The meaning of the ‘Om’, ‘Ohm’ or ‘Aum’ Symbol? 

Have you ever wondered what the Om symbol means? If you have an interest in spirituality, yoga, meditation, or Eastern philosophies, it’s likely you’re already familiar with the concept of Om. A unique symbol with a deep spiritual meaning, let’s take a closer look at what exactly the Om symbol represents.

Om, also called Ohm or Aum, is a special sound believed to be the voice of the whole universe. It represents everything in existence and brings everything together. When we say “Om,” it’s like tapping into the very core of reality. People think that the vibrations from chanting Om can give energy to the different energy centers in our bodies, especially the third eye and crown chakras. These energy centers are believed to help us feel connected to something greater than ourselves.

As Om is regarded as the original sound of consciousness and creation, by chanting its sound, we are physically tuning in to the universe, and creating a spiritual connection to the existence of all things.

When we pronounce it correctly, it has four parts: A-U-M. We start with A, feeling in solar plexus and sending vibrations up into the chest. The second syllable U moves the sound up into the throat as the sound moves forward along the upper palate. The third syllable M is a prolonged syllable and brings the vibration through the upper chakras as the teeth come together to touch gently. The final syllable is the deep silence of the infinite as the overall vibration rises through the body and into the universe.

We chant Om at the start and finish of a yoga class for several reasons: It helps us to set apart our practice time from the rest of our day, marking it as a special time where we focus on caring for ourselves and being mindful. There are many other reasons we chant Om, including:

  1. When we chant Om, it resonates at a frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same frequency found in everything in nature.
  2. Om represents the fundamental sound of the universe. When we chant it, we’re symbolically and physically aligning ourselves with that sound, recognizing our connection to everything in the world and the universe.
  3. Chanting Om rhythmically soothes the body and nervous system, much like meditation. It can lower blood pressure and promote heart health.

Ultimately, Om connects us to our practice in a deeper way, creating a spiritual bond to our practice that is more than just the physical asanas.

The Cultural and Historical Roots of OM

The earliest reference to Om can be found in the Upanishads, particularly in the Mandukya Upanishad, a revered Hindu scripture exploring various interpretations of its meaning. According to this text, Om is described as eternal, encompassing all time – past, present, future, and even transcending time altogether.

These writings are linked to Vedanta, one of the six major Hindu philosophies, where the deeper meanings of Om are extensively explored. In the oldest Vedantic texts, Om is considered to represent boundless language and wisdom, embodying the essence of all existence and life itself.

The syllable OM holds ancient significance, originating from Sanskrit and first appearing in the Vedas around 1500–1200 BC. These Vedas consisted of hymns sung to honor the Divine, initially passed down orally before being transcribed. The Upanishads, mystical texts from ancient India, later delved into the metaphysical aspects of OM. Additionally, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali outlined the 8 Limbs of Yoga, with the sixth limb, Dharana (meaning concentration), offering methods to cultivate focused attention. Chanting a mantra, particularly the syllable OM, played a vital role in reaching this stage of yoga, facilitating union with divine origins. Anne Dyer, an expert in sound yoga, highlighted Patanjali’s teaching in an interview with Rodney Yee: Chanting Om can lead one to their goal, emphasizing its significance as a tool for spiritual connection and concentration.

The use of OM Today 

Today, both the Om symbol and chant are widely embraced globally. The symbol carries immense power and meaning, resonating with many individuals. It represents peace, tranquility, and unity, serving as a reminder to pause, breathe, and find inner calm. This significance has made it a popular choice for jewelry, cherished by those seeking to embody its essence.

Yoga and Meditation: The Om chant is a common practice in yoga and meditation sessions worldwide. Its soothing sound and vibrations aid in calming the mind and central nervous system. In our fast-paced lives, stress can accumulate quickly, so taking time to chant and relax the mind proves immensely beneficial to our overall well-being. Moreover, the meaning behind Om symbolizes unity, fostering a sense of togetherness when chanted in a group setting.

Chanting is believed to help align the body, mind, and soul, which is why people feel more connected with themselves after meditating and practicing the chant. Between chants, there is a space of silence, which represents the fourth state of being: the absolute state, or Turiya.

There are many benefits to chanting Om every day. These include reducing stress levels, improving concentration, regulating your sleep cycle, letting go of negativity, and feeling more energized and invigorated.

Similarly, the mantra ‘Om’ is frequently depicted in Thangka art, particularly in Mandala Thangka Paintings, echoing the same significance we’ve discussed earlier. As such, thangka art can serve as a meditation tool through visualization. By focusing on the depiction of OM and utilizing its sound during practice, individuals can engage in meditative experiences.

AUM Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer 

OM is sometimes written and pronounced as AUM, elongating the individual sounds found within OM. Each of these three letters, and their corresponding sounds symbolizes a different facet of the divine. The first sound, A, evokes Brahma, representing the creative force. The U sound invokes Vishnu, symbolizing preservation, while the M sound, Shiva, embodies the aspects of destruction and transformation. Together, these sounds encapsulate the triad of divine aspects: creation, preservation, and dissolution. They remind us that without these forces, nothing can exist, everything is sustained, and ultimately, everything returns to the void. After chanting AUM and journeying through the cosmic transformations, it’s customary to pause, sit in silence, and experience the creative void vibrating with the primordial essence.

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