The Union of Speech and Breath in OM

Sri Aurobindo translates Chhandogya Upanishad, Chapter One, Section One, Verses 4-6:   “Which among things and which again is Rik; which among things and which again is Sama; which among things and which again is OM of the Udgitha — this is now pondered.  Speech is Rik, Breath is Sama; the Imperishable is OM of Udgitha.  There are the divine lovers, Speech and Breath, Rik and Sama.  As a pair of lovers are these and they cling together in OM the eternal syllable; now when the beloved and her lover meet, verily they gratify each the desire of the other.”

The Rig-veda is considered to be like the leaves of the eternal Ashwattha tree with its roots above and its branches and leaves below.  On an exoteric basis it manifests the fruits of the created universe.  Speech is the power that manifests through differentiation of sounds, as the sound-body of each thing manifests that thing.  .  “In the beginning was the Word” exemplifies this concept.  The Sama-veda represents the breath.  The word translated as ‘breath’ is Prana.  Prana is the force of creation in the universe.  Speech relies on Prana, as Prana utilizes speech to create the manifestation.   The Sama-veda consists, over 90%, of hymns of the Rig-veda, set to melodic singing or chanting of the Riks.  Thus, there is an intimate interrelationship between the Rig-veda’s hymns and the Sama-veda’s chants.

Modern day researchers have begun to explore the psycho-physical effects of the chanting of the Rig-veda or the Sama-veda.  In one experiment, Maharishi International University determined that chanting of Sama-veda actually was able to increase the temperature, viewed by thermal imaging, of the primary chakra centers in the body.  Others are studying the vibrational frequency of what is called the Solfeggio scale, popularized in the Gregorian chants, and the impact on the body and opening of new capabilities.  We have yet to fully understand the esoteric impact of the chanting of the Vedas.  Traditionally their role in the sacrificial rites of the Hindu tradition is quite well-recognized.  Those who experience the chanting or singing first-hand are clearly impacted by the experience.  Many have had what appear to be openings of new understanding, new energy, new aspiration, new spiritual directions when they are immersed in this chanting in a deep and abiding way.  The Rishis clearly had an esoteric sense behind their teachings, not just the external result of a sacrifice.  The dual meanings behind the words is also likely amplified by a dual sense to the recitation that occurs.

OM is the sound-body of the Eternal, which manifests through the joining of Speech and Prana to create the forms out of the Eternal’s own body.  OM has the ability to take one beyond the manifested to the unmanifest, as well as integrating the two into the oneness that they actually represent.

 

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Chhandogya Upanishad, pp.349-366

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