“What is” Series video created by Brett Larkin for YOGI TIMES.
The OM Symbol Meaning
We’ve all heard about this sacred syllable called “OM”. But, what is the full definition of the OM symbol? What is the OM meaning in Hindi? How can you properly chant this sound of the universe called OM?
Can it be translated into English? Not exactly. If you chant it, does it somehow change you or your religion? Absolutely not.
Let’s dispel some of the mysteries and misunderstandings about OM / Aum’s definition so we can better understand its meaning.
The origin of the sacred syllable OM
OM is an ancient Sanskrit “word” that was first felt by rishis as they meditated. It was more about the essence of OM than the chanting of it. Eventually, as the experience was shared, the word came forth and people started chanting it in order to invite the same experience. OM is also one of the most important spiritual symbols. It makes reference to Atman (soul, self within) and Brahman (the entirety of the universe, the ultimate reality, and cosmic knowledge).
The experience and full meaning of OM
It is somewhat difficult to describe with words, but OM represents everything. Above all, it is said to be the seed of all of creation; just like an acorn seed has the immense power and beauty of a mighty oak tree. Hence, this seemingly small word contains all the power of the Universe. So it is the beginning, middle, and the end of it all; it is the past, present, and future.
Consequently, chanting ‘OM‘ brings the physical reality of this world into your awareness. In your body, you will connect to your emotions and the subtle impressions of your mind. Many studies clearly demonstrate that our breathing rate and heart rate become synchronize during OM Chanting! It confirms a well balanced autonomic nervous system which is a critical requirement for us to be well balanced. As a result, you become attuned to all of the thoughts and beliefs in your life and of the world around you.
As the Mandukya Upanishad tells us:
The perfect state, or super conscious state, and all that precede it are a part of Om. A sort of wakeful dream as a strange and fascinating state of consciousness.
How to Chant OM and harness its power
To chant OM, the sound can also be displayed in its more complete form of Aum. When written this way, it appears as if the sound has three parts – but in actuality, it has four:
1.The A (aahhh)
This sound represents the creation aspect of the universe and all of the objects within it. ‘Ahh’ is the beginning of all sounds, it is the most common letter that starts alphabets. It connects us to our sense of self; the ego. Also, with this syllable, you experience the existence of the world through the activity of the senses.
So when you chant this sound, notice that it is produced in the throat and back of the mouth where the tongue is rooted and resonates in the lower abdomen.
This first sound embodies “Sat”, the sound that starts to bring you back to unity– to the truth of your existence.
2. The U (oooh)
This sound signifies the maintaining energy of the Universe and the subtle impressions of the mind. Likewise, it connects us to an inner sense of something greater than that which we can see and feel with our senses. ‘Oooh’ lets in lightness, clarity, balance, and goodness. So when you chant this letter, the sound moves forward between the tongue and the palate up to the lips and vibrates in the solar plexus.
This second sound denotes “Chit,” an illumination of knowledge and pure wisdom.
3. The M (mmmm)
This sound characterizes the transformative energy of the Universe and the thoughts and beliefs of your being. As a result, it unites you to the awareness of oneness, allowing you to slow down in order to feel the connectedness of all that is. The ‘mmmm’ sound is produced by closing the lips, and it vibrates the crown chakra of the head.
The third sound symbolizes “Ananda;” to be at one with bliss, everywhere with all things.
4. The fourth sound is silence or Anahata.
It is the vibration which is beyond verbal pronunciation. Also, it is pure consciousness of the Self or the Atman.
Finally, the unity of Sat Chit Ananda–I exist, I know, I am blissful— is experienced here.
As you can see, the experience of OM is multifaceted. It truly is an experience of all in everything, so the sound of Aum includes the entire process of sound and all other sounds are included within it. Therefore, OM is one of the seed syllable sound (Bija), the original sound from which all other sounds and words come from.
This is why OM is said to represent God, Brahman, Source, Universal Consciousness. Ultimately, the meaning of OM/Aum is the power to create everything.
When chanting OM aloud, the sound will naturally evolve through the three phases corresponding to the three letters, A-U-M. Just like the experience of OM as a sense of completeness and pure consciousness, the three syllables are not distinct or separate phases, but a continuous motion of the body, breath, and awareness.
How to Incorporate OM in your life
The true power of Om lies in the experience of Om. Reading this article can help the mind understand, but it cannot give you the experience. Practicing is key to best experience its power and its profound benefits. So try these tips out:
Chant OM by yourself
Be it with your friends or in your community, allow the experience of all the words above to soak into your being. Feel the power each syllable has as the sound vibrations move from the low abdomen, up through the solar plexus and chest, all the way to the top of the head. So if you let the vibrations clear and cleanse your energy system and chakras, you will find wholeness and healing in this easy to remember the mantra. In addition, practicing chanting OM regularly before your bedtime ritual can increase your possibility of experiencing deep sleep.
Use OM in Yoga
One of the most common yoga symbols, many yoga classes begin and end with the chanting of OM three times. This mantra allows the energy of the group to begin the process of harmony by breathing together and sharing in this mantra. In the end, it tunes each person into themselves and reminds the body and mind to set aside worldly concerns. So it encourages you to turn your attention inward to the everlasting joy yoga can bring.
Use OM with Namaste
Repeating OM at the end of a session, together with the traditional “Namaste,” is a declaration of respect for the practice and each other. By doing so, it also allows you to carry forth the inspiration of yoga to everyone and encourage growth in yourself and others through your presence alone.
Om is an amazing tool that all people of all faiths can utilize to bring focus and awareness to the greater meaning of life.
Above all and regardless of religion, it reminds us of the importance of sound healing and how words can be sacred and divine. In the end, the words that we use either out loud or in our thoughts have the power to create and influence the reality around us. Ancient teachings along with modern science confirm that all living things are made up of their most essential level of vibrating, pulsing energy.
Always remember: words have power. So may we use them wisely to raise our vibration and that of the ones around us. Namaste.