The Meaning of OM (AUM)
Updated: Mar 11, 2022
For over a decade I have been on the faculty of a 200-hour Yoga Teacher training. In this training, we encapsulate the meaning of Om thusly:
"Om [actually AUM] is the cosmic sound and the vibration of the universe. The three components of AUM are: aa: creation, uu: preservation, and mm: destruction.
Chanting OM at the beginning and end of yoga class cultivates a connection between our individual experience and the universal. OM also connects our contemporary practice to yoga’s sacred, ancient traditions and philosophies, while illuminating the link between yogis across the globe OM creates a bridge between languages and counties. The sound and vibration of OM through our vocal chords and mouths provides a physical sensation that awakens the bond between the individual and the universal."
I love this!
Here is some more information from my own practice.
For a PDF of this table, see the file, below:
Notes from Chintamani's Journal:
“OM: cosmic vibration of the universe; universal mantra; represents the four states of consciousness: conscious, subconscious, unconscious and supraconscious.”
Swami Muktibodhananda. Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Revised Edition. Munger, Bihar, India. Yoga Publications Trust. Bihar School of Yoga. 1993. (First Edition 1985.)
“After realizing the importance of AUM, the yogi focuses his attention on his beloved Deity adding AUM to the name of the Lord. The word AUM being too vast and too abstract, he unifies his senses, will, intellect, mind and reason by focusing on the name of the Lord and adding the word AUM with one pointed devotion and so experiences the feeling and meaning of the mantra.”
Iyengar, B.K.S. Light on Yoga. Revised Edition. New York, Schocken books 1977 (First published by Schocken Books 1966) pgs 50-51
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The Gospel according to Saint John 1:1.
Anahad literally means the un-struck melody. In yogic cosmology and science it is said that the Universe is made of sound. All matter is vibrating at certain frequencies. Rocks and stones have a very slow and low frequency. Color and light have a high frequency and can travel through the vacuum of space.
Beyond all physical phenomena and matter is the primal creative sound vibration that began the creation. In Christianity it is called The Word. Sikhs call it the Naad. It is what scientists call “Cosmic radiation”—the constantly creative sound left over from the Big Bang. Yogis call it Anahad. Whatever one calls it, it is constantly vibrating, creating, and expanding the Universe—infinitely, endlessly.
Singh, Mata Mandir. “The Unstruck Melody: Understanding the Science of Naad Yoga.” 3ho.org.
Tasya Vacakah pranavah
Patanjali’s Sutras: Book 1 verse 27
The word expressive of Isvara is the mystic sound OM. Om is God’s name, as well as form.
Swami Satchidananda expounds in his commentary of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in Verse 1:27—
The word expressive of Isvara is the mystic sound OM. OM is God’s name as well as form.
I believe these notes are in the commentary in the Sutras, but some of my own thoughts may be mixed in.
This name is an unlimited idea and vibration which includes all vibrations, because God is infinite.
There is no need to create God, but just to feel God in you. If you close your eyes and ears, sit quietly, allow the mind to be completely silent and then listen within, you will hear God humming. God talks to us always, but our minds clamour so loudly, we fail to hear.
There are hundreds and thousands of names for God, but none of them conveys the exact idea of God. They may give a picture of one aspect of God, but not the fullness. God is, was and always will be—without beginning or end, infinite and omnipresent. For such a great one, there should be a name that conveys those same ideas. And not only that, but by repeating it, the very name should manifest God in you.
A is the beginning of all sounds
Then as the sound comes forward between the tongue and the roof of the mouth, then closer to the teeth, OO is created The closing of the lips produces the M. So the creation is A, the preservation is U and the culmination is M. AUM is the entire process of sound and all other sounds are contained in it. After the verbal sound ends there is still a vibration. That is the unspoken sound which is always in you, even before saying the A and after finishing the M. There is always a sound vibration in you that can never be destroyed. You can always listen to that sound if you remain quiet. It is heard only when all the other sounds cease.
That hum is called pranava because it is connected with prana. Prana is the basic vibration that always exists whether it is manifesting or not. IT is the atomic vibration.
Other words are arbitrary
To me, AUM connects me to the energy of all creation, the energy of the universe. We are all connected by the same source energy. We are all waves on the same ocean, branches on the same tree.
For some musical vibrations of AUM:
Aum Chanting (108 Times) by Shruti Nada
108 Sacred Oms - Edit by Jason D. McKean
Celestial Abode - by Todd Norian
20 Minutes of Powerful Om Mantra Meditation & Singing Bowls
5 Minute AUM Chanting with Harmonium Drone
AUM Shati (Peace)