Om is the universal name of God and the symbol ‘ௐ’or ‘ॐ’ represents God. It is used as a universal symbol of Hinduism. Om is repeated as a mantra or meditated upon. It is the primordial sound from which all sounds emerged, and it includes all the mantras. It is believed that God chanted Om and creation evolved from it2.
The mantra Om comprises three sounds – A, U and M. The three letters symbolise the three states (waking, dream and deep sleep), the three gunas3 or qualities (sattva, rajas and tamas), the Hindu Trinity (Brahma – the creator, Vishnu – the sustainer and Shiva – the absolver), and the three worlds (bhur/ bhuloka – earth, bhuvaha/ bhuvarloka – intervening space and svaha/ svarloka – heaven).
The sound emerging from the vocal chords starts from the base of the throat as the ‘A’ sound. With the coming together of the lips, the ‘U’ sound is formed. When the lips are closed, the sound ends with ‘M’.
It is believed that the entire essence of the Vedas is enshrined in the Om mantra. Regular chanting of Om improves breathing, calms the mind and elevates one spiritually.
1 ‘Om krato smara’ which means ‘O God, remember me.’ – Ishavasya Upanishad 17
2 Bhagavad Gita 17.23 and 17.24
3 The gunas are called sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious), rajas (passion, active, confused), and tamas (darkness, destructive, chaotic). All gunas are present in everyone and everything; it is the proportion that is different.