It is not OM; it is AUM
Have you been chanting “Om” for years? If yes, this may awaken you because it is not Om that you should chant; it is “Aum”.
The error occurs because in Sanskrit “O” is formed by the sounds “a” and “u”. With the passing of centuries and the transit to other places with different cultures and languages, this particularity has been forgotten and has made almost everyone pronounces the word “Om” as it is written.
“Om in Sanskrit is pronounced Aum”
What is the correct pronunciation of Om?
Follow these three simple steps:
- Breathe, open your mouth 70% and while exhaling say “a”.
- Close your mouth slowly, and the sound progressively becomes “o-u”.
- When the lips are fully closed the sound becomes “m.”
The result should be: “aaaooUUUMMmmm …”
What is the meaning of Om?
Om is a sacred sound in many spiritual traditions. It is considered the essential sound of creation, the primordial mantra.
The life cycle of the universe and everything in it is encapsulated in “Aum”.
It is made up of 4 parts – 3 sounds and silence.
Each of these parts is related to a basic level of consciousness, as experienced in this life:
- When you sing “A”, you experience the vibration just below the navel.
- It is related to the waking state, Jagrat.
- It represents the creation process.
- The Hindus call this creative facet of divinity, Brahma.
- When you sing “U”, you experience the vibration around the chest cavity.
- It is related to the dream state, Svapna.
- It represents the preservation process.
- The Hindus call this aspect of divinity, Vishnu.
- When you sing “M”, you experience vibration from the throat, spreading through the oral cavity and skull.
- It is related to the state of deep sleep, Sushupti.
- It represents the process of destruction, the end of the cycle of existence.
- It is the phase of Shiva, the destroyer. When the world of the senses ceases to exist, everything is reduced to its essence, and then the period of yoga (union) begins.
- “Silence”. After chanting an Om, there is a pause which represents Turiya, or infinite consciousness. It is the period between death and a return to life, between destruction and the beginning of the creative process.
(In the above sketch there is a mistake, sushupti is not the small curve is the curve above jagrat. The small curve is Maya)
The long curve at the bottom symbolizes the usual waking state
The curve at the top denotes the deep sleep state (the unconscious)
The curve to the right means the dream state
The point (Chandra Bindu) implies the state of pure consciousness (known as Turiya ) that illuminates the other states
The semicircle symbolizes Maya (the manifested world) that separates the point from the other three states.
In this way, Om symbolizes the infinite Brahman, the totality of existence, manifested and not manifested.
Aum / Om in the Hindu scriptures
“Om is the one eternal syllable of which all that exists is but the development. The past, the present and the future are all included in this one sound, and all that exists beyond the three forms of time is also implied in it ”.
Om is first mentioned in the Upanishads, the Vedic texts associated with Vedanta philosophy.
Within Vedanta, the prevailing current is Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism). According to Advaita Vedanta, there is only one reality, that is, the creator and the creation are the same things.
Advaita Vedanta is more than a religion and is considered a spiritual path focused on the liberation of people through self-knowledge, transcending the body and mind and thus accessing the ultimate reality.
In Advaita Vedanta philosophy, “Om” represents the process of the return of existence to its real essence, pure consciousness. This implies that the manifested world, Maya, is an illusion or only a partial vision of the underlying reality, infinity.
Once we get, through a process of discrimination of what is real (permanent, eternal) and what is not real (ephemeral, temporary), a certain degree of awareness of who or what we really are, we transcend the mind and achieve liberation or Mukti.
Mukti means the realization of the ultimate truth and the end of the consciousness of being separate from the rest of existence. The individual realizes his true being, pure consciousness. “Om” represents that “return” from creation to the creator, from Maya to truth.
The primordial sound “Om” manifests in the perception of those who have transcended the limitations of the physical world, i.e. who have reached Mukti. And so, it is associated with the ultimate goal of human existence, which is reaching the ultimate reality, union with life or union with God, the creator.
“I am the father of this universe, the mother, the support and the grandsire. I am the object of knowledge, the purifier and the syllable Om.”
—Bhagavad Gita (9.17)
Om in other cultures
Om does not appear only in India in relation to Hindu philosophy and tradition, it also exists in other cultures, but time and cultural and language influences have been transforming it.
Only in Hinduism has it remained in its original form because throughout centuries, knowledge has been transmitted from Guru to disciple (Guru-shishya tradition), preventing the cultural particularities of each era from influencing the essence of that knowledge.
In Buddhism, which is born from Hinduism, it is kept in the original form “Om”, although we have already seen that it is not the correct way to pronounce it, while Christians and Jews use Amen, and in Muslim culture, Ameen is used.
In all cases, it is used in a very similar way, as the beginning or end of prayers or mantras.
Here are some references in the Hindu and Christian scriptures to Aum / Om and Amen:
“The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when they lead the life of continence is AUM. This syllable AUM is indeed Brahman…;this is the highest support”
—Katha Upanishad I, ii, 15-17
“I am Om” (Ch. 7.8 – 9.17). “One must chant “Om” while thinking of Krishna in order to attain Him personally”
This [in the beginning], was only the Lord of the universe. His Word was with Him. This Word was His second. He contemplated. He said, “I will deliver this Word so that she will produce and bring into being all this world””
—Sama Veda, Tandya Maha Brahmana 20.14.2. VE, 107
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people”
—Biblia, John 1.1-4
“Jesus Christ himself is the Amen”
—Catecismo 1065 (Ap 3, 14)
“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and TRUE Witness, the Originator of God’s creation”
Om and science
Quantum physics has now proven what the sages in India have known for millennia, that form and sound (vibration) are intimately connected.
All existence, that is, form or matter, visible and non-visible, sound, waves, radiation, etc., is energy vibrating at different frequencies. Vibrations produce sound, and sound creates form.
Therefore, the universe is, fundamentally, a complex amalgam of sounds, which give rise to all the forms that exist.
The fundamental sounds of the universe
In the same way that there are three fundamental colours, there are three fundamental sounds, whose different combination is at the origin of all creation.
These sounds are: aaaaa, oooooo, mmmmm, the three fundamental or universal or root sounds, which, when pronounced together, give rise to AUM.
This characteristic is manifested in the same way in people (part of creation), that can produce only these three sounds without the language intervening. All the other sounds we create are a combination of them.
Therefore, ‘Aum’ is considered the essential element of all the words that can emanate from the human throat.
“God’s voice is Aum”
—The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (1:27)
Why sing the Om mantra?
In the same way that we have a physical body, we have an energy body made up of 72,000 nadis, or energy channels, that distribute energy (prana) to each part of our being.
Each of these three fundamental sounds, or their multiple combinations, activates a different dimension of the energy body, which affects the distribution of energy, which results in different effects on the physical body.
Each sound activates a unique process in the flow of life – “A” activates creation, “o” activates preservation, “m” activates destruction.
Mantras are designed to achieve a specific goal by combining these fundamental vibrations.
In the case of the Om mantra, the purpose is to achieve liberation (Mukti), by raising the energy to the Ajna chakra (in the centre of the head), with the aim of “opening the door” to the energy of the universe.
Why is Om sung in yoga?
The word “yoga” derives from the Sanskrit root “Yuj”, which means “to join”, and was created with the purpose of uniting or reuniting or harmonizing the energy of the individual with that of the entire universe.
Therefore, the ultimate goal of yoga is the same as that pursued when the Om mantra is chanted, which is the elevation of energy. In other words, the ultimate goal of yoga and chanting is the synchronization (union) of the energy of the body and the mind with the original energy of creation, prana.
What’s more, yoga is the process to reach the ultimate reality of existence. So, chanting the Om mantra cannot be considered as separate from yoga. In the same way that meditation or breathing techniques (pranayama) are part of yoga, the Om mantra is also a vital part of yoga.
The energetic harmonization of the body and mind caused by the chanting of the Om results in the following benefits for the practitioner:
Corrects attention deficits.
- Anti-stress and anxiolytic effect.
- Facilitates the oxygenation of the body.
- Reduces blood pressure.
- Helps the digestive process.
- Assists in the regulation of rest cycles.
- Strengthens the immune system.
- Produces emotional stability.
- Regulates hormonal secretions.
- Contributes to the elimination of toxins.