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The Meaning of Om

Mantras, sacred chants, are very  powerful. It’s believed that, just as a tiny seed contains a majestic tree, each sound contains vast amounts of spiritual resonance and creative force. One of the oldest and most widely known of these seeds is Om.

om meaning The Meaning of OmOm is the audible expression of the transcendental and a call to the universe. It’s formal spelling is AUM, which raises up from the chest, then through the throat  and the humming of the last syllable brings the resonant sound out through a of closure of the M sound and then into silence.

Om is the “primordial seed” of the universe–this whole world, “is nothing but one vibrating sound of Om.” It is also considered to be the root mantra from which all other mantras emerge to encapsulate the essence of the many thousands of verses of Hinduism’s holiest texts.

In Christianity the sound is Amen…and if you drone the sound of Aaaa…..and then end with …men becoming a relative of Om. Then the in the Hebraic texts there is Shal om encompassing the seed sound Om once again.  The closing “mmm…” sound creates a vibration in the chest or heart chakra with reflects the center from which the Devine emanates within each of us. Hum the long “mmmm…” sound and feel the vibration yourself. In Arabic there is Sala..am, once again droning the ending double “a” sound. When sounding the word a vibration in the thoracic region of the chest revealing the will of the “heart”.

As such, Om is the meditative seed par excellence. Patanjali–who wrote the Yoga Sutra and is the father of classical yoga–taught that when we chant this sacred syllable and simultaneously contemplate the meaning of it, our consciousness becomes “one-pointed: prepared for meditation and prepared to connect with the Divine. The Yoga Sutra, noted that through chanting  Om, “the supreme soul is revealed.” In a similar vein, Tibetan scholars believe that Om leads to the “expression of the infinite within us.” Thus, chanting “Om” may be the easiest way to touch the Divine within your very self joining into vibrational harmony with the universe. The experience would be much the same if we lingered over and meditated upon Amen as we end our recital/chanting of prayer.

Yogis meditate on the four “measures,” or parts, of Om. Though commonly spelled Om, the mantra actually consists of three letters, a, u, and m. (In Sanskrit, whenever an initial a is followed by u, they coalesce into a long o sound.) Each of these three parts has numerous metaphysical associations, which themselves serve as meditative seeds. For example, a (pronounced “ah“) represents our waking state, which is also the subjective consciousness of the outer world; u (pronounced “ooh”) is the dreaming state, or the consciousness of our inner world of thoughts, dreams, memories, and so on; and m is the dreamless state of deep sleep and the experience of ultimate unity.

By contemplating the meaning of each of these letters as we chant them, we are led through the three states of our ordinary consciousness to the mantra’s fourth part, the after-sound: mmm…. The vibration slowly dissolves into silence, symbolic of the transcendent state of consciousness, equated with (the Absolute) God and our connection through breath, sound and vibration then silence to Divinity. This silence is the crown of the mantra; it is described in the Upanishad scripture as “tranquil, soundless, fearless, sorrow-less, blissful, satisfied, steadfast, immovable, immortal, unshaken, enduring.”  When quietly we wait for the humming to end and then enjoy the stillness that follows we notice that the moment becomes a delicate meditative reflection.

Chanting Om allows us to join the vibration of the whole universe as it moves—the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts, the in and out of our breath. As we chant Om, it takes us for a ride on this universal movement, through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy, and we begin to sense a bigger connection that is both uplifting and soothing.

There comes a sacred moment at the end of yoga class when we have awakened from savasana and are completing our practice that we dedicate ourselves in unison to chanting Om three times.  At that time we are tuning into the Devine of the Universe and also to each other’s vibrational key note of the Om soundIf one listens carefully to the collective harmony in the room during the chanting one will notice that without effort there comes a moment when all the voices join in the same key creating a powerful connection with all that exists.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti….Om Peace, Peace, Peace


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