Skip to main content
Yogapedia Top Bloggers Badge

Soham Mantra

Soham Mantra


Soham is a reversal form of Hamsa. It is the combination of words Sa and Aham whereas Hamsa is the combination of Aham and Sa. It means He I am. I am the Supreme God. It is also an Ajapa Gayatri Mantra.

Isopanishad verse 16 says,

pūṣannekarṣe yama sūrya prājāpatya
     vyūha raśmīn samūha tejaḥ ।
yatte rūpaṃ kalyāṇatamaṃ tatte paśyāmi
     yo'sāvasau puruṣaḥ so'hamasmi ॥ 16॥

It means,
"My Lord! Primeval Entity! Maintainer of the Worlds! Regulator of the Universe! the goal of the pure devotees! the well-wisher of all beings! please remove the brightness Your transcendental rays so that I can see Your form of bliss. You are the eternal Supreme Entity of divinity, like the sun, like I am."

According to Dhyana Bindu Upanishad and Brahma Vidya Upanishad,  Jiva chants the mantra 'Ha' during the out-going breath and the mantra 'Sa' during incoming-breath. Brahma Vidya Upanishad says, 'Soham is the Mantra. It starts from the navel region and goes along with the breath. Jiva takes the seat of heart with four modifications: Jagrat, Svapana, Susupti, and Turya. Jiva wanders restlessly until the knowledge of Atman is attained. If the knowledge is attained, Prana goes out of the body. The self-luminous Jiva ceases from taking modifications sings like a Hamsa bird.

Hamsa and Soham

Though the meaning of the two terms Hamsa and Soham are the same, their application in Japa is slightly different. Hamsa Mantra Japa starts with exhalation with concurrent meditation upon the sound 'Ham' and ends with the completion of inhalation with the meditation upon the sound 'Sa'; whereas Soham Mantra Japa starts with inhalation with 'So' and ends with the completion of exhalation with 'Ham'. 

Hamsa Vidya

The crude form of Mantra Japa as chanted by everyone should be fine-tuned to become Ajapa Gayatri. This Upasana is known as Hamsa Vidya. By Hamsa Vidya, one can control his Prana and Chitta. It results in Samadhi. Hence Samadhi is attained by Hamsa Vidya.

Brihadaranya Upanishad

One of the earliest Upanishads, Brihadaranya Upanishad verse 1.4.1 says,

ātmaivedamagra āsītpuruṣavidhaḥ । so'nuvīkṣya nānyadātmano'paśyat
so'hamasmītyagre vyāharat tato'hannāmābhavat । 
This means,
"In the beginning, Atman was there in the form of Purusa. Knowing that there was no second one except himself, he said I am He. (Soham asmi)."

Sohamasmi was the first word uttered by the primeval entity. It was the first word of first sentient Being.

Mahavakya Upanishad

Mahavakya Upanishad says,

asāvādityo brahmetyajapayopahitaṃ haṃsaḥ so'ham
This means,
"The knowledge that the Sun is Brahman is attained by the Hamsa Mantra: Soham".

Yoga Sikha Upanishad

Yoga Sikha Upanishad (1.131-2) says,

haṃsahaṃseti mantro'yaṃ sarvairjīvaśca japyate ।
guruvākyātsuṣumnāyāṃ viparīto bhavejjapaḥ ॥ 131॥
so'haṃso'hamiti prokto mantrayogaḥ sa ucyate ।
pratītirmantrayogācca jāyate paścime pathi ॥ 132॥
This means, 
"For all beings, Prana goes out with the sound 'Ha' and comes in with the sound 'Sa'. This generates the Mantra 'Hamsa, Hamsa'. Under the guidance of a Guru and during the course of Sushumna Yoga, the Mantra Japa gets reversed and it becomes 'Soham, Soham'. This is called Mantra Yoga."

Steps in Soham Mantra Japa

  1. Sit in a comfortable posture that is convenient for you.
  2. Close your eyes and fix your internal eyes at the tip or base of your nose.
  3. Watch your breath.
  4. Conceive the sound 'So' with inhalation and 'ham' with exhalation.
  5. During this Japa, meditate that 'He I am': I am the Supreme Entity.
  6. Continue this Japa and Meditation for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Repeat the process daily at the same time and for the same duration.
  8. Increase the duration in a phased manner.
  9. Slowly ingrain the process passively during all the activities of the daily routine.
  10. When you are accustomed to doing this constantly all the time, it becomes Ajapa Gayatri. 
Benefits of Soham Mantra Japa

It is a natural Mantra. It just reminds the Self to rediscover itself. It is the simple password that takes you the domain of divinity. This single practice alone is enough to get enlightenment. It bestows peace and liberation.

In the course of doing this Soham Japa and meditation, it spontaneously leads one to Kevala Kumbakha. Kevala Kumbhaka can also be attained by means of complex pranayama techniques performed for a very long time. Kevala Kumbhaka is Kumbhaka without inhalation and exhalation. Inhalation and exhalation should not be stopped by the performer by force. They should be stopped spontaneously. The Kumbhaka attained in this way is known as Kevala Kumbhaka. In this stage, Prana is under the control of Yogi. Only advanced Yogis attain can reach this feat after many years of Pranayama Practice. With Soham Japa and meditation not resorting to the complexities of Pranayama techniques, one can reach the stage of Kevala Kumbhaka.

Patanjali says "yogaś-citta-vr̥tti-nirodhaḥ". That means Yoga is the cessation of the modifications of the mind. Soham Mantra Japa destroys all modifications of the mind. Hence it leads to Samadhi. In Raja Yoga, Samadhi is attained only after intensive practices like Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana. Without these complexities, Soham Japa takes you to Samadhi.

By Soham meditation, the concept of Aham is completely destroyed. Only Soham prevails. Aham Brahmasmi is the highest knowledge attained by the Jnana Yogis. It is one of the core tenets of Vedanta. By resorting to Soham meditation, one is bestowed with that Knowledge. 

Soham Meditation or Soham Mantra Japa is the Mahamantra. This technique is enough for the enlightenment. No other practices or dogmas are required. It is the simplest to perform and yet the greatest in bestowing result. This is the glory of Soham Mantra Japa.

Gayatri means the chanted mantra that saves. Gayatri is the supreme mantra that saves the one who chants. Ajapa Gayatri is the supreme Mantra that does not fall under the chanted category and yet saves the one who performs.

Suggested further readings

  1. Soham Yoga: the yoga of Self



Dhyana Bindu Upanishad

Dhyana Bindu Upanishad is the 39th of 108 Upanishads. It contains 106 verses and is attached to Krishna Yajur Veda whereas a smaller version of 26 verses was found attached to Atharva Veda. This Upanishad and Yoga Tattva Upanishad contains some common verses.

The mountainous sins accumulated over many births can be destroyed by Dhyana Yoga (Meditation). Nobody is found to have destroyed the sins by any other means except Meditation. Meditation is the only way to annihilate the sins.

Pranava (Om) is the Supreme Bijakshara (seed letter) with Nada (sound) and Bindu (dot). When the Nada dissolves, the soundless residuum (Brahman) remains. In other words, Pranava (Om) is eternal and Brahman is transcending the Pranava. One who knows the transcending Brahman knows everything without a doubt.

A hundred thousandth part of awn of a grain of paddy is the Jiva-Chaitanya (Consciousness of Atman). A hundred thousandth part of Jiva-Chaitanya is Eswara-Chaitanya (Consciousness of Brahman).  A fifty-tho…

Yoga Tattva Upanishad

Yoga Tattva Upanishad is the Upanishad of yoga philosophy. It is the forty-first Upanishad among the 108 Upanishads and forms part of Krishna Yajur Veda. It contains 142 verses.

I (says the author of the Upanishad) hereby present the philosophy of yoga (yoga tattva) for the benefit of yogis. By hearing and learning this yoga, the yogi will get released himself from all the sins.

The great yogi by name Vishnu, the Supreme Being who is known for his spiritual austerities, stands as the beacon of light in the path of yoga tattva. The Pitamaha (Pitamaha means grandfather. It here refers to Lord Brahman, the deity) approached Lord Jagannath (the other name for Lord Vishnu. Jagannath means the Lord of the universe) paid him respects and asked him to explain the philosophy of Astanga Yoga (yoga of eight limbs or stages).

“Let me explain the philosophy,” said Lord Hrisikesha (the other name of Lord Vishnu. It means the Lord of senses). All people are ensnared in the trap of worldly pains and pl…

Brahma Vidya Upanishad

Brahma Vidya Upanishad is the 40th among the 108 Upanishads. It contains 110 verses and found attached in Krishna Yajur Veda. Yet another version of this Upanishad containing 14 verses is found attached in Atharva Veda.
Brahma Vidya is the knowledge of Brahman. Hence this Upanishad deals with the knowledge of Brahman.
I declare the secret of Brahma Vidya, in the name Vishnu who commands over the marvelous deeds. The supreme science of Brahman is the monosyllable Om, as declared by the expounders of Vedanta.
I declare the body, seat, and durations of Om.  It includes the three Gods (Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswara), the three worlds (Bhur, Bhuvar, and Suvar), the three Vedas (Rig, Yajur, and Sama), the three Fires (Garha-patya, Dakshina, and Ahavaniya), the three Matras (A, U, and M), and the Ardha Matra.
The body of Pranava The body of the first Matra “A” is Rig Veda, Garha-patya (Fire), Prithvi (Earth), and Lord Brahman, the deity. (In Sanskrit, the word Brahman has two connotations. One is…