1.27 तस्य वाचकः प्रणवः

tasya vācakaḥ praṇavaḥ

tasya – His; vācakaḥ – sound personifying (Him), representing (Him); praṇavaḥ – the sacred sound AUṀ:

The transcendental sound personifying Him is AUṀ.

1.27  tasya vācakaḥ praṇavaḥ

The transcendental sound personifying Him is AUṀ

In his commentary Vyāsa says that there is an inherent relationship between Īśvara and AUṀ which is eternal, and it is not dependent upon social usage, unlike conventional names. For instance, or as an example, if we refer to a particular animal – ‘cow’, and people in the English-speaking world all agree that this is the name that we will use that represents this particular animal, this is a social convention; it’s dependent upon social usage. And so the point that Vyāsa in his commentary is making, is that the connection between Īśvara and AUṀ is not something that is created by man or created by any person or people within the material world and that this connection is actually eternal.

He uses the example of the relationship between a lamp and the light which emanates from a lamp. Wherever the lamp is, and of course it is understood that it is a burning lamp, there must always and necessarily be light. And in a similar manner, wherever AUṀ is vibrated, Īśvara is there and wherever there is Īśvara, AUṀ is also there. So, this is the nature of the relationship between Īśvara and AUṀ. So Īśvara…he states – Vyāsa in his explanation…His being known by the syllable AUṀ. He was known in previous creations, as well as for all eternity. So, this an eternal designation, and just stressing once again, it’s not something assigned by human beings.

This is quite a deep subject, dealing with what is called spiritual or transcendental sound. So if we recall from the previous verse commentary, Vyāsa has stated that just as Īśvara existed as a perfect being at the beginning of this creation, so He was also the same in previous creations, and this explains why AUṀ is then treated in the same way.

The Vedas refer to spiritual or transcendental sound as Śabda Brahma. Spiritual sound, or transcendental sound, is not anything like or connected to mundane or prakṛtik sound – sound of the material world, or the material energy. So just as Īśvara is not subject to time or any material laws, similarly those spiritual sounds that I’m speaking of – AUṀ being an example – these spiritual sounds which designate or name Īśvara, are also considered non-different from Him, and we’ll explain about that a little more in a moment. Or maybe, continuing with that idea, spiritual sound was considered vastly different than material sound, in that it contained a spiritual potency. As an example, if I say the name, or use the syllables that state the name of a mango, that name may refer to…or something that we can sort of recollect in our mind in terms of shape, a taste, a flavor, an experience of eating. The sound of the name and the actual fruit that it represents, are entirely different. I could for instance, try to chant “Mango, mango, mango, mango, mango” all day, and I will not actually experience the reality of the mango.

This Śabda Brahma, or the transcendental sound referencing the names of Īśvara, are completely different in nature, in that Īśvara is actually present within that sound along with all possible spiritual experience. And so, for this reason, there were categories of transcendentalists who speak of these transcendental sounds in a deeply personal way, speaking of them and addressing them as spiritual personality. We can begin to appreciate this to some degree perhaps… like for instance, in the Bhagavad-gīta there are three verses that I can think of right now where Śrī Kṛṣṇa states that He is this syllable AUṀ. It’s not that it just represents Him or indicates Him – it actually is non-different from Him. This would be in Chapter Seven in the eighth verse or śloka, and then again in the ninth chapter, the seventeenth śloka, and also in the tenth chapter in the twenty-fifth śloka, Kṛṣṇa makes this quite emphatic statement. And we also have another reference in the Bhagavad-gīta, that the letters that make up this praṇavaḥ are to be considered “the supreme combination of letters”, above all else. In the Upaniṣads there are also numerous references to this syllable – AUṀ. One of the  Upaniṣads…the Muṇḍaka  Upaniṣad…deals in great length with the divine syllable AUṀ, but we also have a reference in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, which states that through the practice of meditating upon AUṀ – this praṇavaḥ, one can see (and they use the term literally – paśyet), “one can see God (or devam).”  And this is in the first section, in the fourteenth śloka in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad.

So, this…you know, begins to offer somewhat of a revelation to the sincere and very humble practitioner, that it is going to be possible to actually come to encounter Īśvara through this transcendental sound AUṀ. We also have another verse in the Padma Purāṇa which elucidates in a quite amazing way, and with significantly more depth, on this supreme combination of letters or this transcendental vibration AUṀ. And it states that, in relation to this mantra AUṀ, that the first letter ‘A’ it signifies Lord Viṣṇu, who has been designated as Īśvara. Then it says that the letter ‘U’ – the second letter, it signifies Goddess Lakshmi or Śrī – the goddess of fortune; the eternal consort of Vishnu. And then the final letter ‘Ṁ’ refers to their servant, meaning the jīva; the living being who is the twenty-fifth element.

So as we’ve previously mentioned in the Saṅkya philosophy that was propounded by Kapiladeva, that Prakṛti is made up of twenty-four elements, then the twenty-fifth element was considered to be the jīva, the ātmā, or the ātman or puruṣaḥ. And the twenty-sixth element was considered Īśvara or Parama Puruśa. And so the Vedas are filled with wonderful descriptions of the glories of the supreme combination of letters – this syllable AUṀ. And it is not possible for me to adequately glorify or speak about its great spiritual importance, as being not just a representation of, but actually a way in which one can directly come into contact with Īśvara through the recitation of this syllable AUṀ, which will be taken up by Patañjali in the next sutra. Thank you.