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Friday, July 23, 2010


This symbol is sometimes spelled in Roman characters as "Om" or "Ohm" or "Aum."

It begins and ends most Vedic prayers and many other spiritual works. It is chanted by itself or as part of other prayers.

It is not a letter of the alphabet and it is not really a word. It is only itself, a symbol representing what is believed to be the first sound in creation.

The reason is it sometimes spelled "Aum" is that the symbol grew out of the three letters representing the three main sounds present in ॐ:

Ah= अ
Uu= ऊ
M= म

There are many threes in Hinduism. There is a trinity of Gods and these phonemes are said to represent them, or to represent the stages of Birth, Life, and Death. There are also three gunas, which I'll need to remember to talk about soon. Even though Om is said to be these three sounds, when pronouncing these three sounds one after the other, one's mouth would move in such a way as to form all the vowel sounds possible in human speech. It is one symbol representing many sounds, and so it is a metaphor for God who is one being made up of many.

The crescent shape with a dot on top is called a chandra bindu, meaning moon and dot.

This is the sound most often associated with Hinduism and also frequently made fun of. Any character ridiculing meditation in a movie will be chanting this sacred sound. The Om is used to represent Hinduism whenever there are groups of religious symbols put together:

From here

It could be thought of as similar to Christians saying "Amen." It is a sacred sound used to dedicate a prayer to God or the universe.

It is said to be not only the first sound in the universe, but also the vibration behind every living thing. The universe hums with the sound of Om at all times.

It is used in Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism as well.

Keep your eyes open and you will see "Om" all over the place. It is used as decoration and in jewelry and sometimes it's very stylized, but it's always recognizable...

(This one is more of the Tibetan way to write Om)

These images from One, Two, Three, Four


  1. "It is said to be not only the first sound in the universe, but also the vibration behind every living thing. The universe hums with the sound of Om at all times. "

    Not only said but is. I believe it is truly the only tangible "religious" belief that is proven not only by science but can be proven in actual practice. Scientists believe it is the residual vibration of the big bang. You detune your TV, that static you hear is the vibration and has a constant pitch. If you practice Aum, you will notice it is one note you tune to. As you say aum try and shift pitch and tone, you will notice you always hit that magical note that vibrates in harmony with an inaudible vibration. Have you ever noticed when someone says Aum, but for some reason they sound "out of tune"? this is because they are not harmonizing with the vibration, it's like hitting a tuning fork in the key of A and then hitting a tuning fork in B, it doesn't sound nice. I wish I still had my home studio, I could have done a study on Aum, finding out the exact pitch and note.

  2. Aum,
    I read somewhere that astu (असतु) is closer in meaning to the Judao-Christian amen. It appears at the end of mantras, including the bhojana mantra that I sometimes use.

  3. Also, I find it interesting that in English it is represented as "aum" or "om", whereas the sanskrit representation is a stylised ऊं or ūm!
    ॐ ॐ ॐ

  4. Incidentally, have you seen the Aum in Tamil script? The connection with Ganesha is immediately obvious. Here it is 'ௐ' though it may not show depending on the fonts on your computer. If not there is an image on wikipedia.

  5. I haven't seen it in Tamil! Interesting...

    (And as usual I maintain that the devanagari script is superior to the roman script. It more exactly represents sounds than this alphabet does!)

  6. amba, i thought germans write and read the same. Is Deutsch script less descrpitive than Devanagari? Iam just curious that I lived in Germany and also did a Languaage course for one year.Surya, Chicago

  7. German uses the Roman script also, as do most European languages. I don't know much about German or how it is pronounced. I think a script develops to serve a certain language or group of languages. Roman script might be very well suited to German and the sounds they have. Roman script is not well-suited to Indian languages because there are many, many sounds that don't exist in the Romance languages and so there is no particular character to use for them.

    English is a tricky example because it is not very phonetic. Each character can be pronounced a variety of ways, making it fairly inefficient.

    I love about Devanagari that each character has one particular sound and that the characters are combined logically (meaning that each character has an automatic vowel "a" attached, but if you want to put too consonant sounds next to each other, you use one half of the first character joined to the second. It makes so much sense!). I also love the way that it handles vowels.

    Other Romance languages might be fine in Roman script, but I honestly think English would do really well in Devanagari! Not that that's every going to happen.

  8. hello just found a link on white indian housewife to your blog and read this post. I am a Sikh and we do not use Aum (Om) We use ONG. It is said that the vibration of om, is when Brahma the creator is "thinking" umming and aummming" so to say, it is a vibratory rate that is pretty steady and unchanging, wheras the ONG we use in Sikhism has the strength of shakti, the creative powerful life energy force that is ever changing and creative. This is why we meditate on ong rather than om, as a more dynamic creative energy, other than the steady ever resounding om. :-) hope you find that of interest, blessings xx