What Does the Om Symbol Mean?
The Meaning of the Om Symbol
‘Om’, ‘Ohm’ or ‘Aum’ is a sacred sound that is known generally as the sound of the universe. Om is all encompassing, the essence of ultimate reality, and unifies everything in the universe. The vibrations that the Om sound creates are thought to energize the chakras throughout the body, especially the third eye and crown chakras, which help us connect with our Divine selves.
The Om sound is a short, 'seed' mantra, which is chanted to connect with and energize the chakras. The Om symbol represents the sound in a visual form and has a lot of meaning behind it. Om is one of the most important spiritual symbols and is found throughout many ancient Hindu texts, prayers and ceremonies.
Elements of the Om Symbol - The Om symbol is a combination of curves, a crescent and a dot. The meaning of the Om symbol, while purely looking at its visual form, comes from the states of consciousness that Aum represents. The letter 'A' represents the waking state, 'U' represents the dream state and 'M' is the unconscious state, or state of deep sleep.
In the symbol, the waking state is represented by the bottom curve, the dream state is the middle curve and the state of deep sleep is represented with the upper curve. The crescent shape above the curves denotes Maya, or Illusion, which is the obstacle that sits in the way of reaching the highest state of bliss. The dot at the top of the symbol represents the absolute state, which is the fourth state of consciousness and is absolute peace and bliss. This fourth state is believed to be the state in which someone could truly connect with the Divine.
The unconscious, or deep sleep, state is where the mind is shut down, dreaming and desiring of nothing. The waking state is general consciousness, looking outwards and involves the use of the five senses in experiencing the world. The dream state is when consciousness is turned inwards and a different world is experienced through dreams. The absolute state is when consciousness faces neither inwards or outwards, but is quiet and blissful in the ultimate spiritual state of being.
Om & Ganesha - The meaning of the Om symbol is also said to represent the Hindu God, Ganesha, as the shapes loosely represent his elephant form. The curves on the left of the symbol are seen as his head and belly, while the curve on the right is his trunk. Ganesha is most commonly known as the God who removes obstacles, which correlates to the Ohm meaning, as one must overcome all obstacles and let go of everything before the absolute state of being can be reached.
Om & Brahma - The Ohm meaning also comes from the belief that the vibrations from the chanted sound link back to the vibrations that created the world. This stems from the Hindu belief that the Creator God Brahma's thoughts started a vibration that turned into the sound Om, and this is what lead to the creation of the world. Om is also referred to as Pranava, which means to be in control of one's life force.
Jewellery featuring the Om symbol is very popular as it represents unity and can be a reminder to breathe and focus. It is a peaceful symbol with that is very useful in yoga and meditation. Chanting Om in a yoga class is a very common practice as it helps to calm the mind and rejuvenate the body.
Holy Trinity & Om - The difference in the spelling of the word Om, Ohm or Aum, simply comes from its translation from the Sanskrit version: Aum. There is no different meaning behind the spelling although Aum refers to the actual sound of the word, while Om or Ohm is how it is usually spelled.
The three phonetic components of Aum represent the rule of three, as faiths are generally built around some sort of holy trinity. Not only does Aum represent the three states of consciousness, but the three realms: Earth, Heaven and the Underworld, as well as the Hindu triumvirate of Gods: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the sustainer), and Shiva (the destroyer).
The History of the Om Symbol
The first mention of Om was in the Upanishads, more specifically the Mandukya Upishad, which is a sacred Hindu text that focuses on the different theories of the Ohm meaning. In this text, it says that Om is imperishable and that it is all states of time, past, present, future, as well as transcending time itself.
These texts are associated with Vedanta, one of the six Hindu philosophies, and the etymological aspects of the Ohm meaning are thoroughly discussed in the oldest Vedantic texts. They regard the meaning of the Om symbol as inexhaustible, infinite language and knowledge, and the essence everything that exists and of life itself.
The Use of Om Today
Both the Om symbol and the Om chant are frequently used around the world today. The meaning of the Om symbol is very powerful and can hold significance because many people can relate to it. The symbol is one of peace, tranquillity and unity and reminds people to slow down and breathe. Thus, the symbol is very popular as a form of jewellery.
Yoga & Meditation - The chant is also widely repeated in Yoga and meditation practices. It is used because the sound, and the vibrations it makes, helps to calm the mind and the central nervous system. Stress can easily build up in our busy day to day lives, so sparing some time to chant and ease the mind can be very helpful and beneficial to our health. The Ohm meaning also signifies unity so when the sound is chanted in a class, it brings the group together.
Chanting is believed to help align the body, mind and the soul, which is why people feel more connected with themselves after meditating and practicing the chant. Between chants, there is a space of silence, which represents the fourth state of being: the absolute state or Turiya.
There are many benefits to chanting Om every day. These include reducing stress levels, improving concentration, regulating your sleep cycle, letting go of negativity and feeling more energized and invigorated.
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