The Power of Om

August 29, 2007

All over the world many people have either heard or chanted “Om.” Sometimes Om is chanted with great reverence and meaning by spiritual mystics; other times one will hear Om being chanted in jest, as a popular mocking of metaphysics. And perhaps most often it is chanted by rote in a yoga class, for instance, without much thought or knowledge behind the sound. However the Om vibration is one of the oldest and most sacred sounds in the world, meant to move energy and create dynamic change within the person chanting and the environment at large. Let us take a look at this sound vibration and all its fascinating implications.

Aum or Om is considered to be the planet’s oldest and most important Sanskrit mantra–one that forms a basis for all other prayers and chants of worship in the Hindu tradition. “Om” is actually more aptly spelled “Aum,” for the vibration actually contains three distinct sounds. The three sounds within Om are delineated by the “A” meaning the beginning of all; the “U” representing the middle of all; and the “M” representing the end. Om represents the ultimate of all things and of all sounds. The “A’ is produced with the mouth open; the “U” with the mouth slightly closed; and the “M” with the mouth complete closed. Thus, A, U, M also represent a trinity energy, an image we find throughout Hindu teachings, representing the energies of creating, sustenance and destruction. All things, projects, people, and animals go through a beginning, a middle and an end stage. A flower is born, it is sustained for some time, and then it dies out. The day is new in the morning, awake by midday, and then sleeping by evening. In ayurvedic medicine it is recommended, in fact, that we honor this cycle, by waking early, doing our main activities by day, and then winding down as the sun sets. In essence we are, therefore, all following the pattern of the AUM all the time, whether we know it or not. And our grandest journey with Om involves our birth, life and death cycles, energies we must all pass through.

Aum or Om is considered to be the primordial sound of creation and it is thought that all language emanates from this initial sound vibration. All Sanskri mantras (sacred sound prayers) in India begin with Om, and a meditating yogi may attest to the power of Om in even a short matter of time. Chanting Om is said to activate the entire nervous system, all of our chakras, as well as our subtle and physical bodies. After some time of working with Om, it is quite common to “hear” Om all around us–in nature, in inanimate objects, in people when they speak. Even the sound of a lawnmower or the traffic outside may start to resemble Om when one becomes attuned to its frequency. We even attest that our temple cats seem to be chanting Om sometimes for the sound of their meows resembles Om so aptly!

The symbol of Om in Sanskrit is delineated by several lines–the upper curve (which looks like the top of a “3”) represents our waking state and the letter “A;” the lower part (the bottom of the “3”) corresponds to our dream state and the “U” sound; and the right curve extending from this 3-figure depicts our deep, dreamless state, while relating to the “M.” The final part of the Aum in Sanskrit looks like a crescent moon and represents “maya” or the veil of illusion that we all must go pass in order to reach enlightenment. This veil of illusion has to do with the physical, material world and the energies we must transcend here. Finally at the top of the Aum we find a small dot called a “bindu” in Sanskrit which epitomizes enlightenment. The essence of Om says that beyond waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep lies an all-pervading consciousness that illuminates all life everywhere. Om asks us to remember that we exist beyond time and space, rather as eternally as spiritual beings simply having a temporary physical existence. Although we may fall under the illusion that we live only while awake, while sleeping, and while dreaming, we actually live beyond these energies, for our consciousness pervades all states of beingness and travels with us through many lifetimes.

Tapping into the Om vibration is fairly easy but reaping its benefits requires time and patience. One may listen to a recording of Om, chant the Om, or even gaze in meditation at the Sanskrit symbol of Om. Over time, the Om will become pervasive, enveloping the aspirant in a warm and gentle knowingness, a calmness of being, an unmistakable light. It is said in the vedic texts that one who works with Om develops a sweet voice, a kind nature, and a pleasing disposition. The energy of Om ultimately reminds us of our innerconnected-ness to life everywhere, making us more compassionate, loving beings. If only more of us chanted Om, what a healthier world this would be.