mANDUkya upaniShad Part 9

*** Read Part 8 ***

Mantra 8

सोऽयमात्माऽध्यक्षरमोङ्कारोऽधिमात्रं पादा मात्र मात्राश्च पादा अकार उकारो मकार इति ॥ ८ ॥

so.ayamAtmA.adhyakSharamo~NkAro.adhimAtraM pAdA mAtra mAtrAshcha pAdA akAra ukAro makAra iti || 8 ||

saH ayam AtmA – this same AtmA (just described in the 7th mantra)
adhyakSharamadhi – concerning (i.e. from the standpoint of) – akShara – the syllables
o~NkAra – is OM.
(adhi literally means ‘making it the basis’. Shankara says that the previous mantras have concentrated on the abhidheya meaning ‘that which is being spoken of’, i.e. the thing named or denoted. OM, therefore, is effectively the abhidhAna – name or appellation.  What is meant is that Atman is equated to OM in the linguistic sense.)
adhimAtraM – from the standpoint of the mAtra-s, i.e. the individual parts of OM, (note that the literal meaning of mAtra is measure; the symbolism of this will become clearer with the 10th mantra)
pAdA mAtra – the (four) aspects (of the Self) are the (four) mAtra-s
mAtrAshcha pAdA – and the letters are the aspects.
akAra ukAro makAra iti – In this manner, (the letters are) a, u and m.

This Atma can be equated to OM. The aspects of the Self are the parts of OM and the parts of OM are the aspects. The letters constituting OM are ‘a’, ‘u’ and ‘m’.

With the 8th mantra, we move from investigation into the Atman, with its four pada-s or aspects, into investigation into the syllable OM, with its four ‘parts’, ‘measures’ or mAtra-s. The Upanishad tells us that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the aspects just discussed in mantras 3 – 7 and the parts of OM. The precise nature of the similarities will be pointed out in the remaining mantras but the associations are as follows:

The letter a stands for the waking state of consciousness;
u stands for the dream state and
m for the deep-sleep state.
turIya is symbolized by the silence that follows the sound of OM.

The purpose behind this equation of letters and states is to produce associations in the mind so that, when we think of the u of OM, for example, we immediately connect that with the dream state, the dreamer and hiraNyagarbha. With these associations firmly established, we may then use the syllable OM as a mantra in meditation.

Anandagiri says that the first part of the Upanishad has explained the nature of reality for the benefit of those of superior, or at least average, intelligence. But those of less intelligence will not be able to cope with this. Accordingly, meditation is prescribed as being a practice designed for those students who are insufficiently bright to assimilate the teaching immediately.

The association of concepts with physical objects such as the cross in Christianity, or sounds as in this syllable OM, helps one to focus the attention in prayer or meditation. Eventually, whenever the object is seen or sound heard, the related idea immediately springs to mind to reinforce the association. In order for the association to function optimally, there should ideally be common features between the two, rather than the choice of symbolism being entirely random. The next three mantras explain these common features and point out the benefits to be gained by the beginning student who is not yet ready for Self-inquiry.

*** Read Part 10 ***