Did-U-Know  Post Your Questions
Q. What is the forgotten meaning behind our religious symbol like Om?

Ans. OM The syllable OM (also called pranava), the most sacred symbol in Hinduism, is associated with symbolism as well as mysticism. Volumes have been written in Sanskrit illustrating the significance of this mystic symbol. Although this symbol is mentioned in all the Upanishads and in all Hindu scriptures, it is especially elaborated upon in the Taittiriya, Chandogya, and Mundaka Upanishads. By its sound and form, OM symbolizes the infinite Brahman and the entire universe.

In Sanskrit the sounds of letters A and U produce, when combined together, the sound equivalent of letter O. Thus the sound produced by OM is obtained by superimposing the sounds produced by the three letters A, U, and M. OM is also called the "four-element syllable." The letters A, U, and M are the three elements and the fourth element is the silence from which the sound of OM arises, and back into which it subsides.

The sound produced by the letter A signifies all that is observed and perceived in the wakeful state of an individual, thus representing both the subject and the object, and all the experiences in the physical world. Therefore, the letter A symbolizes all that is known and knowable. The sound produced by the letter U represents the observer and the things observed in the dream state of an individual's consciousness, thus denoting the astral worlds and the worlds of heavens and hells. The sound produced by the letter M signifies all unknown in the state of deep sleep as well as all that is unknown in the wakeful state. Thus OM symbolizes the phenomenal world that contributes to our experiences in the universe.

The silence, the fourth element of OM as stated above, represents the underlying Reality that pervades the waking, dream, and the (deep sleep states of one's consciousness. Thus OM symbolizes the infinite Brahman, the essence of all existence.

By its form OM also represents the unmanifest and the manifest, the noumenon (ground of phenomenon) and the phenomenon, and thus OM is an adequate symbol of God, personal and impersonal. This message is brought forth in the following passage of the Katha Upanishad: "The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which humans desire when they lead the life of continence, I will tell you briefly: it is OM. This syllable OM is indeed Brahman. This syllable is the highest. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires.

This is the best support; this is the highest support. Whosoever knows this support is adored in the world of Brahman..�. (Katha Upanishad 1, ii, 15-17) As shown in Figure F-16, the symbol of OM consists of three curves (curves 1, 2, and 3), one semicircle (curve 4), and a dot. The large lower curve 1 symbolizes the waking state; the tipper curve 2 denotes deep sleep (or the unconscious) state, and the lower curve 3 (which lies between deep sleep and the waking state) signifies the dream state.

These three states of an individual's consciousness, and therefore the entire physical phenomenon, are represented by the three curves. The dot signifies the Absolute (fourth or Turiya state of consciousness), which illuminates the other three states. The semicircle symbolizes maya and separates the dot from the other three curves. The semicircle is open on the top, which means that the Absolute is infinite and is not affected by maya. Maya only effects the manifested phenomenon. In this way the form of OM symbolizes the infinite Brahman and the entire universe.

The sacred mantra Om Tat Sat is uttered by Hindus at the end of all prayers. Thus OM begins where all speech ends, the point where an individual's heart melts into divinity, and the unspeakable and inexpressible Reality is reached. Thus OM symbolizes the essence of all the scriptures.Hindu scriptures declare that OM is the storehouse of mystic power.When correctly tittered, OM brings into play the entire vocal mechanism of a human being.

When OM is uttered according to Vedic injections, the throat generates the sound A by beginning the sound from the bottom of the spine (Kundalini) and thus using the entire depth of the human system in producing this sound. The sound U begins at the throat and ends at the tip of the tongue. The sound M is concentrated at the terminal end of the vocal system, the lips. According to Hindu scriptures, the sound of OM is the sound of creation, and this sound represents to our ears the sound of the cosmic energy of which all things are the manifestations.

All vowel sounds are included in the correct pronunciation of OM. All consonants are the interruptions of the sounds of the vowels. All words are thus fragments of the syllable OM. To have the highest experience in life is to hear the sound of OM in deep silence.

Hindu scriptures tell us that the repetition of OM, in accordance with the Vedic methods, generates the mystic power that leads one's mind into (deep concentration, meditation, and finally to samadhi, a state of higher consciousness.

The mystic power of OM is confirmed by Lord Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-Gita: "Uttering the monosyllable OM, the eternal word of Brahman, One who departs leaving the body [at death], he attains the supreme goal.

How to Chant OM: The following are the steps for chanting OM correctly:

1. Take a deep breath.

2. Hold the breath as long as you can comfortably. Do not create any discomfort.

3. Speak OM during a slow and long exhaling phase, until the breath is totally out.

4. Pause and repeat the steps again and again. The sound of OM is to be produced in a non stop manner, by combining the sounds of A, U and M, with the last sound (that of M), assuming a nasal tone when lips have closed after speaking A and U.

Back | Top

© 2000 - 2009 VandeMataram.com All rights reserved.