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Soham (Sanskrit)

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Soham or Sohum (सो ऽहम् so'ham[1]) is a Hindu mantra, meaning "I am" in Sanskrit.[2][3]

In Vedic philosophy it means identifying Brahman with the universe or ultimate Brahman.[2]

The mantra is also inverted from so 'ham (the sandhi of saḥ + aham) to ham + sa. The combination of so 'haṃ haṃsaḥ has also been interpreted as "I am Swan", where the swan symbolizes the Atman.[4]


The term so'ham is related to sa, and the phrase translates to "I am", according to Monier-Williams.[5] Interpreted as a nominal sentence, it can also be read as "I am the absolute" or "Great truth".[2][3] The term is found in Vedic literature, and is a phrase that identifies "One with the universe or the ultimate one reality".[2]


This phrase is found in Principal Upanishads such as the Isha Upanishad (verse 16), which ends:

(...) तेजो यत्ते रूपं कल्याणतमं तत्ते पश्यामि योऽसावसौ पुरुषः सोऽहमस्मि ॥१६॥
tejo yat te rūpaṃ kalyāṇatamaṃ tat te paśyāmi yo 'sāv [asau puruṣaḥ] so'ham asmi
"The light which is thy fairest form, I see it. I am what that is" (trans. Max Müller)[6]

Soham, or "I am That", is very common in ancient and medieval literature.[7] Some examples include:




Adi Shankara's[32] Vakya Vritti[33] subsequent works in the Nath tradition foundational for Hatha yoga.

as well as the classical yoga treatises Gheranda Samhita[43][44][45][46] and Shiva Samhita[47] all make mention of soham and hamsa describing its significance and when teaching uniformly teaches So on inhalation and ham on exhalation.

This traditional practice in its several forms and its background is described in numerous other books.[32][48][49][50][51][52][53][54]


Swami Muktananda - although teaching the traditional So on inhalation and ham on exhalation as a letter from 1968 to Franklin Jones reveals[55] - later published a book[56] teaching Ham on inhalation and sa on exhalation. This practice is described in several later books all referring to Muktananda.[57][58][59][60][61]

The teaching of Ham on inhalation and sa on exhalation is allegedly alluded to in a text of Kaśmir Śaivism, the Vijnana Bhairava:

Air is exhaled with the sound SA and inhaled with the sound HAM. Then reciting of the mantra HAMSA is continuous[62]

However, this verse 155b is not found in the Vijnana Bhairava first published in 1918 in the Kashmir Series of Text and Studies[63] but is quoted from a commentary by the Abhinavagupta disciple Kṣemarāja[64] in his Shiva Sutra Vimarshini (commentary on the Shiva Sutras)[63] in later editions of Vijnana Bhairava.[65]


When used for meditation, "Sohum" acts as a natural mantra to control one's breathing pattern, to help achieve deep breath, and to gain concentration.

  • Sooooo... is the sound of inhalation, and is remembered in the mind along with that inhalation.
  • Hummmm... is the sound of exhalation, and is remembered in the mind along with that exhalation.

Soham is also considered a mantra in Tantrism and Kriya Yoga, known also as Ajapa mantra, Ajapa Gayatri, Hamsa Gayatri, Hamsa mantra, prana mantra, Shri Paraprasada mantra, paramatma-mantra, and as such used notably on its own, in the meditation practice ajapa japa[66] and in the kriya practice shabda sanchalana.[67]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In English language literature also printed as So’ham, So Ham, So-aham, Sohum, So Hum, Saham, Sa'ham, Sau-ha, Sah-karena/Sahkara = the sound of Sa
  2. ^ a b c d Olivelle 1992, pp. 80–81, 210 with footnotes.
  3. ^ a b Mariasusai Dhavamony (1999), Hindu Spirituality, GB Press, ISBN 978-8876528187, page 129
  4. ^ Alper, Harvey P. (1991). Understanding Mantras. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 104. ISBN 978-81-208-0746-4.
  5. ^ Monier Monier Williams Dictionary, Sa s.v. " 6.": "it is often for emphasis connected with another pron. as with aham, tvam, eṣa, ayam&c. (e.g. so'ham, satvam, 'I (or thou) that very person'"
  6. ^ The Upanishads, Part 1 1879, p. 313. Müller gives the footnote: "Asau purushah should probably be omitted", taking these words as an explanatory gloss that was accidentally incorporated in the text.
  7. ^ a b Olivelle 1992, pp. 80–81.
  8. ^ Olivelle 1992, pp. 210, 216.
  9. ^ Olivelle 1992, pp. 227, 229.
  10. ^ a b Olivelle 1992, pp. 156.
  11. ^ Olivelle 1992, pp. 160–161, 165–166.
  12. ^ Parmeshwaranand Swami (2000). Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Upanisads. Sarup & Sons. p. 140. ISBN 978-81-7625-148-8. The jiva comes out with the letter Ha and gets in again with the letter Sa
  13. ^ a b Woodroffe, John George (1974). The Serpent Power - The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga (7 ed.). Courier Dover Publications. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-486-23058-0.
  14. ^ Singh, Nagendra Kr (1997). Encyclopaedia of Hinduism. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD. p. 213. ISBN 978-81-7488-168-7.
  15. ^ "Yoga Sikha Upanishad". Retrieved 2009-05-17. 6.53 The prana goes out with sound "ham" and goes in with the word "sa", and all beings naturally chant the mantra "Hamsa, Hamsa" (while exhaling and inhaling).
  16. ^ Renfrew Brooks, Douglas (2000). Meditation revolution: a history and theology of the Siddha Yoga lineage. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 510. ISBN 978-81-208-1648-0.
  17. ^ Parmeshwaranand Swami (2000). Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Upanisads. Sarup & Sons. p. 231. ISBN 978-81-7625-148-8. We are said to exhale with Ha and to inhale with Sa
  18. ^ "Gandharva Tantra (abstract)". Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  19. ^ a b Woodroffe, John George (2007). Shakti and Shakta. NuVision Publications, LLC. p. 343. ISBN 978-1-59547-920-4.
  20. ^ Avalon, Arthur (2008). Hymn to Kali. BiblioBazaar, LLC. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-4346-9196-5.
  21. ^ "Kularnava Tantra". Retrieved 2009-05-17. Ham-Sah is the pathway breath takes in living creatures. This mantra exists in the form of exhalation and inhalation
  22. ^ "Kularnava Tantra". Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  23. ^ Chawdhri, L. R. (2007). Secrets of Yantra, Mantra and Tantra. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-84557-022-4. "Ha" is the outgoing breath and "sa" is the ingoing breath.
  24. ^ Olson, Carl (2007). Hindu primary sources: a sectarian reader. Rutgers University Press. p. 506. ISBN 978-0-8135-4070-2.
  25. ^ Avalon, Arthur (2004). Mahanirvana Tantra Of The Great Liberation. Kessinger Publishing. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-4191-3207-0. All beings say the ajapa Gayatri, which is the expulsion of the breath by Hangkara, and its inspiration by Shakara
  26. ^ Dayal, P (1991). Raja Rao : A Study of His Novels. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 53. ISBN 81-7156-160-8. The Mahanirvana Tantra unequivocally specifies an identity between jiva and Brahman (...) The idea of "So'ham" (I am She/He or I am one with the Supreme) is explicitly emphasized in this Tantric text.
  27. ^ Mahanirvana Tantra is claimed to be a juridical fabrication in: Duncan, John (1978). Essays in classical and modern Hindu law. BRILL. p. 197 ff. ISBN 978-90-04-04808-9.
  28. ^ "Bhaja Gaureesam". Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  29. ^ "Gowresa Ashtakam". Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  30. ^ "Shakthi Mahimnah Stotram". Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  31. ^ "Tripurasundari Vijaya Sthava". Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  32. ^ a b Srinivasan, N. K. (2007). Safe and Simple Steps to Fruitful Meditation. Pustak Mahal. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-81-223-0891-4.
  33. ^ "Adi Shankara's Vakya Vritti". Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  34. ^ Feuerstein, Georg (2002). The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 537. ISBN 978-81-208-1923-8. [The psyche] exits [the body] with the sound ha and reenters with the sound sa.
  35. ^ Siddha Guru Gorakhnath. Brahmamitra Awasthi (ed.). Yoga Bija. Delhi, India: Swami Keshwananda Yoga Institute. p. 112.
  36. ^ Olson, Carl (2007). Hindu primary sources: a sectarian reader. Rutgers University Press. p. 439. ISBN 978-0-8135-4070-2.
  37. ^ Kiehnle, Catharina (1997). Songs on yoga: texts and teachings of the Mahārāṣṭrian Nāths. Franz Steiner Verlag. pp. 155–56. ISBN 978-3-515-06922-9.
  38. ^ Kiehnle, Catharina (1997). Songs on yoga: texts and teachings of the Mahārāṣṭrian Nāths. Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 185. ISBN 978-3-515-06922-9.
  39. ^ Kiehnle, Catharina (1997). Songs on yoga: texts and teachings of the Mahārāṣṭrian Nāths. Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 301. ISBN 978-3-515-06922-9.
  40. ^ Nair, Sreenath (2007). Restoration of Breath: Consciousness and Performance. Rodopi. p. 100 ff. ISBN 978-90-420-2306-2.
  41. ^ Vennemann, Michael (2008). Fürchte Dich nicht, Petrus Romanus - Teil 2. M. Vennemann. pp. 522–23. ISBN 978-3-00-025348-5.
  42. ^ "Shiva Svarodaya (51)". Retrieved 2009-05-17. The Shiva Svarodaya scripture's verse 51 says, "The process of exhalation is said to contain the letter ham, and the inhalation contains the letter sa."
  43. ^ Mallinson, James (2004). Gheranda samhita: the original Sanskrit and an English translation. YogaVidya.com. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-9716466-3-6.
  44. ^ Ma Yoga Shakti (1995). Gheranda samhita. La scienza dello yoga. Edizioni Studio Tesi. p. 181. ISBN 978-88-272-1099-4.
  45. ^ Yogi Pranavananda (2000). Tony Rodriguez (ed.). Pure Yoga. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 113 ff. ISBN 978-81-208-1508-7. With the sound 'Sah' the breath goes in; with the sound 'Ham' the breath comes out
  46. ^ "Gheranda Samhita 5:84". Retrieved 2009-05-17. Gheranda Samhita 5:84 indicates, "Breath of every person, in entering, makes the sound of 'sa', and in coming out (bahiryati), that of 'ham.' "
  47. ^ Singh, Panchanan (2004). The Forceful Yoga: Being the Translation of Haṭhayoga-pradīpikā, Gheraṇḍa-saṃhitā, and Śiva-saṃhitā. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 275. ISBN 978-81-208-2055-5.
  48. ^ Satyananda Saraswati (1989). Yoga and Kriya: A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of (2 ed.). Munger, Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga. p. 497 ff. ISBN 978-81-85787-08-4.
  49. ^ Devanand, G. K. (2008). Teaching of Yoga. Himalayan Institute Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-81-313-0172-2. Soham is a universal mantra vibration, with Sooo.... being remembered with inhalation and Hummm... being remembered with exhalation.
  50. ^ Mumford, John (1999). Death: beginning or end? : methods for immortality. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 97 ff. ISBN 978-1-56718-476-1.
  51. ^ Margaret Stutley; Anonymous (1977). A Dictionary of Hinduism. London: Routledge. p. 372. ISBN 978-0-429-62754-5. OL 35543927M. Wikidata Q110087969. The Hamsa symbolizes knowledge and the life-force or cosmic breath (prana), 'ham' being its exhalation, and 'sa', its inhalation which is regarded as the return of the individual life-force to brahman, its cosmic source. {{cite book}}: |author2= has generic name (help)
  52. ^ Tigunait, Pandit Rajmani (2000). Power of Mantra and the Mystery of Initiation. Himalayan Institute Press. p. 68 ff. ISBN 978-0-89389-176-3. (..) you will hear the sound sooo in the inhalation and hammmmm in the exhalation.
  53. ^ Woodroffe, John (1910). Shakti and Shakta. Forgotten Books. p. 318. ISBN 978-1-60620-145-9.
  54. ^ Xavier, G. Francis (2004). Yoga for Health & Personality. Pustak Mahal. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-81-223-0892-1.
  55. ^ "Letter from Swami Muktananda to Franklin Jones, April 23, 1968". Retrieved 2009-05-17. Harmonize the repetition of mantra with the breathing as follows: With "So" take it in and with "ham" bring it out. (...) When one's mind is fixed on "So" with the incoming breath and on "ham" with the outgoing breath it is mantra-japa. (...) Your beauty, your energy, your duty, your religion, your Guru and guide; your study, worship and prayer -- all lie in engaging yourself to the remembrance and repetition of "So'ham", "So'ham". This is my instruction, this is my precept. This is to be followed or practiced, and reflected upon devoutly.
  56. ^ Swami Muktananda (1992). I Am that: The Science of Hamsa from the Vijnana Bhairava. SYDA Foundation. p. 27 ff. ISBN 978-0-914602-27-9. Sit quietly, and watch the going out and coming in of the breath . . . Bhairava says that as the breath comes in, it makes the sound ham, and as the breath goes out, it makes the sound sa. This is known as ajapa-japa, the unrepeated mantra repetition. One who simply watches the breath, being aware that it is coming in and going out with the sounds ham and sa, is doing ajapa-japa, and this is the true way of practicing mantra.
  57. ^ Renfrew Brooks, Douglas (2000). Meditation revolution: a history and theology of the Siddha Yoga lineage. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 509 ff. ISBN 978-81-208-1648-0.
  58. ^ Swami Shankarananda (2003). Happy for No Good Reason: Learn to Meditate, Become Stronger, Calmer and Happier. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 114–15. ISBN 978-81-208-2006-7.
  59. ^ Kedar, Acharya (2003). The Sutras on the 5-Fold Act of Divine Consciousness. iUniverse. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-595-29389-6.
  60. ^ Kedar, Acharya (2003). Vibration of Divine Consciousness: The Spiritual Autobiography of Acarya Kedar. iUniverse. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-595-27410-9.
  61. ^ Sopory, S.K. (2004). Glimpses of Kashmir. APH Publishing. p. 103 ff. ISBN 978-81-7648-547-0.
  62. ^ "Vijnana Bhairava". Archived from the original on 2006-08-21. Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  63. ^ a b "Muktabodha on-line library Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies". Archived from the original on February 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  64. ^ Alper, Harvey P. (1991). Understanding Mantras. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 282. ISBN 978-81-208-0746-4.
  65. ^ Singh, Jaideva (1991). The Yoga of delight, wonder, and astonishment: a translation of the Vijñāna-bhairava. SUNY Press. p. 143 ff. ISBN 978-0-7914-1073-8. reprinted and published as: Singh, Jaideva (2002). Vijnanabhairava or Divine Consciousness: A Treasury of 112 Types of Yoga. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 173. ISBN 978-81-208-0820-1.
  66. ^ Satyananda Saraswati (1989). Yoga and Kriya: A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of (2 ed.). Munger, Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga. p. 497 ff. ISBN 978-81-85787-08-4. Listen carefully to your breath; you will hear the sound So with inhalation and Ham with exhalation.
  67. ^ Satyananda Saraswati (1989). Yoga and Kriya: A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of (2 ed.). Munger, Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga. p. 668 ff. ISBN 978-81-85787-08-4.