OM is a sacred sound (mantra) of great importance in many Eastern religions. OM represents the primordial abstract, absolute space that is beyond attributes or forms, yet is the origin of everything. Thus Om mystically embodies the essence of the entire universe.
Here’s How This Practice Works: Start every mantra, prayer, meditation, and affirmation with OM. Uttering the very syllable OM guarantees results because we elevate our consciousness to an octave that connects with the Field of Infinite Potential. The sound (vibration) of our thoughts is the amperage (oomph) we need to manifest what we want from the unmanifest.
Esoterically, this mantra is vocalized AUM or AOM. AUM is the bow, the arrow is the Self, and Brahman (the Absolute Reality) is said to be the mark. When we say AOM our mouth is opened with the A; it is rounded with the O and closed with the M. According to Hindu tradition, the A sound engenders everything, the O sound gestates everything, and everything is born with the M sound. You can literally feel the vibration throughout your entire body.
You might also find this interesting about threefold nature of the OM symbol: OM or AUM consists of three curves, one semicircle, and a dot.
- The large lower curve symbolizes our waking state which is influenced by the five physical senses.
- The upper curve denotes the state of deep sleep of our subconsciousness.
- The middle curve symbolizes our dream state.
- The semi circle symbolizes the illusion of maya and separates the dot from the other three curves. Maya prevents us from the realization of our highest state of bliss.
- The semi circle is open at the top, and doesn’t touch the dot. This means that this highest state is not affected by maya which only affects the manifested universe.
- The dot signifies a blissful state of consciousness and is the ultimate aim of all spiritual growth.
There is a nuance we’d like to share about using OM. It is the sacred fourth dimensional ‘sound of silence’ that follows uttering OM. It represents the omnipresence of oneness and universality that epitomizes the very nature of the universe. It reminds us that each of us are particularizations of that oneness and unity. We are not separate from it.
The Upanishads say that OM is Brahman in the form of sound. We agree. And we would add that we humans are the Eternal Presence in the form of us. So, we invite you to use OM as the first word you say in your affirmations, prayers, mantras, and meditations. The OM sound will connect you to the ‘Field of Infinite Potential’ which will guarantee the results you want by right of consciousness … as you walk the spiritual path on practical feet!
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© 2012, 2015 Bil and Cher Holton, YourSpiritualPractice.com
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OM Mantra Meditation
OM symbolizes many deep realities. The OM Mantra (AUM Mantra) is a symbol of deep realities that already exist. For example, the deep vibration quality is experienced by practitioners at the gross level (A), subtle level (U) and causal level (M) as well as the states of waking (A), dreaming (U) and deep sleep (M). It’s these realities that are most useful in our spiritual practices.
Even if the OM Mantra is repeated just for feeling its vibrational quality, the experience can be quite pleasant, calming, and balancing. However, if you want to feel the deeper meanings of the mantra, the experience can be even richer and more revealing as you progress in the meditation.
Here’s How This Spiritual Practice Works
What follows are seven meanings and methods of using the mantra. By experimenting with each of the seven methods, several of them may resonate with you, prompting you to adopt them as OM Mantras. It is best to ‘taste’ (practice) each one briefly and then select each one – one at a time – and stay with it awhile before practicing another one too soon. Gradually the other meanings will come, as they all merge into a unified experience.
The use of this mantra can be profound. At first, it’s best to use the mantra gently and for short periods of time. The insights from the OM mantra can be significant, and it’s good to integrate the insights gradually.
- Pulsing Repetition
Use a speed that is natural and comfortable. There are many rhythms in the body and mind, both gross and subtle. Imagine the sound of OM, rising and falling, at whatever speed is comfortable and natural. It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it can be slower, several seconds for each cycling of OM Mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm… sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods, but still pulsing at that slow rate. Imagine it somewhat like one of these vibrational speeds:
Mentally repeat the Om sound and/or vocalize it out loud at each of the three speeds above. This kind of awareness of the OM mantra can be used both at meditation time and during normal daily activities. You can use the OM mantra as sort of a constant companion. It brings a centering, balancing quality to daily life when you use it at these speeds throughout the day. If done well, it brings clarity of mind and a greater ability to be in the world, and selflessly serving others.
This first method isn’t intended as a blocking mechanism to prevent dealing with your thoughts or with the challenges of life. It’s not a method of escapism. However, it definitely can help you focus, which can break a pattern of disturbing or distracting thoughts coming from the noisy or chattering mind. In this way, you’ll develop a greater openness to being aware of positive thoughts and spiritual realities that are always there.
- With the Flow of Breath
One method: Imagine the sound of OM Mantra internally, in the mind only, making no external sound. Allow the mantra to flow with the breath. Repeat like this:
- Exhale: “OMmmmmmmm…” Inhale: “OMmmmmmmm…”
- Exhale: “OMmmmmmmm…” Inhale: “OMmmmmmmm…”
- Exhale: “OMmmmmmmm…” Inhale: “OMmmmmmmm…”
Another method: Alternatively, imagine the OM mantra only on exhalation, if that feels more comfortable:
- Exhale: “OMmmmmmmm…” Inhale: “ (silence) “
- Exhale: “OMmmmmmmm…” Inhale: “ (silence) “
- Exhale: “OMmmmmmmm…” Inhale: “ (silence) “
Mind, breath, and mantra in unison: In this practice, you come to experience the mind, breath, and mantra flowing in unison. This synchronization has a beautiful effect on meditation. Simply allow the OM Mantra to come and go with each inhalation and exhalation. Allow there to be no gap, no space, no pause between inhalation and exhalation, or between exhalation and inhalation.
The speed naturally slows: As you gently allow the OM mantra to flow with the breath, the mind becomes calm. When the mind becomes calm, the body relaxes, and the breath becomes even soother and slower. That rate of speed at which the OM mantra is being repeated naturally slows down. It is not a matter of forcing the mantra to slow, but rather, this slowing comes quite naturally. Allow the mind to stay wide awake and alert, as the OM mantra and breath become naturally slower and slower. Meditation will deepen.
- As the Object Called Universe
Words have an object and meaning: Words usually have a corresponding object and meaning to go with that word. If you hear the word chair, then the concept of chair-ness arises in your mind. Some specific chair will probably come to mind. It may be a wooden chair or a metal chair, for example. It may be large, small, or this or that style, and it may be new or old. So, three things are there: 1) the word chair, 2) the concept of chair-ness, and 3) a specific chair.
The object that goes with OM is the universe: When the word OM is heard, what is the concept and object that comes to mind? What is that thing that goes along with that word, OM? The concept that goes with OM is the one-ness or entirety of the universe. The object that goes with the word OM is the entire universe, as a single unit, including the gross, subtle, causal planes of reality, both manifest and un-manifest. It means that whole, as if it was one, single object. It is that infinitely huge object, which is the object that goes with the word OM.
Awareness expands to contain the object: With attention turned inward, and reflecting on chair, the concept and image of chair arises. In the same way, do the same thing with the word OM, and allow your awareness to expand, as if it could contain the whole universe to go with that word.
Stretching the attention: There is a feeling of stretching, as if the attention had to get bigger and bigger, to contain the whole, the same way as the chair has a back, a seat, and legs, yet is collectively a chair. Continue to repeat OM, and continue to expand, so as to allow your attention to contain the whole of the object called OM.
- Sound Vibration of the Universe
The subtle sound is always there: A vibration exists, underneath all of the grosser aspects of being, like a substratum. The subtle sound of OM Mantra is constantly there, and when heard in deep yoga meditation, sounds like a continuous vibration, ever sounding out mmmmmmm…. At a deeper level, it is extremely loud and serene.
- Emerging from OM: The reality symbolized by OM Mantra is the ground vibration out of which all other vibrations, sounds and mantras emerge.
- Receding into OM: That vibration represented by OM Mantra is the substratum into which all those vibrations, sounds, and mantras recede when followed back to their source.
Similar words: Some say that this everlasting, all pervasive vibration of OM Mantra is also the source and intent of Amen, Amin, and Shalom. Some say that this sound is the Word of God.
Silence from which OM emerges: Eventually, this leads to a deep stillness and silence, which paradoxically, is experienced as the silence from which the sound of OM itself emerged. In the sections below, the silence is described as being the fourth state, beyond the three sounds of A, U, and M, which are contained in OM Mantra. However, in this practice, as you internally repeat the sound of OM, imagine that underlying vibration of the universe, as if it were coming from all places, and through all things.
Listen to the vibration while remembering OM: There is a sound that can relatively easily be heard in your ears that is more surface level, coming from the brain. Some people experience this as a buzzing or ringing sound. By listening closely, the mmmmmmm… sound can be heard, like the end of the OM mantra (Or you might hear it as eeeeeeeee….) Listening to this vibration, with the awareness of OM is a good way to start with the vibration aspect of OM. Gradually, it will expand to deeper sound of the mantra. Listening in this way can be particularly enjoyable and insightful when recalling some of the other meanings of OM Mantra at the same time.
Allowing thoughts to come and go: While listening, it is best to gently allow other thought patterns to come into the field of attention, and then allow those thoughts to drift away. There is not really any intent of doing anything with these thoughts, either engaging them or pushing them away. In other words, the listening for OM is not used to suppress thoughts and emotions. Rather, attention is allowed to expand, but at the same time, non-attachment is learned by staying with the vibration, and letting go of the thought patterns. This is one way to gain access to the ability to be a neutral witness of the stream of thoughts in the mind, as is sometime described as being like watching leaves, sticks, and logs floating by in a river.
- Gross, Subtle, and Causal Planes
Remembering four planes with OM: The OM mantra designates the whole of the universe, including the gross, subtle, and causal planes (realms, or levels) and the absolute reality of which they are a part. The explanation below can sound a bit technical, but this truly is a very practical use of the mantra, once you understand the meaning. It does require working with the mantra and the meaning, but then it becomes clearer and quite insightful.
Four parts of OM: The OM Mantra has four parts. First, is the sound like “Ah,” then “Uuuu,” then “Mmmm,” and finally the silence beyond the mantra. Thus, the mantra is also written as AUM, as well as OM. The three sounds, and the silence have the following meanings:
- The A sound refers to the gross world.
- The U part refers to the subtle realm.
- The M refers to the causal plane, out of which the gross and subtle emerge.
- The Silence after these three, refers to the absolute reality that is the substratum for each of the other three realities.
Start slowly in remembering the parts: When using the mantra in this way, it is easiest to begin by remembering the mantra very slowly, allowing time to be aware of each of the levels. Be aware of the four parts of the mantra separately (though forming a continuous sound), something like this:
- When the “A” of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the gross world, including the objects of the world, the people, and your own physical being. Actually allow your attention to scan these aspects of the world. Do not get caught up in these objects; just be aware of this level of reality, and then let go of it, so as to go beyond.
- When the “U” of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware, as best you can of the existence of the subtle or astral realm, including whatever objects you might intuit. As with the gross world, do not get caught up in these objects; just be aware of this level of reality, and then let go of it, so as to go beyond.
- When the “M” of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the causal, the background stillness out of which the subtle and gross emerge, and into which they rest when not active. This can be difficult to imagine. It might help to think of it like being the canvas on which a picture is painted, or the screen on which a movie is projected.
- When the Silence comes to the mind field, be aware of the absolute reality that permeates each of the other three layers. This fourth level of the mantra the absolute reality, is experienced in a shallow way at first, and only deepens with continued practice of contemplation and yoga meditation. (To better understand this, please refer to the paper on the Mahavakyas, the great contemplations. From that, you will see how the mantra and the contemplations go together.)
- Waking, Dreaming, and Deep Sleep
Four states of consciousness: The four parts of AUM also refer to the levels of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, as well. The three sounds, and the silence have the following meanings:
- The “A” sound refers to the waking state of consciousness.
- The “U” part refers to the dreaming state of consciousness.
- The “M” refers to the deep sleep state of consciousness.
- The Silence after these three, refers to the witness consciousness that is observer of the other three states of consciousness.
The question can arise of why a spiritual seeker cares about the states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. It is said that the states of deep sleep, samadhi, and death are very close together, that they function at the same levels. To understand this further, it would be good to read the paper on OM and the 7 levels of consciousness.
Begin by remembering slowly: As in the last practice, it is easiest to begin by remembering the mantra very slowly, allowing yourself time to be aware of each of the levels. With practice, it moves more quickly, as attention longs to rest in the silence.
- When the “A” of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the waking state of consciousness. This does not mean thinking of the objects of the world, but rather, being mindful of your personal waking state, in relation to the world and your inner mental and emotional process. This simply means being aware of being awake.
- When the “U” of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the dreaming state of consciousness. This does not necessarily mean that you are experiencing those dreams, but that you are mindful of the dream state that is beneath the waking state.
- When the “M” of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the deep sleep state of consciousness. Be aware of how the mind is in complete stillness in that state, where there is no active thought process, no images, no pictures, and no words. All of these have come to rest in a dormant, formless form.
- When the Silence comes to the mind field, be aware of the consciousness that permeates all of the other three states of consciousness. In other words, consciousness flows through the waking state, the dreaming state, and even the deep sleep state (although there is no active content in deep sleep). Imagine that you can somehow be witness to waking, dreaming, and deep sleep from a higher vantage point that is aware of all.
Focusing more inwardly: When using the OM mantra in this way, notice how very personal the practice is, in that you are consciously cultivating awareness of the levels of your own internal states. It has an in here focus. By contrast, the use of OM with the levels of gross, subtle, causal, and absolute reality (above) has more of a focus out there. Ultimately, they merge into one awareness.
- Conscious, Unconscious, Subconscious Mind
Levels of consciousness: The four parts of AUM also refer to the levels of conscious, unconscious, and subconscious, as well as the consciousness that permeates these. (Note that some psychologies or systems use the words unconscious and subconscious in reverse, or use different terms. The meaning is what is important, not the particular choice of words). The three sounds, and the silence have the following meanings:
- The “A” sound refers to the conscious level of mental functioning.
- The “U” part refers to the unconscious level of mind.
- The “M” refers to the subconscious level, the storage place of mind.
- The Silence after these three, refers to the pure consciousness, which permeates the conscious, unconscious, and subconscious levels of awareness.
Begin slowly: Once again, it is easiest to begin by remembering the mantra very slowly. With practice, it moves more quickly, as attention longs to rest in the silence.
- When the “A” of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the conscious level of mind. The easiest way to do this, is to contrast conscious to the unconscious. There is the conscious, that we are aware of here, in this external world, and there is the unconscious that is not seen in the deeper mind.
When the “U” of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware, as best you can, that your mind is presently functioning at an unconscious level as well. There is a tremendous amount of thinking process normally going on, that is out of view. This is what psychologists call primary process. It is going on behind the scenes, much like the microprocessor in a computer that is invisibly doing its work.
When the “M” of OM mantra arises in the mind field, be aware of the latent part of the mind, where all of the countless memories of people, objects, and day to day information is stored. It is there, like the information stored on a hard disk of a computer. Until it is needed, it just sits there in a latent, dormant form (It is actually in a formless form, somewhat like the data on the hard disk that is stored only as raw data, with no images as such). Be aware of that stillness, that is the storage of your deep impressions and habit patterns.
When the Silence comes to the mind field, be aware of the consciousness that permeates all of the other three levels. In other words, consciousness flows through the unconscious functioning. Consciousness is there in the latent part of the mind, even though those objects are not awakened into action at the moment. Eventually, this Silence expands to being the awareness of the other three states. It is at this stage that one is called a Seer, in that all of the other levels of mind are witnessed from this vantage point.
Om Mani Padme Hum Mantra Meditation
The Om Mani Padme Hum Mantra is the most widely used of all Buddhist mantras, and available to anyone who feels inspired to practice it. It doesn’t require prior initiation by a lama (meditation master).
The six syllables of the mantra, as it’s often pronounced by Tibetans – Om Mani Padme Hum – are written in the Tibetan alphabet.
Reading from left to right the syllables are:
The syllable Pad is pronounced Pe (peh) by many Tibetans: Om Mani Peme Hung. The vowel in the syllable Hu (is pronounced as in the English word ‘book’. The final consonant in that syllable is often pronounced ‘ng’ as in ‘song’ – Om Mani Padme Hung.
What Does It Mean?
People who learn about the mantra naturally want to know what it means, and often ask for a translation into English or some other Western language. However, Om Mani Padme Hum can’t really be translated into a simple phrase or even a few sentences.
How to Use This Mantra:
Recite this mantra as many times as you have time for at one sitting. Recite it mentally without the spoken word, out loud or a combination of both. The more often you do it the sooner you’ll feel the soul deepening benefits of the vibrations of generosity, pure ethics, tolerance, patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom at a cellular level. Your whole body will feel fortified by the combination of the essences of the six syllables.
© 2011, Revised 2017, Bil and Cher Holton, GlobalCenterForSpiritualAwakening.com
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