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Gist of the Hamsa Upanishad

Judicious is the goose mystery of yogis. (Cf Deussen 1980, 718)

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 - the Sanskrit for duch, and also goose, even swan (cf. Pargiter 1904, 30n).

More than one method have been handed over for training oneself in meditation. The Hamsa Upanishad tells how to awaken the heavenly goose (or duck or swan) that shines of its own accord inside oneself. A fertile golden goose!

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 in some circles.

You can awaken a goose in your heart; and when you do it shines pleasantly, and not dangerous to the eyes - and there is also a soft thunder to reckon with in there, and also the wind -

One Tibetan yoga method consists of carefully plugging the ears with the fingers and listen for shrill sounds and other sounds that appear, and tuning in to them, one by one, as they become the loudest.

The individual soul (hansa) is also the highest soul (paramhansa) at times.

He who by sounds of any kind comes to thunder, becomes blissful and calm - and to Brahman-Atman (God-Self) eventually, if not sooner.

What should you focus on to get help?

The Hamsa Upanishad describes inner sounds you may eventually hear through "doing the duck" [and similar] as should be. Skill in inner skyclimbing is what is called for, essentially. Geese are remarkably good at getting high. (Deussen 1980, 717-21)

Sri Brahmananda Saraswati does not recommend repetition of OM for any householders. For them, meditation on OM "does not give good effects, it will be responsible for decline and misfortune," he says. However, householders may benefit from other mantras to meditate on; they are used in TM (Transcendental Meditation). Sri Brahmananda was the Shankaracharya of Northern India. (Mason 2009, 323-24).

Long periods of improperly performed meditation could have negative effects, whereas gentle yoga postures, "a little breathing" and "a gentle dip" of meditation could do you a lot of good. 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"]

Dr. Jaan Suurküla made encouraging research on TM in Sweden:

As early as in the 1970s, the Swedish government's National Health Board conducted a nationwide epidemiological study that found that hospital admissions for psychiatric care were 150-200 times less common among the 35,000 people practicing Transcendental Meditation in Sweden, than for the population as a whole. The calculation was made by Professor Jan-Otto Ottoson, Scientific counsellor of the National Health Board in Sweden (Surküla, University of Gothenburg, Vasa Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden, 1977.)

Source: Paper 127: Jaan Suurküla. "The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Prevention of Psychiatric Illness." Vasa Hospital, University of Gothenburg, Sweden - Paper prepared in May 1977.

TM has since become accepted for other research findings also [◦TM site] "The proof of the pudding is in the eating," is an old proverb. There is also a Wikipedia article named "Transcendental Meditation research", with a cavalcade of information from various studies. The findings have these topics:

  1. Health outcomes
  2. Mental functioning
  3. Criminal rehabilitation, addiction
  4. Effects on the brain (EEG) (MR is much promising too)
  5. Effects on the physiology
  6. Contraindications. Individuals with moderate symptoms of mental illness have been observed to benefit from the practice of TM.
  7. Research quality: It varies.
  8. Research funding and promotion: Much public funding in the U.S.A.


The Hamsa Upanishad

A repeat: Here is the Hamsa Upanishad. One of the mantras advocated, is at least said to be very unsuitable for most people - This is told by the TM movement's Guru Dev.


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.

Extant Verses

Gautama spake:

The awakening of the Brahman-lore,
Which is familiar with all duties,
Which comprises the content of all texts,
Through what, sir, is it effected?

Sanatsujata spake:

Pondering over all the Vedas
And grasping firmly their content,
Siva expounded to Parvati
The truth;--learn it from me.

Indescribable and shrouded, equally,
Is the mystery of the Yogins;
Which spreads out the path before the Hamsa,
Bestows joy and the fruit of liberation.

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
Imitates cincini, in second it crumples,
In the third he is very tired,
In the fourth his head shakes,

In the fifth his palate runs,
In the sixth he drinks Amritam [Ambrosia, Nectar],
In the seventh he has esoteric knowledge,
In the eighth skill in speech.

In the ninth power to disappear
And a clear-seeing eye divine
In the tenth he becomes the Brahma, -
Brahman and Atman become one.

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 Deussen 1980, 717-21]

NOTE: The gist of verse 11 may be taken to mean that if you fare badly, you burn good vasanas, samskaras that you might need ahead. Such levelling out through unfit meditation might be a bad mistake.


Hamsa Upanishad, Hansa upanisad, Literature  

Deussen, Paul, trans. u>Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Vols 1-2. Varanasi: Banarsidass, 1980.

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.

Pargiter, Frederick Eden, tr. Markandeya Purana. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1904.

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