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Soham Mantra Meaning

Soham is a reversal form of Hamsa. It is the combination of the words Sa and Aham. Likewise, 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.

pūṣannekarṣe yama sūrya prājāpatya vyūha raśmīn samūha tejaḥ ।

yatte rūpaṃ kalyāṇatamaṃ tatte paśyāmi yo’sāvasau puruṣaḥ so’hamasmi ॥ 16॥

– Isopanishad verse 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 of 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.

– Translation of Isopanishad verse 16

According to Dhyana Bindu Upanishad and Brahma Vidya Upanishad,  Jiva chants the mantra ‘Ha’ during the outgoing breath and the mantra ‘Sa’ during the 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: wakefulness, dream, deep sleep, and the fourth stage.

Jiva wanders restlessly until it attains the knowledge of the Self. Aham Brahmasmi is the knowledge of the Self. On attaining this knowledge, Prana goes out of the body. The self-luminous Jiva ceases to take modifications and sings like a Hamsa bird.

Hamsa and Soham

Though the meanings of the two terms Hamsa and Soham are the same, their application in Japa is slightly different. 

Hamsa Mantra Japa starts with exhalation with simultaneous meditation upon the sound ‘Ham.’ It ends with the completion of inhalation with the meditation upon the sound ‘Sa’.

Soham Mantra Japa starts with inhalation with ‘So’ and ends with the completion of exhalation with ‘Ham’

Hamsa Vidya

If one fine-tunes the crude form of Mantra Japa chanted, it becomes Ajapa Gayatri. This practice is known as Hamsa Vidya.

By this Vidya, one can control his Prana and mind. It results in Samadhi. Hence Samadhi is attained by this Vidya.

Soham in Upanishads

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

One of the earliest Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 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)

– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad verse 1.4.1

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

Mahavakya Upanishad

Mahavakya Upanishad says,

 asāvādityo brahmetyajapayopahitaṃ haṃsaḥ so'ham 

This means,

By the Hamsa Mantra: Soham, one attains the knowledge that the Sun is the Absolute Entity.

– Mahavakya Upanishad

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. Then it becomes ‘Soham, Soham’.

This is Mantra Yoga.

Yoga Sikha Upanishad 1.31 and 1.32

Soham Mantra Japa Steps

  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 doing this constantly all the time, it becomes spontaneous. This is Ajapa Gayatri

The Benefits of Soham Mantra

Soham Mantra helps to attain enlightenment

It is a natural Mantra. This mantra just reminds the Self to rediscover itself. It is the simple password that takes you to the domain of divinity. 

This single practice alone is enough to get enlightenment.

It bestows one with peace and liberation.  

Soham Mantra helps to attain Kevala Kumbhaka

In the course of doing this Japa and meditation, it spontaneously leads one to Kevala Kumbakha. One can attain this Kumbhaka only by using complex breathing techniques performed over a very long time.

It is a Kumbhaka without inhalation and exhalation. However, the performer should not forcefully stop Inhalation and exhalation. The stoppage should occur spontaneously. This stoppage is known as Kevala Kumbhaka.

In this stage, Prana is under the control of Yogi. Only advanced Yogis attain this feat after many years of breathing practices.

By Soham Japa and meditation without resorting to the complexities of breathing techniques, one can reach the stage of Kumbhaka.  

Soham Mantra helps to attain Samadhi

Patanjali says “yogaś-citta-vr̥tti-nirodhaḥ“. That means Yoga is the cessation of the modifications of the mind.

Soham Mantra destroys all modifications of the mind. Hence it leads to Samadhi.

In Raja Yoga, One can attain Samadhi only after intensive practices like yoga postures, breathing practices, withdrawal of senses, Dharana, and meditation. Without these complexities, this Japa takes you to Samadhi.  

Soham Mantra helps to attain the highest knowledge

By Soham meditation, the thought and inference of Aham are destroyed. Only Soham prevails.

Aham Brahmasmi is the highest knowledge attained by the Yogis of wisdom. It is one of the core tenets of Vedanta. Soham meditation bestows one with that Knowledge.   

No other practice is required

Soham Meditation or Soham Mantra Japa is the Mahamantra. This sole technique is enough for the enlightenment. There is no requirement for any other practice or dogma. It is the simplest to perform and yet the greatest in bestowing the result. This is the glory of Soham Mantra.

Soham saves the chanter

Gayatri means the chanted mantra that saves. It 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.

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