OmKar is the practice of chanting the Sanskrit sacred syllable AUM – OM.
At the end of March 2020 Eddie and Ranjana began a weekly Zoom group for Meditation and Chanting for Love, Peace, Healing and Harmony. These sessions began with chanting of OM 21 times. Fortuitously, Aparna Choudhuri at the same time compiled this information about the Om. Read on…
Compiled by Aparna Choudhuri, Author of “Handbook on Union with God through Finger Postures”
“Nothing existed in the universe. In the beginning, the sun, the moon, the stars, the Earth, the sky, etc., did not exist. There was only pitch darkness all around. The combination of atoms resulted in the formation of hard matter of a very high density. As a result, a lot of heat was generated. Then all of a sudden, the hard matter exploded with a big bang into pieces and spread all over. This was the cause of creation…The sound that emanated when the big bang took place is Pranava. That is Omkara, the primordial sound. This sound of Pranava is all-pervasive. It originated from paramaanu (minutest atom). There is nothing other than atom in this creation…This primordial sound has to be contemplated upon by man for attaining liberation…” – Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Omkaaram Bindu-Samyuktam Nityam Dhyaayanti Yoginah |
Kaamadam Mokssadam Caiva Omkaaraaya Namo Namah ||1||
My salutations to the Omkar written with a dot (Bindu) signifying that we are drops of that OM from which we have come. The Yogis always meditate upon It. Through the recitation and understanding of the Pranava (AUM), one experiences the highest Bliss and attain liberation.
Om or Aum is a sacred sound and a spiritual symbol in Indian religions. In Hinduism, it signifies the essence of the ultimate reality, consciousness or Atman. More broadly, it is a syllable that is chanted either independently or before a spiritual recitation in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Om, symbolically embodies the divine energy, or Shakti, and its three main characteristics: creation, preservation, and liberation. Om is the basic sound of the universe; chanting it symbolically and physically tunes us into that sound and acknowledges our connection to everything in the world and the Universe.
‘Om is the symbol of the unchanging eternal universal supreme God. Om is the sound of the movement of the stars in the firmament; it is the sound that manifested when the dawn of Creative Will stirred the Attribute less into activity.’ – Sri Sathya Sai Baba SSS6, Chap. 42
Every little moment or incident results in sound; only, you may not be able to hear, because the range of your ear is limited. The falling of an eyelid over the eye makes a sound, the dropping of dew on a petal makes a sound. Any little agitation disturbing the calm is bound to produce sound. The sound caused by the primal movement that resulted in the enveloping of Brahman by self-evolved illusion is the Pranavasabdha or Om.
Other faiths too have a holy word like this OM in a little different or modified form
In Islam, Om is referred to as Samaa. Samaa is the hum that helps you find a spiritual connection with Allah.
Om is the material, the sphota, of all the world of sounds(words) and is the basis for the science and phenomenon of phonetics.
‘What is the difference between the Omkara and all other sounds and words? The Omkara has a unique, distinctive quality in the way it is pronounced and the goal it represents. When other letters are uttered, the lips, the tongue, the cheeks and the jaws are in action. But when the Omkara is ‘pronounced, none of these move at all. This is a unique characteristic of Omkara. Hence ‘OM’ alone can be regarded as Aksharam (imperishable). All the other sounds are expressions of different languages. The best upadesh (spiritual instruction) is the Pranava, the sacred syllable OM, which summarises many principles of theology, philosophy and mysticism. Little children just learning to toddle about are given a three-wheeled contraption which they push forward, holding on to the cross-bar. The OM is such a ‘vehicle’ for the spiritual child. The three wheels are a, u and m, the three components of the mantra. OM is the primal sound inherent in the life breath.’ – Sri Sathya Sai Baba SSS5, Chap. 46
Om is a composite of three sounds:
A (aa) arising from the region of the navel,
U (oo) flowing through the throat and tongue and
M (mm) ending up at the closed lip.
It has to be pronounced rising in a crescendo as slowly as possible, and as slowly coming down, until after the m there will be the echo of the silence reverberating in the cavity of the heart.
“Om must be recited slowly and with deliberation. The sound must be like an aircraft, first approaching from a distance to the spot where you are and then flying away again into the distance (soft at first, but gradually becoming louder and louder and then slowly relapsing into silence, this silence after the experience being as significant as the Pranava). ‘U’ is the zenith, the Kailaash (abode of God), reached by the sound in its adoration. ‘A’ is the initial naadir, and ‘M,’the final.” – Sri Sathya Sai Baba, SSSVol14 ch3.
“It is laid down at Prasanthi Nilayam that the early dawn recital of Aum should be done twenty-one times. This number is not arbitrarily fixed; it has a significance of its own. We have the five senses of action (speech, hands, feet, two excretory organs) and the five senses of perception (eye, ear, nose, tongue, and skin); we have also the five vital energies or airs; prana [located in lungs], apana [flatus which moves through rectum], vyana [diffused throughout the whole body], samana [navel, essential to digestion], and udana [rises through throat to head] to sustain us. Then we have the five sheaths, enclosing the Divine Spark that is the Reality. These total up to twenty. Hence the recitation of Aum twenty-one times purifies and clarifies all these twenty components and makes man the twenty-first entity, ready for the final merger with Reality. The life-principle merges with the Supreme Reality. The life-principle may be pictured as a rider on the twenty-headed horse.” – Sri Sathya Sai Baba, SSS, Vol. 14 Ch. 3
‘You end the AUM (Pranava) recital with the recital of peace chant ‘shanthi’ three times. That completes the process of clarification and purification. The first call for shanthi- peace chant is for the purity of the body part of the Self. The second call is for the purity of the mind. The third is for the purification of the spirit. This AUM (Pranava) recital will tone you up, calm all agitations in the mind and quicken the downpour of Grace.’ – Sri Sathya Sai Baba, SSS, Vol. 14 Ch. 3
The Physics of Om
When a mantra is chanted in rhythmic tone with ups and downs, they create a melodious effect in the body. Quantum Physics tells us every state of matter has its own associated vibration and so does light. And when a person is chanting with ‘m’ sound, he attunes himself with the echoing cosmos. Much like putting yourself online with the whole universe.
The Music of Om
Om is not a word but rather an intonation, which is beyond the barricades of age, race and culture. It is made up of three Sanskrit letters, aa, uu and ma which, when combined together, make the sound Aum or Om. Om contains all other sounds. It is a mantra or prayer in itself. If repeated with the correct intonation, it can resonate throughout the body so that the sound penetrates to the centre of one’s being, the Atman or soul.
Om as a Painkiller
It is a well-known fact that whenever we suffer physical pain, we automatically produce a vowel sound. For example, the natural reaction when one is pricked by a pin or needle is to say out loud ‘ee’ and when in pain, the sound ‘ow’ is produced. Some of researchers claim that chanting of vowels has an action, similar to that of aspirin, a painkiller.
Further Benefits of Om
When you chant Om, the adrenaline levels decrease. This helps reduce the stress levels by providing more oxygen in the body. If you are chanting Om and meditating, you are not only dropping stress but also the blood pressure. While chanting Om or Aum, the first alphabet Aa creates vibrations. These vibrations affect the spinal cord and increase its efficiency. Second alphabet U creates vibrations in the throat and nourishes the thyroid glands. When the OM Mantra is chanted in a group, the effects are amplified and this will produce immense positive vibrations which charge up the entire vicinity.
The Shankh (conch) Mudra represents the eternal sound ‘OM’ – which is the manifestation of the soul and the life principle within the cosmos. OM is the word of power. It is the sacred symbol of Brahman or God. OM consists of A, U, M, and an Ardhamatra. OM is infinity. OM is eternity. OM is immortality. OM is Sat-Chit-Ananda (existence, consciousness and bliss absolute). In the beginning there was the word; the word was with God; the word itself was God. This is OM. The whole world also has come out of OM. OM is the best thing in this world. OM is Pranava (the word of glory). OM is the mystic word; OM is the very essence of all teachings. OM is the secret of secrets. OM is the Source of all power.
Meditation upon the Om is the process by which the direction of the mind can be changed from an outward focus to an inward focus. This inward focus commences the sacred journey back to the God Self. It is a journey that each person must eventually embark upon, for the truth of who we really are cannot remain unknown forever. Meditation on the Om draws the mind away from sensory involvement into a state of inner, Divine communion. Communion with the Divine as a daily practice increasingly aligns the consciousness with the universal laws of harmony, balance and love. The Om also acts as a purifier that dissolves away the multi-layered veils of Maya (illusion)
Contemplation on the One and on its symbol OM resounding in us with every breath and reminding us of the One which persists in us during daily wakefulness, dream and sleep, can ensure the awareness of the Sath-Chith-Ananda we really are.
We hope this explanation will make Omkar (the chanting of the Om) more precious to you.
AUM – OM
If you want to participate in the Meditation and Chanting for Love, Peace, Healing and Harmony, there are 3 more chances: 12th, 19th and 26th May 2020. You can find more information on the Facebook Event page