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Soham (so 'ham सो ऽहम्) is the Sanskrit for "I myself" or "It is I". Inextricably linked with hamsa[1] (हंस in Sanskrit), soham[2] is a voiceless mantra[3] and as such used notably on its own, in the meditation practice ajapa japa[4] and in the kriya practice shabda sanchalana[5].

SourcesEdit

So + hamEdit

In Advaita Vedanta several Upanishads (ca. 800-100 BCE)

Tantras

Stotras

  • Bhaja Gaureesam[38]
  • Gowresa Ashtakam[39]
  • Shakthi Mahimnah Stotram[40]
  • Tripurasundari Vijaya Sthava[41]

Adi Shankara's[42] Vakya Vritti[43]

subsequent works in the Nath tradition foundational for Hatha yoga

and foundational for Swara yoga the original script Shiva Svarodaya[55][56][57]

as well as the classical yoga treatises Gheranda Samhita[58][59][60][61] and Shiva Samhita[62] all makes mention of soham and hamsa describing its significance and when teaching uniformly teaches So on inhalation and ham on exhalation.

This traditional practice in its several forms and its background is described in numerous other books.[63][64][65][66][67][68][69][70]

Ham + saEdit

Swami Muktananda - although teaching the traditional So on inhalation and ham on exhalation as a letter from 1968 to Franklin Jones reveals[71] - later published a book[72] teaching Ham on inhalation and sa on exhalation. This practice is described in several later books all refering to Muktananda.[73][74][75][76][77]

The teaching of Ham on inhalation and sa on exhalation is alluded to a script important in Kaśmir Śaivism, the Vijnana Bhairava:

Air is exhaled with the sound SA and inhaled with the sound HAM. Then reciting of the mantra HAMSA is continuous[78]

Verse 155a is however not found in the faximili and is not part of the Vijnana Bhairava first published in 1918 in the Kashmir Series of Text and Studies[79] but is quoted from a commentary by the Abhinavagupta disciple Kṣemarāja[80] in his Shiva Sutra Vimarshini (commentary on the Shiva Sutras)[81] in later editions of Vijnana Bhairava[82].

Yogananda taught a similar method termed Hong-Sau[citation needed].

EffectsEdit

Hindu saints[who?] and gurus[83][page needed] state that one can attain moksha, or mukti (release) or liberation from the cycle of life and death by focusing attention on the natural breath. By doing so, one can transcend the mind and attain the turiya state.

EtymologyEdit

So 'ham is the sandhi form of saḥ + aham, the nominatives of the 3rd and 1st person singular pronouns. saḥ can be prefixed to other pronouns for emphasis, as in so 'ham "I myself; I, that very person" or satvam "Thou thyself; Thou, that very person", but in a literal reading, the phrase means "That - I" or "He - I".

SignificanceEdit

So 'ham in mystical interpretations suggests the identification or dissolution of the Ego with the "Other": "That I Am". When the "I" merges with the "That", the ego of the "I" identity merges with the Other, who is Ishvara of the Vedas, Brahman of the Upanishads, Bhagavan of the Puranas.

"Sa" in Sanskrit is the combination of the "lifeless" (or, static) consonant S with the dynamic vowel A – that is, with the meaning of Prana or vital force. Also Sa is Vishnu and Shiva according to the Vedic Nirukta. The Sandhi means Yoga (union) or self realization.

The meaning of the phrase might be expressed as follows: "I" am obviously not this body because the physical constituents of the body are changing every moment. Ultimately, the body dies. Atman the soul or self never dies – it is "That". "That" is Absolute Reality. It is the witness of all, it is what the mind does through the body. This self is always on the path of progression, which according to Shaivistic thought is Chaitanya or consciousness. The Shiva Sutra speaks of ‘Chaitanyam – Atma’. Consequently, Aham, myself, is Sah, that Self. This is called spiritual awareness.

NotesEdit

  1. In English language literature also printed as Hamsah, Hamso, Hansa, Hong-sau, Ham-karena/Hamkara/Hangkara=the sound of Ha
  2. In English language literature also printed as So’ham, So Ham, So-aham, Sohum, So Hum, Saham, Sa'ham, Sau-ha, Sah-karena/Sahkara=the sound of Sa
  3. Known also as and/or referred to as Ajapa mantra, Ajapa Gayatri, Hamsa Gayatri, Hamsa mantra, prana mantra, Shri Paraprasada mantra, paramatma-mantra etc
  4. Satyananda Saraswati (1989). Yoga and Kriya: A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of (2 ed.). Munger, Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga. p. 497 ff. ISBN 978-8185787084. "Listen carefully to your breath; you will hear the sound So with inhalation and Ham with exhalation." 
  5. Satyananda Saraswati (1989). Yoga and Kriya: A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of (2 ed.). Munger, Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga. p. 668 ff. ISBN 978-8185787084. 
  6. "Dhyana-Bindu Upanishad". http://www.celextel.org/108upanishads/dhyanabindu.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. "61(b)-63. The Jiva comes out with the letter ‘Ha’ and gets in again with the letter ‘Sa’." 
  7. Blavatsky, H P (2004). The Theosophist May 1891 to September 1891. Kessinger Publishing. p. 695. ISBN 9781419173455. 
  8. Parmeshwaranand Swami (2000). Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Upanisads. Sarup & Sons. p. 140. ISBN 9788176251488. "The jiva comes out with the letter Ha and gets in again with the letter Sa" 
  9. Woodroffe, John George (1974). The Serpent Power - The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga (7 ed.). Courier Dover Publications. p. 76. ISBN 9780486230580. 
  10. Singh, Nagendra Kr (1997). Encyclopaedia of Hinduism. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.. p. 213. ISBN 9788174881687. 
  11. "Hamsa Upanishad". http://www.celextel.org/108upanishads/hamsa.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  12. Blavatsky, H P (2004). The Theosophist October 1891 to March 1892. Kessinger Publishing. p. 75. ISBN 9781417944095. 
  13. Rao, T. N. Achuta (2004). Vedanta: The Knowledge Supreme. Gyan Books. p. 111. ISBN 9788178352916. "Hamsa is also Prana, the vital-breath, since we exhale with Ha and inhale with Sa" 
  14. Parmeshwaranand Swami (2000). Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Upanisads. Sarup & Sons. p. 231. ISBN 9788176251488. "We are said to exhale with Ha and to inhale with Sa" 
  15. Singh, Nagendra Kr (1997). Encyclopaedia of Hinduism. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.. p. 493 ff. ISBN 9788174881687. 
  16. "Maha Vakya Upanishad". http://www.celextel.org/108upanishads/mahavakya.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  17. "Suka Rahasya Upanishad". http://www.celextel.org/108upanishads/sukarahasya.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  18. "Surya Upanishad". http://www.celextel.org/108upanishads/surya.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  19. "Tripuratapini Upanishad". http://www.celextel.org/108upanishads/tripuratapini.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  20. "Yoga Chudamani Upanishad". http://www.celextel.org/108upanishads/yogachudamani.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. "This mantra which is called “Ajapa Gayatri” (…) goes outside with the sound “ha” and goes again inside with the sound “sa”." 
  21. "Yoga Sikha Upanishad". http://www.celextel.org/108upanishads/yogasikha.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. "6.53 The prana goes out with sound “ham” and goes in with the word “sa”, and all beings naturally chant the mantra “Hamsa, Hamsa” (while exhaling and inhaling)." 
  22. Renfrew Brooks, Douglas (2000). Meditation revolution: a history and theology of the Siddha Yoga lineage. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. p. 510. ISBN 9788120816480. 
  23. "Gandharva Tantra (abstract)". http://www.shivashakti.com/gandharv.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  24. Woodroffe, John George (2007). Shakti and Shakta. NuVision Publications, LLC. pp. 436. ISBN 9781595479204. 
  25. Woodroffe, John George (2007). Shakti and Shakta. NuVision Publications, LLC. pp. 436. ISBN 9781595479204. 
  26. Avalon, Arthur (2008). Hymn to Kali. BiblioBazaar, LLC. pp. 96. ISBN 9781434691965. 
  27. "Kularnava Tantra". http://www.shivashakti.com/kular.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-17. "Ham-Sah is the pathway breath takes in living creatures. This mantra exists in the form of exhalation and inhalation" 
  28. "Kularnava Tantra". http://aghoraspeak.com/2008/10/kularnava-tantra.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  29. Chawdhri, L. R. (2007). Secrets of Yantra, Mantra and Tantra. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd. p. 93. ISBN 9781845570224. ""Ha" is the outgoing breath and "sa" is the ingoing breath." 
  30. Olson, Carl (2007). Hindu primary sources: a sectarian reader. Rutgers University Press. p. 506. ISBN 9780813540702. 
  31. "Mahanirvana Tantra". http://www.hinduwebsite.com/sacredscripts/tantra/maha00.asp. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  32. Avalon, Arthur (2004). Mahanirvana Tantra Of The Great Liberation. Kessinger Publishing. p. 82. ISBN 9781419132070. "All beings say the ajapa Gayatri, which is the expulsion of the breath by Hangkara, and its inspiration by Shakara" 
  33. Dayal, P (1991). Raja Rao : A Study of His Novels. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 53. ISBN 8171561608. "The Mahanirvana Tantra unequivocally specifies an identity between jiva and Brahman (...) The idea of "So’ham" (I am He or I am one with the Supreme) is explicitly emphasized in this Tantric text." 
  34. Mahanirvana Tantra is claimed to be a juridical fabrication in: Duncan, John (1978). Essays in classical and modern Hindu law. BRILL. p. 197 ff. ISBN 9789004048089. 
  35. "Niruttara Tantra (abstract)". http://www.shivashakti.com/niruttar.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-17. "The letter Ha is exhalation and the letter Sa inhalation." 
  36. Woodroffe, John George (1974). The Serpent Power - The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga (7 ed.). Courier Dover Publications. p. 76. ISBN 9780486230580. 
  37. "Shri Nathanavaratnamalika". http://www.shivashakti.com/navanath.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  38. "Bhaja Gaureesam". http://www.celextel.org/stotrasdevi/bhajagaureesam.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  39. "Gowresa Ashtakam". http://www.celextel.org/stotrasshiva/gowreesashtakam.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  40. "Shakthi Mahimnah Stotram". http://www.celextel.org/stotrasdevi/shakthimahimnahstotram.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  41. "Tripurasundari Vijaya Sthava". http://www.celextel.org/stotrasdevi/tripurasundaristhava.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  42. Srinivasan, N. K. (2007). Safe and Simple Steps to Fruitful Meditation. Pustak Mahal. p. 48–49. ISBN 9788122308914. 
  43. "Adi Shankara’s Vakya Vritti". http://www.celextel.org/adisankara/vakyavritti.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  44. "The Yogavishaya of Minanath". http://www.shivashakti.com/vishaya.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-17. "Hamsa Hamsa is the mantra upon which depends the bodies of living creates. It is meditated on as the collective form of vital breath in the knots. [28] 21600 times daily the word Hamsa is being pronounced -- in this way one constantly meditates 'So-aham'. [29]" 
  45. "Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati (abstract)". http://www.shivashakti.com/siddha.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  46. Feuerstein, Georg (2002). The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. p. 537. ISBN 9788120819238. "[The psyche] exits [the body] with the sound ha and reenters with the sound sa." 
  47. Siddha Guru Gorakhnath. Brahmamitra Awasthi. ed. Yoga Bija. Delhi, India: Swami Keshwananda Yoga Institute. pp. 112. 
  48. "Goraksha Shataka v42". http://gorakhnath.org/teachings.php. Retrieved 2009-05-17. "42. With the sound of 'ha' jiva (in the form of prana) goes out; with the sound of 'sa' (in the form of apana) it enters (the body) again. The jiva repeats continually that mantra 'hamsa, hamsa'." 
  49. Olson, Carl (2007). Hindu primary sources: a sectarian reader. Rutgers University Press. p. 439. ISBN 9780813540702. 
  50. Kiehnle, Catharina (1997). Songs on yoga: texts and teachings of the Mahārāṣṭrian Nāths. Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 155–56. ISBN 9783515069229. 
  51. Lakhota = sealed letter
  52. Kiehnle, Catharina (1997). Songs on yoga: texts and teachings of the Mahārāṣṭrian Nāths. Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 185. ISBN 9783515069229. 
  53. Yogapar Abhangamala = collection of songs on yoga
  54. Kiehnle, Catharina (1997). Songs on yoga: texts and teachings of the Mahārāṣṭrian Nāths. Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 301. ISBN 9783515069229. 
  55. Nair, Sreenath (2007). Restoration of Breath: Consciousness and Performance. Rodopi. p. 100 ff. ISBN 9789042023062. 
  56. Vennemann, Michael. Fürchte Dich nicht, Petrus Romanus - Teil 2. p. 522–23. ISBN 9783000253485. 
  57. "Shiva Svarodaya (51)". http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=4735. Retrieved 2009-05-17. "The Shiva Svarodaya scripture's verse 51 says, "The process of exhalation is said to contain the letter ham, and the inhalation contains the letter sa."" 
  58. Mallinson, James (2004). Gheranda samhita: the original Sanskrit and an English translation. YogaVidya.com. pp. 127. ISBN 9780971646636. 
  59. Ma Yoga Shakti (1995). Gheranda samhita. La scienza dello yoga. Edizioni Studio Tesi. p. 181. ISBN 9788827210994. 
  60. Yogi Pranavananda (2000). Tony Rodriguez. ed. Pure Yoga. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. p. 113 ff. ISBN 9788120815087. "With the sound 'Sah' the breath goes in; with the sound 'Ham' the breath comes out" 
  61. "Gheranda Samhita 5:84". http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1998/3/1998-3-24.shtml. Retrieved 2009-05-17. "Gheranda Samhita 5:84 indicates, "Breath of every person, in entering, makes the sound of 'sa', and in coming out (bahiryati), that of 'ham.' "" 
  62. Singh, Panchanan (2004). The Forceful Yoga: Being the Translation of Haṭhayoga-pradīpikā, Gheraṇḍa-saṃhitā, and Śiva-saṃhitā. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. pp. 275. ISBN 9788120820555. 
  63. Satyananda Saraswati (1989). Yoga and Kriya: A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of (2 ed.). Munger, Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga. p. 497 ff. ISBN 978-8185787084. 
  64. Devanand, G. K.. Teaching of Yoga. Himalayan Institute Press. p. 116. ISBN 9788131301722. "Soham is a universal mantra vibration, with Sooo.... being remembered with inhalation and Hummm... being remembered with exhalation." 
  65. Mumford, John (1999). Death: beginning or end? : methods for immortality. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 97 ff. ISBN 9781567184761. 
  66. Stutley, Margaret and James (1977). A dictionary of Hinduism : its mythology, folklore, and development 1500 B.C.-A.D. 1500. London: Routledge. pp. 372. ISBN 071008398X. "The Hamsa symbolizes knowledge and the life-force or cosmic breath (prana), 'ham' being its exhalation, and 'sa', its inhalation which is regarded as the return of the individual life-force to brahman, its cosmic source." 
  67. Srinivasan, N. K. (2007). Safe and Simple Steps to Fruitful Meditation. Pustak Mahal. p. 48–49. ISBN 9788122308914. 
  68. Tigunait, Pandit Rajmani (2000). Power of Mantra and the Mystery of Initiation. Himalayan Institute Press. p. 68 ff. ISBN 9780893891763. "(..) you will hear the sound sooo in the inhalation and hammmmm in the exhalation." 
  69. Woodroffe, John (1910). Shakti and Shakta. Forgotten Books. pp. 509. ISBN 9781606201459. 
  70. Xavier, G. Francis (2004). Yoga for Health & Personality. Pustak Mahal. p. 98–99. ISBN 9788122308921. 
  71. "Letter from Swami Muktananda to Franklin Jones, April 23, 1968". http://www.lightmind.com/library/daismfiles/mukta-letter2.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. "Harmonize the repetition of mantra with the breathing as follows: With "So" take it in and with "ham" bring it out. (...) When one's mind is fixed on "So" with the incoming breath and on "ham" with the outgoing breath it is mantra-japa. (...) Your beauty, your energy, your duty, your religion, your Guru and guide; your study, worship and prayer -- all lie in engaging yourself to the remembrance and repetition of "So'ham", "So'ham". This is my instruction, this is my precept. This is to followed or practiced, and reflected upon devoutly." 
  72. Swami Muktananda (1992). I Am that: The Science of Hamsa from the Vijnana Bhairava. SYDA Foundation. pp. 96. ISBN 9780914602279. "Sit quietly, and watch the going out and coming in of the breath . . . Bhairava says that as the breath comes in, it makes the sound ham, and as the breath goes out, it makes the sound sa. This is known as ajapa-japa, the unrepeated mantra repetition. One who simply watches the breath, being aware that it is coming in and going out with the sounds ham and sa, is doing ajapa-japa, and this is the true way of practicing mantra." 
  73. Renfrew Brooks, Douglas (2000). Meditation revolution: a history and theology of the Siddha Yoga lineage. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. p. 509 ff. ISBN 9788120816480. 
  74. Swami Shankarananda (2003). Happy for No Good Reason: Learn to Meditate, Become Stronger, Calmer and Happier. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. p. 114–15. ISBN 9788120820067. 
  75. Kedar, Acharya (2003). The Sutras on the 5-Fold Act of Divine Consciousness. iUniverse. p. 150. ISBN 9780595293896. 
  76. Kedar, Acharya (2003). Vibration of Divine Consciousness: The Spiritual Autobiography of Acarya Kedar. iUniverse. p. 230. ISBN 9780595274109. 
  77. Sopory, S.K. (2004). Glimpses of Kashmir. APH Publishing. p. 103 ff. ISBN 9788176485470. 
  78. "Vijnana Bhairava". http://www.hsuyun.org/Dharma/zbohy/Sruti-Smriti/Sutras/Vijnanabhairava.html. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  79. "Muktabodha on-line library Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies". http://www.muktabodhalib.org/SECURE/KSTS/ksts_series_index.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  80. Alper, Harvey P. (1991). Understanding Mantras. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. p. 282. ISBN 9788120807464. 
  81. "Muktabodha on-line library Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies". http://www.muktabodhalib.org/SECURE/KSTS/ksts_series_index.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  82. Singh, Jaideva (1991). The Yoga of delight, wonder, and astonishment: a translation of the Vijñāna-bhairava. SUNY Press. pp. 173. ISBN 9780791410738.  reprinted and published as: Singh, Jaideva (2002). Vijnanabhairava or Divine Consciousness: A Treasury of 112 Types of Yoga. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 173. ISBN 9788120808201. 
  83. Among them[specify] Swami Muktananda, in I Am That: The Science of Hamsa from the Vijnana Bhairava, Siddha Yoga Publications, 1992.

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