What is AUM? 


Pranava, the sound of creative AUM vibration, is the mother of all sounds. The intelligent cosmic energy of AUM that issues forth from God, and is the manifestation of God, is the creator and substance of all matter. This vibration is the link between matter and spirit. AUM is the symbol of Brahman. AUM is infinity, AUM is eternity. AUM is immortality. AUM is the source of everything. From AUM proceed with all sounds.

AUM is in the rotation of the earth, all the other planets, and stars. Everything in the cosmos is in motion and constantly producing a sound. That constant humming sound is AUM. The motion creates speed, the speed creates sound and energy. AUM sound is continuous in the universe but we are so tiny in the universe that we are unable to hear this sound.

Other names of AUM: –

In some of the Upanishads, AUM is referred to as ‘udgita’ (the uplifting chant) or ‘Omkar’. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and in some Upanishads, it is mentioned as ‘Pranava’. Patanjali mentions it as a ‘vachaka’ or the representative symbol for Ishvara (the Lord). Other words used for AUM include ‘taraka’ (the one that helps us cross the ocean of this perishable life), ‘Akshara’ (indestructible or imperishable), and the Brahman (supreme consciousness) in a sound form called ‘Shabda Brahman’.

AUM in Patanjali Yoga Sutra: –

In chapter 1 (Samadhi Pada) of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali gives the concept of Ishvara as “Ishvara is the supreme Purusha, unaffected by any afflictions, actions, fruits of actions or by any inner impressions of desires.” (Sutra 1.24).

The following sutras provide us an insight into the sacred symbol OM: –

  • Sutra 1.27: – “The word expressive of Ishvara is the mystic sound OM (Pranava)”
  • Sutra 1.28: “To repeat it with reflection upon its meaning is an aid.”
  • Sutra 1.29: “From this practice, all the obstacles disappear and simultaneously dawns knowledge of the inner Self.”
  • Sutra 1.30: “Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, false perception, failure to reach the firm ground and slipping from ground gained – these distractions of the mind-stuff are the obstacles.”
  • Sutra 1.31: “Accompaniments to the mental distractions include distress, despair, trembling of the body, and disturbed breathing.”

As we can see from these sutras by Patanjali, chanting of AUM can make us free from obstacles (defined in sutra 1.30) and provide us a glimpse of the inner self.

Patanjali writes in the Yoga Sutras, “Tasya vachakah pranavah”, meaning AUM (Pranava) is the word denoting God.

In the next sutra, he writes, “Tajjapastadarthabhavanam”, meaning that (the word AUM) should be recited repeatedly while dwelling mentally on its meaning. He says AUM is the word that indicates Ishwara; Ishwara is described by AUM. AUM is the mantra that designates Ishwara.

Further, Patanjali says, “Tatah pratyakchetanadhigamo pyantarayabhavascha” As a result of AUM japa, the consciousness or awareness is introverted and the obstacles disappear. When a student tries to go ahead on the path of yoga, he comes across many obstacles which block his way. The next sutra gives a list of nine obstacles that obstruct the path of a yogi, these obstacles are – disease, dullness, doubt, procrastination, laziness, craving, erroneous perception, inability to achieve finer stages, and instability. AUM removes all of these obstacles.

According to Vedas, and the Big Bang theory – the whole universe was created by the sound AUM (OM). Chanting AUM raises the vibrations of an individual, not just in the body but in the overall consciousness of one’s soul and mind. Chanting AUM allows you to align with the whole.

AUM and Samkhya: –

According to yoga, Samkhya, and many other scriptures, the whole material creation, including the human mind and body are a manifestation of the ‘Prakriti’ (primordial nature) which is composed of the three gunas – sattva, rajas, and tamas. The three letters of AUM thus correspond to the three gunas as follows: –

  • A = Tamas (darkness, inertia, ignorance)
  • U = Rajas (passion, activity, dynamism)
  • M = Sattva (purity, truth, light)

The silence between the two AUM sounds represents pure consciousness, a state which transcends the three gunas (called ‘trigunaatit’ – beyond gunas)

  • A = Brahma (the creator),
  • U = Vishnu (the sustainer), and
  • M = Shiva (the destroyer);
  • The silence between two AUM sounds = the substratum or the reality that lies beyond the trinity.

In the form of time AUM: –

  • A = Present,
  • U = Past,
  • M = future; and
  • The silence between sounds = the reality beyond time and space

AUM in Purana & Upanishads: –

‘AUM’ has been first mentioned in the Upanishads.

Vayu Purana: –

AUM to the trinity of Hinduism, which represents the union of the three gods.

  • A for the Brahma – The Creator
  • U for Vishnu – The preserver
  • and M for Shiva – The destroyer.

These three sounds also symbolize one of the sacred ancient texts called Vedas (Rigveda, Samaveda, and Yajurveda).

Manduka Upanishads: –

In the Manduka Upanishads, there is a verse that says the whole universe is the syllable, AUM. It goes like this:

Om-ity-etad-aksharam-idam sarvam, tasyopavyakhyanam bhutam bhavad bhavishyaditi sarvam-omkara eva. Yaccanyat trikalatitam tadapy omkara eva


All is OM: The whole universe is the syllable, AUM. Following is the exposition of AUM. Everything that was, is, or will be is, in truth AUM. All else which transcends time, space, and causation is also AUM.

In Manduka Upanishad, sages have said AUM is a tool that can lead you to the ultimate reality of the self. According to this literature, a person has 3 dimensions of perception:

  • Waking & Wake’s world: – Physical world that we perceive through 5 senses.
  • Dreaming & Dreamer’s world: – Inner thoughts that we perceive in a dreaming state through virtual senses.
  • Deep Sleep & Darkness: – Seeking the causes or the experience of nothingness that we perceive in deep sleep.
  • In these 3 dimensions, there is an undisturbed or pure consciousness that experiences all but is still unaffected by its consequences. This is the 4th dimension of our existence, called the true self.

The sound of AUM also comprises these 4 dimensions of our existence in a hidden form.

  • The sound of “Ahhh” (A) – Represents the waking state of our existence.
  • The sound of “Ouuu” (U) – Represents the dreaming state of our existence.
  • The sound of “Mmmm” (M) – Represents the deep sleep state of our existence.

Chandogya Upanishads: –

In the Chandogya Upanishads, it is said the syllable Om, called the Udgitha, should be meditated upon; for people sing the Udgitha, beginning with AUM. Udgitha (AUM) is the best of all essences, the supreme, deserving the highest place.

When AUM is analyzed structurally, it has these parts: –

3 curve structures
1 crescent structure
1 dot

1. Three Curves of the AUM

  • The first or the lower curve represents the waking state or ‘jagrati‘. This state broadened the consciousness to come out through the senses. The larger size of the curve signifies the majority of the common state in the human consciousness.
  • The second or the middle curve represents the dreaming state or ‘Swapna ‘(the state between the deep sleep and waking state). This state brings the consciousness of the practitioner inwards.
  • The third or the upper curve represents the deep sleep or unconscious state or ‘sushupti ‘. In this state, the practitioner does not desire or dream anything.

2. A dot at the Top

Fourth or the dot represents the turiya. In this state of consciousness, the practitioner gazes neither inwards nor outwards, or the two together. However, this state brings the practitioner to rest or a peaceful or blissful state, which is the ultimate aim of all spiritual activity. This state also illuminates the other three states.

3. A Semicircle Between Curves & Dot

The semicircle signifies the barrier between the state of ultimate bliss and the rest three states. It prevents us from reaching the highest form of bliss. However, the gap between the semicircle and the dot represents that the highest state (dot) is unaffected by the Maya (semicircle).

So, in this way, AUM untwists the hidden mystery of the purpose of life and the universe.

OM and Science: –

According to the famous equation by Einstein – E=mc2, all matter is nothing but waves of energy. So, when the ‘powers that be’ decided to create this material universe, they were able to use the ever-present humming sound vibration of AUM to manifest this creation. This same vibration continues to exist all around us and even inside us. The inner sound is given the name “antar-naada” which can be heard when we can tune in to our pure inner self.

OM and 4 Ashram of Human Life: –

The symbol of AUM has 4 parts, each part corresponds with a particular stage in human life. According to Indian philosophy, the life of a human being undergoes 4 stages.

  • The first part, the half circle denotes the first stage of human life until we finish our education. The first stage is from birth up to the age of 25 until we finish our education. This stage is called Brahmacharya.
  • The second part, or the second half circle, represents the second stage of human life. The second stage is from the age of 25 up to the age of 50 years. This stage is called the Grihastha ashram. In this stage, the human being plays the role of a householder, spouse, parent, employee, businessman, etc.
  • The third part, the full circle represents the third stage of human life. After the age of 50, the third stage starts, when the children are grown up and are able to take care of themselves. The responsibilities of the family are much reduced. In this stage of life, man should turn his focus to his social responsibilities by sharing and caring with society in various ways. This stage is called Vanaprastha and it lasts up to the age of 75.
  • The last stage of human life is from 75 to 100 years. The children are grown up now and they don’t need help anymore, one is free from responsibility. At that stage, you have to be satisfied and that is the complete nature of life. One should divert all attention to becoming spiritual. This stage is called Sannyasa. The Bindu (dot) in the Omkar symbol represents this fourth part of human life. Where the man works toward his liberation, by keeping a one-pointed focus on God. The path of Bindu will lead our way to God.

Why we should chant AUM?

Basically, the tongue is being used to produce all other sounds or vocals. When we chant AUM, three sounds (Aa, Ooh & Mm) are produced very clearly through the mouth without moving the tongue. So, AUM is the basic or fundamental sound in existence.

Human internal organs are very sensitive to the vibration produced by 3 sounds of syllable AUM.

According to modern science, the whole existence is reverberation. Wherever is a vibration, there is a sound and wherever is sound, there is creation.

Sound ‘Aa’ is the basic sound not only in India but all across the world. Uttering of it starts from the roots of the energy body or beneath the naval, where 72,000 Nadis (subtle energy channels) meet. This is the maintenance center called the Manipura chakra in yoga. As you utter ‘Aa’ the Nadis reverberates the vibrations across the whole body. If you utter Ooh and Mm, it spreads in a different way, for every sound some part of the body gets affected.

Every sound activates a certain dimension of your energy system. So, these three sounds as a combination activate the whole system of the body. Sound not only creates emotion but it changes the whole system of your body. Therefore, chanting OM is the science that could make life happen to you. This is about making life happen in the highest terms of intensity and beauty.

Why do we chant it?

The sound AUM, when chanted, vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature. As such, AUM is the basic sound of the universe, so by chanting it, we are symbolically and physically acknowledging our connection to nature and all other living beings.

Physically, chanting can relax the body, slow down the nervous system, and calm the mind. Beginning or ending your spiritual practice with AUM can help you connect to it in a deeper way.

How to chant AUM?

As Patanjali states in sutra 1.28, AUM should be chanted keeping its meaning and significance in mind. Since AUM is the representative sound and symbol for Ishvara, it is important to keep the essence of Ishvara (sutra 1.24) in mind while chanting AUM. The technique for chanting AUM is here:

  • Sit in a comfortable cross-legged posture with the spine upright, and the head, neck, and spine in a vertical alignment.
  • Close your eyes and take a deep inhalation.
  • While exhaling starts uttering the AUM sound.

AUM can be chanted slowly or quickly. In this manner, AUM resonates throughout the whole body in tune with the natural heart rate. If AUM is chanted slowly, it can be made to last many seconds, depending on the capacity of the individual.

There should be a definite pronunciation of each of the syllable’s ‘A’, ‘U’, and ‘M’, with a gradual transition from one to another. ‘A’ is pronounced as ‘a’ in ‘palm’, ‘U’ is pronounced as ‘ooo’, and ‘M’ is pronounced as a humming sound by closing the lips ‘mmm’.

The sound of ‘A’ should start at the navel, ‘U’ from the chest, and ‘M’ from the brain (head).

The sound should be generated from the navel and taken up very slowly to the top of the head with the closing sound of ‘M’. ‘A’ is pronounced by opening the mouth slightly, without touching the tongue to the pallets of the mouth, ‘U’ is pronounced by opening the mouth in a beak shape, like whistling, the tongue touching the back of the lower teeth slightly, ‘M’ is pronounced by closing the mouth and simply producing the humming sound (mmm).

All three sounds should be continuous and in rhythm. The sound and vibrations are heard for a long time, called ‘ninaad’. In the same way, AUM should be chanted, with the ‘M’ sound leaving its vibration.

Symbolically the three letters embody the divine energy of Shakti and its three main characteristics: (1) creation, (2) preservation, and (3) liberation.

Benefits of chanting AUM

The continued recitation of AUM (called Udgita Pranayama) fills one with peace, calmness, tranquillity, and serenity. Chanting AUM in mediation has innumerable benefits in the sense of physical, psychological, and emotional levels.

1 .AUM Cleanses the Surrounding

Chanting AUM produces the sacred vibrations that overpower the negativities flowing in the environment around. It clears out negative energy, purifying the environment, including the people around you.

2. Reduce Stress and Anxiety

According to the research, chanting AUM helps in reducing stress and anxiety. Chanting AUM activates certain centers and nerves (vagus), which are the most effective treatment for stress.

3. Strengthens Spinal Cord

Chanting AUM with a straight back in meditation impacts the spinal cord. The ‘Aa’ sound of AUM originates from the naval, which is in the vicinity of the spinal cord. This further improves function and strengthens the spinal cord.

4. Improves Digestive system

AUM chanting has an effect on digestion. The vibration produced by the chanting causes a stimulation of the vagus nerve which controls digestion-related activities.

5. Maintain the activity of the Heart

Chanting AUM has a calming effect on the heart. It maintains the natural rhythm of the cardiac cycle. It reduces blood pressure and maintains a healthy rhythmic heartbeat.

6. Chanting AUM Reduce Fatigue by Increasing Oxygen in the Blood.

7. The chanting of AUM drives away all worldly thoughts and removes distractions.

8. Practice of Omkar helps in improving brain capacity and memory.

Our capacity to grasp any knowledge increases. Our mind becomes more active and we are able to take decisions quickly. Our brain has 14000 centers. However, we are only utilizing 208 centers, or just 2% of the brain. The other 98% of the brain remains unused. Chanting of Omkar stimulates these sleeping brain centers.

9. Chanting AUM improves confidence levels and prepares us to face the adverse circumstances of life.

10. AUM removes nervousness and fears from the mind.

Chanting of Omkar before bed gives sound sleep. The problems of Insomnia and fearful dreams are cured by AUM chanting.

11. Chanting Om raises the vibrations from within, allowing you to feel happier and blissful.

12. It provides an instant feeling of calm. The vibrations help balance moods and emotions.

13. Purifies and improves the aura. 

14. It has self-healing powers which improve immunity and strength.

AUM & Moksha: –

The three sounds of Omkar – A, U, and M symbolize the gross, subtle, and causal aspects of Brahman. Therefore, it is essential to have an understanding of AUM, by which the immortal self, the supreme Brahman, the ultimate goal is realized. The universe is made of five elements, they are space, air, fire, water, and earth. And our body is also made of the same five elements. All these elements are made of microparticles, they are so tiny that we cannot hold them in our hands or see them with our naked eyes. We cannot see the microparticle of Earth, water, fire, air, and space. These microparticles are called electrons, and every electron is nothing but energy. This energy is present in the sun, moon, all the planets, earth, in the whole of the universe. Our journey starts from the gross (earth) level. Transforming from the gross state to the ether state, merging into every microparticle of the universe is Moksha, freedom. By merging ourselves with AUM, we attain that ultimate state of freedom, freedom from the cycle of birth and death. We become jivanmukta, freedom from human life, and oneness with the supreme Brahman.

Research on AUM chanting: –

Some studies are offering insights into how the mantra benefits the mind and body. One study, published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, looked at how AUM chanting might be connected to the vagus nerve. This offers insight into how chanting can retune the nervous system by activating the vagus nerve and balancing the parasympathetic nervous system. During Om chanting, the vibration felt in the head and ears can be linked to the vagus nerve which has auricular (ear) branches. Therefore, this study hypothesized that chanting Om might stimulate the vagus nerve, producing a similar deactivation of the limbic system.

Namaste, Wishing You a Happy & Healthy Life