Ever since the Vedic civilization took hold in ancient times, the syllable “Om” (ॐ) has a prominent place in history. It’s been found in gazillions of contexts and even has some mentions in pop culture. Regardless of the context, it does have a spiritual significance for Hindus around the world.
If you look at the Gayatri mantra: Om Bhur Bhuva Svah, Om precedes everything. But the syllable itself can stand alone. It’s been said that “Om” combined with the perishable body fuels the spark of the flame of knowledge in our divine nature, according to Shvetashvatara Upanishad (1.14-16). Similarly, Mundaka Upanishad compares the individual soul to an arrow, the target to an indestructible, Supreme Brahman, and “Om” as the bow that helps us to connect with the Divine (2.2.4). It’s also been said in Gita that anyone who utters monosyllabic “OM” with mind affixed to achieve the Divine will attain the supreme goal (8.13).
“Om” serves as the Divine itself too. It’s the sound of Brahman, of the atman, and shows the divine as a part of Om-Tat-Sat (Bhagavad Gita, 17.23). Lord Krishna says, “Of speech, I am the transcendental syllable, Om.” (Bhagavad Gita, 10.25). He adds, “I am the divine syllable Om in all the Vedas” to show the way in which the universe rests in Him (7.08).
If we divide “Om” phonetically, there are three divisions A-U-M, which represents different concepts in Hinduism – A is for the beginning of mouth, the beginning of sound, and manifestation of material universe; U is for the narrowing of lips as tapas, concentration of consciousness, guides the universe towards progress; M is for the closing of lips and the demise of Universe. This is in relation with the three Holy Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwar.
There is other symbolism of Aum. Maitri Upanishad declares that AUM manifests:
- Gender-endowed body, through male, female and neuter (the working creation, not the gender identity)
- Light and heat endowed body, through vayu (air), agni (fire) and Aditya (sun)
- Knowledge endowed body, through Rig, Sama and Yaur (the three main Vedas)
- Time endowed body, through the past, present and the future
- Growth endowed body, through water, food and the moon
- Thought endowed body, through mana (mind), buddhi (intellect), and Chitta (storehouse of memories and impressions)
So, AUM captures the human condition itself. Also, according to Mandukya Upanishad, A-U-M represents three realms of consciousness – waking, dream, and deep sleep. This is in relation with three sub-lokas of mrityu loka, the realm of mortality – Bhu, Bhuvah, Svah – and with three principal states of the human mind – waking, non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and REM sleep. Hindu science is thus based on neuroscience too.
In conclusion, “Om” is divine and in parallel with the universe. Not just in Hinduism, it holds greater recognition in Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism too. So, let’s start embracing Om and drive through the divine world.