The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when they lead the life of continence … is Om. This syllable Om is indeed Brahman. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires. This is the best support; this is the highest support. Whosoever knows this support is adored in the world of Brahma."
~ Katha Upanishad I
Om or Aum is of paramount importance in Hinduism. This symbol (as seen in the image on the right) is a sacred syllable representing Brahman, the impersonal Absolute of Hinduism — omnipotent, omnipresent, and the source of all manifest existence. Brahman, in itself, is incomprehensible; so a symbol becomes mandatory to help us realize the Unknowable.
Om in Daily Life
It is interesting to note that a newly born child is ushered into the world with this holy sign. After birth, the child is ritually cleansed and the sacred syllable Om is written on its tongue with honey. Thus right at the time of birth the syllable Om is initiated into the life of a Hindu and ever remains with him as the symbol of piety. Om is also a popular symbol used in contemporary body art and tattoos.
The Eternal Syllable
The Music of Om
There is harmony, peace and bliss in this simple but deeply philosophical sound. By vibrating the sacred syllable Om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Ultimate Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the highest state of "stateless" eternity, states the Bhagavad Gita.
The Vision of Om
The Power of Om
There have been many discussions about the significance and meaning of Aum. the following is a widely believed interpretation of Aum:
Of all names of God, Aum is the Supreme. Aum (also Om) is the most comprehensive name of God. Other names encompass only some aspects of God. That is the reason why Om signifies only God and nothing else where as other names stand for other things as well.
The word AUM (OM) is made up of three letters that express the three great aspects of GOD:
A - denotes the power of God to create the Universe.
U - denotes the power of God to preserve the Universe.
M - denotes the power of God to dissolve the Universe.
On this basis, God is known to Hindus by the three other names:
A - Brahma (Creator)
U - Vishnu (Preserver)
M - Shiva (Destroyer)
The symbol that you see on the scroll at the top of this page shows the various styles in which AUM is written. The symbol is in Devanagri script, a style of writing that is common to many of India's languages. However, we cannot say that the symbol is of any particular linguistic origin - it is not even Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. The symbol, like the meaning, is universal and symbolizes the formless aspect of God.