Om is the most prominent sound or word in Hinduism and its literature. But do we know what this word or symbol means? Why is it used at the start of most of the mantras? What makes it more sacred than the mantra itself? Let’s find out about one of the most important things in Hinduism.
Om, sometimes spelled as Aum is the sound that starts the changes in Prakriti (the initial stage of matter, from which every material thing is made of). After the stage is set for the creation, this sound or vibration goes on to assume other forms. That’s is why, om is considered so sacred in Hinduism.
Following are some of the important things that are lesser known to people:
As a type of sound
Sound is considered sacred in Vedic literature. Sound has four types: vaikhari, madhyama, pashyanti, and para. The one we speak and listen is vaikhari. In addition, it is also considered that every shape has a sound attached to it. In Sanskrit, the word and its meaning have nitya(ever existing) connection.
The Om sound is considered the primordial(primeval) sound that kick starts the process of creation. It brings about the change in the Prakriti(initial form of matter from which everything is made).
How to chant Om
Om or Aum is made up of, अ (pronounced as in cAt), उ (as in cOOk), म (as in MAn). It can be simplified even further and can be considered made from three letters of A – U – M
The forces of creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe — Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
Please do not think that you have to pronounce it just perfectly. The perfect pronunciation will have its benefits but perfection can only be achieved by making mistakes. So don’t be afraid to start using it.
Personal or original name of the the God
Though Ishwar(the God) has many names. But “Om” ॐ is considered its personal and primary name in Hinduism. The concept of God(Ishwar) is very complex in the case of Hinduism. So if you’d like to learn more about it, read Concept of God in Hinduism
This is related to the way Hinduism considers creation. It goes like this initially there were only three things.
- Prakriti: the material from which everything physical manifests
- Purusha/Ishwar: Supreme consciousness
- Atman: The self
The sound of “Om” brings changes in the Prakriti which starts to take various shapes with time.
Hindus understand that it is way beyond the capacity to understand more about this Purusha/Ishwar. So they just call it the name Om. Nasadiya Sukta talks about this “One”, “the One” we are calling “Om”
नासदासीन्नो सदासीत्तदानीं नासीद्रजो नो व्योमा परो यत् |
किमावरीवः कुह कस्य शर्मन्नम्भः किमासीद्गहनं गभीरम् ॥ १॥ऋग्वेद 10 मंडल 129 सुक्त (Rigveda 10:129)
You can read Nasadiya Sukta: The creation hymn of Rigveda to know more
The word Om is defined by Hindu scripture as being the primordial sound of creation. It is the vibration that kicked off the creation. From this first vibration, all other vibrations manifest.
Why Om is associated with lord Shiva?
As we know about the anthropomorphic nature of Puranic literature. So they attach human form to every natural force. In contrast, Shiva is the name or attribute attached to supreme consciousness in Vedas. Due to confusion in understanding the meaning of these two things, Om sound is associated with Lord Shiva in the popular form of Hinduism.
Why Om appears at the start of every mantra?
As discussed above, Om is the sound or vibration in its para form that starts the ball rolling for creation. So this is the vibration attached to the Brahman(Brahm:) or this is the vibration that has its origin from Brahman. That’s is why, it is considered so sacred. It is the closest thing that we can know, associate and understand due to the limits imposed on us by our senses.
As the origin of everything, Om vibration is attached to the majority of Vedic mantras as well as other shalokas.
Meaning of Om
Om is made up of three syllables, Aa, Oo, Ma. As Vedic literature is anthropomorphic. So it attaches human qualities to natural forces. The Om sound contains or symbolizes to contain all the three forces of nature i.e. creation (aa sound), preservation (oo sound) and dissolution (ma sound) which can also be understood by focusing on the place of creation of the sound.
Aa sound is produced in the base of the vocal chord which can be considered the creation phase. Oo sound is produced in the middle portion. While Ma sound is produced by lips with the expulsion of air, giving the impression of dissolution.
Meditating on Om
Meditation has its benefits. But if we meditate with the use of Om sound, everything falls in place even more easily. The rishis have designed these techniques through the knowledge which they acquired over their lifetime. These ready-made techniques can help us in achieve more on our spiritual journey.
Om, as we have discussed in the first point, is the personal and most important name of Ishwar (the God). All other names are attributes attached to it. So meditating on Om will give you benefits beyond your imagination.