Symbolic Meaning of Om
Most religions begin with a creation story in which life is literally breathed into the Earth. The om (also aum or ohm) is considered the sacred breath in Hinduism and Buddhism. Both religions believe it to be the divine word or breath that began the process of creation, hence the most important sound in meditation on life and spirituality.
Om is essentially the sound created by the individual consonants of A, U, and M. Fittingly, it is therefore representative of trinities throughout its use, particularly in Hinduism. Each sound is said to represent, respectively, Brama The Creator, Vishnu The Preserver, and Shiva The Destroyer, the three principal deities in the religion. In terms of meditation, the om (AUM) is created using all three elements of the human voice: the A comes from the throat, and the U and M from the lips.
Hindu culture is surrounded by om images, and they are included in everything from important documents, to religious paintings, to temples. The word both starts and finishes sacred texts such as the Vedas and Upanishads, and is said at the beginning and end of religious chants.
Other meanings that the om has come to represent include:
- Strength (Shakti)
- The sun and light
- The self and soul
- Time (the past, present, and future)
- Consciousness (waking, dreaming, deep sleep and unconscious, subconscious, and conscious)
As with mandalas in general, om is a symbolic representation of the connection between man, the divine, and the universe. Both the symbol and the word are used in meditation, one of the primary purposes of the mandala, so it makes sense that the two are often found together.