What is Hamsa?
Hamsa is a Bird
Hamsa is a goose or swan-like bird widely talked in Hindu Mythology of Sanskrit and Tamil. In Tamil mythology, it is called Anna Paravai. Probably it might have derived its root from the Sanskrit word Arayanna, the other name of heavenly Hamsa. It was the bird that had the unique ability to drink milk leaving the water from the mixture of water and milk. The word was used even in Rig Veda (1-65-5; 1-163-10;2-34-5;3-8-9), the earliest of the scriptures.
Hamsa bird is the Vahana (a creature that serves as a vehicle to a deity) of Lord Brahma, Lordess Saraswati, Lordess Gayatri, and Visvakarma the creator of the universe.
Hamsa is Atman
But in Hindu philosophy, Hamsa indicates Atman or Purusa, the Self or the embodied soul. Paramahamsa is Paramatman or the Universal Self. Brihadaranya Upanishad 4.3.11 says ‘hiraṇmayaḥ puruṣa ekahaṃsaḥ’ meaning the radiant Purusa is only Hamsa. Hamsa or swan is a migrating bird. Maybe, for this reason, the embodied soul may be called as Hamsa. Or maybe for the reason of the bird’s unique ability to get rid of the uncherished (water).
Hamsa is God
In Advaita sub-school of Indian Philosophy, Hamsa is the combination of two words Aham and Sa meaning I am He. It is a synonym of Aham Brahmasmi: I am Brahman, the ultimate reality.
Paramahamsa yogis are the migrating yogis or wandering yogis. They are not attached to anything, even the place. Paramahamsa literally means the supreme souls. They are enlightened souls. Nothing binds them to this world. Parahamsa Upanishad describes the nature and disciplines of Paramahamsa yogis. They are not affected by the dualities like pleasure and pain, heat and cold, respect and disrespect. They have no traces of besmirching, pride, jealousy, deceit, arrogance, and desire. He constantly merges himself in supreme reality. For him, there is no difference between the embodied soul and the universal soul.
hakāreṇa bahiryāti sakāreṇa viśetpunaḥ
haṃsahaṃsetyamaṃ mantraṃ jīvo japati sarvadā
It means ‘Prana goes out with the sound Ha and comes in with the sound Sa. In this manner, Jiva is constantly repeating the mantra Hamsa Hamsa‘.
Steps in Hamsa Meditation
- Assume a convenient posture. Imagine that exhalation starts from the point of the spine where the heart is situated. During exhalation, the breath travels up through the spine and ends in the empty place which is a little above the top of the head. For inhalation, reverse the process. Practice this for a while before adding the subsequent steps.
- During exhalation, imagine that the breath goes out with the sound Ha with its meaning I (am).
- During inhalation, imagine that the breath comes in with the sound Sa with its meaning He, the supreme reality.
- For every breath, the meditation should be upon I am the supreme reality.
This is one of the series of techniques in Hamsa Vidya. Initially, it may seem a little difficult to get acquainted with. With consistent effort, it will become a routine.
Brahmavidya Upanishad describes an advanced technique of Hamsa Vidya. After achieving Kevala Kumbhaka (having given up Rechaka and Puraka by advanced Pranayama), the yogi should meditate on Navel Chakra. By drinking the nectar that falls from the head and by bathing the radiant god (Atman) in that nectar in the navel region, he should repeat the words ‘Hamsa’ ‘Hamsa’. He will get rid of all diseases and death. Daily practice leads to the attainment of powers. Constant practice bestows one with immortality and God-hood. There are no other means to attain immortality.
Hamsa Upanishad describes Hamsa-Vidya. Sage Gautama asked the sage Sanathkumara to explain Brahma-Vidya. Sanatkumara described that Brahma-Vidya is obtained by means of Hamsa-Vidya. He described Hamsa-Vidya and its importance. Sanatkumara stated that Hamsa is the embodied soul and Paramahamsa is the Supreme God. Paramahamsa pervades all and the embodied soul. The ultimate aim of Hamsa-Vidya is to understand the oneness of the embodied soul with the universal soul.
Here is the account of Hamsa-Vidya as explained in this Upanishad. The yogi should force the Prana upwards by pressing the Anus in Muladhara Chakra. Having brought-up the Prana, he should circumnavigate the Svadhistansa chakra thrice. Then he should travel through Manipura, Anahata, and Visuddhi to enter Ajna. Then he should meditate upon Paramahamsa to attain Nir-Vikalpa-Samadhi. Then he should drink the nectar generated by the union of the Sun, the moon and Agni. Afterward, he should enter Brahma-randhra and meditate on Tri-Matra Turya (three metered Turya) and Turya-Turya. There ensues Paramahamsa with the radiance of ten millions of Suns. The Yogi becomes devoid of his external form.
Yoga Chudamani Upanishad
Yoga Chudamani Upanishad states that Jiva chants the Hamsa-Mantra 21600 times daily by means of breath. This mantra is known as Ajapa Gayatri. The mere resolve of chanting this mantra makes one sinless. There is no equivalent to this mantra. It is also known as Prana-Vidya because it relieves the Jiva from Prana and Apana.
Mahavakya Upanishad says Sun is Brahman and Hamsa pertains to Ajapa Gayatri. Hamsa means I am that Sun. I am that Brahman. It is acquired by means of Prana and Apana going inward and outward from the opposite direction. The yogi should apply this with meditation upon Atman in its three-fold aspects. Having applied it for a very long time, the yogi experiences the manifestation of Paramatman.
Yoga Sikha Upanishad
Yoga Sikha Upanishad describes Hamsa-Yoga. Jiva is always controlled by Prana and Apana. Like a ball being repeatedly thrown down by the forearm, Jiva leaps up and down incessantly being attracted by Prana and Apana. It goes out with the mantra Ha and comes in with the mantra Sa. It always recites the mantra ‘Hamsa-Hamsa’. This knowledge leads to immortality.
According to Pashupatabrahma Upanishad, the application of mind in Hamsa-nada or the sounds that are generated in Hamsa Yoga, Jiva becomes transformed.
Om Tat Sat