The Sanskrit word shabda means ‘word’; sanchalana means ‘rotation’ or ‘conduction’. Therefore, this practice can be called ‘the rotation (or conduction) of word consciousness’. Here the word is the mantra Soham. Shabda sanchalana can also be regarded as the sixth stage of ajapa japa1.
The implications of Soham
Soham is widely called the ajapa gayatri – the spontaneous song of the breath. It is a mantra that arises automatically with each and every breath. It is the sound that corresponds with the natural rhythm of breathing. It is the mantra that every person chants continuously, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
In all yoga practices awareness must be fixed on something. There has to be a focal point that settles the fluctuations of the mind and makes it one-pointed. Anything can be used: a mantra, a mental picture of a deity or even your big toe. But it should be something that automatically attracts your attention and brings about continuous remembrance. This sounds easy but is not. The mind resists the process of concentration and starts to wander. The symbol is quickly forgotten and one becomes lost again in the stream of bubbling thoughts. Soham is an ideal mantra because it is always being chanted independent of the state of mind. It will only stop if you stop breathing. Therefore, Soham reminds you to be aware.
Any mantra can be integrated with the breath to produce continuous remembrance, but So-ham arises naturally, which makes it easier. It has also been tested by numerous yogis for thousands of years. We highly recommend it (and the mantra Aum) for all sincere sadhakas. Constant remembrance will lead to dhyana.
Soham also has a literal meaning. It means: “I am Shiva (pure consciousness)” or “I am He (pure consciousness)”. It indicates the union of Shiva and Shakti, the merging of the individual with the cosmic or supreme consciousness. However, the reader should not worry too much about the meaning, unless he or she has had a deep transcendental experience. Any attempt to understand the meaning of Soham logically will lead to delusion. It can only be understood at an intuitive level. When a person understands its transcendental meaning, and only then, can it be used as a means of constant affirmation and remembrance. This will maintain a steady flow of dhyana.
If you wish and if your mind is sufficiently one-pointed, you can enquire further into the deep and real meaning of Soham. This is a method of jnana yoga. But it will not yield results if your mind is tense and full of problems and unless you enquire incessantly, whether consciously or unconsciously twenty four hours a day. If your mind is ready and your aspiration intense then theie will be a transcendental explosion of the meaning of Soham. The meaning will show itself like a flash of lightning, but you have to be ready. Few people are prepared for this type ofjnana yoga practice. Generally, therefore, we recommend remembrance of Soham as the best sadhana.
In shabda sanchalana do not worry about the meaning of Soham. Only be aware of the sound synchronized with the breath.