Om is one of the most chanted sound symbols in India. 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 worshipped, 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 sounds end 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
(Bhuh, Bhuvah, Suvah) etc. The Lord is all these and beyond.
The formless, attributeless 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).
Om is written in different ways in different places. The most common form symbolizes Lord
Ganesha's. 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
Ganesha'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 form and the Formless.