The Power of Om – Transformation of Consciousness
by Audrey Kitagawa
This article was originally published in the World Affairs Journal (Jan-Mar 2002, Vol. 6, No. 1) and by Light of Awareness.
An intensely personal statement of experience communicating the power of OM,
the Pranava, with its healing and transforming qualities.
India is the land of mystics, seers and sages, who have travelled to depths beyond the mind and thought, and beyond the five senses and elements. Their insights have generated vast bodies of knowledge that the world must look to time and again to understand the meaning of life, and the directions towards which man must move in order to sustain himself and the world in which he lives. The cosmic blueprint speaks of the underlying unity, interconnectedness and interdependence of all things, for beyond the perceptions of separation and separateness, exists the Primal Essence from which all things arise. Though this Primal Essence has been called by many names, its power is undeniable. It is ordered in the universal laws of harmony, balance and love.
In the silence, and arising from it the mystics identified this vibration which became sound, and this sound is Om. Out of this vibration all of Creation came into being, and within this sound all of Creation is sustained. As a sacred symbol, Om is the Absolute Reality, the Self, Spirit, the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. It is the sound from which all other mantras are formed. It is the contemplation of this sound that gave birth to the sacred scriptures of the Vedas and Upanishads, the mathematically precise Sanskrit, and the great sages who steadfastly point the way over and over again to the Divine Source. The influence of India’s sacred knowledge and wisdom has reached all corners of the world. Many scholars have spent their entire lives studying this wealth as well as the lives of its enlightened masters, who have created many of the world’s great religious and spiritual movements.
As industrialisation, globalisation, information technology, nuclear arms, and a growing list of new words fill our lexicons year after year, the cosmic blueprint remains a steadfast beacon to lead us out of the overwhelming fragmentation and false identification with all that is transitory as the basis of our security. The hope and inspiration of the global future will rest upon the application of this body of knowledge and wisdom in our daily lives. As our ability to sustain ourselves as a species becomes more challenging and fragile, we will seek out this wisdom with increasing hunger and interest. We will discover that it is ever willing to guide us like an inextricable thread running through our lives, a pathway directing us towards living life with inclusiveness, compassion and caring for ourselves and each other.
The Western modality which produced the reductionist philosophy that separated man from his spirit created grave consequences in severing man’s understanding of his true nature, which is spirit. This abrogation reduced man to a biological organism comprising chemical compounds, and left him bereft of being able to live as an integrated, whole being. This fissure has caused a rising ground swell of uneasiness as the destructive trends of this separation between body, mind and spirit become more evident. The consequences of this split are seen most prominently in three areas: the relentless pursuit of materialism and militarism as a means of security, the subjugation of women, and the unconscionable use of children. These problems are symptomatic of the tremendous stress and psychological dislocation of man’s alienation from himself.
THE RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF MATERIALISM AND MILITARISM
When we operate under the misidentification of ourselves as biological organisms with a life span that is defined only within the parameters of the physical body, that is extinguished with its passing, we become acquisitive for those things that give us a sense of immediate security, and seek out those instruments of self-preservation that seem to serve us in the short term, but are damaging in the long term. The less we know about the nature of who we are, the more predisposed are we towards self-indulgence, and the unbridled consumption of material goods to satisfy immediate pleasures and wants. This leads to the creation of those mechanisms that we believe will protect and maintain our lifestyle and our lives to the exclusion and even eradication of those who are perceived as threats. Complexities arise when the degree of our desires increase, and the need to satisfy those desires concurrently heighten. When we feel our sense of self-worth, security and identity rests in the accumulation of material wealth, and believe that it equates to power, the greater the desire for such wealth, the greater the forays to find, extract and assert ownership over resources that translate into wealth and hence, power.
The entrepreneurial model of uninhibited competition and co-optation perpetuates a vicious circular feeding the frenzy of hedonistic, self-interested individualism in economic behaviour that is increasingly being adopted as necessary to economic success. The greater the drive to selfishly seek fulfilment and satisfaction in the material realm, without regard to the welfare of the other members of the global family, the greater the tension, imbalance and lack of harmony within the global community. This tension accelerates as measures are taken to the extreme to preserve and protect self-interest and the reservoirs of accumulated wealth. The establishment of financial institutions with legalised methods of debt creation which ensures the retention of wealth in the hands of the elite few, and further impoverishes the poor, are now well-entrenched in the global financial landscape.
Hegemonic pursuit of materialism, and the proliferation of weapons of violence and mass destruction are inconsistent with spiritual connectivity and responsible conduct. Responsible conduct seeks to sustain life in ways that are in alignment with the universal laws of harmony, balance and love. These universal laws are immutable, and as such, their violations inevitably bring about corrections which demonstrate that such self-serving behaviour does not create sustainable processes.
THE UNCONSCIONABLE USE OF CHILDREN
The gravest indicator of man’s alienation from himself, and the ensuing deterioration of the moral fabric of his society can be observed in the unconscionable use and abuse of children, of which the use of children in war is the most insidious. In more than 30 conflict countries around the world today, children are being recruited to fight in adult wars. The trends of warfare are changing from military to military engagement, to military to civilian engagement. The most vulnerable of the civilian population, women and children, are increasingly being targeted first.
Graca Machel wrote a seminal report in 1996 which addressed this problem. From 1986 to 1996, over 300,000 children have been mobilised to engage in warfare. They have been used as soldiers, and been forced to commit unspeakable atrocities such as killing family members and members of their own community. They are used as slaves to ferry messages across occupied territories, carry huge bundles of goods and cargo, and work in mines to extract precious minerals and resources which, in turn, help to finance conflict. Children have been used as suicide bombers, and sent out over landmine fields with brooms and sweeps to bear the brunt of any detonations. Girl children have been subjected to rape and sexual exploitation, and forced to become concubines of warlords. They have suffered unwanted pregnancies, and undergone forced abortions in substandard medical conditions. These children are deprived of being raised by their families, and within their communities. They are also deprived of education, proper medical care, and nutrition. All along war corridors, the rate of HIV/AIDS is mushrooming, and children are subject to greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases as they become sexual prey.
Children comprise almost one-half of the 21 million refugees in the world. Approximately 13 million children are internally displaced within the borders of their own countries. Approximately 8,000-10,000 children annually become victims of landmines. Between 1986-1996, approximately two million children have been killed in armed conflict, one million have been orphaned, six million injured, maimed or permanently disfigured, and more than ten million traumatised by war. (United Nations Security Council Report of the Secretary General, July 19, 2000, p.1)
While there are international legal instruments which address the rights of children, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols of 1977, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adherence to them have not been universally respected. The Optional Protocol, which came into effect on February 12, 2002, has had only 14 countries ratify it thus far.The Optional Protocol seeks to strengthen the Convention on the Rights of the Child by increasing the minimum age limit for compulsory recruitment to 18 years. It also bans the use of children under 18 years from use in hostilities, and raises the age limit of voluntary recruitment to 18 years of age. The fact that so few countries have ratified the Optional Protocol is indicative of the lack of political will of countries to protect children from war. The disturbing fact remains that children have now become commodities of war. They do not have to be paid, are easily malleable and controlled, and are voiceless, powerless pawns in the hands of unscrupulous adults who act with impunity towards them.
While there are measures being undertaken in some countries to prepare for the demobilisation of children from hostile engagement, and to reinsert them into their communities, the fact remains that children continue to be recruited, and many parties engaged in hostilities have not honoured commitments to demobilise the children. Funding for programmes to properly treat the children for psychological trauma has been scarce. The best practices for the treatment of war-affected children are unknown. The tracking mechanisms for the reinsertion of the children into their communities are not firmly in place, and are untested. Many of these children are growing into adulthood without proper or adequate psycho-social assistance. One can only imagine the potential dangers and problems to society as more and more traumatised and untreated children become adults. When societies fail to protect their children, the stability of the future of the whole society is jeopardised, and the seeds for its destruction sown.
APPLICATION AND RELEVANCE OF OM IN DAILY LIFE
The globalised marketplace and the build-up of the military industrial complex represents the extreme disconnection of man from himself, and his fellow man. The marginalisation of women, man’s complementary half, creates a serious imbalance which is manifest in the degradation of Mother Earth. The abuse and misuse of children endangers and destabilises man’s entire future. In light of these current conditions, and the multitude of complex problems in the world, there is an urgent need to bring cosmic orderliness in human affairs. Each of us has to prepare ourselves and contribute to the process of bringing sanity into our lives and through that of our communities. We do not have to be scholars of sacred scriptures. Meditation upon and recitation of the primal sound of “Om ” can make subtle positive difference in our lives that ultimately effectuate positive changes in the world.
The Om creates an opening to the understanding of who we are, and helps us to know our true purpose in life. We are not the body, but Spirit, the immortal, eternal Self. When we understand that this Spirit is everywhere within us and all around us, it is the common force that is in everything and everyone, we then have the long view of life that creates a sense of caring and responsibility toward all living things. We come to understand that God Realisation is our true purpose in life. We are not here to accumulate wealth, name, fame, or any of the fleeting, transitory things which come from the misidentification of ourselves as the body, and thus the pursuit of those short-term pleasures which edify it. The body, as an instrument of our earthly experiences should be respected and cared for, but the spiritual life is the foundation upon which we must place our footing.
Meditation upon the Om is the process by which the direction of the mind can be changed from an outward focus to an inward focus. This inward focus commences the sacred journey back to the God Self. It is a journey that each person must eventually embark upon, for the truth of who we really are, cannot remain unknown forever. Meditation on the Om draws the mind away from sensory involvement into a state of inner, Divine communion. Communion with the Divine as a daily practice increasingly aligns the consciousness with the universal laws of harmony, balance and love. The Om also acts as a purifier that dissolves away the multilayered veils of Maya (illusion).
Meditation upon the Om is accessible to everyone, and its benefits can be readily apprehended. It guides one along pathways that lead to the deepening of one’s spiritual life. The power of the Om in my own life was immediately apparent. The first time I meditated on the Om , I fell into a deep sleep that lasted 15 hours. Daily meditation upon the Om , which began in my first year of college eventually led me to an enlightened master, who I met shortly after I graduated from college.
I embarked on a fascinating journey with her for 20 years until she left her body in May 1992. She was known as Divine Mother. She only had an eighth grade education, grew up in a little sugar town in Waipahu, Hawaii, and lived as a householder, a wife and mother of five children. Though not a scholar, she gave the most powerful, spontaneous expositions on the Divine that one could ever have the privilege to hear. She showed us the path to Sri Ramakrishna, and how he practised all of the austerities for us so we could be free of rituals and dogmas and go straight to the heart where the Divine presence of God abounds in love, peace and joy.
Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘I am the string running through all of the pearls,’ the pearls representing the different religions in the world. He taught respect and tolerance for the different pathways to God. He demonstrated that through love and devotion to God, one could attain God Realisation. He radiated Divine love through every pore of his being. Many books have been written about Sri Ramakrishna, who was born in India in 1836, and lived for a brief 50 years. Though he was not highly educated, he drew to himself some of the most brilliant minds, one of whom became his first disciple, Swami Vivekananda. He took Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings to the West, and established the Sri Ramakrishna order of monks that are now located throughout the world.
Divine Mother brought Sri Ramakrishna to life for us through the radiance of the Divine love that was manifest in her. Whenever I saw her, I was transfixed by her ethereal beauty. Divine Mother always told us that the true church, the kingdom of God, the true guru, all of the scriptures, and infinite knowledge, joy, and abundance are already within us. She said that there are no religions in Spirit. She anchored us firmly in the reality of our true identity when she said, ‘We are all perfect children of God, immortal, eternal, and already in God’s Light.’ Divine Mother said she worked with the Light, and that she was transmitting to us Spirit to Spirit, heart to heart, infinite to infinite, and not mind to mind.
She gave us many truths about right living. While she poured out an endless stream of messages on the Divine during my 20 years with her, the following are but a few of the truths that she transmitted:
Love God first. Consistent with the First Commandment that ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all of thy heart, mind and soul,’ Divine Mother said that for householders, the path of bhakti, love and devotion to God as a first priority in life, was the fastest way to God Realisation. She said that our attachments to worldly things causes suffering, for we want to hold on to what is inherently impermanent as if they are permanent. In Creation, everything changes, so we must give up rigid, conditioned thinking, be willing to ‘go with the flow’, and ‘let go, and let God’, (take over). She admonished us to attach our minds to God instead of to transitory things, for God alone is the Doer and Creator. She also wanted us to acknowledge the Supremacy of God, and to be humble in the face of God’s omiscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. She often said, ‘We cannot make a drop of blood or a blade of grass,’ so we must refrain from arrogance.
God is love. Divine Mother wanted us to be mindful of our speech, thoughts and conduct. She said, ‘God is love’, so she wanted us to live our lives in a loving manner. She cautioned us to ‘never kill another person’s spirit,’ that is, never hurt another person through ill-will, destructive speech or violent behaviour. She encouraged us to be in a loving relationship with ourselves, ‘Don’t hurt yourself,’ and others. ‘Let us be peacemakers.’ She taught us the importance of forgiving and releasing anger and resentments. She wanted us to deepen appreciation and gratitude for our lives, and for all of life. At the same time, she taught us about discerning love. ‘If you really love someone, teach them how to fish.’ She did not want us to create unhealthy, dependent relationships that inhibited the other’s ability to be self-reliant, or to grow according to his or her fullest potential. She said, ‘The greatest love that you can give is freedom’. She did not believe in binding another person to satisfy our own insecurities of needing to be needed, or imposing our will and expectations on others in ways that would compel them to compromise themselves, and to live inconsistently with their ability to be true to themselves.
Live simply. Divine Mother herself exemplified simplicity. She lived in a modest home and was unpretentious. She encouraged us to be frugal, and to avoid extravagance and wastefulness. She said, ‘Everything belongs to God. Remember that this is God’s money, so spend wisely.’ She said if we lived simply, we would not have to pressurise ourselves to accumulate more material things: ‘The diamond and the dirt are the same.’ As she was leaving the body, and could only take chips of ice in her mouth during her final hours, she said, ‘You see, the ice is more valuable to me now than the diamond’, and ‘All of the money in the world cannot buy God’s precious life.’ She always gave us stark illustrations of what our priorities should be. She did not want us to become attached to material things, or to consume more than we needed to sustain ourselves. She often said one stomach cannot ‘eat all of the gotso,’ (i.e. food). She wanted us to live with moderation, self-restraint and discipline.
Taking is death and giving is life. Divine Mother saw taking as a contraction into the ego self. The ego is the ‘troublemaker, and has to die.’ The ego is the base nature that seeks its own self-aggrandisement and gratification, without regard to others. She said, ‘When pigs eat, they don’t look left or right,’ they just greedily feed their own stomachs without a thought of whether the others are feeding as well. She encouraged us to share with others and cautioned us not to hoard. ‘Give when the help is needed’ and ‘Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes.’ She wanted us to have feelings for others, and to develop the compassionate heart: ‘Be a lifter and not a leaner.’ When we are selfless, and positively give of ourselves we can be instruments of encouragement, hope and inspiration to others. This expands our own hearts as well as the hearts of others. It also helps to move us out of self-centered, ego-centric living.
The body is not real, only God is real. The very first time I met Divine Mother, she said to me, ‘The body is not real, only God is real.’ The body eventually returns ‘to dust,’ but the life that is within the body, that is, the spirit, is immortal, eternal and can never die. She said that we should not have attachment to the body, but should rather attach our minds to God. ‘The mind controls the body, and the spirit controls the mind.’ She was always focusing our attention on the original Source.
One night, in my first year of law school, I had a group of friends over for dinner. In the course of the evening, I severely burned my right hand. Not wanting to disturb my guests, I continued normally, and they never knew that I had a serious accident. So long as they were present, and my mind was engaged in conversation, the pain was tolerable. The moment they left, my entire attention went to my burnt hand, and the pain became unbearable. Suddenly, Divine Mother’s words came to me, ‘The body is not real, only God is real.’ I knew I had to meditate upon her words. I immediately sat down and went into meditation. I completely lost body consciousness. When I came out of the meditation, my hand had been restored to normal. The pain, and all symptoms of the burn had disappeared. The skin, that had been seared off, had spontaneously regenerated. This phenomena defied biological science. There was a mystery that had been tapped into, that demonstrated a superior power at work that went beyond the body, and the comprehension of the rational mind.
Divine Mother was a powerful healer, but never wanted to be identified as a healer. She did not want people to go to her to have their bodies healed. Rather, she wanted sincere seekers who wanted to know God. Except in the direst of emergencies, she rarely displayed her gift of healing, and allowed illnesses to run their course. When people with illnesses looked at her beseechingly for a cure, she responded, ‘I am not a healer. What can I do? I have no power. God is the only power. God alone is the Doer.’ She felt that there was much that one could learn from illness, and wanted us to deepen our insight and awareness to understand the lessons contained within the experiences of illness. Most of all, she wanted our consciousness firmly anchored in the immortal, eternal Self, and not in the body.
Don’t judge others. Divine Mother always encouraged us to do the ceaseless, fearless self-examination to see how we must change ourselves for the better. She did not want us to judge or criticise others, but rather wanted us to become aware of our own faults and shortcomings so we could strive to overcome them and improve ourselves. ‘Dig your own nose,’ as she so humorously put it. She wanted us to develop positive attitudes, and to cut down on reactivity and emotionalism that momentarily gratified the ego, but could be harmful to others, and in turn, to ourselves. She never wanted us to be harsh towards others, ‘Be soft like cotton.’ ‘Everything comes back to you.’ Energy moves in a circular fashion. Therefore, what we put out into the world, eventually returns to us. ‘Two plus two equals four.’ ‘If you plant carrots, you will get carrots.’ In this way, she was instructing us to be mindful of our actions, for the consequences of our actions would ultimately be visited upon ourselves. She wanted us to understand why experiences come into our lives and to see what corrections needed to be made within ourselves first. The outer world is the reflection of the inner world, and if we did not like what we saw in the outer world, she admonished us to make the necessary changes within. This meant taking responsibility for our actions, and not shifting blame onto others to exculpate ourselves from having to see our role in creating the experience. ‘Everything starts from spirit first. In to out, not out to in.’
Divine Mother recited the Om for us at each meditation, and impressed upon us the importance of daily meditation and the constant repetition of the mantra. The recitation of the mantra immediately immersed our consciousness in the Divine, and brought us to a state of peace, acceptance and surrender. There also came a growing mindfulness to treat everyone with respect in the acknowledgment of the Divine that exists in each person.
The transformation of our consciousness moved from tension to peace. From self-centredness to greater awareness, sensitivity, and compassion for others. From the pursuit of materialism and selfish gratification to selflessness, sharing, and cooperation. Many people saw Divine Mother over the years. She recited the Om for everyone she met. People experienced remarkable changes in their lives. A few testimonials from ordinary people who experienced extraordinary transformations within their own lives through the power of the Om are given below: The grace of the guru, as well as the grace to meet the guru are all contained within the Om. May these testimonies inspire and encourage all sincere seekers to bring the Om into their lives:
‘Through God’s Grace, when I met Divine Mother, she introduced me to the most precious Om. Prior to this, I had no real direction and focus, my mind and energy were going in all directions, with no real aim. There became a growing awareness that the Om was becoming deeper and the mind quieter and quieter. The Om was able to bring my mind back to the centre. What followed was such peace, harmony, and love felt throughout my whole being. As I kept practising saying the Om-mantra, this peace, harmony, love and tranquillity got deeper and deeper until I felt engulfed by this most precious Om.’
‘I feel that the Om is my connection to God within and that the power of the Om is actually the power of God in my life. My life has been totally transformed by the hand of God. I’ve been able to move safely through experiences that literally terrified me. I was able to acknowledge and release the rage and anger of a painful childhood. Through God’s grace, I experienced that we are all spiritual beings, not defined by our bodies. I am grateful for the change in the way I view myself and others. As I go through my day, I do my best to remember to say the mantra for the people I meet. I find that relationships are transformed simply by repeating the Om-mantra for someone. When I say the Om for someone, I become more focused on our true nature; that we are spiritual beings. I feel connected to everyone and everything by God’s unifying love.’
‘When I first met Divine Mother I didn’t know anything about meditation. After speaking to her about my personal problems, she asked me to close my eyes. As I sat before her on the floor with my eyes closed, she began to say, ‘Om, Om, Om ‘. With my eyes still closed, I began feeling quite peaceful. Then slowly, my back began to feel warm as if the sun was shining on me. The peaceful feeling continued and soon I saw this beautiful blue light. I had no idea how long I was sitting there when Divine Mother said the Om again and asked me to open my eyes. I couldn’t open my eyes for a few seconds, but when I finally did I felt such peace that I never felt before. I was not the same person I was when I walked into that room. Divine Mother asked me what I experienced and when I told her, she just smiled. I then turned around to see if the sun was coming through the window, and it wasn’t.’
‘God bless you, mom and dad,’ said my 29-year old son’s suicide note, expressing love and concern even then. Three years have gone by since the passing of my only son. Tears fill my eyes as I think of the mothers of the world who are in mourning for their children, feeling the unbearable pain, the inconsolable grief of arms reaching out to emptiness. The keenness of a mother for her child is the sound of a heart breaking. It was in this circumstance of grief beyond endurance that the power of the Om brought me peace and acceptance…We are all one in the One Great God. I am grateful for God’s infinite mercy and compassion incandescent in the universal sound of God, the Om. In the stillness of meditation is infinite love, peace and gratitude.’
‘Through the power of the mantra, through the grace of God, my life has changed miraculously from one of frustration, unfulfilled dreams and desires, guilt, stress, anxiety, worry, drug addiction and physical ailments to a life of peace and contentment. Due to a highly dysfunctional childhood, my life was deprived of the security of love, nurturing caring and financial stability. My father deserted my mother with eight children when I, the first born, was 15 years old. He had left for Japan to make a better living for us, but in reality, had not sent any kind of support for the family ever after.
My mother, with only a sixth grade education, tried her best as a waitress and all the five older children, ages 9-15, found some kind of work to help throughout the years. I realise now that having my mom rely on me so much because I was the eldest, made me feel so responsible for all of them, and I carried that burden for so long. I married at 21, and felt very guilty to leave my family to continue struggling. In the next nine years, my husband and I had four children, and I wanted us to be the “perfect” parents. I was still quite involved with my mom and siblings, trying to help them in every possible way, so that, among the many other frustrations, insecurities, ambitions, loneliness and emptiness I was experiencing, I turned to tranquillisers to see me through! I could not sleep at night without my Librium or Valium and could not get through the days without having to pop a pill during the day. I had everything figured out so that my supply of drugs was constant and I was never without. This went on for twenty years and it never dawned on me that I was addicted.’
‘Praise God for the presence of divine Mother, who entered my life from 1981, and gave me the gift of the precious mantra. Through God’s grace, my addiction to Valium was taken away in an instant, and I did not suffer any withdrawals or side effects of any kind. The power of the mantra lifted and changed all of the “old” tapes, and helped me to reframe all of my life experiences to one of acceptance and gratefulness. It has completely changed the focus of my life towards God realisation. Through all of these transformations I have felt God’s unconditional love which has filled my heart and life with joy.’
What the above testimonials illustrate is that no matter what challenges one may be experiencing in life, whether illness, loss of a loved one, or fear, meditation upon the Om can bring peace of mind. The Om can lead one to greater appreciation and gratefulness, selflessness and compassion. The Om can bring about positive changes that like ripples can affect others positively.
Transformation must take place within the individual first lest we become overwhelmed by the actions of transnational corporations, government, or the military industrial complex. May we always remember that these organisations and institutions are all run by individuals. Each individual is therefore important. Each individual counts. Yet, we do not live or act in isolation. In the cosmic order, we are all interconnected and interdependent. Every action creates consequence, and the action of one affects the whole. It is therefore incumbent upon each person to embark upon the sacred journey to realise his/her true identity: the immortal, eternal God Self, for spiritual enlightenment brings forth right living and right action.
The more spiritually awakened the individual becomes, the greater the recognition of one’s responsibility as a global citizen to care for, honour and respect others and the larger community. We cannot abdicate our responsibility to do our part, no matter how large or small, in helping to make this world a better place for all to live. May we put into daily practice, love for one another, not as a philosophy, or as a concept, but as a way of life, for in reality, the self is the other, not two, but eternally One. Om shanti, shanti, shanti.
Published with the author’s permission.