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I find some diametrically opposite views on important spiritual practices.

  • It is said that the exact pronunciation of a mantra is very important, yet some pronounce the most famous mantra as OM, others as AUM.

  • Some say that for the mantra SO-HAM, SO should be on inhalation, others that it should be on exhalation.

  • Proper alignment is supposed to be vital for mudras, yet some do them with palms up, others with palm down.

Moreover, the opposing camps insist that their view is the correct one, although for SO-HAM, I understand that yogi Gorakhnath conveniently resolved it by saying that both are correct ! [ Mind it, SO-HAM is supposed to be an onomatopoeic mantra !]

What are we to make of all this ? That all these are mere shots in the dark ?

  • There is an easy solution for this.You should blindly follow what your Guru has taught to you.That includes everything including how to pronounce the beejas and the mantras. – Rickross Mar 2 '16 at 5:54
  • Not only restricted to how to chant particular mantras or beejas,in fact there are different ways of doing things ,for a spiritual aspirant or a devotee, in every other sphere as well, when it comes to the path of spiritual progress.That is why it is always told that you should follow exactly the path your Guru has shown to you. – Rickross Mar 2 '16 at 6:23
  • I agree to @Rickross. "गुरु गोबिन्द दोउ खडे काके लागूँ पाँय बलिहारी गुरु आपने गोबिन्द दियो बताय" If one have faith in what their Guru teaches. – Eesha Mar 2 '16 at 7:44
  • A mantra (and other practices) bears fruit when enlivened. Practices are enlivened by a guru. For this reason I believe you should ask your guru about performing your practices. – trb Mar 3 '16 at 18:04
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Om = AUM. First you are taking about the English representations of the Sanskrit utterances that compose the Pranava. The Upanishads describe the Pranava as composing three letters or sounds (see the Mandukya Upanishad). The Mandukya describes the three letters as composing the first three quarters of Brahman. The fourth quarter, the Turiya, is the the sound when all three sounds are pronounced together.

Representing AUM as Om in English was first proposed by an Western scholar with 'O' being an amalgamation of 'AU'; he thought that the sound of the English 'O' was a better representation of the first two letters in Sanskrit of the Sanskrit A and U. So Om = AUM. and AUM = Om. btw, a better way to think of how to pronounce the sound of AUM (or Om) in English is the English word home.

When to say Soham during pranayama should be learned from one's teacher.

Mudras are not important. What feels comfortable to you should be done.

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I am posting some excerpts from Swami Swahananda's writings.

Japa should be performed a prescribed number of times. Angirasa says that japa repeated without keeping track of the number is fruitless. The Kularnava Tantra says that if the prescribed number of japa is not done, the japa does not bear fruit. The Vishvasara Tantra also supports this view..... The Tantras especially put much stress on ritualistic japa. According to the Kularnava Tantra the number of japa may be counted on the joints of the fingers or on a rosary. Various rules are prescribed regarding japa and the choice of the rosary... Japa is to be performed neither very slowly nor rapidly but at an even rate, moving from one head to another on the rosary. If the japa is done imperfectly, then this can be rectified by various prescribed means or by more japa. The devotional schools have always tried to lessen the rigidity of these prescriptions about japa, placing emphasis instead on developing a devotional attitude with the help of japa. They claim that through japa alone even the external signs of devotion can be manifested. The Vira Tantra says that japa alone can bring success. It may be done with or without meditation......... Regularity in the practice of Japa has been highly extolled. ..... Other helpful factors are a secluded place, a suitable seat, and proper articulation of the mantra. Alertness, of course, is essential. ............. Tantrasrah speaks of twelve practices which help in the fruition of japa. Some are austerities, such as sleeping on the ground, continence, taking a vow of silence, taking three ceremonial baths a day, and giving up activities that distract from the ideal. Others are observances, such as worship, giving gifts, supplication, singing to the deity, occasional worship of the deity, as well as faith in one's preceptor and in the deity. ... The Kularnava Tantra considers mauna, keeping the vow of silence, itself as the best form of japa. Again, the sage Brihaspati has enumerated observances that contribute to success in japa, restraint of the mind, purity, silence, reflecting on the meaning of the mantra, freedom from distractions, and absence of indifference towards the mantra. The Chandogya Upanishad says, "Reflecting in the mind, one should repeat the mantra attentively"...... The devotional schools, however, believe that even if the mantra is repeated without proper pronunciation or knowledge of its meaning, it will still be efficacious if the devotee is sincere and has intense devotion. Valmiki is said to have attained realization by repeating "Mara", reversing the name of Rama, because he was too sinful to repeat the Lord's name correctly...... But best results can come through a combination of devotion and understanding..... So japa, normally speaking, becomes spiritually effective if it is done with faith and with knowledge of its meaning. Yet, even if an aspirant lacks these, through japa, faith in the mantra and knowledge of its meaning will eventually come. The Name of God itself has great power and is capable of creating devotion even in a stony heart if it is repeated for some time.

Meditation and other spiritual disciplines by Swami Swahananda

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