As the cross is to Christians, the Om is to Hindus. It is by far the most important symbol in Hinduism, it occurs in every prayer and invocation to most deities begins with it. As the symbol of piety, Om is often found at the head of letters, pendants, enshrined in every Hindu temple and family shrines. This symbol is actually a sacred syllable representing the Absolute the source of all existence. The Absolute in itself, is incomprehensible so a symbol becomes mandatory to help us realize the Unknowable. The syllable Om occurs even in English words having a similar meaning, for instance, 'omniscience', 'omnipotent', 'omnipresent'. Thus Om is also used to signify divinity and authority. Its similarity with the Latin 'M' as also to the Greek letter 'Omega' is discernable. Even the word 'Amen' used by Christians to conclude a prayer seems to be akin to Om.
The Aum or Om symbol comes from ancient Sanskrit and is one of the oldest names for God in any written language. It has various meanings. The Om is a well-known sound mantra or chant, as the devotees would chant the name of god over and over again, From The Bhagavad-Gita Ch.10, Verse 25 The Blessed Lord said: "Among words, I am the one syllable AUM"
The Aum or Om is chanted in 4 stages, from the lower lungs and abdomen we start with the ah then raising the sound up the wind pipe to the back of the throat to create an ou then bringing the sound forwards to the lips to create mm and finally bringing the attention to the bridge of the nose with a ngh sound that rises up to the forehead. Ah-Ou-Mm-Ngh or Aum. The mystics would chant this ancient sound, raising their own consciousness as they did so, and at the same time planting the image of their desire within their foreheads that it might come to be. Wearing or carrying the sacred image of the Aum was seen to be auspicious, as it would bring the user closer to the divine, as well as protecting and aiding you through life. The Om is written in 3 curves a separate semi curve and a dot.
The large lower curve 1 symbolizes the waking state (jagrat), in this state the consciousness is turned outwards through the gates of the senses. The larger size signifies that this is the most common state of the human consciousness.
The upper curve 2 denotes the state of deep sleep (sushupti) or the unconscious state. This is a state where the sleeper desires nothing nor beholds any dream. The middle curve 3 (which lies between deep sleep and the waking state) signifies the dream state (swapna). In this state the consciousness of the individual is turned inwards, and the dreaming self beholds an enthralling view of the world behind the lids of the eyes.
These are the three states of an individual's consciousness, and since Indian mystic thought believes the entire manifested reality to spring from this consciousness, these three curves therefore represent the entire physical phenomenon. The dot signifies the fourth state of consciousness, known in Sanskrit as turiya. In this state the consciousness looks neither outwards nor inwards, nor the two together. It signifies the coming to rest of all differentiated, relative existence this utterly quiet, peaceful and blissful state is the ultimate aim of all spiritual activity. This Absolute (non-relative) state illuminates the other three states.
The semi circle 4 symbolizes maya and separates the dot from the other three curves. Thus it is the illusion of maya that prevents us from the realization of this highest state of bliss. The semi circle is open at the top, and does not touch the dot. This means that this highest state is not affected by maya. Maya only affects the manifested phenomenon. This effect is that of preventing the seeker from reaching his ultimate goal, the realization of the One, all-pervading, un-manifest, absolute principle. In this manner, the form of OM represents the un-manifest and the manifest.
The word AUM is not invented by any man. It is the primordial and uncreated sound, which is heard by mystics absorbed in contemplation, when their minds and senses are withdrawn from the world. It is said that all the sounds from within the universe come together to create one sound and this sound is Aum. In fact in recent years NASA recorded the sound that our Planet Earth makes while orbiting the Sun and it is exactly AUM!
Other ways to work with the AUM are to focus on the different aspects as follows:-
A stands for Creation.
U stands for Preservation.
M stands for Destruction or dissolution.
From this we can focus our attention to the different capabilities of the mind, to create, preserve or to destroy!
Aum Mani Mani Padme Aum
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