तस्य वाचकः प्रणवः॥२७॥
tasya vacakah pranavah
A special or sacred symbol (pranavah) should de used to communicate (vacakah) with our Higher Power/God (tasya).
PRACTICAL LIVING From the previous four sutras, we now know that Patanjali describes this Supreme Soul as being the source of wisdom, unlimited by time and beyond human limitations. This sutra answers the question of how should be address the knower of all knowledge? Patanjali understands that even though this Higher Source is beyond words and form, the human mind is not. Therefore, in order to communicate or relate to Isvara, we need to carefully select a pranava, or a sacred sound that matches Isvara’s amazing qualities. Once again, since this is a very individual process the word one chooses is a personal one. Patanjali is once again reminding us that the object in itself is not the most important thing. The crucial component is the link we have with that object. We are different people with different backgrounds, cultures, upbringings, likes and dislikes. It is only natural for that word to be different for different people. However, Patanjali states that the word should be special and chosen carefully. For many of us, guidance from a teacher or mentor is beneficial in the selection of an appropriate pranava.
IN THE YOGA WORLD This pranava (sacred word) can be used as japa (repetition of a mantra), while chanting or in prayer. In Hinduism (the most prominent religion in India), the word pranava has been associated with the sound of “Om” or “Aum”. Patanjali never uses this word, but many interpretations of the Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali relate “pranava” to the sacred symbol of “Om”. Om is linked to the symbol of divinity. It is a sacred mantra. That sound is believed to create a vibration that is the closest to Isvara that we can get in the physical world. “Aum” represents different things to different people. One important part of chanting this word that is often not given enough importance to is the silence after the “M”. Connecting to that silence is an opportunity to connect with the Divine within us. Silence is that moment when we are not doing anything, opening a door to something more subtle, something beyond words, actions and thoughts. Different sacred texts mention the importance of sound in connection to a Higher Power. The Bible says: “In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. The Vedas say: “The name of Brahman is OM, and OM is Brahman Himself”.
In summary, when connecting to a Higher Power, Patanjali suggests we choose a word or sound that is sacred and which we have a strong link to. The Upanishads (sacred Indian texts) say: “Ekam sat, vipraha bahudha vadanti” – “Truth is one; seers express it in many ways”. Choose one that works for you!
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON As I reflect on the power of sound and how it allows us to express and connect, Pashyo instantly comes to my mind. This beautiful woman expresses her emotions, her creativity, her Divine beauty through music. She also has an incredible capacity to connect people through music. From bossa nova, to jazz, to African songs, to Divine mantras, she does it all. Her being comes alive through music. Sound vibrates through her cells, her relationships and her wonderful home (where a lot of creative sounds manifest). Thank you Pashyo for awakening the power of sound within me, for giving me a space to be free with sound, and for connecting me with so many magnificent people! Love you and miss you very much!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and we will look at how to use sacred sound with more precision next week!
I feel that I have a lot of growing to do spiritually when it comes to connecting with the divine. So…for me, my interpretation of this sutra would be that this pranava would be something used to connect more with the intention that you set for your practice. So, if my intention for class is love or gratitude, ananda would be something that would help me to connect to this intention a little more deeply.
I love that you related to pranava in your own way. Pranava means different things to different people. In the end, what is significant is what makes us grow, bring us more sattva and make us love life more and more. Sankalpa, or intention, is a great tool to help us connect more. Thanks for sharing!
I believe for now my sacred sound is ‘AUM’. AUM is the first word that comes to mind when I read this sutra, before reading the ‘in the yoga world’ portion. To me AUM is a sound that can connect every living being in a room. People who are so different in their diet, hobbies, occupations, physical appearance, asana, pranayama, and other lifestyles can me linked together with one sound. A sound that takes only seconds to generate can like the many body/minds of others.
OM means hug in Vietnamese. Oh yeah, i would love to have some :). Besides OM, my favorite is MA or MAMA, because not only i am connecting with my mom, but also mother of earth. I also love the mudras, particularly the anjeli mudra, hands by the heart. This gesture brings me to my inner self, my heart and brings it out to the world as if i wear my heart on my sleeve and say hey take me as i am. When we chant or connect with the higher power via gesturing, we are expressing ourselves honestly, no lies, let all the truth out, subdue and let everything go. Be open and wisdom will come.
It’s so interesting to me that while I consider a symbol to be visual, really symbols are referents to ideas or concepts, which are voiced in words, which are wedded to sound. The other interesting thing is the potency that designating something as sacred or protected brings to that thing. So sacred sounds, sacred symbols, sacred words – like you said, most religions emphasize this importance of the sacred symbol/sound. It also makes me think of the power of song, of religious chant, of concert experiences, of written music, of the power of designating something as Special. If yoga is about the intention of a thought or action, then the sacred intention of a referent of Isvara is, like, the Ultimate Yoga Symbol!