Saturday, May 2, 2015


Enigmatic  ॐ (OM) and why Hindus consider it as sacred?

(Compilation for a discourse by N. R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, May 2015)
Of all the Vedic mantras the most powerful and the most significant one is the monosyllable incantation called the Pranava. This is the Om.  The available literature on this mono mystic syllable is unfathomable. It is unique among all sacred symbols we come across in the world. Om   (written as in Spiritual Sanskrit script  is a mono-syllable   mystical Sanskrit sound mantra of Vedic origin sacred and important to various Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.  It is uttered both at the beginning and at the end of most Hindu prayers.  It is also written with pluta 3, O3M, indicating a length of three more (three times as long). A  Hindu prayer attains mantra status with the power of OM only.  A mantra is a prayer tuned inwards. “When we pray with a sloka or any other form of outward oral expression we speak and God listens and when we chant a mantra God speaks and we listen” says Swami Chinmayananda. The syllable is also referred to as Omkaara (Om Syllable) or Pranava.  Pranava means humming and pervading sound. When chanted with correct intonation it pervades life and runs through our vital forces called Pancha praanaas. Om is not found in Rigveda or Atharva Veda but occurs in their Upanishads and Taiittareeya Samhita. But Chandogya Upanishad says all Vedas declare Om as the goal in life. Here reference to Vedas is to the 108 Upanishads in a circle which all point towards that center OM. Just like these arrows that do not run parallel but point towards one center, they all univocally declare OM is Brahman in his Nirguna and Saguna form, both manifest and un-manifest. It stands for the Absolute.  It is interesting to note that in Hindu tradition a newly born child is ushered into the world with this holy symbol. After birth, the child is ritually purified by Jaatakarma and the sacred syllable Om is written on its tongue with honey. Om is thus initiated into the life of a Hindu child and ever remains with it as the symbol of piety.  This ceremony is conducted to both male and female children.  Why then there is restriction placed on females not to chant Gayatree or OM from Conservative Orthodoxy point of view?

Om is a composite of a, u, ma which symbolizes several triads—Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva; The three Vedas—Rig, Yajus, Saama; The three worlds—Bhooh (Earth), Bhuvah (Mid region), Suvah (Heaven); the three effulgence, Agni (fire), Soma(moon),  Soorya (sun)-the three eyes of Siva; the three states of existence—wakeful, dream, deep sleep: the three conditions of Consciousness—antarprajna, bahirprjna and ghanaprajna; three kinds of Power—Icchaasakti, Kriyaasakti, Jnaanasakti; The three genders—Pullinga, Streelinga and Nishkalaalinga and others. All things in the universe are pervade by Om. According to Brihat-parasara Smriti--without Om no sound can be uttered and nothing can be communicated.

Without elaborating further let us see what some of the major Upanishads say:                    


Om mityagre vyaaharet | namah iti paschaat |   Omityekaaksharm | pratygaanandam brahmapurusham pranavaswaroopam | akaara ukaara makaara iti | taanekadhaa samabhavattadetadomiti ||

One should utter the Pranava first and then only utter the word Namah. Pranava comprises of one letter. The essential nature of the Pranava is the Supreme Bliss of the Self or Aatman, the Supreme Being, the absolute Brahman. The Pranava consists of three letters akaara, ukaara and makaara or the letters a, u and m. They are combined differently and that is showing itself as OM.


Sarve vedaa yat padam aamananti | tapaamsi sarvaani cha yad vadanti  | yad icchanto brahma-charyam charanti | tat te padam sangrahena braveemy-om-ity-etat ||

“The goal (word) which all the Vedas declare of (praise), which all penances proclaim, and wishing for which they lead a life of celibacy, that goal (word) I (Lord Yama) will briefly tell thee. It is OM” says Lord Yama.

Etadhyeva-aksharam brahma etaddhyevaaksharam param | etadhyevaaksharam jnaatvaa yo yadicchati tasya tat | etad-aalambanam sreshtham etad-aalambanam   jnaatvaa brahmaloke mahheeyate ||
This letter is indeed Brahman. This very letter is the Supreme Being. Meditating upon this letter one gets whatever one wants. This is the best support. This is the highest support. He who knows this support is glorified in the world of Brahman.

Aum ity-etad-aksharam ida(ga)m sarvam | tasyopa-vyaakhyaanam bhootam bhavad-bhavishyad-iti sarvam-onkaara eva | yaccha-anyat-trikaala-ateetam tadapy-onkaara eva ||

All this is syllable AUM.   A clear exposition of this fact follows. All that existed in the past, that exists in the present and what will become in the future is verily AUM; whatever is beyond these past, present and future is also AUM.
The four parts of Pranava [A (beginning), U (continuous), M (closing) and the nasal half sound] correspond to the four aspects (Vyuhas) of Brahman—Aniruddha, Pradyumna, Sankarshana and Vasudeva and they in turn correspond to Viswa, Tejasa, Praajna and Tureeya.  This is often referred as Paada Chatushtaya or Chaturvyuha in Pancharatra Theology.  All things either limited by time or not limited by time or verily the sound of AUM or Brahman alone. This here refers to manifested world. AUM is not only what   past, present and future is, but also what is beyond past, present and future.
 Yunjeeta pranave cheetah pranavo brahma nirbhayam | pranave nityayuktasya na bhayam  vidyate kvachit ||
The mind must concentrate on AUM. AUM is fearless liberation. Those who concentrate on it shall never be afraid anywhere.  


Omityetadaksharamudgeetam upaaseeta | Yadaa vaa richamaapnoti, omityevaati svarati evam saama; evam yajuh; esha u svarah yatedaksharam etadmritam- tam abhayam tat pravisya devaa amritaa abhayaa abhavan ||

One should meditate upon this letter OM, the Udgita; Whenever the Ritvik performing yajna (sacrifice) recites the Rigveda, then he  commences it with OM; Similarly while singing Samaveda and likewise while reciting Yajurveda. So this Onkaara is verily Swara (Voice). This very letter itself is Amruta (Immortal), abhaya (fearless). Meditating upon that the divines became immortal and fearless.
The meditation upon Udgeetha which is an accessory to the Karma which is helpful to the meditation on Brahman is taught like this in this opening Mantra. Udgeetha signifies the Syllable AUM. Sruti says He (Ritvik or the priest) verily sings loudly the Saaman as “AUM”. Chandas meaning that which exhilarates and is also means Vedas in general and it is more particularly applied to Samaveda. In Samaveda mantras known as “saamans” are set to music and sung. Those who have specialized in the singing of the Saamans are called Chandogas. The speciality of Chandogya Upanishad is that it describes a number of upaasanas or meditations, based generally on Vedic rituals.  The first chapter which begins with the above mantra is devoted to Udgeetha Upaasana. Udgeetha sabdena udgeetaavayavah Omkaara uchyate—here the word Udgeetha signifies Omkaara, as integral part.


Omiti brahma | omiteeda (ga)m sarvam ||
The sacred sound Om is Brahman. All this is the syllable Om.

Omityetadanukritirha sma vaa  | aapyo sraavayetyaasraavayanti  | Omiti saamaani gaayanti | O(ga)m somiti | saastraani sa(ga)msanti  | Omityadhvaryuh pratigaram pratigrinaati  | Omiti   brahmaa prasauti | omityagnihotramanujaanaati | Omiti braahmanah  pravakshyannaaha | brahmopraapnavaaneeti | brahmaivaapnoti ||

It is widely well known that AUM is uttered to indicate consent. The priest officiating at the Yajna (sacrifice) encourages his assistant with the words “O Sraavya”. With the chanting of AUM, they start their singing of the Saama verses; and with “AUM SOM”.  They recite the Saastras. The adhvaaryu answers with syllable AUM. With AUM the chief priest, Brahmaa expresses his assent. One permits the offering of oblation to the fire with AUM. May I obtain the Brahman—with this determination the Braahmana says AUM before he begins to recite the Veda; and he does obtain Brahman.


Om tad Brahma | Om tad vaayuh | Om tadaatmaa | Om tat satyam | Om   tat  Sarvam | Om tat puror namah ||

Om that is Brahman; Om that is Vaayu; Om that is infinite self; Om that is Supreme Truth;  Om that is all.; Om that is the multitude of citadels (the bodies of creatures); Om is that primeval cause that existed before creation; so obeisance unto that Pranava. AUM is all what existed in the past, whatever exists now and whatever will exist in the future.

Yad vedaadau svarah prokto vedaante cha pratishthitah |

The Pranava AUM is ordained to be recited at the beginning of the Veda (Veda Mantra) and also at the end of it.

The Pranava is the symbol and the representation of the Supreme and so the source and substance of the Vedas and the Upanishads. The aspirant is advised to meditate on the three elements of Pranava, a, u and m representing Viraat, Hiranyagarbha and Aavyaakrita (material, mental and causal aspect of the Universe). By this meditation the grosser principle is refunded to its subtle cause; so Viraat is dissolved in Hiranyagarbha and Hiranyagarbha in Prakriti. Beyond Prakriti, the causal principle is the Supreme Being corresponding to the Naada or the intangible vibration (represented by ardha-chandra Bimba, half-moon dot) which continues for ever when the three syllables of Pranava are uttered in succession and their physical sound has subsided.  (The origin of Pranava and the four Vedas from it is described in Bhagavatam XII.6.37-44)

Omityekaaksahram  Brahma | agnirdevataa brahma ityaarsham |gaayatram cchandam paramaatmam saroopam |saayujyam viniyogam ||

The one syllable Om is Brahman. Agni is its (mantra’s) deity. Its Rishi is also Brahman.  Its meter is Gaayatree. Its use is for the union with Paramaatman who exists as the manifold world.
[This Mantra is found in the Andhra version of MNU as supplementary Mantra and gives an impression as later insertion.  The purpose of this mantra is to bring forcefully the very  form  of  syllable OM is Brahman, that which is denoted by it is also Brahman here named as Agni, that its Rishi is Brahman, that its meter is Gaayatree, and its use is to assist  an aspirant to realize his union with the Supreme Principle].


Ganesha is identified with the Mantra OM. The term oṃkārasvarūpa (Aum is his form), when identified with Ganesha, refers to the notion that he personifies the primal sound. Ganapati Atharvaseersopanishat, a later Upanishad endorses this strongly.  Tamils exaggerate the Tamil letter “O” looks like elephant’s head with its long trunk and therefore represents Gajamukha. They have replaced the Devanagari Om symbol with Tamil Om symbol .

Tvam Brahmaa tvam vishnustvam rudrastvam-indrastvam-agnitsvam vaayustvam sooryastvam chandramaastvam brahma bhoorbhuvassuvar Om ||

O Lord Ganapati!   Thou art (the Trinity) Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesvara. You are Indra. You are fire (Agni) and air (Vaayu). You are the sun (Soorya) and the moon (Chandrama). You are Brahman. You are (the three Worlds) Bhuloka (earth), Antariksha-loka (Space), the middle region   and Swargaloka (heaven). You are Om (That is to say, YOU are all this).
Evidently this Mantra has been coined after MNU to raise Ganesha, the popular Puranic deity to the status of Brahman adapting Sarvaatmaka Brahmopaasana Mantra addressed to   Pranvaakaara Brahma in Vedas though no mention is made of Ganesha in Vedas or even in Ramayana where a chapter is devoted to Puranic Kartikeya:

Tvam Yajnyastvam vishnustvam vashatkaarastvam rudratsvam brahmaa tvam prajaapatih || Om tad Brahma | Om tad Vaayuh |…amritam brahma bhoorbhuvassuvarom|


Omityekaksharam brahma vyaaharan-maam-anusmaran | Yah prayaati tyajan deham sa yaati parammam gatim ||

Whosoever controls the mind and knowing that the Self resides in the forehead utters the single syllable AUM knowing that it represents the Supreme Brahman and thinking of Me (Bhagawan) while departing from his body he certainly attains the Supreme Lord.

Bhartrihari, a well-known scholar says, “The mantra AUM is identified as the root mantra, out of which all mantras arise.  The sacred syllable is held to have flashed forth into the heart of Brahma while absorbed in deep meditation and to have given birth to Vedas that contain all knowledge”. Sage Patanjali of Yoga Sootra speaks of God as “AUM”. He wrote: “Meditate on AUM to actually contact Eeswara (God). AUM is his symbol”

The Chandogya Upanishad (4.17.1--3) says that through contemplation Prajaapati extracted from  Agni (Fire),  Vaayu  (Air) and Soorya ( Sun), the three Vedas --Rigveda , Yajurveda and Samaveda respectively, and from the three Vedas in the same order again extracted the three Vyaahritis (emanations),     Bhooh, Bhuvah and Suvah.  So these three syllables A, U, M are the quintessence of the three worlds and three Vedas. They represent Brahman alone.

AUM represents the sound energy of the Universe. As pronounced it starts from the back of the throat (opens the mouth with A), fills the mouth (pervades the mouth with U) and closes the   lips with M. The fourth element is silence that prevails. This also represents Creation, Sustenance and dissolution and the continuity that prevails.   Saint Francis of Assisi described the sound of AUM as music so sweet and so beautiful that had it lasted a moment longer he would have lost him-self in it completely. The right way of chanting AUM is mental chanting and super-conscious chanting. (Please refer to my discourse on Yogasastra of Pataanjali).  AUM should be chanted with proper Pratyaahaara (internalization of attention by inward focusing) and Praanaayaama (control of vital forces of life and proper withdrawing of senses from sense objects).  Concentration on the sound AUM opens the secret doorway in the heart center (spoken as cavity of the heart) and connects one to the indwelling Supreme-self (antaryamin) by inward focus taking away our thoughts from the chattering of mind. Also at the same it connects one with the throbbing being that pervades in the entire universe. Aurobindo says: “Aum is the Universal formulation of the energy sound and speech, that which contains and sums up, synthesizes and releases, all the spiritual power and all the potentiality of Vak (speech) and Sabda (sound)” The philosophy of language and letters by philologists says that all vowels have originated from AUM and asserts if one concentrates and repeat the vowels for few minutes, like A E I O U,  the sound of AUM  can be heard resonating very clearly just as the outcome of RAMA  mantra when Valmiki started chanting two letters Ma and Ra repeatedly. The consonants are considered to be images and reflections of the primordial sound. AUM is considered to be source of all alphabets in Sanskrit and the source of all languages. Please also go through my lecture on “Sanskrit alphabets are divine and so is the language”. According to Ramsukhdas--At first the monosyllable AUM was revealed. Then Gaayatree was revealed from AUM. On the basis of Vedas other scriptures and Puranas have been written and so on. Yogic experts say: “During meditation, when we chant Om, we create within ourselves a vibration that attunes sympathy with the cosmic vibration and we start thinking universally. The momentary silence between each chant becomes palpable. Mind moves between the opposites of sound and silence until, at last, it ceases the sound. In the silence, the single thought—om--is quenched; there is no thought. This is the state of trance, where the mind and the intellect are transcended as the individual Self merges with the Infinite Self in the pious moment of realization. It is a moment when the petty worldly affairs are lost in the desire for the universal. This is the immeasurable transcendental power of OM”

People try to chant AUM with their physical voice. Since AUM sound has a very high or very low rate of vibration, it cannot be uttered by the human voice. The cosmic sound of AUM is not perceptible to the physical senses and can be experienced only in deep meditation.  This has been the experience felt and given an open expression too by many mystics of East and West. AUM must be chanted in high and prolonged low note with great devotion. Such a chanting produces vibratory sensation and power within. It affects all parts of the body where vital forces operate. It destroys the negativity in mind. The body feels buoyant. One forgets worldly thoughts and inner strength is aroused.

The Vedic postulation that AUM sound vibrations created this universe has also been scientifically investigated.  AUM is the sound that emanated from the big bang and since then it has been vibrating in the universe. What Indian sages have been saying since centuries, Quantum physics has finally proved that matter is made of pulsating vibrating energy though they haven’t yet confirmed if the vibrating energy produces inaudible sounds!

Our ear can hear sounds only in frequency range of 20 Hz to 20000 Hz. Rest of the sounds are not audible to the human ears. Through meditation and strict penance, mystics are able to hear the cosmic resonance of AUM in their activity of spiritual trance that fills the mind with extreme happiness. Cosmic resonance of AUM forms the Morphogenetic Conscious field. 

It is interesting to recall the work “Sacred Chant recorded inside the Great Pyramid” by Steven Halpern”.  AUM Sound was recorded inside the great pyramid and the recording was played on the ton-scope to visualize the effect of AUM on visible water.  They saw the matter took the elliptical shape of our Galaxy.  It was not the representation of our solar system but the sun and other planets revolving around the galaxy. Hence elliptical orbit is produced by the force that holds all celestial objects in space. 

Plants can also create and react to sound waves?  Music stimulates plant growth. It is believed Sun flower does not turn its face towards sunlight but toward the source that produces the powerful AUM sound.

Conch emanates the AUM sound. May be Amen too in Church bells! This is why it is placed on all temples and blown in all religious ceremonies be it marriage, sacrifice, house warming etc. When Lord Krishna blew his conch before the start of Mahabharata war, the whole world trembled in fear as they listened to the thundering sound AUM emanating from the conch.  World then recognized Lord has arrived to establish Dharma by destroying the evil and protecting the pious.

Our Sun lies 93,000,000 miles away, surrounded by the vacuum of space. Sound won't travel through space, of course. But with the right instrument, scientists can "hear" pulsations from the Sun.  It is most astonishing that this sound reverberates sacred mantra "OM". Scientists are still trying to correlate why/how the ancient Hindu mantra and sun's sound conflate!
The entire Sun vibrates from a complex pattern of acoustical waves, much like a bell.  Our temple bells sound Om and church bells similar sacred sound Amen. If your eyes were sharp enough, you could see a bell's surface jiggle in complex patterns as the waves bounced around within it. Likewise, astronomers at Stanford University can record acoustical pressure waves in the Sun by carefully tracking movements on the Sun's surface. To do this, they use an instrument called a Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), mounted on the SOHO spacecraft, circling the Sun 1,000,000 miles from Earth. The Sun's acoustical waves bounce from one side of the Sun to the other in about two hours, causing the Sun's surface to oscillate, or wiggle up and down. Because these sound waves travel underneath the Sun's surface, they are influenced by conditions inside the Sun. So scientists can use the oscillations to learn more about how the structure of the Sun's interior shapes its surface. The S
Sun's sound waves are normally at frequencies too low for the human ear to hear. To be able to hear them, the scientists sped up the waves 42,000 times -- and compressed 40 days of vibrations into a few seconds. What you'll be hearing are just a few dozen of the 10 million resonances echoing inside the Sun.
The primordial sound is called Naada.  Hindu sages have christened music as “Naadayoga” dedicating it to the Supreme “Naadabrhama”. “Naadoepaasanayaa devaa brahma-vishnu-maheshwarah | Bhaav-yantyupaaseetaa noonam yasmaadete tadaatmikaah ||”—The Trinities Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are worshipped by worshipping ‘Naada’ which is the basis of Gandharvaveda.  The sound which can be heard and contemplated upon with concentration in the cavity of heart center is AUM.

Sounds are of two kinds--Articulate and Inarticulate. Articulate sound is through the medium of Air (Vaayu).  This sound is produced by shock, collision of objects or natural events like lightning and thunder.  Since this sound is produced by shock, it is also known as ahata or "struck".   Inarticulate Sound is through the Ethreral (Aakaasic) sound which is the basis of all universal creation and is not perceived by the mundane senses. It is intonation sound dealing with the heart what we call as inner voice. This sound is heard by only enlightened sages. This sound is also known as anahata  or unstruck as it is not created naturally by collision of objects. One who is not interested in spiritual enjoyment remains forever unaware of the unstruck sound. Struck sound is said to give pleasure and unstuck sound gives Liberation (Naarada Puraana). The word AUM has the advantage of both the articulate and inarticulate, alphabetical and intonation sound. It has a deep philosophical significance. It brings the individual being in perfect attunement with the eternal being.

AUM that we can hear, say or think of in the mind is Articulated AUM Whereas AUM that cannot be perceived mentally or vocally and can be realized only by the divine conscious mind is unarticulated AUM. Only divine eye can perceive the universal creation and destruction in AUM sound while the ignorant mind perceive it as just a humming and buzzing ringing sound. 

Aagamas say: Akaara kills Krodha (anger), Ukaara kills Dwesha (hatred) and Makaara kills Bhaya (fear) while the compound symbol AUM kills the Ego in man. 

Sapta swaras in music Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, Ni have been formulated to produce and maintain all the basic emotions, not only in the human system but also in animal minds. Recent researches say it has also effect on plant kingdom. The Arohana of Sa and Ri produce wonder   and hatred, Da raises fear or repulsion, Ga and Ni pathos, and M a and Pa love and delight.

Lord Krishna   glorifies the sacred syllable Pranava in Bhagvadgeeta. Lord Krishna clarifies to the bewildered Arjuna looking at his Cosmic Form that the entire universe exists in Him alone and that he is indeed the primeval seed (AUM) of entire creation. The Vedas state: “Prajaapati vai idam agre aaseet | Tasya vaag dwiteeya aaseet | Vaag  vai parama Brahma || [In the beginning was Prajaapati, the Brahman; with whom was the word; and the word was verily the Supreme Brahman.]  It is the word or vaak that envelopes the entire creation. It is the Vaak or Sabd (sound) that holds the world which is manifested in everything around; it is the Vaak that sustains all the three worlds. Please see the similarity between this and the latter Biblical quote, John 1:1 (50 to 100 A.D.) “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The word AUM, Christian “Amen” and Islamic “Amin” all represent one and the same.

The three letters of AUM symbolizes the triad in time and space. It also represents the three states one experiences every day in life—Wakeful, Dream and Deep sleep states. Vedanta adds to it the fourth stage which is indefinable Bliss which it simply denotes as Tureeya or the fourth stage. You have often noticed AUM written in Sanskrit has a curved line and a Bindu or period called Half-moon period. The dot on the curved line represents the Supreme Divinity in us. This stage is known as Tureeya in the art of meditation which is beyond the three level of Consciousness. We are in a temporary state of reunion with Brahman at this state.
The three letters also represent the cyclic nature of evolution in the universe. A stands for   adimata or beginning or creation. U stands for utkarsha or sustenance and M stands for Mriti or annihilation or dissolution. In Puraanic context they represent Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. The universe comes into existence, sustains for it destined time and then it is annihilated. Everything is enclosed within the grasp of the swift moving Time known as Kaala or Samaya. Meditation on AUM enables one to get in touch with various stages of Consciousness and realize the reality of the world which in ignorance feels everlasting. Yet another interpretation of Aum says A stands for vaak or word, U represents manas or mind and M stands for Praana meaning breath.

AUM helps the aspirant to glide through three stages of meditation. You may kindly recall here my reference to Chaturvyuhas in my discourse on “Exposition of Vishnu in Pancharatra concept”.  The first one refers to A and stands for Aniruddha, which means passing over the boundaries of gross body (Annamaya Kosa)and slowly sliding into the subtle body or Sookshma sareera (Manomaya Kosa).  U stands for Pradyumna or Manomaya Kosa. The increased awareness takes one to the next stage of M or Sankarshana (Vijnaanamaya Kosa). At this point the aspirant is automatically pulled towards eternal naada and goes into oneness with primordial sound or Vaasudeva or Aanandamaya Kosa. AUM represents the supreme Divine Power which directs him to a state of super consciousness,   where the mind goes into complete unity with the Transcendent Being.  
Lord Krishna declares AUM to be divine glory of Brahman thus:

Om tatsaditi nirdeso brhamanstrividhah  smritah |
Braahmanaastena vedaasacha Yajnaascha vihitaah  puraa ||17-13 ||

“Aum tat Sat” –this has been declared to be the threefold designation of the Brahman; by that, the Vedas, the Brahmanas (Brahmavits or the knowers of Brahman) and Yajnas (sacrifices) were created in the ancient past. Aum tat sat means that in essence everything is AUM only.

Tasmaat Om iti udaahritya yajna-daana-tapah kriyaah  |
pravartante vidhaanoktaah satatam brahmavaadinaam ||

Therefore with the utterance of the sacred syllable AUM the acts of Yajna, charity and austerity   commenced as enumerated in the scriptures and expounded by Brhamvits (expounders of Brahman.
Without going further let me conclude my discourse reflecting some wisdom thoughts on the subject from distinguished spiritual thinkers. Joseph Campbell says: “Concentration on the sound of AUM connects persons to the throbbing being—the power which is omniscient and omnipresent.  All the vowels have come out of the sound AUM and all the consonants are the images of and the fragments of sound”. Guru grant Sahib explains “it is indeed the sabd (word) from which has emanated the entire world, it is the sabd that sustains all the three worlds. According to Swami Chinmayananda: “To cherish in our mind the divine awareness and the absolute supremacy of the Infinite, as expressed in AUM, is to add purpose and meaning to all the act of sacrifice, charity and austerity. To invoke in mind the divine concept of the Absolute is to free the personality from its limited fields of   egocentric attachments. When a mind is thus   liberated from its limitations, it becomes more efficient in all austerities, more selfless in Yajnas   and more liberal in all charities”. Sri Aurobindo has the following to say: “AUM is the initiating syllable pronounced at the outset, as benedictory prelude and sanction to all acts of sacrifice and giving; it is a reminder that work should be made an expression of the triple Divine in our inner being and turned towards Him in the idea and motive.  The seekers of liberation do these actions without desire of fruit and only with the feeling, and Aananda or the Absolute Divine behind their nature. It is that which they seek by this purity and impersonality in their works, this high desire-less state, this vast emptiness of ego and plentitude of spirit.”  

AUM is the word representative of the thought out of which the universe has become manifested. This is well substantiated by Swami Vivekananda as follows: “The AUM is the only symbol which covers the whole ground and there is none other like it. The Sphota (outburst) is the material of all words, yet it is not any definite word in its fully formed state. That is to say, if all the particularities which distinguish one word from another be removed, then what remains will be the Sphota. Therefore this Sphota is called the Naada Brahman, the sound Brahman. Now, every word-symbol intended to express the inexpressible Sphota will so particularize it the least and at the same time most approximately express its nature, will be the truest symbol thereof; and this is the AUM and the AUM only; because these three letters A, U, M pronounced in combination as AUM, can alone be the generalized symbol of all possible sounds.  The letter A alone is the least differentiate of all sounds. Again, all articulate sounds are produced in the space within the mouth—beginning with the root of the tongue and ending at the lips; the throat sound is A and M is the last lip sound;  and U exactly represents the rolling of the impulse which begins at the root of the tongue, continuing till it ends in the lips”-

“If properly pronounced, this AUM will represent in itself the whole phenomenon of sound production, and no other word can do this, therefore is the fittest symbol of the Sphota (explosion), which is the real meaning of the AUM. And as the symbol can never be separated from the thing signified, the AUM and the Sphota are one. And as the Sphota, being the finer side of the manifested Universe is nearer to God” says Swami Chinmayananda.                         

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7) Swami Chinmayananda, Kathopanishad & Taiittareeya Upanishad, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India.
9)  Swami Nityanand, Symbolism in Hinduism, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India.
10) Wikipedia and other Internet sources.
11) Subhmoy Das, Symbol of the Absolute, Internet


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Om   in the Upanishads is well known to all. You are all familiar with my detailed discourse on the subject.   The Vedas speak a lot about the importance of the Pranava. It is suggested in the Aitareya Brahmana that the phonetic components of Om correspond to the three stages of cosmic creation, and when it is read or said, it celebrates the creative powers of the universe.(Srishti; Sthiti; Laya—Creation; Maintenance and Dissolution). Chandogya Upanishad in 1.1.8 says Om is “anujnaaksharam”, a letter of assent. The phrase ”one who gives assent” does so with “OM”.  Sanskrit language is said to have born out of the word OM.

Holy bible says “in the beginning there was the WORD. The word was with God; and the Word was GOD (G=Generator; O=Operator; and D=Dis-solver). Probably the gospel writers of Bible that was released to the world around third century AD, were guided by the ancient Upanishads and Mahabharata!  

Anaadinidhanaa hyeshaa vaagutsrishtaa svayambhuvaa | Aadau vedamayee divyaa yatsarvaah prasootayah ||

--Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, Chapter 231, Verse 56.

Beginning and endless is this Vaak (Word) manifested on its own, first as Veda the celestial and from that everything else born.

We see Pranava Mantra as the Primordial sound. It has to be from a time beyond any language known to humans. OM is a vibration present in the nature which was later recognized by the ancient seers. It was present since the beginning of time itself. It just seems to have been utilized and mentioned in the Vedas and represented linguistically using a symbol for the first time in scripts of Sanskrit.

The word OM is found in very old Sanskrit texts. Tholkappiyam and Sangam literature did not mention OM. Though in general this word is believed to be Sanskrit, few scholars have opined that the origin must be Tamil. OM is the combination of three letters, a - oo - m --ம். OM was pronounced as AUM. Conjunction of the above three letters a, oo, m will be AUM. This is how the Tamil grammar says. If + combines letter வ் will appear between them. It will be +வ்++ம் AUM. This grammar rule is applicable only in Tamil. Sanskrit does not have this grammar rule in Panini. Because of this reason scholars believe the origin should be Tamil.

OM is an in-declinable like nouns in Sanskrit. The SACRED syllable OM, uttered as a holy exclamation at the beginning and end of a reading of the VEDAS, or previous to the commencement of a prayer or sacred work.

As a particle it implies: a) Solemn affirmation and respectful assent (So be it amen!) b) assent or acceptance (yes, all right); c) command; d) auspiciousness; e) removal or warding off. ओमित्युच्यताममात्य: —OM iti  uchyataam amaatyah—Let councilors say  Om for acceptance (from  Malvikagnimitra).

It may be observed that Ceylon Tamils say ’Om’ instead of ‘Aam’(Yes) in Tamil. It is interesting to note that this ‘Aam’ is found in English as ‘Amen’ in the same sense as Tamil. ʾĀmīn (Arabic: آمين‎) is the Arabic form of Amen. In Islam, it is used with the same meaning as in Judaism and Christianity; when concluding a prayer, especially after a supplication (du'a) or reciting the first surah Al Fatiha of the Qur'an (salat), and as an assent to the prayers of others.

From the beginning of first century A.D. scholars of White Race showed equal interest in learning and getting proficiency in Tamil like Sanskrit. Tamils were the earliest in the world who encouraged Christianity and their worship in churches. When Romans were persecuting killing and throwing Christians to wolves Christians built their first Church of the world in the Tamil speaking area of Trissur in 52 A.d. It is a Tamil that started Justice Party developing Non-Brahmin Unity Concept in Tamil Nadu which later developed Dravida Nadu concept and supremacy of Tamil language developing a theory that Tamil is older than Sanskrit and Vedas and discrediting Sanskrit as Mother of all languages based on Aryan Invasion theory.  In this they had the support from a Bishop in the South as early as 18th century. Tamils have misinterpreted history to prove that Tamil is more ancient than Sanskrit and Vedas. They even created their own Gods called Mariamman and also introduced goat and lamb sacrifices in these temples as a sacrificial culture much older to Vedic culture with Non-Brahmin priests who have not studied Vedas or trained in Agama Sastras.

Bishop Robert Coldwell (1814- 1891) was a missionary and linguist who academically established the Dravidian family of languages who became    Assistant Bishop of Tirunelveli from 1877. He was described in The Hindu as a "pioneering champion of the downtrodden" and an "avant-garde social reformer". The Government of Tamil Nadu has created a memorial in his honor and a postage stamp has been issued in his name. a statue of Caldwell was erected in 1967 near to Marina Beach, Chennai, as a gift of the Church of South India.

Influenced by these developments Indalogist Asko Parpola, who is knowledgeable of both Sanskrit and South Indian languages, attributes a Dravidian origin for the term and uses the myth word  Dravidia  liberally.  

Sankara coined the word   Dravida for the first time in  in Sanskrit with spiritual significance as the land of three waters (Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean  and Arabian Sea). To summarize Parpola, “Vedic literature explicitly define ōm as an expression of approval or agreement, meaning “yes”. Parpola explains: “In Tamil, the expression ām (or ōm as in Jaffna Tamil dialect), which in turn derives from the Tamil word ākum, also means yes. Dravidian provides a clear etymology for ōm expressing assent than Indo-European, thus Sanskrit ōm is probably derived from Dravidian ām.

The sacred syllable is not attested in the form o in the Rigveda, but is thought to be implied by the expression akara syllable in three verses of the riddle hymn RV 1,164. It is, however, much used in the later Vedic liturgy. When the Rigvedic, Sāmavedic, and Yajurvedic priests ask the Brahman priest for permission to carry out an action (e.g., brahman apa praeyāmi, O Brahman, I am about to carry forwards the water”), o introduces the permission (anujñā), followed by an imperative of the appropriate verb (e.g., o, praaya, yes, do carry it forward!). The meaning of o is explicitly stated in the Chāndogya-Upaniad (1. 1. 8): This syllable is one of permission; for when one permits anything, he says o. When the Śunaśepa legend is related during the royal consecration, o is the response to a Rigvedic verse (c), tathā (be it so) to a profane verse (gāthā); o is divine, tathā is human (AB 7,18). Distinction is made here between the hieratic speech of the sacrifice, where o is used to express agreement, and ordinary mundane conversation, where tathā or tathāstu is used. But occasionally o and na are used for yes and no in ordinary prose dialogue as replies to questions (e.g., in BĀU 6,2,1). I therefore propose that o (with a long ō, as always in Sanskrit) derives from Proto-Dravidian *ām, yes, a contracted variant of *ākum, the non-past (habitual present-future without personal endings) regularly formed with the suffix *-um of the very basic auxiliary verb *ā / *āku, meaning “it is, it is so, yes.” This usage of ām to mean “yes” is still very common in Dravidian languages, for instance Tamil, and in the Jaffna dialect of Tamil in Sri Lanka, where ām has become ōm, “yes,” clearly repeating the same phonetic process (vocalic anticipation of m) that resulted in Vedic ōm. Hindi hā, yes, owes its initial h- to North Dravidian, where all initial vowels are introduced with a glottal stop.” 

All the four Vedas start with the word “Harih OM” contrary to what Asko  Parpola  says.   The ōm with its original meaning as given in Sanskrit literature is still in common word among Sri Lankan Tamils (and probably no one else). Tamil Nadu people say āmām instead.

Alvaro Hans,   a Tamil Author of PIE-Face unveiled:

The Sanskrit word ‘Om’ is the most popular word loaded with lot of mysticism and philosophy. What actually is the etymology of the word?

Ancient Tamil Nadu had a thriving fertility cult with Sivan as the God of procreation and sexual indulgence.The Tamil word’Okham’ ஒக்கம்  stands  for procreation. This word ‘Okham’ ultimately evolved into ‘Yoga’ as follows: Okham>Oam>Om>Aum>Aamam(Yes). So, ’Om’ meant’ let it be productive/fruitful’. This word was used as a wishful ‘Yes’ for interactions.

Tamil OM is designed from the fusion of the Tamil vowel “O” and consonant “am” to represent symbolically Phallus--Yoni Linga representation   of Tantric concept unlike Sanskrit OM with which all Tamils are familiar. It also represents Ucchishtha Ganapati with his trunk.

It may be observed that Ceylon Tamils say’ Om’ instead of ‘Aam’ (Yes). It is interesting to note that this ‘Aam’ is found in English as ‘Amen’ in the same sense as Tamil. Perhaps this word was used by St. Thomas who established World’s first church in Trissur and later moved to St. Thomas Mount in Madras.  The usage of Amen, meaning "so be it", as found in the early scriptures of the  Bible is claimed to be of Hebrew origin and of most ancient Abrahamic religion.    However, the basic  tri-consonant from which the word was derived is common to Tamil language as “aamaam”which is more ancient than Hebrew.  The word was imported into the Greek of the early Church from Judaism.  From Greek, amen entered the other Western languages. According to a standard dictionary etymology, amen passed from Greek into Late Latin and thence into English.  Rabbinic scholars from medieval France believed the standard Hebrew word for faith emuna comes from the root amen. Although in English transliteration they look different, they are both from the root aleph-mem-nun. That is, the Hebrew word amen derives from the same ancient trilateral Hebrew root as does the verb ʾāmán which sounds like “amam” in Tamil an assent word meaning Yes.

In my explanation of the above subject I did not properly explain how the “WORD” in English and “BRAHMAN” in Sanskrit to mean “GOD” originated. Please find the revised text below:
“Om was used first in Sanskrit language.   OM might   have even preceded Sanskrit, the origin of being older than even Sanskrit. Even the Sanskrit language is said to have born out of the word OM. OM tad Brahma—OM that is Brahman. Brahman is derived from the root brih “to grow, to grow great” which is undoubtedly only vridh in another form. If so, the English “Word” is ultimately the same as the Vedic Brahman even etymologically.

Holy bible says “in the beginning there was the WORD. The word was with God; and the Word was GOD (G=Generator; O=Operator; and D=Dissolver). Probably the gospel writers of Bible that was released to the world around third century AD, were guided by the ancient Upanishads and Mahabharata

Brahman is also Ananda which the Christianity  often elaborates as “GOD is Love”.  The word Ananda means also ‘love’ if we recall that the word is sometimes rendered by priti, and  is, in one form of its manifestation in the individual, sexual pleasure, the function of upasthendriya. The Supreme and final experience of realizing Brahman is likened to the feeling of being embraced by the beloved woman and of forgetfulness of all else in the enjoyment as stated in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.21. The feeling of Ananda is further described as svarupavisranti, absolute restrain oneself,  that is to say, Ananda, perennial joy, is peace.

Tadyathaa priyayaa streeyaa samparishvakto na baahyam kinchana veda naantaram evamevaayam purushah prajnenaatmanaa samparishvakto na baahyam kinchana veda naantaram | tadvaaa asyaitad-aaptakaama-aatmakaamamakaamam roopam  sokaantaram || 4-3-21 ||

As a man fondly embraced by his beloved wife doesn’t know anything at all either external or internal, similarly this Purusha (Jivatman) being fondly embraced by the Supreme Self (in the state of sushupti which is free from all desires) does not know anything that is outside or anything within itself. That is indeed its real state in which all its desires have been fulfilled and in which the Self is the object of enjoyment and which is free from desire and which is devoid of sorrow.

[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference materials above as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganesha Temple which gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other  discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas scriptures  and Hindu Dharma further.]