What is the Om symbol?
Everyone has ever wondered what the Om symbol is and what it means, as it is widely known and widespread. OM is the most important sacred symbol in Hinduism and is also present in other eastern religions such as Buddhism and Jainism.
This symbol is written in Sanskrit, a traditional language of the regions of India and Nepal. Although it is a dead language, to this day it plays an important role in Eastern religious rituals, including the writing of mantras.
As much as it looks like a simple symbol, OM comprises a set of very deep meanings, in addition to countless uses. In this article, you will get to know all the important dimensions of this symbol.
Meaning of Om Symbol
The symbol OM is the most sacred and elementary mantra in Hinduism. Like virtually all mantras, OM is a syllable sung in low vibration for performing spiritual practices. It represents the sound of the moment of creation of all things in the universe. Here’s a little about everything that this symbol involves.
■ Elements of the Om symbol
Each stroke that makes up the OM symbol in Sanskrit represents a different state of consciousness. In this way, it is as if this symbol illustrates the functioning and path of the human mind.
The dot at the top of the symbol represents the absolute state, the highest stage of spiritual development. The semicircle at the top that precedes the dot represents the Maya state, the obstacles to reaching the absolute state.
The first curve of the symbol (of the part that resembles the number 3) represents the state of unconsciousness, the deep sleep in which nothing happens. The lower curve of the symbol represents the conscious state through knowing through the five senses. And the curve drawn between the two previous states represents the state in which our dreams happen.
■ History of the Om symbol
The first appearance of the OM symbol took place in the Upanishads. These are texts written in Sanskrit over two thousand years ago, containing religious teachings that would later form the basis of Hinduism as it is known today.
In all its uses and etymologies, the syllable OM carries a set of very similar meanings, related to the metaphysical ideas of totality, the essence of life, infinite knowledge and the cause of the universe.
Currently, the OM symbol is used to indicate the beginning of spiritual practices, such as prayers and meditations, transforming the symbol into a kind of spiritual tool.
■ Om & Brahman Symbol
The symbol OM is believed to embody the absolute whole that constitutes the universe. For Hinduism, this universal principle is expressed by the concept of Brahma, the ultimate reality. The statement that “before OM, nothing existed” is common, as its sound represents the initial moment of creation.
Chanting the mantra OM allows the body, mind and spirit to tune in to the totality of the universe. The soul’s connection to ultimate reality comprises the two fundamental dimensions of OM: the inner (Atman) and the outer (Brahma). The same concepts also appear in Eastern philosophy’s understanding of reality.
■ Om & Ganesha Symbol
There is a set of sacred texts that grace the god Ganesha as the one who is the ultimate reality and soul. For these Hindu traditions, the god Ganesha is identified as the symbol OM. In this sense, Ganesha would not only be the god who removes obstacles, but also the one who represents all the truth and knowledge of the world.
In this way, the symbol OM and the god Ganesha would be one, the ultimate reality of all things, all beings and all gods. For this reason, many images of the god Ganesha incorporate the OM symbol into the outline of his elephant head.
■ Om & Holy Trinity Symbol
The word OM can often be written as “Aum”, due to its composition by three phonemes. This characteristic caused many associations to be created between the Aum and Trimurti, the Holy Trinity of Hindu Gods, formed by Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
In the Puranas, ancient Indian texts written in the medieval era, the symbol OM is the representation of the Trinity itself in Hinduism, symbolizing the union of the three gods for the formation of the supreme reality. The letter “A” designated the creator god, Brahma; the letter “U” the preserving god, Vishnu; and the letter “M” the destroying god, Shiva.
Om symbol and states of consciousness
Written in Sanskrit, the expression OM is a syllable formed by five distinct traits, where each trait is linked to a state of consciousness in the human mind. Check out the meaning of each of these moods below.
■ unconscious state
Represented by the upper curvature trace, the unconscious state is one in which the being is in a deep sleep, where no dreams and no desires appear. In Hinduism, this state is called Sushupti, the true self.
■ waking state
The waking state corresponds to the lower stroke of the OM symbol. Called Jagruti in Hinduism, it represents the state of being that is awake and aware of itself and its senses.
■ dream state
The intermediate curve between the unconscious state and the waking state belongs to the dream state, known in Hinduism as Swapna.
It is the state of consciousness in which a person or being is dreaming. They can also indicate our memory and imagination.
■ Mayan State
The semicircle at the top of the OM symbol represents the maya state, the meaning of which is literally illusion. Maya can denote both a constant state of change and something that appears to be a thing but is not.
In relation to the OM symbol, the maya state is all the obstacles we face to reach the absolute state of consciousness.
■ Absolute state
The absolute state, or Turiya, represents pure consciousness. He is the highest state of mind of being. In this state, it is possible to experience immeasurable freedom in the form of the infinite, without suffering or change.
The Om Symbol in Eastern Culture
OM is a very powerful mantra for Hinduism. It incorporates the entire universe from the three fundamental movements: creation, manifestation and destruction. Its use in Eastern culture is deeply linked to physical and spiritual exercises linked to prayer and yoga. Understand how this works below.
■ Importance of the Om symbol for Hinduism
The OM symbol is present in practically all Hindu sacred texts, including the Vedas, considered some of the most important. In these writings, in addition to narrating episodes involving the gods, there are also many of the prayers and rituals that are still practiced by Hindus.
The mantra OM appears at the beginning and end of virtually all prayers and rituals in liturgical texts. In this sense, it plays an important role as a necessary sacred incantation for rituals of worship, prayers, weddings and rites of passage that mark various moments in a Hindu’s life, such as birth, baptism and cremation.
■ Importance of the Om symbol for yoga
The OM symbol appears in many sacred texts. The Pantanjali is one of the sets of these ancient texts that address the theory and practice of yoga. In these scriptures, there is a strong connection between OM and yoga, since both are related to the three divine powers (creation, preservation and destruction) and also to the three essences of the spirit (immortality, omniscience and joy).
Because of this, it is quite common for yoga classes to start and end with chanting the mantra OM, to help us access the universal energy within us. Chanting this mantra is also associated with relaxing the body and nervous system, allowing a connection with higher states of consciousness.
How can I integrate the Om symbol into my life?
The OM symbol is a sacred symbol. Therefore, respect for your tradition should be the first thing a person should pay attention to, especially if you are not a Hindu or Buddhist. Here are three ways to use the OM symbol in your life.
■ Om symbol as a mantra in personal routine
The main way to integrate the OM symbol into your life is through singing. It can be used either in meditation or yoga, silently or out loud.
Try singing it slowly so that you can feel your mental and spiritual vibrations rising. Repetition of the mantra is also welcome, at least three times before starting your routine spiritual practices.
■ Om symbol in your personal space decoration
If understanding the OM symbol made you want to incorporate it into your home as a decoration for your personal space, it is recommended that this be done in spaces dedicated to prayer or meditation.
In this way, the material object carries with it its spiritual symbology, functioning as a reminder to daily connect with the universe and to maintain the balance of mind, body and soul.
■ Om symbol on jewelry and clothing
Carrying with you the sacred dimension of the OM symbol is an admirable attitude, but one that requires care.
In particular, you should avoid clothes with this print, especially those that can fade and fall apart over time. As for jewelry, pendants are the most suitable pieces for your discretion.
Can integrate the Om symbol into the daily routine bring more fulfillment?
Without a doubt, integrating the OM symbol into your daily routine will bring you more fullness. By understanding the sacred dimension of this mantra, you will be able to use it in countless moments of your daily life as a meditative, relaxing and energizing practice.