There are three levels: in the first you pronounce the word out loud – Om…Om…Om…. This is the level of speech. Making use of your lips, speech resounds outside. Then you shut your lips, not even allowing the tongue to move, and you pronounce the name in your mind –Om…Om…Om…. The second level is deeper than the first. You do not make any use of lips or tongue; you do not use the body at all – you use only the mind. On the third level even the mind is not used. Om is not even pronounced. You become silent and listen to the resonance of Om that is already within. The mind is no more; and when it is gone contemplation begins. Contemplation means the absence of mind.
The resonance of Omkar is with you from your very birth. Have you noticed how happy infants are without any apparent reason? They lie in the cradle and throw their little arms and legs about and make cooing sounds. Mothers in India think they are remembering something from their past lives, for there is absolutely no reason for their happiness. Lying in their cribs they have yet to start their journey in life. Psychologists are confounded with the child’s joy, but take it to be the expression of their good health.
Yogis have discovered a different reason altogether, for the well-being of the body is not enough. Within, the child hears the resonance of Omkar, a soft melodious strain. The child hears it and is captivated by it, enchanted by it. Hearing it, the infant smiles and gurgles and feels happy. The child’s health may remain good later on, but the melody within will be lost; this cheerfulness will be gone. Then it will become difficult for the child to hear the Omkar for the layers of words that surround it.
The resonance, Ek Omkar Satnam, is the first happening. In it lies the fountain of life. Then come the words brought about by our education, impressions, society, culture. Then the third level is actually pronouncing words in speaking, conversation and dialogues. While speaking you are actually farthest away from words. Therefore Nanak stresses the necessity of learning how to listen. For when you hear you are in between; you can go either way, towards speech or towards silence.
So there are three states: the state of Omkar, the state of speech, and the in-between state of thoughts and feelings. When you are listening you are in the mid-state of thoughts and feelings. If you begin to tell others what you have heard, you have descended into speech. If you begin to reflect, to contemplate on what you have heard, then you are in contemplation, and you go into the void. The distance is very subtle. Each person has to understand well the distance between the two within himself and provide for the equilibrium.
Contemplation begins as soon as you submerge yourself in any one word. Any word will do but no word is more beautiful than Omkar, because it is pure resonance. The words: Allah, Ram, Krishna can also be used, but there is no need to take big, big names. The English poet, Tennyson, repeated his own name and lost himself in its resonance.
As you enter into the depths of any word, the word gradually gets lost; and as it begins to fade, contemplation sets in. The word is always lost ultimately; all mantras are lost for they are of the mind. The supreme mantra, however, is forever resounding within. The first mantra only helps to bring you into silence, but not into the supreme mantra. Once you are silent you can hear the resonance of Omkar within you.