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 Aa 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 Aa, U, and Mm. OM is also called the "four-element
syllable." The letters Aa, U, and Mm 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 Aa 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.
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 the figure 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 upper curve 2 denotes deep sleep (or the unconscious)
state,- 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.
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 affects the manifested phenomenon. In this way the
form of OM symbolizes the infinite Brahman and the entire
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.
scriptures declare that OM is the storehouse of mystic power.
When correctly uttered, OM brings into play the entire vocal
mechanism of a human being. When OM is uttered according
to Vedic injunctions, the throat generates the sound Aa
by beginning the sound from the bottom of the spine (Kundalini)
and thus using the entire range 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.
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.
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:
the monosyllable OM, the eternal word of Brahman, One who
departs leaving the body [at death], he attains the supreme
to Chant OM:
following are the steps for chanting OM correctly:
Take a slow 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.
sound of OM is to be produced in a non stop manner, by combining
the sounds of Aa, U and Mm, with the last sound (that of
Mm), assuming a nasal tone when lips have closed after speaking
Aa and U.