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Mandala Yoga Ashram - Wales U.K. - www.mandalayoga.net
THE MANTRA OM Symbol of Primordial Vibration
by Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati
The mantra Om (or Aum) has been handed down to us
by the Himalayan sages. It is the most important
mantra of Yoga. According to tradition, every 'thing'
manifest comes from Primordial Vibration, which is
symbolised by Om: all material objects, all living
beings, including each of us, all spiritual teachings,
including Yoga, all languages, including Sanskrit, all
scriptures, including the Vedas, everything.
Everything has come out of Primordial Vibration, which
is represented by Om.
This concurs with modern scientific thinking which says
that everything - every atom and molecule in every nook
and corner of this universe - is formed out of energy
vibration. Einstein formulated his famous equation that
E = mc which indicates that matter (m) is but an
expression of Energy (E). Every atom, at-Om, comes
out of the Primordial Vibration which is symbolised by Om.
Om as a sound, syllable (Om or Aum) and glyph (\) all symbolise the fact that all material objects, all
phenomena and all thought patterns, both on a microcosmic and macrocosmic level, are states of energy
vibration.
Om in Sanatan Dharma. Indian mystical and philosophical thinking is impregnated with Om, mentioned widely
in the Upanishads , Tantras , Puranas , Samkhyas and in specialised Vedantic texts such as the Yoga
Vashishta . It symbolises the essence of Sanatan Dharma (the Eternal Way), commonly known as Hinduism -
the tolerant and profound conglomeration of spiritual thinking and practice from which Yoga has come.
Om is widely known as the 'Mahat Mantra' - the great mantra.
Om is not directly mentioned in Rig Veda , probably because it was considered too sacred to utter or even write
down. Om is first mentioned, albeit indirectly, in the Yajur Veda in verse 1:1 where it is known as the pranava
the humming sound- or udgita the elevating chant.
Interestingly, no graphic representation of Om has yet been found in the extensive excavations of the so called
Indus Valley civilisation (circa 3000 BC, though probably much older) . The reason may be either that Om was
considered too sacred to be graphically represented, or that it had not yet been realised and brought into
mainstream spiritual practice. The oldest direct references and descriptions of Om are to be found in the
Upanishads which are considered to contain the essential teachings of the Vedas.
Om in the Mandukya Upanishad. The Mandukya Upanishad is exclusively dedicated to explaining the
significance of Om. It says that Om symbolises everything manifest and yet it has its origin in the Unmanifest. In
its analysis it writes Om as Aum with each of the three syllables having specific significance [see later sub-
headings Symbolism of the Syllables of Aum and Beyond Aum the Transcendental].
Much of what we are saying about Om in this article is contained in the 12 pithy verses of the Mandukya
Upanishad.
Om in other Upanishads. Om is also widely mentioned and discussed in other Upanishads, such as the
Chhandogya, Nada Bindu, Amrita Bindu, Maitri, Katha, Sweteshwatara and Dhyana Bindu Upanishads. Below
are a few key quotes:
"Om is the primordial throb of the universe. It is the sound form of Atma (Consciousness)."
Maitri Upanishad
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This is similar to the biblical statement In the beginning was the Word see later sub-heading Om in
Judaism and Christianity. In any case, it indicates, as we have already mentioned, that Om represents the
Primordial Vibration of the universe.
Often, the two paths of Mantra Yoga (being absorbed in the sound vibration) and Gyana Yoga (reflecting on the
meaning) are recommended in relation to Om, as for example:
"Let Om be the bow, mind the arrow, and Higher Consciousness the target.
Those who want enlightenment should reflect on the sound and the meaning of Om.
When the arrow is released from the bow it goes straight to the target."
Dhyana Bindu Upanishad
Furthermore, continuously chanting Om creates inner clarity. This can bring about insight into the deeper,
esoteric meanings of the holy texts:
"Like the continuous flow of an oil stream and like the vibration of a bell ... this is the way to chant Om and the
way to really know the meaning of the Vedas".
Dhyana Bindu Upanishad
Here the word Vedas refers not only to the four Vedas, but also to any inspired sacred text of any tradition.
There are many thousands of verses contained in the Vedas and in other texts; it is said that the essence of all
these verses is contained within Om. Om is like the DNA molecule: it contains enormous information.
Om is not just a philosophical symbol, but also a practical tool for transformation as the following quotation
indicates:
"Concentrate on Om in the heart centre as though it is like a candle flame the same size as your thumb."
Dhyana Bindu Upanishad
Here, the visualisation of Om can be combined with the chanting of Om, or not, whatever your preference. In any
case, it is a simple yet potent practice.
Om is a key which can open the door to the Infinite:
"This mantra Om indeed represents Brahman (the Absolute). It is the highest. He who knows its meaning and
worships it attains the supreme goal and knows everything.
Katha Upanishad
Om acts like the fabled philosophers stone of alchemy: it transforms base metal into gold. That is, it completely
changes the perception and understanding of the Yogic practitioner so that he or she is able to understand what
was previously incomprehensible or unthinkable. This is clearly indicated by the following statement:
"Fire, though potentially present in firewood,
is not seen until one stick is rubbed against another.
The Atma is that fire; it is realised by the constant awareness of the sacred mantra Om.
Let your individual personality be one stick and Om the other.
Thus you will realise your real nature, which is hidden within just as fire is,
in a sense, hidden in combustible materials".
Sweteshwatara Upanishad
The vibrations of Om act on the personality to bring transmutation - there is an alchemical change in ones whole
being and perception. This enables us to realise the hidden but ever present Reality known as Atma
(Consciousness).
From these quotations we can see the enduring importance given to the philosophical meaning of Om and its
practical application in chanting, visualisation and reflection. It has the power to transform our perception of what
we are and our place in the universe.
Om in the Puranas. Om is widely mentioned in the Puranas as the following snippets will reveal:
I pay respects to the Ineffable Intelligence which is symbolised by the sacred syllable Om.
Bhagavat Purana
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Let him recite the Gayatri Mantra prefixed with the mystic syllable Om,
the mother of all the Vedic mantras.
Garuda Purana
In this last quote, we see that Om is inextricably linked to the Gayatri Mantra which has been used in India since
time immemorial.
The Shiva Purana states that 1,080,000,000 recitations of Om purify our mind and lead us automatically to
salvation.
The Narada Purana encourages the Yoga practitioner to fix Om in the heart centre while meditating. Om is
prescribed as an accompaniment to pranayama.
Other Puranas such as the Agni, Padma and Vayu Puranas also mention Om.
Om in the Yoga Sutras. In the classical Yoga Sutras, the yogi and sage Patanjali tersely defines Om as
follows:
Om is a symbol of Ishwara (Underlying Intelligence).
verse 1.27
And in the following verse he continues and advises combining Mantra and Gyana Yoga:
Om should be repeated over and over again whilst reflecting on its deeper meaning.
verse 1.28
As he next points out, this takes us to the state of Meditation:
From this practice (of using Om), Awareness turns inwards and all obstacles are overcome.
verse 1.29
So we see that Om is a fundamental part of the practice and teachings of Ashtanga Yoga , also known as
Patanjali Yoga.
Om in the Bhagavad Gita. Om is widely mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita where the mantra Om is an essential
part of its teachings and practice. Krishna tells Arjuna:
O Arjuna, I am the taste of pure water, and the light of the moon and the sun.
I am the essential nature of the mantra Om mentioned in the holy scriptures,
the sound in ether, as well as the courage and virility of human beings.
verse 7.8
Krishna, who symbolises underlying Intelligence or Consciousness, is the essence of Om. Om, as sound
vibration, is an expression of this underlying Consciousness. Therefore, by practising Mantra or Gyana Yoga (or
even Bhakti Yoga ) we can trace Om back to its source. In this way, we are enabled to realise the nature of
Consciousness.
Krishna talks of death and the importance of chanting Om at the time of death:
The mantra Om symbolises Reality. At the time of death, repeat Om and
you will go forth from the body and attain the Supreme Goal.
verse 8.13
From the Yogic viewpoint, death is not just the time of disintegration of the physical body, but also a golden
opportunity of directly realising our Immortal or Deathless Essence. Chanting Om at the point of death can be a
valuable part of this process.
Krishna also says that all spiritual practices should be initiated with Om:
Before starting sacrifices, holy practices and austerities (as prescribed by the scriptures), serious spiritual
seekers should chant Om.
verse 17.24
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Indeed, this is what we often do before starting Yoga practice or Meditation we chant Om a few time, either
aloud or mentally, whether alone or in a group. Try it! It works wonders.
Om in Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Om is an integral part of the philosophies, rituals, meditations and
chants in Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. It has the same meaning and ramifications as in Yoga. For further
information, read the holy texts of these religions.
Aum (Om) in ancient Egypt. It seems that the ancient Egyptians knew of Aum as Amen or Amun. It seems
that Amen or Amen-Ra was a primordial creation deity, the name of the supreme God who was considered the
creator and ruler of the other gods, and to have no beginning and no end. Possibly, Aum was deified as Amen.
Certainly, this description ties up with Aum in that Primordial Energy is the source of all things, including gods,
and indeed is without beginning and end, since it is the very source of time itself.
In any case, this word can be seen in the names of some of the Pharaohs, such as in Tut-ankh-amen which
literally means The Living Image of Amen. There was even a temple in the ancient city of Thebes called Amen-
Re or the Temple of Amen. It was located at the navel of Egypt; that is, at its exact geographical centre.
Also, it is interesting to note that ovoidal-shaped stone markers called Om-pholos (a Greek word which literally
means navel) were placed throughout Egypt as a means by which the land was delineated and surveyed.
Moreover, each ompholos indicated that the god Amen was present there. Possibly, and this is pure speculation,
Om was symbolically placed in the form of these ompholos marker-monuments all over Egypt to indicate that
that which Om represents is everywhere in a word, Om-nipresent!
The god Thoth (the God of Wisdom, known by the Greeks as Hermes) is believed to have created the world by
his Voice (Primordial Vibration) alone; this again hints at Om.
These parallels should not really surprise us because it is becoming more and more evident that the ancient
Egyptians had enormous commercial, cultural and religious exchange with India. Possibly, in the mists of time,
they shared a common culture or a common heritage.
And in passing, we would like to point out that some people say that the massive pyramids were constructed,
not using present-day construction techniques, but the power of sound. As we develop our understanding of
sound we may re-discover knowledge that the ancient Egyptians had known and used. Who knows?
Om in Judaism and Christianity. Indian mystical thinking influenced Judaism in many ways. In this process,
Aum (Om) became Amen and, as such, was later incorporated into Christianity. Amen is said to mean so be it,
though this may be a later interpretation. Amen is widely mentioned in the Bible. It is used during worship
(Revelations 3:14); to confirm an oath or that one agrees to moral laws (Deuteronomy 27:15-26); as an
expression of benediction (1 Chronicles 16.36); for expressing ones love of God (2 Corinthians 1:20) or as sign of
thanks (1 Corinthians 14.16).
Though perhaps not directly, the following well known statement would also indicate Aum:
"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and
the Word was God. Amen (Aum)
Bible St. John 1:1
In any case, the Word' (or Logos in Greek) means the cosmic throb or vibration and signifies exactly the same
as Aum or Om.
We see, therefore, that in fundamentals, such as the use of Aum or Amen, Yoga and Indian mystical thinking in
general, have a lot in common with Judaism and Christianity.
Om in Islam. A few centuries after Christ, Amen was adopted into Islam as Amin or Alm. The Arabic letter 'l' is
pronounced like 'u' when it appears before a consonant which means that Alm automatically become Aum.
Moreover, in exactly the same way as most traditional Indian spiritual texts, the Koran starts with Aum in the
form of Alm! Here we see an extraordinary parallel between Islam and Yoga, as well as mainstream Indian
mystical thinking. Everything starts with Aum.
Did the Celts use Om? The ancient mystical language of the Irish Celts was called Ogham (pronounced Ohm,
Om or Aum). Is this merely a coincidence? Ogham was not a flexible, developed language, but more a set of
hieroglyphic words for a limited range of things, mostly denoting objects revered by the Druids. This indicates the
possibility that the ancient Celts, through their Druid priests, knew of and used Om.
Certainly, there is evidence of the influence of ancient Indian culture in the ancient Irish culture. After all, Gallic is
an Indo-European language in which there are many words with Sanskrit roots. For example, the word Eire
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(Ireland), like the word for Iran, is derived from arya, a Sanskrit word which means noble and denotes the people
of ancient India.
It is possible, therefore, that the Ogham language has distant roots and was inspired by Om which, in turn,
epitomises Sanskrit and ancient Indian mystical thinking.
The Mayans and the Word. In the ancient Mayan scripture called the Popal Vuh it says:
'The first real men (sages) are given life by the sole power of the Word (Sound Vibration).
Though not a direct reference to Om, it does seem to imply that in pre-Columbian America, Mayan sages (like
Indian sages) knew the power of sound vibration (mantras) which Om symbolises.
The same applies to many ancient cultures world-wide who knew the transformative power of sound and who
realised what science has only recently discovered: that the manifest universe is based on energy, of which
sound is an aspect.
Vibratory Difference between Aum and Amen. The science of linguistics reveals that Amen has evolved from
Aum (Om). If you chant Aum for some time and then Amen you will see that there is a vibratory difference: Aum
is deeper and resonates in the belly and, in fact, in the whole body; whereas, Amen vibrates in the head and
throat. Therefore, the vibrations of Aum tend to take us beyond the fetters of the intellect, whereas, Amen, tends
to encourage thinking and the intellectual processes. Amen symbolises intellect (which characterises much of
western culture as well the growth of Christianity and Judaism) whereas Aum (Om) symbolises being which has
always been the essence of eastern religious and mystical systems.
Om in English Words. Is it a coincidence that various English words derived from Latin, some of which have
important philosophical meanings, start with Om? Take Om-niscience and Om-nipotence. Can it be a
coincidence that Om, symbolising the universal sound vibration that contains all sounds and vibrations, is also
contained in the word Om-nipresent! Note also the words Om-nifarious and Om-en. The Latin root word omni
means universal. Isn't it strange (or perhaps logical!) that the last letter of the Greek alphabet is Om-ega?
Possibly Om has influenced our culture, via the Greeks and Romans, more than we think, especially on a
philosophical level.
Lastly, the English word ombudsman (which comes from Norwegian) means a person who judges on intractable
disputes or problems. Is it a coincidence that one can break down the word so that it conveys the ancient role of
Ombudsman? Om-buds-man could mean Om + buddhi + manas - using the power of Om to awaken the
buddhi (Sanskrit, our discriminatory faculty) over manas (Sanskrit, the conceptual mind) . As most of you will
know, both the terms buddhi and manas are widely used in Yogic paradigms of the mind and its functioning.
Shree Yantra, the Geometric Form of Om. The word yantra means mystical diagram. There are many
different types and they are widely used in yogic and tantric practice as a means of bringing about Meditation.
The most famous is called the Shree Yantra (lit., the Blessed Mystical Diagram) which
symbolises the ineffable relationship between the manifest and the Unmanifest, between the
material universe and the underlying Substratum, and between the immanent and the
Transcendental. A thumb nail diagram is shown:
Each part and each triangle of the Shree Yantra is symbolic of underlying processes both
within each of us as human beings, and in the universe as a whole.
This is not the place to go into any detail, but to merely point out, bearing in mind the context of this article, that
the Bija (Seed) mantra associated with the Shree Yantra is Om. That is, the resonant frequency of the Shree
Yantra is Om.
The process of focusing on the Shree Yantra, whilst chanting specific mantras and visualising associated deities,
is widely practised in India and is known as Shree Vidya (lit., the Blessed Means or the Blessed Knowledge).
It is a complex meditational practice which can bring about a deep transformation in the practitioner.
Symbolism of the Syllables of Aum. A, U and M, both as syllables and as sounds, as well as the silence
after chanting Aum, symbolise a number of different things as follows:
Aum can be chanted by feeling the resonance of A in the abdomen, then allowing the U to resonate in the
chest and finally feeling the M vibration in the head.
A = abdomen U = chest/throat M = head
After the sound of Aum there is silence; this symbolises that which is above the head (i.e. beyond thinking), the
ineffable: Spirit, or Consciousness.
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According to the Mandukya Upanishad, the syllables of Aum represent the following realms of experience:
A = jagrat (waking state)
U = swapna (dreaming state)
M = shushupti (deep sleep state)
After chanting Aum there is silence; this symbolises the spiritually awakened state, which transcends the
previous three states.
The three syllables of Aum symbolise the three levels of mind as follows:
A = conscious U = subconscious M = unconscious
After chanting Aum there is silence; this represents the Super-consciousness state which transcends the
previous three states.
According to Yoga, Tantra, Samkhya and Vedanta, the whole of nature, including the human mind and body,
is made up of the three gunas (Sanskrit, guna, qualities): sattwa (harmony, clarity and light); rajas (passion and
dynamism); and tamas (ignorance, darkness and inertia). The three syllables of Aum symbolise these three
gunas as follows:
A = tamas U = rajas M = sattwa
After chanting Aum there is silence; this symbolises the state of trigunatita (Sanskrit, tri, three; atita, beyond) -
that which transcends the three gunas, i.e. Pure Consciousness.
The three syllables of AUM symbolise the three principles of existence symbolised by Brahma, the creative;
Vishnu, the sustaining; and Shiva, the destructive:
A = Brahma U = Vishnu M = Shiva
After chanting Aum there is silence; this symbolises underlying Reality which is the substratum behind, and
beyond, creation (Brahma), sustenance (Vishnu) and destruction (Shiva).
The three syllables of AUM symbolise the three realms of time: past, present and future:
A = Present U = Past M = Future
After chanting Aum there is silence; this symbolises underlying Reality which underlies and yet is beyond past,
present and future; the Timeless out of which time emerges.
Beyond Aum the Transcendental. According to the Mandukya Upanishad, the Transcendental State is
called turiya (Sanskrit, the fourth) - that which is beyond and yet encompasses the three states symbolised by
A, U and M. Hence, in order to discourage us from putting a concept on something which is beyond concept, it
is simply and succinctly called the fourth.
Turiya can be symbolised as follows:
The circle symbolises Turiya, underlying Reality. It includes
jagrat, the conscious waking state (A); it includes swapna,
the dream, or subconscious state (U); and it includes and yet
is beyond shushupti, the causal, unconscious state (M).
Though not necessarily visible to eyes, the first three states
exist in, and are part of, the manifest universe. Turiya
includes all of these three states or levels of manifest reality,
and yet It is beyond them. It encompasses them and yet
transcends them. It is the unseen substratum which can only
be realised when our mind dissolves into Consciousness
when, to use an expression attributed to the sage
Ramakrishna, the salt doll dissolves in the ocean.
Symbolic Meaning of the Glyph \ (Aum). The glyph or symbol \ supplements what we have already said
for the syllables A, U and M. That is, the three curves of Om (see the diagram below) also indicate the waking
state (conscious mind), dream state (subconscious mind) and non-dream sleep state (unconscious mind).
However, the symbol \ contains two extra aspects which are not found either in the three Aum syllables, nor
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their three associated sounds: these are the bindu and the raif (see diagram).
The Bindu and the Raif. The bindu (Sanskrit, point), symbolises each particle of existence. Each bindu is a
catalyst for manifestation. It is also known as the Transcendental Point because each point of existence has
intimate contact with the underlying Reality.
The raif is the crescent moon-shaped symbol shown in the glyph (see previous diagram). It symbolises the
creative, expressive energy which is generated by or through each bindu, each particle. The raif represents the
cosmic hum of the universe, the means by which Shiva (the Unmanifest, Consciousness or underlying
Intelligence) can manifest through Shakti (Cosmic Energy) to create the world of multifarious objects which we
perceive through the senses. This process takes place, continuously, moment to moment. In terms of quantum
physics, we can say that each and every particle (atomic, sub-atomic or whatever) arises out of the Quantum
Vacuum and thereby creates every thing in existence.
The Sanskrit word raif means to murmur. Therefore, the Unmanifest murmurs, so to say, into the manifest
world of form through each and every bindu.
The bindu is the blue-print and the raif is the creative energy. Together, they symbolise the ineffable relationship
between the finite and the Infinite, between the part and the Totality, between the individual and the All, and
between time and the Timeless. Modern quantum physics tells us that each particle of existence is
instantaneously connected to every other particle. This is independent of time and space - which suggests that
there is an underlying principle (David Bohm, the well known quantum physicist, called it the implicate order)
which is beyond time and space and which unifies all things on a deeper level of reality. In Yoga we call this
principle Consciousness. In the glyph of \ it is symbolised by the formless background on which the symbol
is enscribed and by the ether from which the sound of Aum is created and to which it returns.
Plunging through the Centre of Infinity. There is a well-known and ancient hermetic statement:
Reality is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is no-where.
There are many levels of interpretation, one of which was pointed out by Giordano Bruno. He said that whereas
finite space, no matter how large it is, can have only one centre, infinite space has its centre everywhere.
Mathematically, infinite space has an infinite number of centres.
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One hundred years later, Leibnitz, the German mathematician, inspired by Brunos thinking, tried to explain the
same thing with his theory of the Monad (monas is ancient Greek for unit.). Leibnitz described each centre of
infinity as a monad. Each single monad contains the reflection of the entire universe which is in agreement
with modern Quantum theory as well as many mystical systems including Yoga and Tantra.
The Hua Yen (or Kegon) School of Chinese Buddhism has tried to explain this even further with the image of
Indras Jewel Net where there are an infinite number of jewels in each of which is reflected all the other jewels
together. Also, each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel also reflects all the other jewels, so that there is an
infinite reflecting process going on. This gives an idea of infinitely repeated interrelationship among everything in
the universe.
In Yoga, each centre of infinity is called bindu (see previous heading The Bindu and the Raif). Each monad,
each particle of existence, is impregnated with energy and Consciousness. Each bindu is in intimate contact
with every other bindu. Each bindu shares with the Totality and the Totality shares with each bindu.
The Primordial Vibration, symbolized by Om, resonates through each of these infinite number of centres. By
chanting Om (or any other mantra), we move from a state of extroversion and dissipation to a more introspective,
harmonious state. Centring ourselves in Meditation, we are able to touch the bindu (the Transcendental Point,
symbolised by the dot in the top of the Om symbol \). Plunging through this Bindu (which exists everywhere),
we can realise the nature of Reality.
The Bindu of the Human Personality. Each and every embodied being is an expression of Shiva
(Consciousness; underlying Reality) acting through the medium of Shakti (Energy; the Quantum Vacuum). As
we have already said, each bindu (particle) of existence acts as a conduit for the flow of creative energy
represented by the raif.
But the bindu of the human personality is known as the Anandamaya Kosha, the Blissful Sheath or Causal
Body. This is the nucleus of our existence as an embodied being. In Meditation, we are in contact with this level
of our being, and we can be catapulted into osmotic contact and realisation of underlying Consciousness. As
Eckhart, the medieval German mystic, said:
"The eye with which I see God is the same as that with which He sees me."
That is, Reality sees us (i.e. is in constant and intimate contact with us) through the bindu, but we can also
reciprocate by tuning into Reality through the bindu (by seeing through the same eye). The bindu, here the
Anandamaya Kosha, allows us to realise Reality. Or, more correctly, we should say that the bindu is the point
through which the Cosmic Consciousness realises Itself through the individual consciousness.
When we chant Om we focus on the resonance which is the raif. Our being gets absorbed in this vibration and
this has the power to lead us back, via the bindu, to realise the underlying nature or Consciousness which is
beyond the bindu.
All this is indicated by the symbol of \: it is a symbol of the process of manifestation or creation, the means
by which we exist as embodied beings. But, at the same time, Aum also symbolises the process of return,
where through practice (Sanskrit, sadhana) we can realise our essential Roots.
The Analogy of the Lotus. The lotus flower is an archetypal symbol of the evolutionary potential and
development of each human being.
The lotus has three stages of growth and can be related to A-U-M as follows:
The roots that sink deep in the mud correspond to A; the stem, as it grows through the water, corresponds to
U; and the bud and the flower above the water facing the Sun, is M. We are born in the womb, the matrix of
matter (the roots in the mud); we grow up, developing the intellect, learning about our emotions and the ways of
the world (the stem in the water of life); finally, we can blossom like the beautiful lotus flower when we realise our
eternal connection with Spirit (our petals unfurl in the Sun).
Put in other terms, we can say that the lotus symbolises our growth in life as we pass through the three gunas :
where we start in the mud of tamas (ignorance; identification with our physical form), pass through the waters of
rajas (emotions, passion, ambition and furious activity) and finally, through refinement of our understanding
(perhaps having practised Yoga or some related system), we arrive in the fresh air and clear sky of sattwa
(harmony, joy and clarity). Then we are enabled to realise the Reality (the sun) which far transcends our
individuality (symbolised by the lotus).
A-U-M and the lotus symbolise this whole process to supreme fulfilment of our lives.
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Freed-Om. Chanting Om and reflecting on its meaning can lead us to freedom or Freed-Om. Our essential
Nature is free; chanting Om helps us to realise this fact.
The Real Om is the Primordial Cosmic vibration. It is ineffable and beyond symbol, syllable and sound. The real
Om is the bedrock of manifest existence. The sound of Om that we chant is just a faint shadow of the Reality
behind the manifest world.
And yet this shadow also represents the Transcendental. Consider a full moon in the sky and one of its
numerous reflections in a small puddle in your backyard. Obviously the reflection is not the full moon, and
anything that you do to the reflected moon (i.e. throw a stone in the puddle) will not even slightly influence the
moon in the sky. And yet, despite its insignificance, the reflection does faithfully indicate the shape and
markings of the full moon. So it is with Om. It pales in comparison to what it represents, and yet, nevertheless, it
is an indication of underlying Reality. This applies to every thing in existence from the smallest atom to the
most enormous galaxy. They are all indications of underlying Reality. Reflect on this.
From the Circle to the Point. During chanting, the sound of Om starts with a circle and ends with a point.
During pronunciation, the lips are slightly apart with A, slowly starting to close with U until they are completely
closed with M. There is, firstly, expansion outwards and then contraction inwards. Try it for yourself.
This indicates the path of Yoga: starting from a more or less (mentally and emotionally) dissipated state
(represented by the circle), where we search for meaning externally, in the world at large, we start Yoga and
progressively move to a more unified state where we are centred in Being (represented by the point). Every time
we chant Om we are symbolising the path towards Unity.
Om in other Mantras. Om is an integral part of most other mantras used in Yoga (Om Namah Shivaya, Gayatri
Mantra, Mrityunjaya Mantra etc.). Om precedes other mantras since it symbolises Consciousness and without
Consciousness, nothing can exist. Without the presence of underlying Intelligence, the mantra has no value and
no power to transform; indeed it cannot even exist! Om is the very core, the bed-rock, of all sounds and all other
mantras. Without That which is symbolised by Om nothing can exist, including each of us.
Om takes us Home. Our essential nature, our original home, is Consciousness. H-O-M-E is composed of OM
encompassed by HE; Therefore, OM is the essence of HE (Underlying Intelligence). Chanting Om helps us to
realise the roots of our Being, and in the deepest sense takes us homeward.
Om Symbolises:
the vibration of God.
Truth, the Absolute.
the hum of the universe.
liberation and the means to it.
Om Symbolises and Encourages:
the descent of Universality into the human heart.
the descent of the Infinite into the finite.
the expression of the Unconditioned into the conditioned.
the descent of the Formless into form.
The chanting of Om and reflection on its meaning helps to bring about a transformation in our perception so that
we can start to Realise the meaning of the above.
OM AUM AMEN AMIN OGHAM.