There are two types of sounds, Ahat आहत and Anahat अनाहत. All vibrations of this manifested Universe are the Ahat sounds while Om is the only eternal all-pervading Anahat sound. Soham or Hamsa are the link between the two.
Ahat sounds – These are sounds which are created by two things striking together. e.g. when two stones strike together it creates a ‘struck sound’. In spiritual context, these things which strike together are the ‘Shabda’ the sound of the words of the manifested Universe. These are created by interactions between the three tendencies, Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. These are also linked to the conscious energies of the chakras located within your Sushumna naadi. These Ahat sounds are generated by some sort of vibrations which you can sense. These are sounds multiplied from the energy of Shabda शब्द.
Every type of sound you hear with your sense organs in this world is an Ahat sound. Even the silent, mental jaap, recitation of Mantras are Ahat sounds. Even if you are reciting the Mantra in your mind, your internal energies are ‘striking’ to produce its vibrations. These mantras are of the Manifested Universe and not of the Eternal Consciousness.
Anahat Nada – अनाहत नाद is a sound which cannot be heard or sensed with your physical sense organs. This is a single sound, the sound of OM. It can be experienced only when the Ahat sounds are silenced. OM is the origin of everything. It is self-sustained, self-generated, all-pervading and Conscious. Nada is the eternal sound which then differentiates into Creation. This is a step-wise process and creates your internal energy chakras and the kundalini etc structure. On the macro-levels the Nada creates the Universes.
The Ajapa mantra Soham and Hamsa are not fully Anahat (as they do have a component of Sa-kaar and Ha-kaar). But as you progress in your Dhyan, the Sa and Ha sounds get nullified and only OM remains. Soham and Hamsa can then be considered to be a link between the Ahat and the Ananhat. These two are the eternal flow of the Anahat OM. They create, sustain and destroy the manifested.
When you breathe in and breath out, every breath cycle, on the energy levels, you are first created (Purak), then sustained (Antah Kumbhak), annihilated (Rechak), then enter the Shunya/’Conscious nothingness’ state (Bahya Kumbhak) then created (Purak), endlessly. Breathing is not just a physical act!
There are broadly two types of karma. Those karma which are linked to your current horoscope/life have to be experienced thus rebalanced. These are already activated for your current life. You can only reduce the intensity of these karma by practicing some spiritual practices or remedies. Then there is the second type of karma which you have chosen to not resolve in this lifetime. This is the stored karma to be rebalanced in some future life. This second type of Karma can be ‘burnt’ in Dhyan. I hope you have guessed how this can happen. When you do your spiritual practice sitting on your Asan, focus on the Mantra and the third eye chakra, you literally complete one life-time with every breath! With every inhale and exhale, you live out one life-time and the focussed blast of energy you are invoking ‘burns’ your stored karma. As you practice regularly, you will look younger, fresh and vital! (My Dad is in his 70s and he looks like a 40yr old!)
Even if you use the Sanskrit language principles to open up this word Soham = Sah + Aham, सोहम् = स: + अहम् | you will get Sah/ That and Aham /I. With every breath you are affirming ‘That I’.
But what is स:, Sah, ‘that’? ‘That’ cannot be defined using the words and relative meanings of the manifested physical. The complete knowledge of the eternal constant. It is the Ultimate which is described in negation words, ie. has no attributes निर्गुण, no shapes निराकार etc. It just Is.
And what exactly would be ‘I’, Aham, अहम् then? It is not your body, mind, emotions, social standing etc. It is your individual soul. This is how it is created. (I have written about it briefly earlier)
- The Bindu first divides into the three attributes, Satva, Raja and Tama represented by the Vama Jeyshtha and Raudri chakra in your head, the top triangle of the Shri-yantra.
- Raja and Satva first combine to produce Mahat-Buddhi (light, intelligence, cognition, self-awareness, great). There are two ways this energy works.
- When Creation is on, the higher level will lower itself and differentiate further. The Mahat-Buddhi now creates certainty and thus leads to definitive action. This is the point where individual Self is created. Now every individual Self is certain about its existence and will perform actions which will lead to creation of karma. The binding begins in earnest.
- And when dissolution is on and Kundalini has reached this point and is ascending, this Mahat-Buddhi is converted into the Universal Self.
- Next Mahat-Buddhi lowers itself down one step and creates Aham. Aham also called Aham-kaar and can take two directions,
- When creation is on, Aham is the energy of individualisation, personal identity, ‘I am, ‘Mine’, ‘I do’ etc. It is self-referential, perhaps conceit/ Abhiman? And more importantly it is the place where the root of desires/Vasana reside. These Vasana are the tendencies of desire and will be modified into grosser levels and acted upon, Karma creation. Thus Vasana bind you at very deep levels.
- When dissolution is on and you have reached with the Kundalini at this point, individual Aham dissolves into the Cosmic Aham. You get to experience the Ultimate Self.
The real and complete meaning of Soham would be quite impossible to describe but this much is a mere glimpse of its incalculable power.
If you are aware of the eternal Soham Mantra linked to your breathing, you will be aware of the oneness of individual soul and the Ultimate. Unless you realise this link, you will continue to think of your personal ego as your identity. You will remain limited, constricted and restricted. Soham is a reminder that you are the Ultimate yourself. When you do your Dhyan with Soham you are breathing in the स: ‘That’, the One-ness. You are breathing out the ‘I’, अहम्, the limited sense of self, you are expelling it. Thus with time when both equalise and stabilise you will experience the Kumbhak state of pure OM. All of us accept that we are created from the Ultimate or ‘God’ has created us. But this mere acceptance is not enough. If you believe that the Divine has created you, then try to experience the Divinity that you are. So practice and do your Dhyan.
Hamsa is the second Ajapa mantra which brings the deepest knowledge of your own Self to you. It brings enlightenment. Soham and Hamsa are the same, one cannot exist without the other. The eventually merge and cancel each other out and a pure OM remains.
‘Hamsa’ is said to be the carrier /transport /Vahan वाहन of the Devi Sarasvati/ Gayatri. Hamsa means the bird ‘swan’ in Sanskrit. In popular images the Devi Gayatri is shown to be sitting on a swan. This means, Hamsa/Soham is the support on which the Gayatri is realised. Thus these two mantras are also called the ‘Ajapa Gayatri’. This is important for the aspirant as Gayatri/Sarasvati essentially is Moksh. The Devi Gayatri is the Light of the Internal Source/ Self/ Sun. To experience Her is to experience the Self
There is a popular story that Shiv and his wife Shakti stand at the shores of the Manas-Sarovar lake to observe the Swan swimming on it. This really means that the Eternal energies, Shiv/ passive principle and Shakti/ active principle, are united in the Swan/ Hamsa/ Soham. This union happens at the Manas (illlusion, imagination, mind, existance) Sarovar (body of water, summation of experience, flow). The Hamsa swims ON this illusory lake of experience. The Shiv-Shaki stand outside it and witness (साक्षिन्) to this. In other words, Shakti/Kundalini and Shiv/Parameshwar witness the Creation and the Hamsa. The Hamsa is linked to the Creation but is also quite apart from this. There is a wealth of esoteric meaning in this story.
Whichever story/allegory you like, the fact is that there can be no Enlightenment without these 2 Ajapa mantra. Soham is intention सङ्कल्प, practice साधना and mantra all-in-one!
And for people like us, who are always engaged in the business of living, office, home, house-work, husband/wife, children etc this is the easiest Spiritual practice. If you cannot do regular Dhyan, at least be aware of your breathing and the Ajapa Mantra, Soham /Hamsa which subtly power it. At least start somewhere.