the world’s most widely recognized sacred syllable – is the most important symbol in the Hindu Dharma, for it is nothing short of Absolute Reality (Brahman) and embodies the essence of the universe. At birth, a child born into a Hindu family has the OM sign written in honey on its tongue. It appears in every Hindu temple and in the most humble of family shrines. A revered symbol of spiritual perfection and piety, the OM was also incorporated into the Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist religions.
The OM symbol is made up of three Sanskrit syllables – ‘aa’, ‘au’, and ‘ma’. First came the sound and from it everything in creation. Believed to be the source of all manifest existence, the sound of OM is the sound of the infinite. Referred to as prana, or the breath of life, OM pervades all of existence. In meditation, the intonation of the sound creates a vibration in tune with the very oscillation of the cosmos. When intoned correctly, harmony and bliss resonate in the body, reaching the centre of one’s being – the atman or soul.
The sign itself is made up of three curves, one semi-circle and a dot. The three curves represent the states of ordinary human consciousness and all physical phenomena. The large lower curve signifies the ordinary waking self looking outwards – the upper curve signifies deep dreamless sleep – and the middle curve is the middle ground of looking inwards and being enthralled by inner dreams. Between the dot and the three curves lies the semi-circle signifying maya – illusion. The dot itself is the symbol of the highest state of consciousness, unaffected by maya, and in which all sense of separateness falls away.