Sound and symbol of OM
Before I explain the symbolism and meaning behind the name ‘Happy Buddha’ I’ll let you in on the most important symbols and sounds we use in our yoga studio.
On the outside a huge Happy Buddha Wall Mural welcomes you to the the studio and on the inside of the shala (yogaroom) you’ll see a Mandala with the OM sign (see pictures below).
Since you spend more time inside then outside practicing yoga I’ll elaborate today on the OM symbol.
Most yoga students who have entered a sacred yoga place have seen the sign or chanted the sound of OM at the beginning or end of a yoga class. And maybe you’ve wondered, what it is about. What’s this OM, that makes yogi's wholeheartedly chant its glory and live in its symbolic presence?
Here are some facts you may not know, to help deepen your knowledge and connect your heart to this ancient sacred syllable.
1. The sound of OM encompasses all words, all sounds in human language. OM is a matrix of all sounds, when in its diversified form gives rise to all words used in language.
Linguistically, all audible sounds are produced in the space within the mouth beginning at the root of the tongue and ending at the lips. The throat sound is A, and M is the lip sound; and the sound U represents the rolling forward of speech articulation which starts at the root of the tongue, continuing until it ends in the lips.
To pronounce OM correctly, the sound vibration is pronounced “oom” as in home.
2. OM and AUM
In Sanskrit, the sound “O” is a diphthong spelled “AU”. A diphthong is the blending of two vowel sounds where both are normally heard and make a gliding sound. As a result, the difference between OM and AUM is simply one of transliteration. Or i.o.w. OM and AUM are the same thing; it's just written two different ways. Think of "OM" as the phonetic spelling and "AUM" as the actual spelling.
3. The sound of "AUM" is the sound that was made when all of creation came into existence. The essence of the universe and all creation, wrapped up in one unimaginable and indescribable aggregate (for lack of a better term), is known as Brahman. The "AUM" represents the four divine states of Brahman - metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekkha (equanimity). Brahman is actually a core belief system in both Hinduism and Buddhism, both of which use AUM regularly in their daily life. To keep it short Brahma is the culmination of everything and so is the Om symbol.
4. As said the OM or AUM symbol has a very deep, significant, spiritual meaning that is very specific and yet, at the same time, so vague it's almost incomprehensible. It's written in Sanskrit, and each part of the symbol has a very significant purpose.
The two curls on top of each other (that sort of look like the number 3), with the downward curl that spirals out from the "3" shape, each represent a state of consciousness. The large, bottom curl stands for the normal state of being awake, which you probably are in right now. The curl above it stands for deep sleep, while the curl emanating out from the center of the two represents the dream state. Those are the states of consciousness that every human on earth experiences. But the dot and the open curve above that is what elevates the symbol to a much higher and more sacred meaning. The dot represents absolute consciousness; that's not the same as merely being awake, but it means being fully aware of yourself and everything around you. The open curve that cradles the dot represents an infinitely open mind, which is required to achieve that level of absolute consciousness.
As you can see, it's not just a soothing chant or a pretty symbol. If you plan to place an "Om" on your body, you need to understand and embrace all that it stands for.
It should also be noted that "ohm" is a different word entirely (referring to electrical currents) and should not be confused with Om or Aum.
Last but not least...
5. OM is associated with Lord Ganesha (the Remover of Obstacles). The upper curve, of OM, is identified with the head or the face of Ganesh. The Lower curve his belly. The twisted curve, on the right side of OM is the trunk.
Now you understand WHY at Happy Buddha Aruba, House of Yoga, on one side of the room you see the symbol OM and on the opposite side a frame with Ganesha.
OM Shanti OM (Peace to all),
Corinne Voermans is the owner and founder of Happy Buddha Aruba - House of Yoga. She writes about the yogi lifestyle and all that it emcompases.