Like Namasté, "Om" is a word that is never missing from a yoga or meditation session. You've probably also seen the symbol from the Sanskrit alphabet many times. But what exactly does this little syllable mean, which has been used by Hindus, Buddhists and yogis for millennia?
The Sacred Syllable
To call Om a word is not strictly accurate, because it is actually a syllable. In fact, Om is even considered a holy syllable. This is because the Sanskrit spelling does not yield Om, but Aum, and thus it begins and ends with the initial and final letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. Om/Aum thus stands for the universal, the whole and is understood as the basis of every single sound that follows.
Origin of Om
The small yet important syllable consists of the three letters A, U and M, which are characteristic of the three Vedas. The Vedas ("knowledge") are religious texts of Hinduism and were first mentioned in very ancient Indian scriptures, the Upanishads.
These three letters either stand for the three gods Vishnu (A), Shiva (U) and Brahma (M) or are understood as symbols for three states of consciousness: A means waking, U stands for dreaming and M for deep sleep. In addition, there is a fourth state, silence. So actually Om does not consist of three but of four parts, but logically one does not hear all of them when pronouncing it.
What exactly does Om mean?
There isn't really an exact literal translation for Om, but loosely speaking it expresses, "All that has been, all that is, and all that is yet to be." Om thus stands for past, present and future at the same time - quite a lot of content for such a short syllable! As already mentioned, Om is considered a primal sound, so to speak, the sound that precedes all others. In Hinduism, Om is the sound of creation.
When and why is Om mentioned?
You probably know Om as an ornamental element in the form of Sanskrit spelling, or even from yoga class. Before and after yoga, Om is often said to usher in or conclude the practice.
You may know Om as an ornamental element in the form of Sanskrit spelling.
If you say an Om slowly to yourself, you will immediately notice the vibrations that arise in the body. In yoga, this vibration is said to awaken awareness of the meditation practice and create harmony for body, mind and spirit.
Om, then, is less of a chant than a chant.
Om, then, is not so much a word as a syllable used as mantra to help one become aware of one's own mind and arrive in the moment.
You can find more exciting definitions under ' Knowledge & Effect' in our blog!