Aum, commonly pronounced as Om, is the Pranava. It is the primordial sound. Repetition, Namasmaran of the Pranava is one of the easiest and safest practices to attain liberation, moksha. This article collates teachings regarding the Pranava as applicable to Namasmarana.
From Geeta Vahini by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
“The seventh is Pranava (OM), which, when pronounced at the moment of death, awards merger with the Akshara Para Brahman (imperishable absolute) Itself!” When Krishna said this, Arjuna immediately prayed to Him to elaborate the point a little more, so that he might grasp it clearly. Krishna was only too glad to do so. ‘The moment of death’ does not mean ‘Some future point of time’. It means, ‘This very moment’! Any moment might turn out to be the ‘moment of death’. So, every moment is the ‘last’. Every moment must be filled with Pranava. The fate of man, after death, is moulded by the thought that predominates at the moment of death. That thought is the foundation, on which the next birth is built. “Whoever, at that time, remembers Me attains My glory, reaches Me in fact,” declares Krishna. So, each Karma of man, every striving of his, and every Sadhana should be aimed at sanctifying that fateful moment. The years of life must be devoted to the discipline that will bring up, at that moment, the thought of Paramatma or Pranava.
“What has to be discarded is the Deha, this physical case. What has to be earned is Para Brahman, the universal absolute. The Deha has your Reality, your Swaroopam, the undiscardable, indestructible, undying Satyam (truth) and Nityam (eternal). That Reality is the entity called Atma, or what is the same thing, Paramatma. Since you are that, you cannot cast it off. Casting off the body is akin to shifting from a house occupied for some years and birth is your entry into a new one. Both these are physical acts, not affecting the Atma. Arjuna! The Atma does not come in, nor does it go out. Those who are toiling in the falsehood of Deha Tatwa (the physical), cannot have the Atma revealed to them. The Deha Tatwa is liable to decay and death. Therefore, more than the six items mentioned by Me already, the Pranava, which is such a potent instrument of liberation, has to be understood clearly. All the long years of life are to be utilised for this consummation - the mind being fixed on Pranava, when the body is being cast off. You belch the flavour of the food you have taken. Your last thought indicates the food you have fed on. Your Sadgati (progress) is in accordance with your Sadhana (spiritual practice). Progress is in accordance with practice. Be always aware of the need to fix the mind on holy thoughts, when the body is got rid of. That is to say, immerse yourself in holy thoughts every moment of your life.”
Here, Arjuna intercepted and asked, “How is that ever possible, O Lord?” “It is possible, Arjuna. Control the senses, let the mind be effaced as much as possible, and let the heart be purified; let the vital airs be uplifted into the highest region of the Sheersha (Head), let the individual be established in the Atmic truth, and let the Pranava be the only point of attention, at the moment of the Prana leaving the body. Such a one comes to Me and joins with Me. His mental activities become the same as Mine,” said Krishna.
Here, readers should fix their attention on what the Lord told Arjuna. The Lord spoke of the control of the senses, not their destruction. Control means under one’s behest, obedient to the will. Destruction means denial of activity, full inaction. The Lord also said of all the senses, not of any one or two only. Man must keep all senses under his control and use them, only when the purposes, for which they have been devised, are to be fulfilled. They should not be let loose, just because one has them. Give them the functions they are designed for, but do not allow them to master you and ruin you. Let them work strictly on regulated lines. That is the Lord’s intention.