The Hamsa Upanishad
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The Sanskrit word hamsa "means any kind of goose or duck", tells Frederick Pargiter. The Hamsa Upanishad contains assertions about and around the mantraraja, the king of mantras is Sanskrit for "duck". [Ma 30n]
A method has been handed over for training oneself in meditation by intoning "Duck
Sounds" as fits. The Hamsa Upanishad tells briefly that regular thunder-listening is a proper way to awaken that heavenly goose that shines of its own accord. Furthermore, the sound of that special bird is not quack-quack-quack, or is it?
Essential Yoga Aphorisms
All aphorisms below are founded on the Hamsa Upanishad. Here you get its essential content in a nutshell. Below that again you get the whole ancient text in English translation.
The individual soul is called a goose (Hamsa).
The goose sound - not quack-quack-quack - is repeated several times a day in some variants of yoga training that make you weep. Not that I recommend it to all and sundry ...
You can awaken a goose in your heart; and when you do it shines like ten million suns. [The goose is an image of the states you may enter. The suns mean you may see blinding inner light. Such light is nowhere found to be dangerous to the eyes, but the ancient text advises to focus on thunder instead ... It is not any outward, booming sound that is meant, though.
The meditation method of thunder-listening is one way to awaken that heavenly goose that shines of its own accord. One Tibetan yoga method consists of carefully plugging the ears with the fingers and listen for the shrill sounds and other sounds that appear, and tuning in to them, one by one, as they become the loudest.
The usually soft, rumbling sound of thunder is the sound to attune to, the text says. It is not the heart-beat. And with some mastery you can keep that thunder discretely rumbling throughout the day, if you so desire. It is a little feat.
The individual soul (hansa) is the highest soul (paramhansa).
He who listens well to such thunder, in his heart he becomes blissful and calm - nay, turns into the Brahman-Atman (God-Self) (in the end).
What should you focus on, the divine eye or the soft thunder?
You do best in listening to the thunder you hear in the calm; that is what the Hamsa Upanishad and yogis says. The work describes inner sounds you may eventually hear through "doing the duck" as should be. Skill in inner diving is what is called for, essentially. [So 717-21; ]
However, sound and person should fit. Those who are not of brahmin quality, would to well to refrain from using the OM mantra, explains Guru Dev, Shankaracharya Brahmananda Saraswati. He does not recommend repetition of OM at all for all in the householder stage of life. For them, meditation on OM "does not give good effects, it will be responsible for decline and misfortune," he says. Instead, householders may benefit from other mantras to meditate on; that is one big clue to the sounds (mantras) taught in the TM programme as fit for Transcendental Meditation. And there are more clues too. If you think Guru Dev's stand is revolutionary, think twice. Guru Dev was the venerated Shankaracharya of Northern India, just as the pope is a formal head of most Christians. [Gbt 323-24].
It should be well known that long periods of improperly performed meditation may have negative psychological or physical side effects, whereas gentle yoga postures, "a little breathing" and "a gentle dip" of meditation could do you a lot of good. Yet, there is no theoretical explanation of health effects from meditation common to all meditation techniques. Here is an official statement from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:
Meditation is considered to be safe for healthy people. There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people who have certain psychiatric problems, but this question has not been fully researched. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Research on meditation"]
"The proof of the pudding is in the eating," is an old proverb. The problem is that the same food may not suit everybody, much depends on how much you eat, how often, and what you eat. Similar considerations apply to various methods of meditation. Just as there are many unresolved issues in the field of nutrition, there are many such issies in the field of meditation too. There is a Wikipedia article named "Transcendental Meditation research". You are referred to it for a cavalcade of information from various studies. The findings have these topics:
Unsound parroting is not ideal.
contraindicated, for most people, according to Guru Dev, through Maharishi.
Upanishads ('Sessions') are ancient texts of Hinduism, and represent the final stage in the tradition of the Vedas. The older Upanishads may be part of commentaries. The nature of morality and of eternal life is discussed, and other issues, like reincarnation. Upanishads influenced German thinkers some centuries ago, such as the ascetic Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860).
Rooted in ancient rituals and ceremonies, Upanishads hold that the Atman (soul, individualised Self) and Brahman (the Divine Essence, or All-God), and seek to explore and hand out essential knowledge of the Self and Self-realization.
What follows is a heavy translation of the Hamsa Upanishad. It is not among those translated by F. Max Müller [On-site]. Maybe a good yoga dictionary may help you to decode more. As for Sanskrit words below, diacritical marks are omitted.
The Hamsa Upanisad is close to the circle of thoughts of the Nrisimhatapaniya and the Ramatapaniya Upanishads. It is found in the Oupanekhat also as Hensnad (i.e. Hamsa-nada). It says the word HAMSA is the king of mantras (mantraraja). [But note is is pronounced differently from how it is written, and there are two markedly different ways of applying it too.] The Hamsa [the individual soul] becomes the Paramahansa (the supreme soul) through Om meditation, particularly by its reverberation inside.
The main contents involves an introduction. The individual soul is called Hamsa through the combination of inborn, subtle sounds of breath [ie, prana. Take some of the translated words and claims with a pinch of salt].
The Hamsa Upanisad teaches an ascent through six mystical circles [chakras, lotuses, vortexes] on to the Brahmarandhra at the top of the head. This ascent is had by meditation of the syllable Om as it becomes audible within. Hamsa repetition may help that "thunder", the medley sound called OM, to come to the fore. Then it is fit to keep it audible as long and often as you can.
This mantra-king (hamsa) has a symbolical interpretation - the individual Atman (soul) is conceived in the form of a bird, a Hamsa (goose, duck, swan).
It is told that the Hamsa and the Paramahamsa (Supreme Swan) are one - that is, the individual and the highest Atman (Spirit) are one and the same in essence.
Through "Hamsa-gliding" one wakens to oneness with Paramahamsa. Listening to "thunder" within is the recommended practice. In some quarters yoga methods are taught for that.
The awakening of the Brahman-lore,
Pondering over all the Vedas
Indescribable and shrouded, equally,
Now we will impart precise information over the Hamsa and the Paramahamsa for the Brahman- student who is passionless, restrained and devoted to the teacher.
2. With the sound ham-sa ham-sa (outbreathing and inbreathing) it (the breath) stays continually in all bodies, filling them completely, as the fire in the fuel or the oil in the sesame seeds. He who knows it, does not fall into the hands of Death.
3. Closing the anal opening, one should send the wind [ie, prana, life force] upward from the abdomen-circle (adhara), going around the sexual-circle (svadhisthanam) thrice, keeping it on the right, ascend to the navel-circle (manipurakam), should go beyond the heart-circle (anahatam), should maintain the breath in the neck-circle (visuddhi), should think over the circle-between-the-brows (ajna), should meditate over the Brahman- opening, and all the while also the expression "I am that one [Om sound] which consists of the three moras", and further, from the abdomen-circle upto the Brahman-opening, should think over the reverberation, which is like a pure rock-crystal, for it is that which is called Brahman, the highest Atman.
4. In the case of this aphorism [namely hamso hamsa] the Hamsa is the poet, Pankti the metre, the Paramahamsa the deity, the word ham the germ (the initial syllable), sa the power (the final syllable), so'ham the stem (the middle). There are 21,606 of the [hamsa, i.e. outbreathings and inbreathings].
5. With the words: "To the sun (om suryaya hrdayaya namah), to the moon (om somaya sirase svaha), to the spotless one (om niranjanaya sikhayai vasat), to the lustreless one (om nirabhasaya kavacaya hum), tanu-suksma (om tanusuksma netratrayaya vausat) and pracodayat (om pracodayat astraya phat)" and with addition [everytime]: "to Agni and Soma vausat" the constituent aphorisms are laid [as diagram] on the heart etc. [heart, head, tuft of the hair, armour, three eyes and weapon] of the king of aphorisms and also laid on the hand.
6. When this is done, one should meditate on the essence of the Hamsa in the eight-petal [lotus- flower which is] in the heart. [One thinks of him in the form of a bird as Hamsa a goose:] Agni and Soma are his wings, the Om-sound his head, the anusvara-point his eye [or also] his mouth; Rudra and Rudrani his hands and feet, Kala and Agni his both sides (right and left), "sees" and "homeless" are his two remaining sides [above and below].
7. And this [Hamsa, i.e. the individual soul] is that Paramahamsa [the highest soul], which shines like ten million suns and pervades this entire world.
8. His behaviour, however, [so far as he abides in the eight-petal lotus-flower of the heart] is eightfold: On the eastern petal his mind is directed to holy acts, on the south-eastern sleep and laxity overcome him, on the southern his mind is cruel, on the south-western he strives after sin, on the western after play, on the north-western he desires going etc., on the northern love-enjoyment, on the north-western acquisition of property. Renunciation rules in the middle, the state of waking in the filament, sleep in the seed-pod, deep sleep on the stalk, the Turyam at the spot where the lotus flower ends upward.
9. But when the Hamsa is merged in the reverberation, then appears what is called above -the-Turiya, Unthinking, Conclusion-in-non-muttering. All this happens at the will of the Hamsa. Therefore the Manas is allowed to run; however, he [the meditator] enjoys the reverberation in ten million mutterings. All this happens at the will of the Hamsa.
10. The reverberation can be brought about tenfold: the first sounds as cini, the second as cincini, the third like the sound of a bell, the fourth like the blowing of a conch, the fifth like the string music, the sixth like clapping, the seventh like the note of a flute, the eighth like the beating of a drum, the ninth like that of a kettle-drum, the tenth like a thunder. One should avoid the ninth [and those preceding it] and practise the tenth alone.
In the case of the first his body
In the fifth his palate runs,
In the ninth power to disappear
11. In him the Manas content [mental content] of good and bad [is burnt]. He, ever blissful, with all penetrating power, omni-present, glows through his own light as pure, enlightened, eternal, spotless and calm.
Om! that is the Veda-explanation,Veda-explanation. [From So 717-21]
NOTE: The gist of verse 11 may be taken to mean that if you fare badly, you burn good, deep mind content (vasanas, samskaras) that you might need ahead. Such levelling out through hamsa meditation might be a bad mistake. - TK
Gbt: Mason, Paul. 108 Discourses of Guru Dev: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 1. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009.
Ma: Pargiter, Frederick Eden, tr. Markandeya Purana. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1904.
So: Deussen, Paul, trans. Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Vols 1-2. Varanasi: Banarsidass,
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