What Is The Om? | Reclaiming Zen

What Is The Om?

The Origins

Let’s face it, this symbol is everywhere, it’s in jewelry, clothing, tapestries, and even tattoos. So many of us are aware that it is a powerful spiritual syllable, but do you know what Om is? or where it came from?

Knowing the origins and messages behind a symbol makes it that much more powerful and meaningful to us. So let’s begin with some information about this popular spiritual syllable. 

Originating from Hinduism, this sacred syllable is also in Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and the Bön faith. The first mention of this syllable was in the Mandukya Upishad, a sacred Hindu text dedicated to the different theories of the Om. 

What Is Om?

This spiritual sound refers to all that is, and it is one of the most powerful syllables in the universe. It is one syllable that encompasses all that is, the past, the present and the future (birth, life, and death). The Mandukya Upishad mentions that the Om is in each of these states of time but also transcends time itself.

This syllable is rooted in both ancient teachings and modern living. It can be found at the start and end of chapters within the Vedas and other Hindu texts, on important documents, on clothing, and pendants. This powerful syllable is chanted and spoken before recitations of spiritual texts, daily prayers, spiritual practices, and ceremonies. 

Being all that is, it comes as no surprise that many believe that the Christian “Amen” and Islamic “Amin” both derive from Om itself. With such a powerful meaning this symbol can be used to reach enlightenment and truly understand your place within the Universal wholeness.

Don’t get confused as this syllable is also known as Onkara, Pranava, and Omkara.

Is it Aum or Om?

So it is Om, Ohm or Aum? Well, the answer is simple, it is both, the difference between Om, Ohm and Aum are one of transliteration. Whilst Om and Ohm usually refer to the spelling and Aum refer to the actual sound of the word. 

In Sanskrit, the sound O is a diphthong (the blending of two vowel sounds) spelled AU. So, using Om, Ohm, and Aum are all fine to use. 


What Does It Mean?

Om encompasses all that is within the universe. When chanted the sound, Om encompasses all words and all sounds within the human language.

Aum represents 3 different divisions of time. 

  • A – is the waking state.
  • U – is the dream state. 
  • M –  is the sleep state. 
  • Pause – Silence which represents the state Turiya, which is infinite consciousness.

The Holy Trinity and Om

The three phonetic parts of Aum also represent the rule of three. The holy trinity has many faiths built around it, and similarly, Aum represents all of these trios. This powerful syllable represents all that is and this trio links to many other aspects of life. 

This syllable is also linked to creation (Brahma), sustaining (Vishnu) and destruction (Shiva); Consciousness, unconsciousness, and subconsciousness; Heaven, Earth and The Underworld; Start, Middle and End; Dawn, Afternoon and Dusk; Rg, Yajur, and Sama.

This powerful symbol is also associated with oneness, silence, creation, manifestation, sustaining, evolution, expression, the divine, the Trinity, destruction, truth, totality, ultimate. 


What is Om?
Reclaiming Zen Resizeable Silver Om Ring

The Symbol Itself

The visual symbol representing Om consists of three curves, one semicircle and a dot.

The large bottom curve symbolises A (the waking state).

The middle curve symbolises U (the dream state).

The upper curve symbolises M (the deep state).

The dot signifies Turiya (the fourth state of infinite consciousness – silence).

The semicircle at the top separates the cot from the other 3 curves, representing Maya. Maya is the illusions and obstacles that keep us from ultimate realisation in the highest way.

Om and Ganesh

You may not know this, but Om is the physical form of Lord Ganesh. The upper curve is the face, the lower curve is the belly, and the twisted curve on the right is the trunk.


What is Om?

Using Om in Modern Living

As we have established, the Om syllable is in sacred scriptures and texts, however, it is also commonly used in many other spiritual practices.


Chanting Om

Om is used during meditation, prayer, spiritual practices, and yoga. Chanting this syllable relaxes the mind, releases stress levels, helps with concentration, and lets go of negativity, leaving only refreshing feelings. Chanting, incorporated with mindfulness practice and affirmations can help align the body, and allow us to connect with our higher self. Between chants there is silence; this silence is the fourth state of consciousness (Turiya). Similarly, in mindfulness practice, it is important to focus on the silence in between the sounds and connecting with all that is.


Om, Braham, and Chanting

Brahma is the first God in the Hindu triumvirate (the three gods who are responsible for the creation, sustaining, and destruction of the world). There is a belief within Hinduism that Brahma’s thoughts started a vibration that turned into the sound Om, and this lead to the creation of the world. As we chant Om the vibrations we create can also be linked back to the vibrations that created the world. Next time you find yourself chanting this powerful syllable think about the powerful connection you have with all that is.


Om during yoga

Chanting different mantras is a popular aspect of some types of yoga (particularly Kundalini or Anusara yoga). It is used to help with spiritual awakening, calming the mind, and rejuvenating our energies. A common mantra that you may be familiar with is Om mani padme hum.


Om as a symbol

The Om can be worn and put up around the home as a point of inspiration, and a reminder of your spiritual practice. Wearing jewelry with this symbol is a great way to carry a reminder with you all day long. Your jewelry can be used as a reminder to pause, live mindfully, and approach every situation with compassion and understanding of all that is. If you haven’t already click here to read our blog about using items and association on your path to enlightenment.



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