Om

The Essence of the Universe

About Om

Om is a symbol that is said to contain the true meaning of the universe. It is also the most sacred sound in Hinduism and other religions of India. In fact, many Indians believe that God created the sound of Om first, and the universe later formed. Om is discussed in many of the Upanishads, books on philosophies and ideas. It makes up the entirety of the Mandukya Upanishad. This volume is used when practicing Yoga and relates to auditory meditation techniques:


Aum is a bow, the arrow is the self,

And Brahman is said to be the mark.


This quote is saying that Om, or Aum, is guiding the self towards the end point, or Brahman. Om is also included in the Chandogya Upanishad:


The essence of all beings is the earth.

The essence of the earth is water.
The essence of water is the plant.
The essence of the plant is man.
The essence of man is speech.
The essence of speech is the Rigveda.
The essence of Rigveda is the Samveda.
The essence of Samveda is Om.


This quote explains how Om is the essence of everything, starting from the biggest category (all beings) and working its way up the chain.

Did You Know?

In Hinduism, when children are born they are ritually washed and the symbol of Om is drawn on their tongues in honey. This is so Om is there throughout the entire life of the Hindu child.

The Meanings of Om

Om is not just made up of three curves, a semicircle, and a dot. It is the essence of the mind. Jagrat, or the waking state, is represented in the large lower curve. During the waking state, the mind is awake once again, and opens up to the outside world via the senses. It is the most common state, and therefore the largest curve in the symbol of Om. The upper curve of the three signifies sushupti, or the state of deep sleep and unconsciousness. This is the state in which sleep does not have any dreams or desires. The middle curve shows swapna, or the dream state. It is between deep sleep and waking up. This is when the imagination takes over and the mind dreams while sleeping. Om’s dot shows the consciousness’s fourth state, or turiya. This is when the mind is neither awake nor asleep, nor both at once. It is a very quiet, peaceful state. The semicircle represents maya, and separates the dot from the curves. The semicircle is open at the top, and does not interact with the dot. Since it is open at the top, maya does not affect the highest state of happiness.

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This picture shows the three curves, semicircle, and dot that make up the symbol of Om. All are numbered with the order in which they are drawn.

Did You Know?

Om Parvat, a peak in the Indian Himalayas that is 6,191 meters up, is thought of as sacred because of patterns that resemble Om in the snow.

Important Triads

Om represents multiple important triads in Hinduism. Some more common ones are the three worlds of earth, atmosphere, and heaven, and the trio of the three major Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Om also symbolizes the Rigveda, Yajurveda, and Samaveda, three sacred Vedic scriptures. The Vaishnavites think that Om’s three sounds are referring to a trinity made of Vishnu, Shri (Vishnu’s wife), and the worshipper. Other popular triads include the stages of existence (birth, life, and death), the seasons (spring, summer, and winter), and the body, soul, and spirit of man.


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This picture shows the triad of the three major Hindu gods. On the left is Brahma, in the center is Vishnu, and on the right is Shiva.

Bibliography

"Om." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
<http://school.eb.com/eb/article-9057068>.



Om: Symbol of the Absolute.” Das, Subhamoy. About.com. 29 April 2013.<http://hinduism.about.com/od/omaum/a/meaningofom.htm>.


Om.” ReligionFacts. 24 April 2013.

<http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/symbols/aum.htm>.