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:
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:
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