Om: The Sacred Sound of the Universe

Have you ever wondered what the symbol Om means and where it came from?

“Yogis have chanted Om for thousands of years. And when we chant it, we’re connecting with those yogis in a ritual way, drawing upon the support of the practices they’ve been doing for a long, long time.” Yoganand Michael Carroll, Kripalu.

Om has been shared in ceremonies and found in temples, monasteries and retreats connected with Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. While Om can be written many different ways, the most common expression is DevaNagari, a Brahmi script (shown left).

The first written expression of Om is found in the Vedas, the source text for Hinduism, Vedanta, and yoga philosophy. By some accounts, the Rig Veda dates back 8,000 years orally. Rig is a Sanskrit word meaning to praise or shine and veda means knowledge.

In Hinduism, Om (aum – rhymes with home) is a reference to both atman (the individual soul) and Brahman (universal soul). Om is the totality of sound, existence and consciousness.

“Om is the sacred name of that indescribable One. It represents the Akhanda, the undifferentiated Brahman” Vivekananda

The word Om has three letters but is seen as fourfold, A+U+M+ silence (all that is). The four components can be expressed as time – past, present, future and that which transcends time. Om also depicts the four states of consciousness – waking, dreaming, deep sleep and satchitananda (being/consciousness, bliss). Finally, Om represents the three bodies of the jiva – gross (5 elements), subtle (mind, ego and intellect) and causal (vasanas – seeds of pastkarma) and the substratum from which they arise.

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From the Mandukya (Mundaka) Upanishad, “That which is flaming, which is subtler than the subtle, on which the worlds are set, and their inhabitants – That is the indestructible Brahman. It is life, it is speech, it is mind. That is the real. It is immortal. It is a mark to be penetrated. Penetrate It, my friend. Taking as a bow the great weapon of the Upanishad, one should put upon it an arrow sharpened by meditation, stretching it with a thought directed to the essence of That, penetrate that imperishable as the mark, my friend. Om is the bow, the arrow is the Soul, Brahman the mark. By the undistracted man is It to be penetrated, one should come to be in It, as the arrow becomes one with the mark.”

May Om bring you into the present, purify your body, heart, mind and spirit and awaken you to the true of self – light, love and joy!

Eaden Shantay co-owns True Nature Healing Arts, Carbondale, CO with his wife and partner Deva. True Nature offers yoga, meditation, high prana foods, Ayurvedic treatments, and a peace garden. Join Eaden Wednesday nights 7pm, beginning October 7th, for Meditation, Mantra and Vedanta (the path of knowledge).