities, Research Houses and Scholarly publications. And of course the best-selling airport-paperbacks of Pop-Philosophers.

It’s a long list. We’ll look at them gradually in the course of the Posts.