Ommmmmm… One point or another you have probably heard the sound before and wondered what it meant. You’re not alone. Try it yourself, say Om out loud and hold the “m”. It’s a kind of soft hum that relaxes you and slows your mind down. It is for that reason; the word and variations of it hold a special meaning to the cultures and religions of India. Namaste Om refers to the connection to others through Om.
Aside from that, what does this word really mean? How can someone who isn’t part of Indian culture understand the word or its meaning? To answer that we need to break the word down into it cultural meaning, then see where it fits in western culture.
Where did Om come from?
Origins of the word are hard to pinpoint. Evidence of the word was found in the Upanishads in ancient Sanskrit. Upanishads is a collection of writings accounting spoken stories and teaching from the past. It is said to have been written over a 400 year span starting from 800-400 B.C.
The Upanishads make up the core belief of Hinduism. It explains the fundamental teachings and important concepts like Karma, Nirvana, Atman and Brahman.
How Om is used in different cultures and religions
The meaning of Om
The meaning of Om or (Aum) for Hindus, comes from the Upanishads. The word itself comes from its Sanskrit origins and is broken down into three letters, a (creation), u (Preservation), m (Destruction). It also symbolizes many trinities:
- Three Gunas: rajas (activity), stave (beingness), tamas (darkness)
- Three Worlds: Earth, Atmosphere, Heaven
- Three Gods: Brahma, Vishnu, Siva
The way it is written is also filled with symbolism. Curvature of the Hindi characters represents stages of consciousness. Aum can be summed up as a cosmic sound that connects everything spiritually.
A non-spiritual definition of Om is that it is a tool for self-calming, much like taking a deep breath.
Hindus use Aum which is a variation of the pronunciation of Om. Aum is spoken at the beginning and end of mantras, prayers, and meditations. Some people even use it as a type of mini prayer to shake of nerves. Many mantras use Aum and is an integral part.
The significance of Om for Buddhists is its use in mantras. It is used at the beginning of mantras and Dharanis. It appears in the six-syllable seed mantra (Om Mani Padme Hung), a chanting mantra to purify worldly desires.
The mantra is used all around the world by many cultures and languages but the core meaning is the same.
The term Om is used to define the five supreme beings (Pañca-Parameṣṭhi) in Jainism:
- Arhat (world teacher)
- Siddha (liberated souls)
- Acarya (Chief Preceptor)
- Upadhyaya (Preceptor)
- Sadhu (Ascetic)
Om is used as the initials of the five Pañca-Parameṣṭhi.
In addition to Namaste, Om is another chant or mantra used during yoga sessions. The meaning is rooted in the spiritual connection the word defines.
Holding the word for a long period of time acts as a self soothing tool that helps hold poses and maintain concentration.
How to Chant Om
Namaste Om is when you connect to others by meditating with Om. If you visit a yoga class you may notice people chanting Om. This sound aid is a tool to help people concentrate and clear their mind. If you are wondering exactly how you should be using the word, here are a few tips:
- Take a few deep breaths to focus yourself.
- As you exhale, say “ahh” slowly. Relax the jaw, you should feel vibrations in your abdomen
- In “oooh,” the lips gently come together as the sound moves from the abdomen into the heart.
- During “mmm,” the tongue floats to the roof of the mouth, and the lips come together to create a buzzing in the head. Some say this syllable goes on twice as long as the others.
- Silence — or om’s “fourth syllable” — follows while the sound fades into nothing. Observe how you feel now.
These steps will help you have a deeper connection to yourself as well as others. Part of this is due to the fact
How Om fits in our lives
In our busy lives it is hard to have a minute to our selves. Whether you use it for its spiritual or non spiritual meaning, the concept of Om is to helps centre and focus us. Keep in mind the power of Namaste Om and give it a try and see if it works for you. It could be a great way to release stress and clear your mind.