Do you know what the Om symbol meaning is? The sacred syllable Om (or Aum), also represented with the Om symbol (ॐ), are together one of the oldest and most widely known bija (seed) mantras within the yoga and Hindu traditions. The wisdom and meaning of Aum and its sound also has spiritual significance, especially om chanting, in religious and spiritual traditions of India, such as Buddhism and Jainism. For example, the Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is where the sacred Om symbol meaning is of high importance.
“What is” Series video created by Brett Larkin for YOGI TIMES.
If you’ve taken a good number of yoga classes yourself, you most likely heard of the sacred syllable and seen the Om symbol associated with it. Depending on the teacher, chanting Om may be incorporated as part of the class or as part of the closing. Chanting Om can be a collective activity, or one can choose to chant alone.
What is the full definition and meaning of Om?
How does one properly honor the sacred syllable Om and the wisdom that it carries? How does the Om symbol 🕉️ convey its sacred meaning, and how can you properly chant this sound of the universe?
Can the Om symbol meaning be translated into English? Not quite – the om symbol meaning that it carries is vast, and it isn’t easy to convey in a traditional definition. If you chant Om, does it alter you or your religion? Only an intentional change of your faith that is of your own choosing can change you or your religion! The sound of the universe is found in many faiths to invoke the divine, and Om is one of them.
To illustrate this sacred syllable further, let’s dispel some of the mysteries and misunderstandings about Om or Aum’s definition so we can better understand its meaning.
The origin of the sacred syllable OM 🕉️
Om is the sound of the universe. In Hindu tradition, the aum meaning is the vibrational sound of the force behind all creation and manifests from Brahman, the absolute and ultimate reality. It was felt by the rishis, Hindu sages, as they meditated and they realized the primordial essence of the universe within this syllable.
Chanting Om invokes the sound of creation within the universe and the supreme soul or supreme reality. It invites the experience and embodiment of this spiritual wisdom. As a bija or seed mantra, Om refers to Atman (soul, self within) and Brahman (the entirety of the universe, the ultimate reality, and cosmic knowledge). In a simplified spiritual explanation, the Om symbol meaning is a syllable that is the sound of the universe and connects one with the divine, the most high, and the source of all creation. The first mention of this syllable in written text is in the Upanishads.
Different parts of the Om symbol, ॐ, represent reality in its different states.
The large lower curve represents the waking state (jāgrat), the upper curve represents the unconscious state (sushupti), the middle curve denotes the dream state (swapna). Within the dot is the symbol of enlightenment (turiyā). The crescent represents maya, the illusion that attaches us to the material world and separates the lower, upper, and middle curves from the dot of enlightenment. A state of enlightenment is attained by transcending the material consciousness.
The Om symbol can vary slightly in its written form depending on the spiritual or religious tradition. The Aum symbol in its Indian, Tibetan, and Balinese forms all look different, but they all convey deep spiritual meaning and wisdom.
How is Om understood and defined within the yoga tradition?
The sage Patanjali (who wrote and compiled the Yoga Sutras) taught that chanting om with serious contemplation of its meaning would sharpen our meditation. Our consciousness will become “one-pointed” in this way. As you chant the syllable Om, the more profound truth, the supreme and eternal soul, is revealed to you. Yogis often chant Om during or at the end of their practice, aiming to invoke the divine as a reminder of the ultimate reality.
Also Read>>> Meaning of all the other Yoga Symbols
In the yogic tradition, filling the mind and spirit with the divine is how we can achieve the goal of yogic spiritual practices. The divine is the teacher of all teachers! All of the mysteries of the universe are only known to the divine and the force of all creation. Being in tune with them through the chanting of their sacred sound establishes our connection with them. The divine and the ultimate reality is our true guide, imparting us with wisdom and ridding us of our obstacles. This connection will guide us to always be on the right path.
Repeating Om can help the practitioner gain awareness and consciousness beyond space and time.
In the yogic understanding of karma, the practitioner finds the opportunity to be freed from karmic bonds by chanting Om. As long as the practitioner does it correctly with the full understanding of what the syllable is.
The unconscious mind then arrives at full awareness. Having a grasp of the realm of your own intuition can also be accessed through the repetition of the Om syllable since it is a representative of all sacred mantras (within the yogic and Hindu traditions). When a practitioner understands and practices with this syllable’s sacredness, unity with the divine or the ultimate reality is possible.
The experience and full meaning of the Om Symbol
As the Om symbol is vast in what it represents, the Om symbol meaning is not easy to describe with simple words, but Om essentially represents everything. It is the seed of all creation – in the same way, a plant seed has the beauty and immense power of its fully-fledged counterpart, the tree. Hence, this seemingly small word contains all the power of the universe. So it is the past, present, and future, the beginning, middle, and end.
You might find the syllable spelled as Aum. Both Om and Aum meaning refers to the same seed syllable that is the sound of the universe. The difference between them is its transliteration from the Sanskrit ॐ. The pronunciation of the “O” sound in Sanskrit combines an “A” and “U” sound. In its pronunciation, it sounds more like Aum with its three syllables.
What does Om Chanting do?
Chanting Om invites the ultimate reality of creation within your awareness. In this way, you will connect to your emotions and the subtle impressions of your mind. The benefits of chanting mantras are many. Many studies demonstrate that our breathing rate and heart rate become synchronized during Om Chanting! Sound vibration has a significant impact on a person’s mental, emotional, and physical state. Chanting Om aligns the frequency of ourselves with the frequency of the universe, which is an important part of all of our spiritual practices.
The mind then aligns with the breath, enabling a person to enter a state of elevated consciousness – samadhi. This state of consciousness allows one to have a clear and pointed focus on the path to spiritual awakening and fulfillment. Chanting slows down the thinking mind and the material things it is absorbed with.
It also creates the conditions for a well-balanced autonomic nervous system which helps us to be well balanced. You then become attuned to the thoughts and beliefs in your life and the world around you. The main effect of chanting mantras affects our mind and our nervous system. The chanting of mantras introduces peace and tranquility to your mind.
Mantras have many psychological benefits, such as decreasing depressive and anxiety symptoms.
When done well with proper understanding and attention, it can improve attention, awareness, and concentration. Since a mantra is not just a sound that you say but something that you strive to become, it can be a key to access more profound dimensions of existence.
Even meditating on the Aum meaning and sound can help to reconnect with our center. Though reflecting on the Aum meaning isn’t nearly as powerful as chanting. Benefits of chanting mantras such as the Om symbol and syllable include healing the body, protecting the mind, and manifesting intentions of the person chanting to connect with the divine. These benefits will arise when practitioners not only go through the motions (for that allows the mind to wander) but when we are rooted and embody every single sound and syllable.
Mantras also have the power to replace unhealthy patterns of thinking and feeling by instilling patience and the ability to see life situations more clearly. Chanting without the proper intention of heart and mind can make the action less effective and meaningful. Chanting mantras can bring one back to a place of pure mind and contact with the divine.
The beneficial effects of mantras will only manifest if you open your heart while chanting.
Additionally, these effects arise when we believe and intend on connecting with the divine presence that we are accessing.
As the Mandukya Upanishad states:
The perfect or superconscious state, and everything that precedes it, are a part of Om. A sort of wakeful dream as a strange and fascinating state of consciousness. In the Mandukya Upanishad, the four syllables of Om are guides to understanding truth.
Mantras can be an effective force to help us be in touch with the divine and the good within ourselves. However, this force only manifests if it originates from the source where there is a complete understanding of sound. By “understanding of sound,” it is that sound and vibrations are related to creation itself. A mantra that comes from that source and level of understanding will be a sufficient force of spiritual growth – especially when the transmission is pure.
To solidify a mantra practice’s motivations and intentions, we must properly understand what the mantra means. Understanding the wisdom within a mantra makes our practice more meaningful and closer to the divine. Every mantra activates energy that is in a different part of the body. Without knowing what the mantra is and what wisdom it carries, just repeating the sound will only bring dullness to the mind. But chanting with proper awareness and a proper understanding of its meaning, a mantra’s power is released within our practice.
Om Mani Padme Hum meaning, the om symbol is present in different spiritual traditions.
The supreme mantra in Tibetan Buddhism is Om Mani Padme Hum (or Aum Mani Padme Hum) in Sanskrit. The meaning of Aum Mani Padme Hum is the most sacred in Buddhist traditions, and all branches of Buddhist philosophy chant this supreme mantra.
The Aum meaning symbolizes the ultimate truth or Brahm and is the holiest of spoken words. Mani refers to a jewel in which light radiates from it all on its own, and Padme means Lotus. The Lotus is of great spiritual importance.
Lotus blossoms above the water in which it lives; its unfurled petals always above and remain untouched by the water. People should live their lives in this world in the same way as a lotus flower – unaffected and untouched by all the material attachments around them. The Lotus flower also symbolizes self-realization and enlightenment. Hum indicates the person who is reciting the mantra. It also refers to one’s consciousness.
Om Mani Padme Hum is also commonly translated as: “the jewel is in the lotus.”
All of the Buddha’s teachings are believed to be within this mantra. Invoking the loving and unconditional qualities of compassion is found by repeating the mantra over and over again. In other words, within all of us is the lotus flower. It is only that a lot of mud and muck often cover our magnificence.
Tibetan Buddhist tradition encourages practitioners to deeply know the phrase Om Mani Padme Hum and bring it into the very depths of one’s being. For that is the path to attain enlightenment, a practitioner should chant with great discipline and devotion.
The sound of the universe, aside from residing in the supreme mantra Om Mani Padme Hum and the sacred syllable Om, is also present in the divine invocation at the end of prayer “Amen” in Judeo-Christian traditions and “Amin” in Islamic traditions.
How to Chant the Om Syllable while harnessing the power of its wisdom
The sacred syllable of the universe is present in many different spiritual traditions and faith. They differ in their spelling and interpretation, but the “Om” or “Aum” sounds are prevalent in many invocations of the divine.
Before beginning the practice of chanting OM, know the tradition you are embarking on in your mind. Accessing the true power of the sound of the universe and properly contemplating its meaning rely on the traditions you are a student of. Keeping this in mind will deepen your practice.
In the Hindu and yoga traditions, when written as Aum, the syllable seems to have three parts – but in actuality, it has four:
1. The A (aahhh) in the Aum meaning
This sound is representative of the force of creation. This force of creation is the source of the universe and all objects within it. One can also understand this as ‘Ahh’ being the start or origination of all sounds. As it is the beginning, it helps us connect to our own sense of self. We can experience the existence of the world with this syllable through the senses.
As you chant this sound, you may notice that you first produced it in the throat. It originates from where the tongue is rooted, in the back of the mouth. The sound then resonates within the lower abdomen.
2. The U (oooh)
This second part of the pronunciation represents the perpetual energy of the universe. It also represents the mind and its subtle impressions. It creates a connection to the inner sense of something far larger and greater than that which we can see and feel with our senses. THe ‘Oooh’ in the Aum meaning invites clarity, lightness, goodness, and balance. You may notice that the sound moves forward from the tongue and the palate up to the lips and vibrates in the solar plexus as you chant this letter.
3. The M (mmm)
This third sound represents the transformational energy within the universe. It also represents beliefs and the thoughts that you hold. As a result, it connects you to the awareness that there is an incredible oneness, allowing you to slow down to feel this vast sense of connection. The ‘mmm’ sound arises by closing the lips. Making the sound in this way vibrates the crown chakra area at the top of the head.
4. The fourth sound is silence or Anahata.
It is the vibration that is beyond verbal pronunciation. It is pure consciousness of Self or the Atman. After you chant Om, there’s a pause, and it represents infinite consciousness or turiya, which only further adds to the Aum meaning.
The syllable’s vibration then gradually subsides into silence. This subsiding into silence symbolizes the state of consciousness that is transcendent of material consciousness. It is also known as Brahman or the Absolute. This silence is the peak of the mantra, and the point is invoking this immortal, tranquil, unshaken, and fearless form of being – as described in the Maitri Upanishad.
The stages of chanting Om represents many divine trinities:
- The waking, dreaming, and deep sleep state.
- The three facets of time — past, present, and future.
- Earth, atmosphere, and ether.
- Creation (Brahma)- Preservation (Vishnu)- Destruction (Shiva) into Brahman
Experiencing the vastness of Om is multifaceted. It truly is an experience of everything, as the sound of Aum includes the entirety of sound itself. All other sounds are within it. Om represents God, Brahman, Source, Universal Consciousness within the Hindu and yogic traditions. Ultimately, Om or Aum’s meaning is a syllable that carries the power of creation behind everything.
As you chant Om out loud, the sound will evolve naturally through the phases that correspond to the letters A-U-M.
In the same way that experiencing 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.
However one goes about studying and practicing the technique, chanting Om is all about making a connection to the divine. Learning the om symbol meaning, proper chanting techniques and pronunciation from a teacher can deepen your practice and connection. We have our entire lives to learn and cultivate our practice. As long as the intention you practice with is sincere, the alignment with the divine will arise.
How to Incorporate the Om symbol and syllable in your life
The true power within the Om symbol lies in experiencing the fullness of its wisdom. Reading about Om can help the mind understand, but it cannot give you the experience. Practicing is key to best experience its power and its profound benefits. Sitting down and arriving at your practice, again and again, day after day, is the only way to experience Om and cultivate your connection with the divine. Continuous practice will nudge along your spiritual growth!
Anytime you find you need to reconnect with your own awareness throughout the day and with the force of all creation, you can find ways to incorporate the sacred syllable in your life. One must do this with the utmost respect and proper usage of the syllable, which stems from properly understanding the sacredness which it carries.
Chant Om by yourself or in community.
Chanting Om on your own invites a personal connection to the divine while chanting in a group connects you with others in a mutual connection to the divine. Chanting in a group adds another layer to this experience. Be it with your friends or your community, allow the practice of chanting Om and the immense experience of it to soak into your being.
Feel the power each syllable has as the vibrations move from the low abdomen through the solar plexus and chest 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 mantra. Conducting the practice of chanting Om before bed can also help you experience deep and nourishing sleep.
Use 0OM in Yoga
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.
Om is a powerful mantra and sacred syllable to bring focus and awareness to the greater meaning of life and all of creation. It reminds us of the importance of sound healing and how sounds and words are sacred and divine. We already have the potential to connect with the divine. It is only a matter of how we can cultivate our path towards it.
Om as the syllable of the divine itself is one path that we can commit ourselves as mindful and respectful students. Studying and understanding the vast wisdom that it carries, channeled through the different traditions, is a powerful way to gain spiritual awareness. The emphasis here is to know and commit to the traditions that the sacred syllable is a part of.
In the end, the words we use out loud or in our thoughts have the power to create and influence the reality around us. Ancient teachings and modern science confirm that all living things consist 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 those of the ones around us.