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06 August, 2012

The Symbol – ॐ (Om)

The Symbol – (Om)

Om pronounced '' Om, is a symbol of the supreme Brahman.  Om ''' is an ‘idol’ representing the divine ideal.  It is considered the most powerful word-symbol used for meditation.   Brahman is the ultimate Reality sought by all spiritual practitioners.  It cannot be reached directly through human equipment.  Brahman is not something you can perceive with your sense organs.  Nor is it an emotion that you can feel with your mind.  Nor a concept  you can comprehend with your intellect.  Brahman is the ideal unknown to you.  You need a known idol to reach the unknown ideal.  An idol takes you to the ideal.  The idol can be either gross or subtle.  An example of a gross idol is the stone image in a temple.  Fire is a subtler idol.  Sound is the subtlest of all idols.  It is considered subtlest because only one of the five sense organs viz., the ear can contact it.  Of all sounds Om is the most potent, natural.  There are reasons for the choice of Om:

Kinds of Sounds:

(i) Sounds are of two kindsarticulate and inarticulate.  Articulate sound is that which can be represented by letters of the alphabet.  The articulate or alphabetical sound is concerned with topics which deal with the knowledge of the head.  The other type of sound is the inarticulate or intonational.  The  inarticulate or intonational sound deals with the heart.  Articulate sound has a limited application.  It is understood only by people who have learnt it through training.  A man comes and speaks to you in Persian or Russian.  You do not understand him.  You have not undergone that training.  He does not know your language either.  Nevertheless when he begins to laugh you understand him.  You know that he is happy.  Suppose you begin to cry.  He understands you are unhappy.  This language is inarticulate.  It is intonational, a universal language uttered and understood by even babies and animals.  Music is another example of intonation.  The sound of music has a marvelous effect.  It produces wonderful results.  

       The word '' Om has the advantages of both the articulate and inarticulate, alphabetical and intonational.  It has a deep philosophical significance.  You will appreciate it when you learn its meaning.  Besides, the chant of '' Om has an extraordinary effect on human beings.  It produces harmony, peace and bliss to one and all.  Om brings the individual being in perfect attunement with the eternal being.

Meaning of the sound OM

(ii)  The proper way to write Om is '' A-U-M, in Sanskrit.  According to Sanskrit grammar  (A) () and  (U) () when connected together coalesce into  (O).  Even the mute can produce the sounds of A_U_M (--म्).   'A' () is the sound emanating from the base of the throat.  'U' (); is the sound produced by the impulse rolling forward in the mouth.   (M) (म्) is the sound produced by closing the lips.  There is no sound beyond these two extremities viz., throat and lips.  So Om 'AUm' (--म्) covers the full range of sounds.  It represents the entire phenomenon of sound.

(iii)  The symbol '' (Om) stands for the pure Consciousness which pervades the three states of waking, dream and deep-sleep.  It is also called pranava.  Pranava means something that pervades life or runs through prana or breath.  The sound (pronounced () ‘uh’) according to Vedanta, represents the material world, all that is observed in the wakeful state of consciousness.  The second sound  (pronounced () ‘oo’) represents all the experience of the dream land, the subject and objects of the dreaming state of consciousness.  (pronounced  (म्)  ‘im’) represents all the unknown in the deep-sleep state of consciousness.  While chanting '' Om you will have to concentrate your attention and put forth feeling in realizing that your Atman, your Self is the stern Reality pervading the three worlds.

(iv)  '' Om is the real name of the Almighty.  It is the key that unlocks the kingdom of heaven.  This mantra does not belong to any particular language.  The Hindu took it up.  It does not mean that it belongs to the Hindus.  It is a natural syllable.  It is nature’s word, nature’s mantra.  It is the name of God.  Some people discard it because they believe it comes from Sanskrit, from the Hindus.  They reject it on the ground that it is not their special label.  The word '' Om is not subjected to the same conjugation or reflection or other grammatical manipulations to which all other Sanskrit words are subjected.  So it is not a Sanskrit word.  It is a word of nature, a pure and genuine word by itself.  The Hindus made good use of it.  So can you.  '' Om occupies a very prominent place in all languages of the world.  Omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent are the highest names for god.  They begin with '' Om.  In your prayers when you reach the point of silence you utter '' Om in some form or other.  In English you end the prayer with Amen.  In Arabic, Persian and Hindustani you say Amin.       

       In meditation the mind keeps chanting the mantra '' Om.  The momentary silence that exists every two successive chants is called amatra.  Amatra represents the pure Consciousness, the Atman.  In the final stage of meditation your mind is held in single-pointed chant.  The function of the intellect is discrimination between pairs of opposites.  Your intellect is engaged in discriminating between Om and amara.  In the peak of meditation you must stop the chant.  What follows is absolute Silence.  There is no more sound of Om.  No thought.  With the extinction of the last thought your mind is extinct.  There is no longer the pair of sound and silence.  In the absence of pair no discrimination is possible.  Without discrimination your intellect is extinct as well.  Your mind and intellect are thus transcended in that absolute Silence.  That is the sacred moment of Realisation.  Your individual self merges with the infinite Self.

Source: Excerpts from the book on “THE SYMBOLISM OF HINDU GODS AND RITUALS” by A.Parthasarathy.


karann1986 said...

There are few blog about religion that provide such informational article and this is one blog where I get quality content to read.Today I get to know much more about AUM. Surely increased my knowledge... keep the good work ..
Ganesh Mantra

Arasakumar Sivanupandian Ayyavu said...

Thank you Karann for your lovely comments.