Video:What Is Om?with Adam Kochanowicz
"Om" is a widely used chant during meditation, but there is deeper meaning for "Om" according to Eastern religion. Learn more about "Om" including what it symbolizes and how to use it.See Transcript
Transcript:What Is Om?
Hi, I'm Adam Kochanowicz for About.com. You’ve probably heard this sound being chanted before by yogis and spiritual people on TV, but what is the deal with this sound and why does it seem so popular for people in meditation to say this sound over and over? Up until now you may have simply thought it’s nothing more than a soothing sound. There’s actually a lot more meaning to this sacred syllable. In this video you’ll learn what it means to say “Om.”
"Om" is Widely Used in Meditation
In the west, Om is used as a chant or a mantra in meditation. The syllable has gained popularity in spiritual circles in the west as “the first vibration,” the sound of all creation. By speaking the word, one can feel this vibration through their heads and bodies--witnessing for themselves this spiritual moment every time it is chanted.
The "Om" Sound is Believed to Create Spiritual Vibrations
The word, “Om” actually has several different pronunciations and is written differently depending on the language. Om is considered a “mystical” word present in many prayers of Indian religions like Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Om is widely present in Hindu artwork and is transliterated as a-u-m, where each letter represents an element of divine energy. In Hinduism, Om represents Brahman, an omnipotent presence whose form and appearance is intangible--Om also represents the godly vibration between nonexistence and creation.
Some take this literally to mean “om” was the first sound, the sound of the universe being created. In this sense, it is important to note, Om is not merely a sound or a syllable. Om represents all that is; it represents the ineffable mysteries of life. Om is an all-encompassing element of existence. Teachers of eastern faiths struggle to explain how wide the definition of om is. Suffice it to say, the syllable may be the most important syllable in the universe to those who practice these religions.
"Om" is Symbolized Differently Across Religions
The symbolism of the letters; a, u, and m vary slightly between Indian religions. For example, in Jainism, a religion strict on non-violence, the letters are described as a, a, a, u, m, representing the five parameshthis. The Parameshthis are religious objects of prayer. In Buddhism, a religion more widely practiced by China and surrounding countries, the om symbol is less familiar to us westerners and has very different representations from the Indian Vedic religions. In Buddhism, the symbol has a meaning closer to purity of the soul and spirit. In the Vedic religions which are those established in parts of Northern India and following the Vedic texts, Om is used as a prayer mantra—a spoken syllable, word, or phrase repeated during meditation as an object of focus or worship.
Whether or not you identify yourself as a follower of one of these eastern religions, om is indeed a soothing syllable with an interesting story. Even among atheists, sounds and mantras can take on as having real-world benefits as practices of gaining focus and tranquility in one’s life. Try out the sound for yourself and feel the vibration of the universe run through your core. Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.