The ancient syllable “OM” is the shortest of the Mantras and in Indian tradition it is a word suggestive of God. The scriptures tell us that “OM” is the planets’ primordial vibration from which the entire universe has arisen. All other sounds are contained within it. It is believed that “OM” is the mother of all languages. Repetition of “OM” enables us to maintain mental and emotional calmness, settle the thought process and realize our true self.

The pronunciation of the word “Om” symbolizes the totality of all sounds as it includes all other sounds that humans can utter. This idea of totality also exists in the English word “Omnipresent” that includes Om as its prefix. We also have words like Omnipotent and Omniscient, all of which have the concept of totality in their meanings.

The ancient Greek alphabet had Omega as its last letter. Omega written in the lower case of the Greek alphabet, if turned to its side, looks quite similar to the Sanskrit way of writing Om. It is from the Greek alphabet “Omega” that we have the English phrase “the alpha and Omega”, which means, “to include everything”. It is said that the word Om has been used to make other words. The Christian term “Amen” is said to have some link with “Om” as also the Islamic term “Amin”. Both of these terms are similar to Om.

Another way of saying Om is AUM or the sound of the infinite. AUM is said to be the essence of all mantras and Vedas, the highest of all mantras or divine word. It is the sound of assent which has an upward movement and uplifts the soul, as the sound of the divine eagle or falcon. The three letters also indicate three planes of existence, heaven, earth and the netherworld. AUM is also the sacred syllable of Hinduism and represents God or Brahman – the source of all existence representing the three qualities inherent in the Cosmic Vibration and Trinity of God in Hindu Dharma.

“A” – represents (Brahma) Creation

“U” – represents (Vishnu) Preservation

“M” – represents (Shiva) Destruction

Although Om symbolizes the most profound concepts of Hindu belief, it is in use daily. The Hindus begin their day or any work or a journey by uttering Om. This symbol is enshrined in every Hindu temple premise or in some form or another on family shrines. It is interesting to note that a newly born child is ushered into the world with this holy sign. After birth, the child is ritually cleansed and the sacred syllable Om is written on its tongue with honey. Thus right at the time of birth the syllable Om is initiated into the life of a Hindu and ever remains with him as the symbol of piety. Om is also a popular symbol used in contemporary body art and tattoos.

Om provides a dualistic viewpoint. On one hand, it projects the mind beyond the immediate to what is abstract and inexpressible. On the other hand, it makes the absolute more tangible and comprehensive. It encompasses all potentialities and possibilities; it is everything that was, is, or can yet be. It is omnipotent and likewise remains undefined.

Om is not a word but rather an intonation, which, like music, transcends the barriers of age, race, culture and even species. It is believed to be the basic sound of the world and to contain all other sounds. If repeated with the correct intonation, it can resonate throughout the body so that the sound penetrates to the center of one’s being, the atman or soul. There is harmony, peace and bliss in this simple but deeply philosophical sound. By vibrating the sacred syllable Om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Ultimate Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the highest state of “stateless” eternity, states the Bhagawad Gita.

During meditation, when we chant Om, we create within ourselves a vibration that attunes sympathy with the cosmic vibration and we start thinking universally. The momentary silence between each chant becomes palpable. Mind moves between the opposites of sound and silence until, at last, it ceases the sound. In the silence, the single thought-Om-is quenched; there is no thought. This is the state of trance, where the mind and the intellect are transcended as the individual self merges with the Infinite Self in the pious moment of realization. It is a moment when the petty worldly affairs are lost in the desire for the universal. Such is the immeasurable power of Om.

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