Om. I have stared at it, painted it, chanted it, felt it’s vibration. It is the feeling of connection that comes from chanting OM — making that sound, creating that vibration — that makes me want to look further at the Symbol and the Sound.
The OM symbol represents the states of consciousness that we experience. The Mandukya Upanishad, sacred Indian philosophical text, describes each sweep of the image. The lower largest curve is the waking state, in which we live most of the time. The upper, smaller curve is the unconscious state (sleep with no dreams), and the middle curve lies between the aspects of consciousness as dream-full sleep. The fourth state of consciousness is represented by the dot — this is the absolute true self. It is here that we look neither inward nor outward. This absolute state is separated from the rest by the crescent shape, which symbolizes “maya” or illusion.
The concept of illusion is a very interesting one. On http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/symbols/aum.htm, the author states: “The semi-circle is open at the top, and when ideally drawn does not touch the dot. This means that the highest state is not affected by maya. Maya only affects the manifested phenomenon.”
In other words, illusion only affects the clear reality of the senses, that which we perceive as proven fact. Nature is illusion, the earth, the mother (Yoga Sutras, Book 2-22). As I interpret it, nature itself is not the illusion. Objects exist — they are not imagined. But they are ever-changing. The illusion is in thinking that anything on earth is permanent. In his translation of the Yoga Sutras, Sri Swami Satchidananda expresses that it is important to be molded by, to understand, and to learn from nature. We should analyze it and solve our problems. He states, “Once we solve and understand our problems, we become masters. Once we are masters, we are no longer bound by nature. It becomes our slave.”
In Indian philosophical belief, it is thought that God created sound first and thus everything else came from it. Philosophers and physicists both tell us that everything is energy. Scientists theorize that the universe began as a Big Bang, spinning, creating, and singing vibrations for billions of years. Find more here about sound and how to use it to be happy: (http://nabeelafsar.com/2013/08/27/om-amen-the-power-of-sound-3-ways-to-cultivate-happiness/)
If you have ever been to a yoga class, chances are that you have heard, listened or tried singing OM at the beginning and/or end of a practice. While it looks mono-syllabic, the sound is 4 part as well as the symbol. The first sound is “A”, starting deep in your belly, followed by “U” rising up through your vocal chords, to “M” culminating at the lips. The fourth sound is the silence that follows. Not surprisingly, each of these sounds relates back to the states of consciousness that are represented by the symbol. “A” for the waking state, “U” for the dreaming state, and “M” for the dreamless state. The silence is thought to represent the highest state of our true selves. For, it is not the sound itself but the soft humming vibration that it creates that is sought. It is pure energy. It is in everything, if we listen carefully. It is everything.
In the simplest explanation– OM represents the known and the unknown, the beginning and the end. It gets us to the sound, the vibration, the energy that resides within us and connects us all.