Om is the most sacred mantra in major Indic religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and
Jainism. It symbolizes affirmation, benediction and peace, and is used ritualistically in
Prayers, invocations and ceremonies symbol beyond compare and is regarded as a vehicle of
attainting liberation (moksha). Not only this at the highest level it is identified Reality.
Using the Vedas Upanishads Yoga Tantra and several religious texts as his sources the author
describes a plethora of interpretations of this immemorial captivated its worshippers put
yogic into trance made Tantra practitioners ecstatic and sent its chanters into religious
The author also explains secular interpretations of Om in linguists, psychology and
This book is about Om or Aum which is the most sacred mantra in Hinduism and which is also
revered by Buddhists. It discusses the status of this monosyllable and it several
interpretations including those of its constituents a, u, m.
Om is used at the beginning and at the end of a prayer and is also a word of solemn
invocation. It also serves as a symbol of affirmation benediction and peace. It is used as
magical symbol which can bestow supernatural powers, and as a vehicle to attain liberation
from the cycle of birth and death. However, at the highest level, it is regarded as
identical with Brahman, the Ultimate Reality.
There are a number of sources which give us several interpretations of Om: the Vedas and the
Upanishads, the Puranas, the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga and Tantra and hundred of commentaries. In
fact the religious literature is so vast that the task of extracting the essence of Omkara
is really formidable.
I have also included two chapters 15 and 16, which may be said to reflect secular views in
Om. Chapter 15 is a brief discussion on the structural or syntactic approach, which
considers structure as more important than meaning (semantics). Chapter 16 explains how
linguists, anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists view about Om.
Since the work is meant for a general reader, I have refrained from using the Devanagari
script Sanskrit verses in the original from and diacritical marks as far as possible. When
such devices appeared to be indispensable, their explanation in simple language is provided.
The common reader detests footnotes which I have avoided. However a few notes on some
chapters will be found at the end for those who might be interested in knowing the sources
for further reference. The average reader who us averse to 'notes' may ignore them.
The glossary provided at the end of the book will be useful to those who like me many tend
to forget technical words already introduced earlier. It also contains a few words related
to Om which could not be included in the main body of the book but which you may encounter
I was fortunate in that this work had a smooth sail since I approached the publishers. I am
grateful to the staff who completed the administrative formalities without much ado. I
particularly appreciate those who were extremely prompt in communicating with me; Mr. Rajiv
Jain Ms, Kavita (who has since left NAB), Mr. Om Anand Ms Jyotsna and MS Pragya Jain. My
special thanks go to those in the editorial department who have been working as it were
behind the scenes. Their editing was exhaustive and often merciless which made me feel like
a school boy who is being tutored by an unsparing master. However imagining myself to be in
the shoes of the reader was all that was necessary to accept most of their suggestions.
Editing may appear a thankless job but I can assure the editors of New Age Books that they
can expect heartfelt gratitude from those authors who are able to rise above hubris.
I am also thankful to Mr. Yashwant Dusane who prepared the DTP version of the manuscript and
designed the figures.
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