Om is one of the most chanted sound symbols in Hinduism.
When you pronounce AUM:
A – emerges from the throat, originating in the region of the navel
U – rolls over the tongue
M – ends on the lips
A – waking, U – dreaming, M – sleeping
It is the sum and substance of all the words that can emanate from the human throat.
It is the primordial fundamental sound symbolic of the Universal Absolute.
It has a profound effect on the body and mind of the one who chants and also on the surroundings. Most mantras and Vedic prayers start with Om.
All auspicious actions begin with Om. It is even used as a greeting – Om, Hari Om etc. It is repeated as a mantra or meditated upon. Its form is worshiped, contemplated upon or used as an auspicious sign.
Om is the universal name of the Lord. It is made up of the letters A (phonetically as in “around”), U (phonetically as in “put”) and M (phonetically as in “mum”). The sound emerging from the vocal chords starts from the base of the throat as “A” With the coming together of the lips, “U” is formed and when the lips are closed, all sound ends in “M”.
The three letters symbolize the three states (waking, dream and deep sleep), the three deities (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva), the three Vedas (Rig, Yajur, and Sama) the three worlds (Bhub, Bhwah, Suvah) etc. The Lord is all these and beyond. The formless, attribute less Lord (Brahman) is represented by the silence between two Om chants. Om is also called Pranava that means, “that (symbol or sound) by which the Lord is praised”.
The entire essence of the Vedas is enshrined in the word Om. It is said that the Lord started creating the world after chanting Om and atha. Hence its sound is considered to create an auspicious beginning for any task that we undertake. The Om chant should have the resounding sound of a bell (aaooommm). It fills the mind with peace, makes it focused and replete with subtle sound. People meditate on its meaning and attain realization.
Om is written in different ways in different places. The most common form ( Om ) symbolizes Lord Ganesh. The upper curve is the head; the lower large one, the stomach; the side one, the trunk; and the semi-circular mark with the dot, the sweetmeat ball (modaka) in Lord Ganesh’s hand. Thus Om symbolizes everything – the means and the goal of life, the world and the Truth behind it, the material and the Sacred, all forms and the Formless.