The goal which all Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which all humans desire – when they live a life of continence… it is ‘Aum’. The syllable Aum is, indeed, Brahma and is the highest support. Whosoever knows this is adored in the World of Brahma.
– Katha Upanishad
The syllable Om, or Aum, is the most sacred syllable in Hinduism.
Volumes have been written on its mystic significance.
Although the metaphysics of Aum, or Om, is elucidated exhaustively in the Vedas and Upanishads, different traditions like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc., have also indicated similar viewpoints. Even Christianity has delved into the profound significance of Aum [we use this variant in this article] – though not directly. The following statement is more than suggestive – “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God – Amen [Aum].”
The very same meaning is reflected in the Maitri Upanishad: “Aum represents the primordial vibration of Universe – Aum is the Centre of the Universe.”
Further on similar lines, the Vedic scriptures state: “Aum is the knowledge and wisdom of those who know God, since it is God.”
Patanjali observed: “Aum is the seed of omniscience.”
How to arrive at omniscience, you may well ask. As the Chandogya Upanishad says one should meditate on the syllable, Aum, to come to omniscience. With Aum, we are united with all; this is why it is omnipresent as well.
The Chandogya Upanishad further states that, speech [vak] and life force [prana] are joined together in syllable, Aum. Prana is the Universal Life Force, incarnated in every living being; it, therefore, supports all living organisms. In other words, Aum is more than sound. It is Nada Brahma. It is life itself and, hence, omnipotent.
Meditating on Aum is a guarantor of our wishes being fulfilled. Aum is also the fount of wisdom, because we will not desire trivial or harmful things through its use. Aum illuminates us and dispels our illusory desires. This is also the power of Aum. This is reason enough why the Mandukya Upanishad states with complete authority: “Dismiss other utterances, all other japas and mantras.” Why? Because, only Aum is our bridge to immortality!
The Gita mirrors Aum as the central element in Lord Krishna’s exposition of spiritual life and practice. Lord Krishna said: “He who is engaged in the practice of concentration and uttering the syllable ‘Aum, the Brahma,’ remembers Me and attains the supreme goal – i.e., reach the highest state of ‘stateless’ eternity.”
Aum is not merely a word, but an intonation. It is made up of three Sanskrit letters aa [A], au [U], and ma [M]. When combined together, it results in Aum, which is believed to be the basic sound of the Universe. It is a prayer in itself.
- Keep the body erect, by holding the chest, the neck and the head in an upright posture
- Place all the organs of perception, action and mind in your heart [ i.e., the self; the core of being, and not physical heart]
- Cross all the streams of samsara [society] in the ferry boat of prana – this is perfect alignment
- Chant Aum by feeling the resonance of “A” in the abdomen, “U” in the chest, and “M” vibration in the head
- After the syllable, there is silence beyond thinking – i.e., the ineffable spirit of consciousness.
It may also be emphasised that the assessment of the wholesome goodness of Aum is based on the following grounds:
- The scriptures have elaborately proclaimed the pronunciation of Aum as realisation of vibrations within abdomen, chest and head. In the abdomen, we can infer a large cavity. As a result, very low frequency sound vibrations are conjectured as resonating vibrations to be experienced
- Aum is the basic sound produced upon the origination of the Universe. Since this involves very large objects, the nada should consist of low frequency components
- Electroencephalograph [EEG] studies of Aum chanting brain wave frequency analysis have revealed the good, harmonious effects of low frequencies [<100Hz, including infrasound <20Hz] on human subjects.
In like manner, the practice of Aum and its brain frequency synchronisation has lead to the following:
- High insight
- Out-of-body experience
- Increased mental abilities and IQ
- Deep sleep
Studies have suggested that the external constant frequency synchronisation through other means is less helpful than meditation, which naturally generates the required frequencies determined by the individual’s physiology.
There are three aspects that have emerged from scientific studies:
The audible range for human beings is 20Hz-20KHz. But, what we know from the study of musical sound is that the sounds we encounter in routine settings have a range starting from just below the mandra saptak, or lower octave [256-512Hz] to the tar saptak, or middle octave [1024-2048Hz]. However, the chanting of Aum requires very low frequencies – i.e., below 100Hz with some components of infrasound.
This requires a mean to assess the pronunciation of Aum, since it is a combination tone. One study attempted to find out frequency components by using frequency analysis [FFT: Fast-Fourier-Transform]. The recorded sound of Aum of a person, thereafter, was fed to a cathode ray oscilloscope to observe the wave form. The result showed component frequencies well below 100Hz. This may be regarded as the meditative state of that person. The analysis led to different results for different persons. Inference: it is the individual’s characteristics that determine a particular outcome.
In conclusion, it is proposed that for proper chanting of Aum – i.e., to generate proper feeling of vibrations – one may follow a procedure that brings a natural proper posture and mental state, including the harmonious chanting of the word, Aum, or Om.
The syllable, Aum, may be represented in the following manner:
A – abdomen, U – chest, M – head
A – waking, U – dreaming, M – deep sleep
A – conscious, U – subconscious, M – unconscious
A – tamas [inertia], U – rajas [activity], M – sattva [essence]
A – Brahma, U – Vishnu, M – Shiva
[Creative], [Sustaining], [Destructive]
A – present, U – past, M – future
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