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4.3 Meditation

The ancient books of Hinduism are collectively known as the Vedas. It is not known with any certainty when the Vedas were written, but typical estimates are that the oldest books were written 3,000 years ago.

Among the Vedas are the Upanishads, a collection of ancient writings which embody the philosophy of Hinduism. The Upanishads speak clearly about a means to experience psychic phenomena. It is an amazingly simple method: mentally repeat, over and over, the sound Om (rhymes with the words Rome and home). The o sound is short and the m sound is typically drawn out. Robert Hume, in his book The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, translates from the original Sanskrit:

The word which all the Vedas rehearse,
And which all austerities proclaim,
Desiring which men live the life of religious studentship—
That word to thee I briefly declare.
That is Om!

That syllable, truly, indeed, is Brahma!
That syllable indeed is the supreme!
Knowing that syllable, truly, indeed,
Whatever one desires is his!

That is the best support.
That is the supreme support.
Knowing that support,
One becomes happy in the Brahma-world.[29]

The above verse is from the Katha Upanishad. In this verse, praises are heaped upon Om. There is also a promise of desires fulfilled and happiness attained. The word Brahma is a technical term which occurs frequently in the Upanishads, and often refers to the experiences one can have as a result of using Om.

Taking as a bow the great weapon of the Upanishad,
One should put upon it an arrow sharpened by meditation.
Stretching it with a thought directed to the essence of That,
Penetrate that Imperishable as the mark, my friend.

The mystic syllable Om is the bow. The arrow is the soul.
Brahma is said to be the mark.
By the undistracted man is It to be penetrated.
One should come to be in It, as the arrow [in the mark].[30]

The above verse is from the Mundaka Upanishad. The syllable Om is identified as a bow in the fifth line, and in the first line the bow is called the great weapon. By this bow-and-arrow analogy, the power of Om is expressed. A straightforward interpretation of this verse is that the use of Om can launch the awareness into an out-of-body experience.

As the material form of fire when latent in its source
Is not perceived—and yet there is no evanishment of its subtle form—
But may be caught again by means of the drill in its source,
So, verily, both are in the body by the use of Om.

By making one’s own body the lower friction-stick
And the syllable Om the upper friction-stick,
By practicing the friction of meditation,
One may see the God who is hidden, as it were.[31]

The above verse is from the Svetasvatara Upanishad. It uses an outdated analogy, as did the previous verse. Before matches and lighters, man started fires by such means as rapidly spinning a stick of wood called a drill, the pointed end of which—surrounded by kindling—is pressed against a wooden block; the heat from the friction then ignites the kindling. The beginning of the verse is scientifically inaccurate; it is saying that fire exists in wood in some subtle form. This mistake is excusable, given that the Upanishads are prescientific writings.

The meaning of this verse starts with the fourth line. The first three lines make the claim that fire has both a visible form and a subtle hidden form. The remaining lines make the claim that there is something similarly hidden in the body. Normally, this something is hidden, as the writer of the verse supposed that fire is hidden in the stick. But by using Om, one can draw out this hidden something, and make it known to one’s own awareness. Referring to the computing-element reality model, this hidden something is the population of bions inhabiting the cells of the body.

Whereas one thus joins breath and the syllable Om
And all the manifold world—
Or perhaps they are joined!—
Therefore it has been declared to be Yoga.[32]

The above verse, from the Maitri Upanishad, defines yoga as involving the use of Om.


[29] Hume, Robert. The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, London, 1934. pp. 348–349.

[30] Ibid., p. 372. (The bracketed note on the last line is by the translator, Robert Hume.)

[31] Ibid., p. 396.

[32] Ibid., p. 439.

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