The True Meaning of OM

Today a passage from my forthcoming book Samadhi The Great Freedom:

In sutra I.27 Patanjali says that God’s expression is the sacred syllable OM. Some yoga scholars argue that Patanjali does not subscribe to the idea that God created the world. May they be blessed! He actually says much more. He says that there is nothing but God!

When pronouncing the sound OM we are sitting down and hum more or less. That’s why some commentators who read this sutra simply imagine a person (in this case Ishvara), who admittedly is immortal and all-knowing, but still sitting in the corner humming. This is not what OM means. OM means OMnipresnt, OMniscient, OMnipotent. It is the roar the electrons make when circling around atomic nuclei, it is the thunder of Higgs Boson particles crashing into each other in the Large Hadron Collider. It is the first cry of all babies ever born and the sound of the last exhalation that you will release on your deathbed. It is the sound of our sun exploding into a supernova four or five billions years from now when it supposedly will incinerate our beautiful planet Earth. It is the sound of the paradise bird at sunrise and the sound of the Titanic hitting its iceberg. It is the sound of Beethoven’s ninth symphony and of the gunshot that killed Martin Luther King. It is the sound of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima and of Luis Armstrong’s “What a beautiful world”. It’s the song of the lover in rapture and the lie of the politician. It is the cracking of tectonic plates shifting, the sound of all rivers rushing towards the ocean, it is the sound of all your moments of guilt, shame, fame, glory, love and defeat combined with that of all beings that ever existed and ever shall be. It is the sound of wind, fire, water earth and space. It is the silence of the Buddha under the bodhi tree and the voice of Jesus saying, “Lazarus, come forth”. It is the sound of that one humongous intelligence that transforms itself into everything but miraculously even in that process is never changed. It is everything. Our rise and our demise as an entire civilization, everything that we know, that we don’t know yet and what we will never know is OM. Knowledge of all civilizations that have been, scattered through space, and all those that will still come is still OM. All matter and all forms of energy are nothing but vibratory patterns of that one presence that is everywhere in everything and expresses itself through everything as everything. That one presence expresses itself as kinetic energy, as potential energy, as electrical energy and as magnetism. It is the alpha and the omega, the beginning, the middle and the end of all phenomena and beings. It is “Be still and know that I am God”.

Yoga is experiential. OM must be experienced and it’s meaning cannot be inferred from scholars speculating on words. Once OM is experienced the realization dawns that there never was, never is and never will be anything real that is not God. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” That is the true meaning of OM. By means of this primordial vibratory pattern the Divine transforms itself to become the phenomena, the material universe and all beings. With this sutra Patanjali says there’s nothing but God. It is not something that can intellectually be understood. It must be experienced so closely that ones hair stands, ones breath stops and ones heart wants to jump out of ones chest.

 

About Gregor Maehle

Gregor Maehle started his yogic practices over 38 years ago. For almost two decades he yearly travelled to India where he studied with various yogic and tantric masters. Gregor spent 14 months in Mysore, India, and in 1997 was authorized to teach Ashtanga Yoga by K. Pattabhi Jois. Since then he has branched out into research of the anatomical alignment of postures and the higher limbs of Yoga. He obtained his anatomical knowledge through a Health Practitioner degree and has also studied History, Philosophy and Comparative Religion.

Gregor lived many years as a recluse, studying Sanskrit, yogic scripture and practising yogic techniques. He has published a series of textbooks on all major aspects of yoga. His mission is to re-integrate ashtanga vinyasa practice into the larger framework of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga in the spirit of T. Krishnamacharya. He offers trainings, retreats and workshops worldwide.

Posted in Meditation and Samadhi, Yoga Philosophy.

3 Comments

  1. Dear Gregor,

    Thank you for another informative and inspiring post.

    I have a question about the OM syllable and I’d very much appreciate it if you could enlighten me on this:
    I used to be a part of a certain Yoga school and there we were taught that the true syllable is actually AUM (and that all three letters must be pronounced such as aaaauuuummmm) and not OM. Our master told us that OM is simply wrong and that AUM was lost in translation when Sanskrit texts were translated into Western languages.

    Since you also read in Sanskrit and have been researching for all these these years, could you also let us know what the confusion is all about? I see that you also refer to this syllable as OM.

    Thank you very much in advance!

    • Dear Ozgun,

      Sorry about my slow reply. I’m currently teaching our Immersions in Bali and have little time on the computer. OM is not simply wrong. If you pronounce it as one word (which it usually is during chanting) then by implying a linguistic set of rules called internal sandhi the A and U collate to become O. There are pranayama techniques during which you for example pronounce a series of A during inhale, a series of U’s during internal kumbhaka and a series of M’s during exhalation. In any case if you do pronounce the letters separately you need to have a break in between them and not draw them into one sound.

      PS I have received your other query and will respond as soon as time permits.
      Warm regards
      Gregor

      • Thank you very much for the reply Gregor
        Although I can’t begin to imagine how to pronounce A during inhalation and U during breath retention, i’ll keep researching about this!
        Looking forward to your other reply and future posts. Wish you and your students productive sessions in Bali..

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