What is “OM” ?

“OM”. Is it just a symbol? Does OM represent the beginning? IS OM the pass code to enlightenment? Is it something else?
When I browsed the internet in search of an answer, I have faced more questions, than answers. The feeling in the end of a three day long search was that everyone who has to tried to define OM has either conveyed his on assumptions ( without much principles and examples to back it up ), or they have tried to interpret the verses from the Veda or Upanishads ( and we know that the greatest issue we face is misinterpretation of facts ). So I just thought of collecting all the info into one place so that we can discuss on each of them.
OM has the following characteristics as per the info I received.
- Every manthra starts with OM (and some of them also end with OM). So OM is some kind of delimiter quote.
- OM is mentioned as the sound that marked the beginning of creation. If creation is just like any manthra (principle) then this is same as my first statement.
- OM in Sanskrit is to sound loudly.
- “Omkaram” as illustrated in Adharva Veda, in Madukya Upanishad. OM is considered as a combination of three phonemes A, U, M. It might symbolize the first three Vedas, the three Murthis (tri-murthi) or the three stages of life ( birth, life and death).
- Omkar is symbolic to GOD in Sikh religion.
….. the list goes on…..

The name of OM symbol is called Pranavam, in Sanskrit. How to spell this is illustrated in Sama Veda, in Chandogya Upanishad and also in Shrauta Sutram.
Ekakshara is also symbolic to OM.
The letter or Word representing the word OM ( especially the one in Balinese ) looks like the figure of Lord Ganesha, to whom the Hindu offers the prayer first, before any other deity. This also is symbolic to the fact that OM is something which represents the beginning of something or some process.
OM (unicode = U+0950, and also U+0F00).
Let us now consider the interpretations made….. I am not responsible if these are mis-interpretations. :D

OM as a representation of the three entities.
- When taken letter by letter AUM represents the divine energy (Shakthi), united in three aspects. Brahma Shakthi (power to create), Vishnu Shakthi (power to preserve and protect), and Shiva Shakthi (the power to liberate).
- AUM also can be considered as a combo of three states of matter. A=Akara (the one with shape, representing the solids), U=Ukara (the one which is shapeless, representing the liquids) and M=Makara ( neither shaped or the shapeless, but still exists, like the gas, or dark matter or the universe). So AUM is a symbol representing the combination of Solid liquid and dark matter or ether. This is indeed the resultant form of the universe that we see today and AUM in this case is the initiation of creation of universe.
Katha Upanishad says that the goal that every being look forward to is AUM and whom so ever attains this support is adored in the world of Brahma. Creation ( the process which is represented by Brahma ), is possible with this support. This also proves the fact that AUM represents the principle of creation of the universe.
No wonder that Chandogya Upanishad gives the highest place for AUM (the eighth).

- OM is considered as the triple appellation of Brahma (OM, TATH, SATH), where OM is the initiation or realization, TATH is the principle ( also represents the initial state or fact, which is TAMAS or darkness ) and SATH is the truth (also represents the purity of light of enlightenment, also the end result or product). So this means that triple appellation of Brahma or creation is to initiate, to know the principles of the current state and how to overcome it, and attain the final result which is nothing but the truth.

- In Jainism OM=AAAUM symbolises Arihanta, Ashiri, Acharya, Upadhyaya and Muni; the five parameshthis.
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The Scientific Interpretations and facts.
- As per Upanishad ( and also by scientists on page 16 of the july 2004 issue of NatGeo) says that the Sun-spots make the Sun throb like drum every five minutes), the Sun continually vibrates OM.
- During an experiment using the sound scope ( oscilloscope which represents the wave patterns produced by sound ), the word OM creates a pattern which is close to our representation of Sri-Chakra. This is also seen in one of the experiments which studied the pattern formed by crystals and Newtonian fluids when subjected to vibration by sound ( in this case of OM ). I have seen something close to that by using the visual patterns shown in my real player ( music player showing patters which represents sound ), which playing the Omkar.

Theories and Illustrations from Upanishads.
Chandogya
As per Chandogya Upanishad, OM purifies the soul in this life and in eternal life. It is considered as the sound whispered by the soul. So for concentration ( during meditation ), it would be better to use OM. Practicing meditation with OM will help us concentrate even when only the soul remains. Upanishads and many Rishis consider SUN as a gateway to external world from the current world. OM is considered as a ticket ti raise the soul to the Sun and beyond.

Katha
God is percieved as duality ( Transcendent and Immanent or with form and the form less ). But this is only a matter of perception. Everything boils down to OM. OM is that elevated us to our goal or Brahman. Hence all manthras use OM as an initiator to attain the goal of reaching Brahman.

Mandukya
Om is past, present and future. Om is a cyclic process. Thus symbol OM is the very self. Thus every large element including one self is part of that cycle. Thus OM is a realization of one being the part of eternal Brahmam.

Mundaka
Mundaka says that OM as a weapon ( a bow ), with arrow as oneself, as sharpened with meditation, drawing it with a mind engaged in contemplation and target is Brahmam. OM is a bridge or equipment to attain Brahmam.

Prashna
It says OM really works and is the only source needed to realize one is a part of Brahmam and to bring oneself closer to it’s absolute.

Svetasvatara
OM is the totality of being. Supreme spirit, individual spirits and the creative power (Shakthi). We call it the Thrayam or triad.
Through OM as a cycle one’s spirit attains the supreme and hence will not continue the cycle anymore ( Moksha ).
This upanishad considers that bu concentration ( attained by posture, negleting senses and realizing OM ), one will know the reality that he is merely a spirit.

Taittiriya
Taittiriya Upanishad assures that by shear concentration and mind to attain Brahman through OM, one will surely realize the supreme Brahmam.

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So to sum up OM represents the cycle of methods of creation or encapsulation, enlighten or purify and liberation of one’s soul, to realize the ultimate truth and to attain perfection ( Moksha ). The one which is perfect is Brahmam (Poornam) and our soul is in a race to attain the same. In the end there will be peace to soul …… OM Shanthi Shathi Shathi hi …….

 

-Vineeth Kumar

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