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Om or Aum written in Devanāgari as ॐ and as ओम्, in Sanskrit known as praṇava प्रणव , Omkara, or Auṃkāra ओंकार (lit. “Auṃ form/syllable”), is a sacred/mystical syllable in the Dharma or Indian religions, i.e. Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.
Aum, pronounced as a long or over-long nasalized close-mid back rounded vowel, though there are other enunciations adhered to in received traditions. It is placed at the beginning of most Hindu texts as a sacred incantation to be intoned at the beginning and end of a reading of the Vedas or prior to any prayer or mantra. TheMāndukya Upanishad is entirely devoted to the explanation of the syllable. The syllable consists of three phonemes, a Vaishvanara, u Hiranyagarbha and m Iswara, which symbolize the beginning, duration, and dissolution of the universe and the associated gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, respectively. Aum is pronounced in three sounds – A (aaa) , U (ooooo) and M (mmmmm) and signifies Right (A) and Left (U) Sympathetic Nervous Systems (SNS) and (M) Parasympathetic Nervous System. Right SNS (controlled by Left part of the brain) looks after the actional aspect whereas the left SNS looks after the emotional aspect of human beings.
The name Omkara is taken as a name of God in the Hindu revivalist Arya Samaj.
The Meaning of Om
Before the beginning, the Brahman (absolute reality) was one and non-dual. It thought, “I am only one — may I become many.” This caused a vibration which eventually became sound, and this sound was Om. Creation itself was set in motion by the vibration of Om. The closest approach to Brahman is that first sound, Om. Thus, this sacred symbol has become emblematic of Brahman just as images are emblematic of material objects.
The vibration produced by chanting Om in the physical universe corresponds to the original vibration that first arose at the time of creation. The sound of Om is also called Pranava, meaning that it sustains life and runs through Prana or breath. Om also represents the four states of the Supreme Being. The three sounds in Om (AUM) represent the waking, dream and deep sleep states and the silence which surrounds Om represents the “Turiya” state.
Because the first of the three states of consciousness is the waking state, it is represented by the sound “A” pronounced like “A” in accounting. Because the dream state of consciousness lies between the waking and the deep sleep states, it is represented by the letter “U” which lies between the “A” and “M”. This “U” is pronounced like the “U” in would. The last state of consciousness is the deep sleep state and is represented by “M” pronounced as in “sum.” This closes the pronunciation of Om just as deep sleep is the final stage of the mind at rest. Whenever Om is recited in succession there is an inevitable period of silence between two successive “Om”. This silence represents the “fourth state” known as “Turiya” which is the state of perfect bliss when the individual self recognizes his identity with the supreme.
The Symbol Om
Just as the sound of Om represents the four states of Brahman, the symbol Om written in Sanskrit also represents everything. The material world of the waking state is symbolized by the large lower curve. The deep sleep state is represented by the upper left curve. The dream state, lying between the waking state below and the deep sleep state above, emanates from the confluence of the two. The point and semicircle are separate from the rest and rule the whole. The point represents the turiya state of absolute consciousness. The open semicircle is symbolic of the infinite and the fact that the meaning of the point cannot be grasped if one limits oneself to finite thinking.
Early Vedantic literature
The syllable is mentioned in all the Upanishads, especially elaborated upon in the Taittiriya, Chāndogya and Māndukya Upanishad set forth as the object of profound religious meditation, the highest spiritual efficacy being attributed not only to the whole world but also to the three sounds a (a-kāra), u (u-kāra), m (ma-kāra), of which it consists. A-kara means form or shape like earth, trees, or any other object. U-kāra means formless or shapeless like water, air or fire. Ma-kāra means neither shape nor shapeless (but still exists) like the dark energy content of the Universe. When we combine all three syllables we get AUM which is a combination of A-kāra, U-kāra, and Ma-kāra.
The Katha Upanishad has:
“The goal, which all Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which humans desire when they live a life of conscience, I will tell you briefly it is aum”
“The one syllable [evākṣara, viz. aum] is indeed Brahman. This one syllable is the highest. Whosoever knows this one 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 Brahma.” (1.2.15-17)
The Chāndogya Upanishad (1.1.1-1) states:
om ity-etad akṣaram udgītham upāsīta / aum iti hy udgāyati / tasyopavyākhyānam
“The udgi:tā [“the chanting”, that is, the syllable om] is the best of all essences, the highest, deserving the highest place, the eighth.”
The Bhagavad Gi:tā (8.13) states that:
Uttering the monosyllable Aum, the eternal world of Brahman, One who departs leaving the body (at death), he attains the Supereme Goal (i.e., he reaches God).
In Bhagavad Gi:tā (9.17): Lord Krishna says to Arjuna – “I am the father of this universe, the mother, the support and the grandsire. I am the object of knowledge, the purifier and the syllable Oḿ. I am also the Ṛig, the Sāma and the Yajur Vedas.”
The Power of Chanting Om
- The chanting of Om drives away all worldly thoughts and removes distraction and infuses new vigor in the body.
- When you feel depressed, chant Om fifty times and you will be filled with new vigor and strength. The chanting of Om is a powerful tonic. When you chant Om, you feel you are the pure, all-pervading light and consciousness.
- Those who chant Om will have a powerful, sweet voice. Whenever you take a stroll, you can chant Om. You can also sing Om in a beautiful way. The rhythmic pronunciation of Om makes the mind serene and pointed and infuses the spiritual qualifications which ensure self-realization.
- Those who do meditation of Om daily will get tremendous power. They will have luster in their eyes and faces.
Meditation on Om
Retire to a quiet place, sit down, close your eyes and completely relax your muscles and nerves. Concentrate on the space between your eyebrows and quieten and silence the conscious mind. Begin to repeat “Om” mentally while associating the ideas of infinity, eternity, immortality, etc.
You must repeat Om with the feeling that you are the infinite and all-pervading. Mere repetition of Om will not bring the desired result. Keep the meaning of Om always at heart. Feal Om. Feel that you are the pure, perfect, all-knowing, eternal, free, Brahman. Feel that you are absolute consciousness and the infinite, unchanging existence. Every part of your body should powerfully vibrate with these ideas. This feeling should be kept up all day long. Practice regularly and steadily with sincerity, faith, perseverance and enthusiasm in the morning, midday and evening.
There are many mantras used in worship. The first is always the Moola Manthirum. This mantra forms the foundation which supports all the others. It was not written by a person but was given to us directly from Amma Herself in Her oracle. This mantra has enormous power. Some of the benefits conferred by reciting the Moola Mantra are:
- The Divine energy freely flows from the feet of Amma to the different systems of the body. The holy vibrations penetrate all the cells and revitalize the entire system.
- Eradication of one’s Karma.
- Gives you what you rightfully deserve.
- Helps solve ailments and genuine problems.
- Confers blessings leading to prosperity and happy life.
- Helps one to reach the highest spiritual pedestal (Mukti).
- Prevents fatal accidents.
Each type of pooja or velvi has specific mantras which are recited at a certain time during the ritual. The long mantras have either 108 or 1008 lines and are concluded with a short mantra of three lines and three om’s. The mantras recited during mandram pooja in America are shown below. Amma has given us permission to omit the 1008 line mantra which is normally recited because She says we are so busy and have little time. All mandrams in India, however, recite the 1008 as is normally required.
The number 108 has been considered sacred for thousands of years in India. The origin of this number probably lies in astronomy. The average distance from the sun and moon to the earth is 108 times each of their respective diameters. This is true to an accuracy of 0.5% for the Sun and 2% for the Moon. The thought that this was known so long ago is amazing. Like all tantric mantras each line is preceded by om and concluded with om. These characteristics give the mantras great potency.
The power of “OM” has been accepted by natives of every culture and religion, we Indians have known this since thousands of years but while the world is waking up to Indian Yoga and meditation Indians have been neglecting these great finding.
Do tell do you too think a syllable as simple as “Om” to be so powerful.!