Sohum: The WordY FrYdaY NerdY!

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I Am That I Am!

This Sanskrit word is mostly known to people who practice breathing techniques and meditation because it’s used as a mantra. It’s a very interesting word. It is a conjunction of two Sanskrit words: So(That) and Hum(I am). Actually, the hum is degeneration of ‘aham’ which means ‘I.’ The word means I am that.

There is a beautiful book named I am that which has an account of enlightening conversations between Nisargadatta Maharaj and other seekers. I am that is also name of God in biblical Judaism. Moses found this revelation on the mountain near the enlightened tree. Since most of the things in religious scriptures are symbolic it’s no wonder that this might simply mean God is self-realization. God is the presence I am. That presence, awareness and being which never changes.

You were a small kid, then your body kept changing, surroundings kept changing, your feelings and even your intellectual abilities kept changing–body and mind have been changing since birth without any stop–what is that which has not changed ever? Your sense of being-“I am” has never changed–so that is the truth. That is the same as universe–that is being. That is God.

This quote from Wikipedia is pertinent:

Unchanted Chanting!

Soham is also considered a mantra in Tantrism and Kriya Yoga, known also as Ajapa mantra, Ajapa Gayatri, Hamsa Gayatri, Hamsa mantra, prana mantra, Shri Paraprasada mantra, paramatma-mantra, and as such used notably on its own, in the meditation practice ajapa japa and in the kriya practice shabda sanchalana.

The mantra is also inverted from so ‘ham (the sandhi of saḥ + aham) to ham + sa. The combination of so ‘haṃ haṃsaḥ has also been interpreted as “I myself am the Swan“, where the swan symbolizes the Atman.An etymology of haṃsa “swan, goose” (in fact cognate with English goose) as from ahaṃ sa “I am that” is found in the 14th century commentary on the Vedas by Sayana (14th century).

We take about 21400 breaths everyday. Hindu scriptures Puranas say that it’s soul chanting the name of God 21400 times everyday. They say that our soul loves God so much that breathing is a form of remembering him constantly and the sound of breath so resembles the name of God. I must say that it’s poetic suggestion. Spiritual people invented this technique to help you transcend mind and remember God. All the names suggested in the quote above are actually meditation techniques which revolve around this mantra.


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