The Significance of Om

The Significance of Om

Aarti Natarajan Sharma

The word Sanskrit ‘Om’ (also written as Aum) symbolises the force behind creation and is considered to be an extremely powerful word. Its literal meaning is ‘Supreme’. Om is known to be the primordial sound of Universe and the sound that signifies the beginning of time.

The word Om can be split into three parts:

The ‘Aww’ sound stands for creation or the beginning of the Universe 

The ‘Ooo’ sound stands for the energy of the universe and

The ‘Mmm’ sound stands for transformation.

All three letters combine to represent the body, mind and spirit. The vibration of the word Om is significant and said to produce positive vibrations. Aum or Om represents the crown chakra which is our connection to the Universe. It is believed that when we say the word we should feel its vibrations throughout our body, above our abdomen, in our chest and in our mind.

During prayers or in meditation, it is chanted thrice because it symbolises three things: 

  • The three worlds of the earth, atmosphere, and heaven
  • The three qualities of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas
  • The three sacred scriptures—Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, and Sama Veda
  • Our Thoughts, Speech, and Action
  • And the Past, Present, and Future.

The beauty of the word is that it can be found in almost all religions, be it Hinduism, Buddhism, or even Christianity. Om means divine truth, the basis on which all religions of the world are founded. Almost all religious mantras and texts has Om in it. Whether it is the most popular mantra for Lord Shiva ‘Om Namah Shivaay’ or the Gayatri Mantra, Om is part of each of these. 

It is believed that Om should be chanted as part of another mantra and not alone. According to popular belief, only those people who have no worldly attachments should chant Om by itself. 

The word Om is often chanted during yoga and meditation, especially at the beginning and end of a session. It is said to centre the core and activate the body through its vibrations. 

While the origin of the symbol of Om is not known, its three curves are said to represent the three states of consciousness—waking, dream and deep sleep. The dot or bindu on the symbol represents a fourth state of consciousness, which is when one is in between any of the three other states. 

The importance of Om forms the essence of the entire subject matter of the Mandukya Upanishad, though it finds a mention in several other Upanishads. The Mandukya Upanishad comprises of 12 verses, only describing the meaning and significance of the word Om.  

When we utter the word Om aloud, we focus on our breathing and our insides open up. The effect of this manifests both physically and mentally. This sound eases all negativity and anxiety, reduces stress, and calms the nervous system. It focuses on the sinuses through the vocal cords. It also has cardiovascular benefits, brings down the blood pressure and brings the heart beat to its normal rhythm. The whole body gets affected positively.