DIFFERENT GITAS IN HINDUISM – PART 2 (GITAS FROM SRIMAD BHAGAVATA)

In my last article I shared with you the different gitas from Mahabarata.  In this article, I would like to share with you the different gitas from Srimad Bhagavata.  Srimad Bhagavata is one among the eighteen puranas.  It is a very famous purana written by Sage Vyasa.  It has twelve skandas.  I would like to view Srimad Bhagavata as a philosophical work drenched in Bhakti.  There are seventeen gitas in Srimad Bhagavata and I would like to give a gist of them so that it may help anyone to trace the source and refer to them to develop the spiritual knowledge.  Some special sections in Srimad Bhagavata are traditionally considered as gita.  It may not be in the format of gita, still it is considered as gita.

1.  Bharata Gita – Bharata Gita comes in the fifth skanda (chapters 11- 14).  The teaching of Sage Bharata to king Rahuguna is Bharata Gita.  Bharata is the son of king Rishaba; after whom this land is name as Bharata.  The teaching of Sage Bharata is to control the mind, senses and to have love towards the Lord.

2.  Bhikshu Gita – Bhikshu Gita comes in the eleventh skanda (Chapter 23).  It is a dialogue between Sage Suka dev and king Parikshit.  Its core content is advaita vedanta.  It is a story of a poor Brahmin from a place called Avanti who realizes the truth, after much suffering in life.

3.  Gopi gitas 

There are a set of six gitas in the tenth skanda which are famously said as Gopi Gitas.  They are different hymns of the Vraja Gopis, which are deep in emotion, pure selfless and divine love towards Lord Krishna.  They are the

  1.  Venu Gita – When the gopis are at home during the night, they hear the flute song (venu ghana) of Lord Krishna.  When they go to work in the morning (to tend the cows in the forest), they sing in praise of the Venu ghana.  This hymn is Venu Gita (chapter 21).

  2.  Pranaya Gita – Pranaya or Prema is pure love, which is a spiritual mentality of equality and oneness of heart between two people, the lover and his beloved.  It describes that how one leaves their individuality and identifies with the other (lover).  At this stage, they feel that the prana, mana, bhuddhi, deha and vesha (costume) are identical with the other.  They do not feel any difference between them.  It is the highest state of bhakti.  The hymn praising this state of emotion is called the Pranaya Gita (chapter 29).

  3.  Gopi Gita – Gopi Gita is also a hymn by the gopis assembled on the banks of river Yamuna.  While searching for Lord Krishna, they sing about the feeling of separation from Lord Krishna.  This hymn is Gopi Gita (chapter 31).

  4.  Yugala Gita – Yugala gita is pair of verses glorifying Sri Krishna, which the gopis sing in the late afternoon to pass time.  It comes in chapter 35.

  5.  Viraha Gita – When Akrura comes to Vraja to take Sri Krishna and Balaram to Madhura city, the gopis of Vraja including Radha was saddened by the news.  They openly express their deep feeling of separation from Sri Krishna and it is Viraha Gita (chapter 39).

  6.  Bhramara Gita – After going to Madhura, Sri Krishna will sent Uddhava from Madhura to console the gopis of Vraja.  He came in the early morning to Madhura.  At that time, a gopi spotted a honey bee near Akrura.  She thinks that it is a special messenger from Sri Krishna and she laments to that honey bee about her feeling of separation from Sri Krishna.  This is Bhramara Gita (chapter 47).

4.  Kapila Gita – Kapila Gita comes in the third skanda.  Kapila gita is the teaching of Sage Kapila to his mother Devahuti.  Sage Kapila was one of the founders of Samkhya philosophy which is a dualistic philosophy.  It comes in chapter 25 – 33.

5.  Rudra Gita – It is from the fourth skanda (chapter 24).  It is also repeated in the Varaha purana.  Rudra is the pure devotion to the Supreme Being.  It is the hymn in praise of Lord Vishnu expounded by Lord Rudra.

6.  Sruti Gita – It comes in the tenth skanda (chapter 87).  Sruti Gita is the Vedas singing in praise of the ultimate reality; which means that the Vedas explain the Reality. 

7.  Rishaba Gita – It is from the fifth skanda (chapter 4, 5, 6).  It is the teaching of king Rishaba to his children about practicing good values and attaining liberation.

8.  Uddhava Gita – It is otherwise known as Hamsa Gita.  It comes in the eleventh skanda.  It has thousand verses.  It is the last discourse of Lord Krishna to his friend and devotee Uddhava.  It is very deep in philosophy like Bhagavad Gita.

9.  Aila Gita – It comes in the eleventh skanda.  It is the story of king Pururuva (also known as Aila), which Lord Krishna says to Uddhava.  It explains how attachments to mundane life affect the spiritual development.

10.  Mahishi Gita – It comes in the tenth skanda.(chapter 90).  The queens of Lord Krishna sing a hymn in praise of their happy moment with their husband, Lord Krishna.  It is a very small gita with only ten verses.

11.  Bhumi Gita – It comes in the twelfth skanda (chapter 3).  It is a song by mother earth (Bhumi Devi), who laments that how foolish the rulers are that they conquer a part of the land and think that they have conquered the earth and they themselves are sentient being; what to say about their achievements.

12.  Jayanteya Gita – It comes in the eleventh skanda (chapter 2-5).  It is famously known as Nimi-Navayogi samvada.  It is a dialogue between king Nimi and the navayogis (the nine yogis who are the sons of king Rishaba and queen Jayanti).  It describes the different steps to reach liberation.

These are the different gitas in Srimad Bhagavata.  Some are deep in philosophy, some are deep in the emotion of divine love, and some are deep in the emotion of bhakti.  They all are helpful for one’s inspiration and enlightenment.

DIFFERENT GITAS IN HINDUISM (PART1) GITAS FROM MAHABHARATA

Gita means a song or a hymn.  It is usually a dialogue or a conversation between a guru, preceptor, or a jivan mukta and a sishya, student, or an earnest seeker.  Sometimes the song will be in the form of an advice.  Gita is usually filled with many questions and answers.  Gitas are very important in Hinduism, because it is ripe with spiritual knowledge.  There are many gitas in Hinduism.  To my knowledge there are more than sixty gitas in Hinduism.  The source of these gitas is from the epics, puranas, upapuranas and other Hindu scriptures.  The most famous among all these gitas is Sri Baghavad gita.  Everyone knows about this gita.  In this article let us see the different gitas from mahabharata. 

Mahabharata has eighteen parvas, chapters, or books.  The longest among them is the shanti parva.  It has 365 chapters.  Shanti parva has three sections.  They are the Raja dharma parva, apad dharma parva and moksha dharma parva.  The source of majority of the mahabharata gitas is from the moksha dharma parva or raja dharma parva of shanti parva of mahabharata.

The background of shanti parva is, after the great mahabharata war was over, King Yudhishtira was in a dejected state of mind.  Nobody could console him.  After the coronation ceremony was over the five Pandava brothers went to see Lord Krishna.  Lord Krishna took them to see Bheeshmaacharya, who was lying on the bed of arrows, still alive.  When Bheeshmaacharya saluted Lord Krishna, He took away the pain of Bheeshmaacharya, and made his mind peaceful.  By the direction of Lord Krishna King Yudhishtira asked many questions to Bheeshmaacharya.  Bheeshmaacharya gave deep philosophical answers to each of King Yudhishtira questions.  Each one of his profound answers is traditionally considered as gita.  Majority of them are a dialogue between a Rishi and a king, which he refers to king Yudhishtira. 

Another parva which is the source of many gitas in mahabharata is the vana parva.  During the period of exile, the Pandavas especially Yudhishtira meets many sages.  He asks many questions to these sages regarding all important topics in life.  The answer by the sages to these questions is traditionally considered as gita.  This parva is about the moral ethics and values the Pandavas learnt during their period of exile in the forest. 

Now let us see the different gitas from mahabharata. There are 25 gitas in mahabharata.

1. Sri Baghavad gita – It is also said as Hari gita by Sage Narada.  It comes in the Bheeshma parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. It has 700 verses.  It discusses various aspects of life. 

2. Anu gita – After the mahabharata war was over, Arjuna completely forgot the gita.  Therefore, he approached Lord Krishna and requested him to repeat the gita.  Lord Krishna said what is said in a particular situation, at a particular time cannot be repeated again; and he said the essence of Baghavad gita, which is known as Anu gita.

3. Uttara gita – After ruling the kingdom for many years, again in the old age Arjuna approached Lord Krishna and requested him to advice Brahma vidya.  Lord Krishna advised many yogic practices and this collection is called uttara gita.   

These three gitas are known as Krishna gitas.  They are said by Lord Krishna to Arjuna.

3. Ashtavakra gita – This gita is the conversation between sage Ashtavakra and king Janaka of Mythila.  Sage Ashtavakra is the guru of king Janaka.  It comes in the vana parva of mahabharata.  It is about the core advaita vedanta philosophy.  During the period of vanavasa to one of the questions of Yudhishtira, sage Lomash recites the story of Ashtavakra.

4. Baka gita – It is a conversation between sage Baka and lord Indira. It is about dharma and renunciation.

5. Bheeshma gita – This gita has three hymns sung in praise of Lord Vishnu, Lord Narayana and Lord Mahadev by Bheeshma. 

6. Bodhya gita – This gita comes in the shanti parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between sage Bodhya and king Yayati.

7. Brahmana gita – It comes in the ashvamedha parva of mahabharata.  It is conversation between a learned brahmin and his wife about ways to escape from the bondage of maya.

8. Harita gita – It comes in the shanti parva of mahabharta.  This gita is the teachings of sage Harita on sanyasa dharma.  Bheeshmaacharya recites this gita as an answer to one of the questions by king Yudishtira.

9. Kama gita – It is very short gita with only eleven verses.  It comes in the ashvamedha parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Yudishtira on the importance of suppression of desires, and the ways to deal with desires.

10. Manki gita – It comes in the shanti parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva of mahabharata.  It is the story of sage Manki on his enlightenment, which Bheeshmaacharya recites to one of the questions of king Yudhishtira.

11. Nahusha gita – It is a dialogue between king Yudhishtira and Nahusha in the form of a serpent.

12. Parasara gita – It comes in the shanti parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between Rishi Parasara, who is the father of Ved Vyasa, and king Janaka.  Bheeshmaacharya recites this gita, which is about good values, to a question asked by king Yudhishtira.

13. Pandava gita – This gita is a hymn dedicated to Lord Krishna.  It has 76 verses.  This gita is about the saranagathi tattwa.  Many people including the five pandavas, Draupati, Kunti, Narada, Bhishma, Dronacharya etc tell about their saranagati to Lord Krishna and how they were protected by Lord Krishna.  This gita is also known as Prapanna gita.

14. Pingala gita – It comes in the santi parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva of mahabharata.  When king Yudhishtira asks Bheeshmaacharya about knowledge and renunciation, Bheeshmaacharya recites this gita.  Actually it is a story of a dancing girl named Pingala, who realizes that the cause for her sorrow are her desires and she gave up her desires and attained enlightenment.  It also comes in the Uddhava gita. 

15. Sampaka gita – It comes in the shanti parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva in mahabharata.  Sampaka was a learned and pious brahmin who realized that only renunciation can give everlasting happiness.  When king Yudhishtira questions Bheeshmaacharya the reason for the same kind of sorrow and happiness affecting both the rich and the poor, Bheeshmaacharya recited this gita.

16. Sanatsujata gita – This gita comes in the udyoga parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between king Dhritharashtira and Rishi Sanatsujata.  King Dhritharastira was disturbed by the exile of the Pandava brothers.  Vidhura invites Rishi Sanatsujata to advise the king.  The advice given by Rishi Sanatsujata based on brahma vidya is Sanatsujata gita.

17. Shaunaka gita – This gita comes in the aranya (vana) parva of mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between sage Shaunaka and Yudhishtira based on the secrets of life. 

18. Vamadeva gita – It comes in the shanti parva, sub-section raja dharma parva of mahabharata.  To a question by king Yudhishtira on raja dharma, Bheeshmaacharya recites this gita.  It is a dialogue between Rishi Vamadeva and king Vasumana of Kosala kingdom.

19. Shadaja gita – This gita comes in the shanti parva, sub-section apad dharma parva of mahabharata.  Shadaja means originating from six; this gita has individual views about dharma from the five Pandava brothers and Vidhura.

20. Utathya gita – It comes in the shanti parva, sub-section raja dharma parva of mahabharata.  King Yudhishtira asks about raja dharma and Bheeshmaacharya recites this gita which is originally said by Utathya (son of Angiras) to king Mandhata.

21. Vicakhnu gita – This gita is from the shanti parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva of mahabharata.  It is a small gita with eleven versus.  Bheeshmaacharya tells king Yudhishtira about the views of king Vicakhnu on non-violence.  King Vicakhnu says that the animal nature in man must be sacrificed rather than sacrificing the real animals in the yagna (sacrifice). 

22. Vidhura gita – It is also famously said as Vidhura neeti.  It comes in the udyoga parva of mahabharata.  It has 500 versus.  This gita is the advice given by Vidhura on raja dharma, dharma, individual and social morality, politics and the art of governing to king Dhritharashtira.

23. Vritra gita – It comes in the shanti parva, sub-section moksha dharma parva in mahabharata.  It is a dialogue between Vritrasura and Sukracharya, which Bheeshmaacharya refers to king Yudhishtira to a question based on detachment and moksha.

24. Vyadha gita – This gita comes in the vana parva of mahabharata.  It is the advice given by sage Markandeya to Yudhishtira in the vanavasa period of the pandavas.  It is a story of a butcher (vyadha) who does nishkama karma (selfless act) and dharma (righteous act).

25. Yudhishtira – This gita is also known as yaksha prashna.  It comes in the vana parva of mahabharata.  It is a conversation between a yaksha and Yudhishtira.  A yaksha in the form of a crane asks many questions to Yudhishtira for which Yudhishtira answers brilliantly.

These are the gitas from the greatest epic mahabharata. 

In my next article I’ll write about the different gitas from Srimad Baghavata purana.

SACRED TEXTS IN HINDUISM

SACRED TEXTS IN HINDUISM

Hinduism has many sacred texts.  Though the most famous among them is Baghavad gita, there are many other sacred texts.  What is a sacred text?  The text that explains the concept of God, the profound principles and beliefs in a religion is called the sacred text.  On this basis, Hinduism has many sacred texts.  The sacred texts in Hinduism explain the universal concept of God, the relationship between God and the individual, the concept of Jagad (world), the rituals and beliefs that help an individual to evolve in life. 

The sacred texts in Hinduism can be broadly divided into sruti and smiriti.  In the ancient times, knowledge of Veda and Vedanta were passed on to generation after generation only by oral rendition.  The students hear the teachings, register them in their mind and teach them to their students.  In the ancient times the entire Veda and Vedanta were passed on in the Guru sishya parampara (teacher student lineage) in this manner.  Therefore, the Veda and Vedanta are called as sruti (to be heard).

The texts written remembering the sruti is said as smiriti (to be remembered).  Ithihasas, puranas and smiriti literature are said as smiriti.  Ithihasas, puranas and smiriti literature were written with the underlying touch of the Vedas.  The concept of Veda and Vedanta are included in the smiriti. 

There are many texts in Hinduism to suit the different mentalities of people.  People who are more ritualistic go after the ritualistic part of Veda.  People who are emotional go after smiriti.  People who have spiritual mentality go after Vedanta.  Whatever an individual follows it gradually leads him to the ultimate goal, self realization.

Sruti

Veda and Vedanta belong to sruti.  The Veda is divided in to four parts.  They are the Rig, Yajur, sama and atharva Veda. 

Rig Veda consists of entirely mantras.  The mantras that are to be chanted during different sacrifices and the mantras that help mental evolution are given in the Rig Veda. 

Yajur Veda has mantras, explanation of the sacrifices, and the rules, regulations that are to be followed during the sacrifices are given in yajur Veda.

Sama Veda is the musical rendering of the mantras in the Rig Veda.  It is very powerful because the musical notes have a great impact in the mind and in the atmosphere.

Atharva Veda was included in the Vedas in the last.  It includes mantras which help to manipulate the energy either in the positive or in the negative way. 

All these different parts of the Veda have an end portion called Vedanta.  In the Vedanta portion the core concept of Hindu Dharma is explained. It explains about the concept of nirakara, nirguna, niswarupa Brahman.  The mantra and sacrifices section of the Veda is called the karma kanda and the Vedanta section is called the Jnana kanda.  All the mantras, rituals etc in the karma kanda helps to lift a person intellectually to understand the concept of Brahman. 

Smiriti

Ithihasas

Ithihasas are the life history of the divine rulers of Bharata.  They are two itihasas, the Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki and Mahabharata written by sage Vyasa. 

Ramayana is the life history of the divine rulers of the lineage of the Sun god (surya vamsa).  It mainly tells about the divine ruler Raja Ram, the avatar of Mahavishnu.  Ramayana was originally written by Sage Valmiki, but later many people recreated Ramayana including the ritual dogmas, beliefs, and social code of conduct that were prevalent in their period of time and in their region.  They never changed or rather cannot change the main story of Lord Ram.  Recreating Ramayana is still considered as a scholarly work by many scholars. 

Mahabharata was written by Sage Vyasa.  Though Mahabharata is the story of the two major clan of Bharata, the main hero of Mahabharata is Lord Krishna.  Mahabharata tells about the rulers of the lineage of the moon god (chandra vamsa).  The famous text Baghavad Gita is a part of Mahabharata.  It has eighteen parvas or chapters.  Each parva forms a book. 

Puranas

There are eighteen puranas.  All of them were written by Sage Vyasa.  Srimad Bhagavata is the famous among them.  It is also said as the fifth Veda.  The life history of Lord Krishna explained in Srimad Bhagavada is very profound.  The puranas are written by Sage Vyasa based on the concepts of Veda.  Many concepts of Veda and Vedanta are included in the puranas.  Puranas are the detailed explanation of the Vedas.  Each purana tells about a particular concept of Brahman, like vishnu puran, skanda puran, Brahmanda Puran etc and it also explains the evolution and dissolution related to that concept of Brahman.  Many rituals and festive celebrations in India are based on the Puranas and itihasas.

Smiriti literature

Smiriti literature explains the social code of conduct.  There are eighteen smiritis and the famous among them is the manu smiriti.  These codes of conduct were derived from the Vedas.  Veda explains many sacrifices and rituals which help us satisfy our desires and needs.  Many code of conduct including rules and regulation for the priest, yajaman (owner of the sacrifices), helping priest etc were given in the Veda.  These codes of conduct were collected and written in the sutra form.  This is known as the kalpa sutra.  Kalpa sutra is one among the six Vedangas.  All the smiritis are based on these kalpa sutras.  Manu collected these codes of conduct, included the code of conduct prevalent during his time, and wrote the manu smiriti.  Manu Smiriti is only a book of suggestions; it is not a book of commandment.  The Government of India formed its Law book based on the Manu Smiriti.  Many laws for women, property rights, individual and social rights etc are based on the Manu Smiriti.  The code of conduct of the Smiriti is subject to change.  It changes with time.  It is said that Manu smiriti was written in the 2nd century.  Those laws may not be applicable in the modern age and so the laws are subject to change. 

In the Manu smiriti there are different codes of conduct for the different ashramas and for the different varnas.  Importance is given for the varna and individual who sacrifice their life to attain knowledge.  Smiriti literature aims for spiritual purity through physical, verbal and mental purity.

The itihasas, puranas or smiriti literature, they all aim for self realization in their own way.  Itihasas tell about self realization through the life history of the divine personalities.  Puranas tell about self realization through different stories and explanations.  Smiriti literature explains self realization through the code of conduct.  Since the ultimate principle of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) is self realization, all these texts are considered as sacred texts in Hinduism.

TRIVITKARANA AND PANCHIKARANA

TRIVITKARANA AND PANCHIKARANA

Before creation there was only Sat.  Brahman alone existed.  At that time, its inherent power maya did not manifest.  Then, Brahman with maya made sankalpa (imagination) to manifest and maya manifested as these different forms.  Maya from the unmanifest state began to manifest.  Maya is dependent on Sat (Brahman) and so it is called mitya.  Maya is inert.  When it combines with Brahman it appears as intelligent.  Maya has three gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas.  From the tamo aspect of maya evolved the sukshma bhutas; otherwise known as tanmatras.  These sukshma bhutas (subtle elements) undergo a process called trivitkarana and transform into sthula bhutas (gross elements).  Trivitkarana is a process of transformation of the three elements agni (fire), aap (water) and pritvi (matter) from its sukshma state (subtle state) to sthula state (gross state).  Trivitkarana is explained in the Chandogya Upanisad, in the sixth chapter, section three, mantras 3, 4.  Trivitkarana is a process of combination of the three elements.  When agni manifested, by its power manifested aap (water) element.  By the power of aap manifested prithvi (matter) element.  At this stage agni, aap, prithvi are in the pure and subtle state, which cannot be perceived.  This pure subtle agni, aap and prithvi combine and become gross, then it can be perceived.  This combination process is called trivitkarana.

Trivitkarana process is

1/2 portion of agni combines with 1/4th portion of aap + 1/4th portion of prithvi to form the gross agni element.

1/2 portion of aap combines with 1/4th portion of agni + 1/4th portion of prithvi to form the gross aap element.

1/2 portion of prithvi combines with 1/4th portion of agni + 1/4th portion of aap to form the gross prithvi element.

Trivitkarana is explained in Chandogya Upanisad.  Similarly, when the pancha sukshma bhutas (five basic subtle elements) combine, it is called panchikarana.  When the five elements combine the proportion of combination will change.  Panchikarana is the process by which the five sukshma bhutas combine, undergo transformation and become the five sthula bhutas; this is the sthula bhutas which we perceive as the five basic elements.  Panchikarana is explained by Sri Adi Sankaracharya.   

Panchikarana process is

1/2 portion of akasa (ether) element combines with 1/8th portion of vayu (air) element + 1/8th portion of agni (fire) element + 1/8th portion of aap (water) element + 1/8th portion of prithvi (matter) element to become sthula (gross) akasa element.

1/2 portion of vayu combines with 1/8th portion of akasa + 1/8th portion of agni + 1/8th portion of aap  + 1/8th portion of prithvi to become sthula (gross) vayu element.

1/2 portion of agni combines with 1/8th portion of akasa + 1/8th portion of vayu + 1/8th portion of aap  + 1/8th portion of prithvi to become sthula (gross) agni element.

1/2 portion of aap combines with 1/8th portion of akasa + 1/8th portion of vayu + 1/8th portion of agni  + 1/8th portion of prithvi to become sthula (gross) aap element.

1/2 portion of prithvi combines with 1/8th portion of akasa + 1/8th portion of vayu + 1/8th portion of agni  + 1/8th portion of aap to become sthula (gross) prithvi element.

The pure and subtle akasa, vayu, agni, aap and prithvi combine and undergo transformation to become the sthula (gross) elements.

Now, the sthula pancha bhutas (five gross elements) combine to form different sariras (gross bodies).  Whatever form we see in this world is the combination of these five elements.  The sthula sarira shrishti are of four types.  They are

Jarayujam – that which are born from the womb.  Examples are human beings, animals etc.

Andajam – that which are born from the egg.  Examples are birds, reptiles, insects etc.

Udhbhijam – that which are born from the seed, comes out splitting earth.  Examples are plants.

Svethajam – that which are born from the moisture.  Examples are bacteria, germs etc.

All these type of bodies are the different combination of the five gross elements.  These sariras are inert.  Brahman as chitabasa enters in these sariras and makes it conscious.  Thus the creation goes on.

Trivitkarana and panchikarana are the process by which the sukshma bhutas undergo a process of combination and transform as sthula bhutas.

OM – THE SOUND AND SYMBOL

OM – THE SOUND AND SYMBOL

Whole existence is reverberation – vibration of energy.  When there is vibration there will be sound.  Where there is vibration and sound there will be creation.  Om is the fundamental sound of the relative reality (creation).  It is the basic sound of this creation.  All the other sounds are the manifestation of Om. 

Om is the combination of three basic sounds A + U + M.  All the other sounds are the mixing of these three basic sounds using the tongue.  If you notice we can pronounce Om or A, U, M without the use of tongue (we can pronounce by using only the lip movement).

In the Vedas almost all the mantras start with Om.  Om is used in karma kanda widely.  In Vedanta it is mainly used for meditation.  It is used to represent saguna Brahman as well as nirguna Brahman.  Om is the basic vibration of this universe.  It is the divine sound, symbol and mantra.  It is the beej mantra for universal Consciousness.  More than a japa mantra Om is used extensively for meditation.  Since Om is the basic vibration of the universe when we meditate on Om we can easily connect with the Universe.  Mandukya upanishad explains a unique technique for meditation on Om.

Human existence is based on three states (avastas).  They are the waking, dream and deep sleep states.  These states exist in Consciousness, which is known as Turiya.  Turiya cannot be said as the fourth state.  It is the underlying state.  All the experiences exist in Turiya.  We are able to experience the three states because of Turiya.  Turiya can also be said as prapanjopashama, where all the other experiences of the universe disappear.  Turiya is that state where all the other three states merge and reappear.

Three states (avastas)

In the waking state (jagrad avasta) we come in contact with the gross universe with our body, senses and mind.  The Consciousness or Turiya in association with the body, senses and mind experiences the universe in the waking state.  In other words, the Consciousness (Turiya) appears as the waking experience.

In the dream state (swapna avasta) we come in contact with the world of impression in the mind in sleep.   The Consciousness or Turiya in association with the projection of the mind is the dreaming experience.  In other words, the Consciousness (Turiya) appears as the dream experience.

In the deep sleep state (sushupti avasta), there is no internal world or external world.  It is experience of darkness or ignorance.  The Consciousness in association with the non-functioning of the mind is the deep sleeping experience.  In other words, the Consciousness (Turiya) appears as the deep sleep experience.

That Consciousness (Turiya) is expressed as Om.  Om is the symbol of Consciousness.  All the three states appear and disappear in Turiya.  Turiya is not a mystical experience; it is the fundamental nature of man. 

Meditation on Om

Now, the three base sounds in Om are taken for meditation.  Only for meditation Om is split as A, U, M (as its base sound).  For chanting and mantra japa it should be pronounced as Om.  According to the sandhi rules of sanskrit, when you combine A + U we get only O

(that is A + U = O), but when we meditate we split by its base sound. 

All the waking experiences are identified with A

All the dream experiences are identified with U

All the deep sleep experiences are identified with M

When we meditate on Om we must bring in to mind this knowledge.  All the waking, dream and deep sleep experiences appear and disappear in Consciousness or Om.  There is a small gap between finishing and starting of the next Om.  That gap is silence.  That silence represents Consciousness or Turiya.  So all the experiences appear, disappear and merge in Consciousness and again the same process.

Thus meditation on Om is explained in Mandukya upanishad.  There are no experiences without Turiya.  We are not aware of Turiya.  To bring one to that deep pure Consciousness is meditation on Om.