“The thing about meditation is: You become more and more you.” – David Lynch
What do you look like when you meditate? The traditional image of a meditator is someone sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed and their hands resting on their knees – their thumbs and index fingers touching to form a circle as they chant the sound OM.
That chanting of OM is what’s called the chanting of a mantra, which comes from two Sanskrit words: man, which means “mind,” and tra, which means “vehicle” or “instrument.” So your mantra is your mind vehicle . . . your mind instrument…a tool to transport your mind from a state of activity to one of stillness and silence.
We get the words “train,” “travel,” and “transportation” from the Sanskrit root tra. Most mantras are comprised of the 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. Mantras can consist of a single letter, a syllable or string of syllables, a word, or a whole sentence.
Typically, most mantras are sounds, syllables, or vibrations that don’t necessarily have a meaning. Their value lies in the intention of the mantra and its vibrational quality, not in any meaning that humans, society, culture, or civilization has placed on them over the last few thousand years. For this reason, they go beyond the state of human existence on this planet. And they take you deeper, because they are vibrations that have existed since the dawn of creation.
The Hymn of the Universe
OM is the oldest mantra sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, yogis, and meditators. OM is considered the ultimate vibration, because it contains every vibration that has ever existed and every vibration that will ever exist. Just as white light contains all the colors of the spectrum, OM contains every sound in the vibrational spectrum—even those we can’t hear with our ears. One of the clearest visual representations of this is on the cover of Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon. It shows the white light coming into a prism and all the colors of the spectrum coming out the other side. The same could be said for OM; it’s the white light of sound.
Historically, OM is first mentioned in the 12 verses of the ancient Vedic text the Mandukya Upanishads, which explains the three basic states of consciousness: waking, sleeping, and dreaming. In its original spelling and pronunciation, Aum (pronounced ahh-uhh-mmm) is a blending of those three states of consciousness into the oneness of three distinct syllables: A, U, and M. These three vibrations also represent the three stages of our known existence: birth, life, and death.
The vibration “A” (pronounced ahh, like the sound you make opening your mouth for the doctor) represents the waking state and the beginning of all things. Just as the letter A is the first letter of most every alphabet—the first letter of the Rig Veda, the Koran, Homer’s Odyssey, even the first word of the New Testament—the vibration A heralds creation . . . the beginning. Vedic sages refer to it as the A-kara, and it represents the realm of form and shape—the physical realm.
The vibration u (pronounced oo) is referred to as the U-kara and represents the dream state, the realm that is devoid of form or shape—the ethereal realms of air, water, fire, dreams—ever-changing aspects of the formless world around us.
The vibration m is known as the Ma-kara, which represents the state of deep sleep . . . neither form or formless like the other two realms but beyond shape or shapelessness . . . the realm of consciousness in hibernation, waiting to unfold.
In Sanskrit grammar, when the letters A and U are combined in writing, they are translated as the letter o. That is why we so often see OM written instead of Aum. Over thousands of years, the writing of Aum has taken a backseat to OM, and that has led to OM being the sound that is most often chanted by both Western students and teachers of yoga, meditation, and Vedanta. In much of India, where people have a greater familiarity with Sanskrit from daily prayer, the sound is still pronounced Aum.
When the three individual vibrations are combined, a fourth vibration is created, like a chord in music made up of individual notes. Aum (pronounced ahhh—uhhh—mmmm) represents the fourth state of consciousness—transcendent consciousness, or turiya . . . what we call enlightenment or oneness. In Hinduism, it’s the unity of the divine made up of its three components: Brahma—creation, Vishnu—preservation, and Shiva—destruction and rebirth. The chanting of the mantra OM heralds our universality, which is why we usually chant OM before and/or after meditation and yoga practice, and when we read sacred, ancient texts.
By repeating a vibration or sound over and over, it will become part of your physiology; it will become your mind; it will become you. It will lose all meaning, all definition, and all relevance. There will be no separation between you and the vibration that is resonating right now.
So whether you are following your breath or silently repeating a mantra, these objects of your attention will always drift you away from your thoughts, sounds in the environment, and sensations in your body. If you haven’t yet meditated today, feel free to bust out Om for a minute here and there. Just silently repeat it over and over and over. Or chant it out loud a few times when you are feeling operatic. By the end of the day, you will have a halo of Om rippling through every word, thought, and deed. And that will feel OMazing!
See you in the gap! -davidji
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