What is – AUM? What is Sphota स्फोट? What is Nada-brahman नाद ब्रह्म, what is a mantra मंत्र?


What are these Mantras?

The whole of this universe has, according to Indian philosophy, both name and form (Nâma-Rupa, नामरुप) as its conditions of manifestation. In the human microcosm, there cannot be a single wave in the mind-stuff (Chittavritti) unconditioned by name and form. If it be true that nature is built throughout on the same plan, this kind of conditioning by name and form must also be the plan of the building of the whole of the cosmos. — “As one lump of clay being known, all things of clay are known”, so the knowledge of the microcosm must lead to the knowledge of the macrocosm. Now form is the outer crust, of which the name or the idea is the inner essence or kernel. The body is the form, and the mind or the Antahkarana is the name, and sound-symbols are universally associated with Nâma (name) in all beings having the power of speech. In the individual man the thought-waves rising in the limited Mahat or Chitta (mind-stuff), must manifest themselves, first as words, and then as the more concrete forms.

In the universe, Brahmâ or Hiranyagarbha or the cosmic Mahat first manifested himself as name, and then as form, i.e. as this universe. All this expressed sensible universe is the form, behind which stands the eternal inexpressible Sphota – स्फोट, the manifester as Logos or Word. This eternal Sphota, the essential eternal material of all ideas or names is the power through which the Lord creates the universe, nay, the Lord first becomes conditioned as the Sphota, and then evolves Himself out as the yet more concrete sensible universe. This Sphota has one word as its only possible symbol, and this is the (Om). And as by no possible means of analysis can we separate the word from the idea this Om and the eternal Sphota are inseparable; and therefore, it is out of this holiest of all holy words, the mother of all names and forms, the eternal Om, that the whole universe may be supposed to have been created. But it may be said that, although thought and word are inseparable, yet as there may be various word-symbols for the same thought, it is not necessary that this particular word Om should be the word representative of the thought, out of which the universe has become manifested. To this objection we reply that this Om is the only possible symbol which covers the whole ground, and there is none other like it. The Sphota is the material of all words, yet it is not any definite word in its fully formed state. That is to say, if all the peculiarities which distinguish one word from another be removed, then what remains will be the Sphota; therefore this Sphota is called the Nâda-Brahma – नाद ब्रह्म. The Sound-Brahman. Now, as every word-symbol, intended to express the inexpressible Sphota, will so particularize it that it will no longer be the Sphota, that symbol which particularizes it the least and at the same time most approximately expresses its nature, will be the truest symbol thereof; and this is the Om, and the Om only; because these three letters (A.U.M.), pronounced in combination as Om, may well be the generalized symbol of all possible sounds. The letter A is the least differentiated of all sounds, therefore Krishna says in the Gita — “I am A among the letters”. Again, all articulate sounds are produced in the space within the mouth beginning with the root of the tongue and ending in the lips — the throat sound is A, and M is the last lip sound, and the U exactly represents the rolling forward of the impulse which begins at the root of the tongue till it ends in the lips. If properly pronounced, this Om will represent the whole phenomenon of sound-production, and no other word can do this; and this, therefore, is the fittest symbol of the Sphota, which is the real meaning of the Om. And as the symbol can never be separated from the thing signified, the Om and the Sphota are one.

And as the Sphota, being the finer side of the manifested universe, is nearer to God and is indeed that first manifestation of divine wisdom this Om is truly symbolic of God. Again, just as the “One only” Brahman, the Akhanda-Sachchidânanda, the undivided Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, can be conceived by imperfect human souls only from particular standpoints and associated with particular qualities, so this universe, His body, has also to be thought of along the line of the thinker’s mind. This direction of the worshipper’s mind is guided by its prevailing elements or Tattvas. The result is that the same God will be seen in various manifestations as the possessor of various predominant qualities, and the same universe will appear as full of manifold forms. Even as in the case of the least differentiated and the most universal symbol Om, thought and sound-symbol are seen to be inseparably associated with each other, so also this law of their inseparable association applies to the many differentiated views of God and the universe: each of them therefore must have a particular word-symbol to express it. These word-symbols, evolved out of the deepest spiritual perception of sages, symbolize and express, as nearly as possible the particular view of God and the universe they stand for. And as the Om represents the Akhanda, the un-differentiated Brahman, the others represent the Khanda or the differentiated views of the same Being; and they are all helpful to divine meditation and the acquisition of true knowledge.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Bhakti Yoga, The Mantra Om

The pursuit of limitlessness – our true self – is natural!

gurudev (2)

We are born wanting. What we wanted kept changing as we grew in age, but that “we wanted” never changed. No amount of fulfillment of the wants could erase the wanted and the “wanting I” always remained. Is there a possibility that there can be some achievements that can eliminate the “wanting I”? No, there are not. By their very nature, all achievements are limited in scope and time. What we derive from them is, therefore, also limited and inadequate. Out of the recognition that what we are seeking is not any of this, but the limitless, arises dispassion – वैराग्य – towards everything that is limited.

What is it that we seek that is not a conscious choice? While we do not set out to become limitless or become, totally free, we find ourselves having that desire.

When the mind becomes contemplative, we are able to see that what we are seeking is lasting happiness and that neither a specific action and its result nor a particular place can give us that happiness. It is something that exists within our own selves and we have to discover that for ourselves. With this recognition, the desire for happiness is replaced by desire for knowledge. The greatest emotional maturity is achieved when desires get converted into the desire for knowledge, जिज्ञासा. It is the result of right discernment, विवेक.

We understand that we can never gain the limitless by performing karma or limited effort. The limitless is not something to be gained, attained or achieved. The limitless cannot be other than myself because in that case, it will always be limited without me. The limitless cannot be distinct from me, therefore, has to include me. What we are seeking is our true self!

Swami Viditatmanandji

Excerpts from Satasanga with Swami Vivekananda, Volume 2

ईश्वर – God cannot be known!


Knowledge is objectification. God – ईश्वर –  cannot be object of your knowledge, for an object has to be different from you, the subject. God is not different from you.

If everything were different from God, what would be left of God  would be precious little. If you imagine that you can look upon the God as an object, you are making yourself superior to Him. If God were an object of your thought, separate from you, you could dismiss the object,  the God, and continue to exist, thinking of something else. God would fall in the category of something that comes and goes depending upon your thought; the God is then not different from any other limited being. This situation arises out of wrong understanding what God – ईश्वर – is.

Swami Dayanandji

Excerpts from The Teaching of the Bhagwad Gita, The Self is Brahman

There is no reference of the word “Hindu” in the Ancient Vedic Scriptures!


The word “Hindu” is neither a Sanskrit word nor is this word found in any of the native dialects and languages of India. There is no reference of the word “hindu” in the Ancient Vedic Scriptures

It seems that the Persians could not pronounce the letter “S” correctly in their native tongue and mispronounced it as “H.” Thus, for the ancient Persians, the word “Sindhu” (referring to river Sindhu) became “Hindu.” The ancient Persian Cuneiform inscriptions and the Zend Avesta refer to the word “Hindu” as a geographic name rather than a religious name. When the Persian King Darious 1 extended his empire up to the borders of the Indian subcontinent in 517 BC, some people of the Indian subcontinent became part of his empire and army. Thus for a very long time the ancient Persians referred to these people as “Hindus”. The ancient Greeks and Armenians followed the same pronunciation, and thus, gradually the name stuck.

The word “India” also has a similar foreign origin. As per Mahabharata, the land ruled by the great King “Bharata” was called Bharat.The ancient Greeks used to mispronounce the river Sindhu as Indus. When Alexander invaded India, the Macedonian army referred to the river as Indus and the land east of the river as India. The Greek writers who wrote about Alexander preferred to use the same name.

Thus, if we go by the original definition of the word Hindu, any person living in the land beyond the river Indus is a Hindu.

The proper word to use for those people who follow the Scriptures of The Vedas is “Sanatana Dharma” or “Vedic Dharma”, not “Hinduism” as is commonly used.

Greatest of all lies that we are mere men!


These spheres and devils and gods and reincarnations and transmigrations are all mythology; so also is this human life. The great mistake that men always make is to think that this life alone is true. They understand it well enough when other things are called mythologies, but are never willing to admit the same of their own position. The whole thing as it appears is mere mythology, and the greatest of all lies is that we are bodies, which we never were nor ever can be. It is the greatest of all lies that we are mere men; we are the God of the universe. In worshipping God we have been always worshipping our own hidden Self.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Jnana Yoga, The Real and Apparent Man

Time, Space and Causation cannot exist separate from other things!


The one peculiar attribute we find in time, space, and causation is that they cannot exist separate from other things. Try to think of space without colour, or limits, or any connection with the things around–just abstract space. You cannot; you have to think of it as the space between two limits or between three objects. It has to be connected with some object to have any existence. So with time; you cannot have any idea of abstract time, but you have to take two events, one preceding and the other succeeding, and join the two events by the idea of succession. Time depends on two events, just as space has to be related to outside objects. And the idea of causation is inseparable from time and space. This is the peculiar thing about them having no independent existence. They have not even the existence which the chair or the wall has. They are as shadows around everything which you cannot catch. They have no real existence; yet they are not non-existent, seeing that through them all things are manifesting as this universe. Thus we see, first, that the combination of time, space, and causation has neither existence nor non-existence. Secondly, it sometimes vanishes. To give an illustration, there is a wave on the ocean. The wave is the same as the ocean certainly, and yet we know it is a wave, and as such different from the ocean. What makes this difference? The name and the form; that is, the idea in the mind and the form. Now, can we think of a wave-form as something separate from the ocean? Certainly not. It is always associated with the ocean idea. If the wave subsides, the form vanishes in a moment, and yet the form was not a delusion. So long as the wave existed the form was there, and you were bound to see the form.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Jnana Yoga, The Absolute and Manifestation

द्वैत Dualist, विशिष्ठ अद्वैत qualified non-dualist, and अद्वैत Non-dualist Philosophies of Vedanta


We find that there are three principal variations among the Vedantists

The first school I will tell you about is styled the dualistic – द्वैत – school. The dualists believe that God, who is the creator of the universe and its ruler, is eternally separate from nature, eternally separate from the human soul. God is eternal; nature is eternal; so are all souls. Nature and the souls become manifested and change, but God remains the same. According to the dualists, again, this God is personal in that He has qualities, not that He has a body. He has human attributes; He is merciful, He is just, He is powerful, He is almighty, He can be approached, He can be prayed to, He can be loved, He loves in return, and so forth. In one word, He is a human God, only infinitely greater than man; He has none of the evil qualities which men have. “He is the repository of an infinite number of blessed qualities”–that is their definition. He cannot create without materials, and nature is the material out of which He creates the whole universe.

The second school of is of qualified-non-dualist – विशिष्ठ अद्वैत . They assert that the God Himself is the creator, and He Himself is the material out of which the whole of nature is projected. If the universe is the effect and God the cause, it must be God Himself–it cannot be anything but that. The God of the qualified non-dualists is also a Personal God, the repository of an infinite number of blessed qualities, only He is interpenetrating everything in the universe. He is immanent in everything and everywhere; and when the scriptures say that God is everything, it means that God is interpenetrating everything, not that God has become the wall, but that God is in the wall.

Now both the dualists and qualified non-dualists admit that the soul is by its nature pure, but through its own deeds it becomes impure. Souls are all limited; they are not omnipresent. When they become perfect, there is no more birth and death for them; they live with God for ever. None, however perfect, can manage the affairs of the universe; that function belongs to God.

According to the third school non-dualist, the Advaititist – अद्वैत –  Everyone and everything is the Atman–the Self–the sexless, the pure, the ever-blessed. It is the name, the form, the body, which are material, and they make all this difference. If you take away these two differences of name and form, the whole universe is one; there are no two, but one everywhere. You and I are one. There is neither nature, nor God, nor the universe, only that one Infinite Existence, out of which, through name and form, all these are manufactured. There is but one Soul in the universe, not two. It neither comes nor goes. It is neither born, nor dies, nor reincarnates. How can It die? Where can It go? All these heavens, all these earths, and all these places are vain imaginations of the mind. They do not exist, never existed in the past, and never will exist in the future.

For the Advaitist, liberation – मोक्ष – is in the form of knowledge. It is the experience of total freedom. I am omnipresent, eternal. Where can I go? Where am I not already?

Now, as society exists at the present time, all these three stages are necessary; the one does not deny the other, one is simply the fulfillment of the other. The Advaitist or the qualified Advaitist does not say that dualism is wrong; it is a right view, but a lower one. It is on the way to truth; therefore let everybody work out his own vision of this universe, according to his own ideas. Injure none, deny the position of none; take man where he stands and, if you can, lend him a helping hand and put him on a higher platform, but do not injure and do not destroy. All will come to truth in the long run. “When all the desires of the heart will be vanquished, then this very mortal will become immortal”–then the very man will become God.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Jnana Yoga, The Atman

We must have idols!


Great saints are the object-lessons of the Principle. But the disciples make the saint the Principle, and then they forget the Principle in the person.

The result of Buddha’s constant inveighing against a personal God was the introduction of idols into India. In the Vedas they knew them not, because they saw God everywhere, but the reaction against the loss of God as Creator and Friend was to make idols, and Buddha became an idol — so too with Jesus. The range of idols is from wood and stone to Jesus and Buddha, but we must have idols.

Swami Vivekananda

Inspired Talks: June 30

To think without imagery is to make the impossible possible: So is with the idea of God!


To try to think without imagery is to try to make the impossible possible. We cannot think “mammalia” without a concrete example. So with the idea of God.

The great abstraction of ideas in the world is what we call God.  Each thought has two parts — the thinking and the word; and we must have both. Neither idealists nor materialists are right; we must take both idea and expression. All knowledge is of the reflected, as we can only see our face in a mirror. No one will ever know his own Self or God; but we are that own Self, we are God. In Nirvana you are when you are not. Buddha said, “You are best, you are real, when you are not” — when the little self is gone.

The Light Divine within is obscured in most people. It is like a lamp in a cask of iron, no gleam of light can shine through. Gradually, by purity and unselfishness we can make the obscuring medium less and less dense, until at last it becomes as transparent as glass. Shri Ramakrishna was like the iron cask transformed into a glass cask through which can be seen the inner light as it is. We are all on the way to become the cask of glass and even higher and higher reflections. As long as there is a “cask” at all, we must think through material means. No impatient one can ever succeed.

Swami Vivekananda

From: Janan-Yoga, Inspired Talks