Oh, the Glories of Om! “Aum” is a variant spelling of “Om”. The word can be spelled either way because the letter “o” is regarded as a diphthong consisting of “a” and “u”. There is quite a division among people as to how Om is actually pronounced. Many people try to accentuate the “au” sound in aum, trying to make it sound like “ow-m” or “awe-m”. However, “aum” is pronounced “om” as in “home”. The “au” sound is an extremely subtle intonation that naturally arises, when Om is intoned, and can be heard when the pitch is increased. One does not have to accentuate the “au” sound in Om to hear it. Just intone Om as “om” and you will hear it naturally. Just intone the mantra slowly.
Of all the mantras, the most powerful and the significant one is the single-syllabled incantation called the Pranava. This is the OM. The available literature upon the significances of the Vedic mantra is almost voluminous. Nowhere in the world can we meet with a more sacred symbol that has got such a vast amount of significance.
From Vedic times until the present day the word ‘OM’ has been taken as a symbol and as an aid to meditation by spiritual aspirants. It is accepted both as one with ‘Brahman’ and as the medium, the Logos, connecting man and God. The entire history of the syllable is in the revelations of the Vedas and in the declarations of the Upanishads.
The very central theme of the Mandukya Upanishad is the syllable OM through which the mystery of Brahman is gathered to a point. The text of this Upanishad first treats OM in terms of the Upanishadic doctrine of the three states of waking, dream, and deep sleep, but then passes on to the ‘fourth’ (turiya), thus transporting us beyond the typical Upanishadic sphere into that of the later ‘classic Advaita Vedanta’. Speaking of OM, the Taittiriya Upanishad says: “Thou art the sheath of Brahman.’ That is, OM is the container for the Supreme and, therefore, invoking OM is invoking the Supreme.
In every piece of music there are three aspects, namely (1) the meaning of the song; (2) the laws of music, and (3) the sound of the song. Similarly, on OM there are three aspects. The first is the mere sound, the mere mantra as pronounced by the mouth; the second is the meaning of the syllable, which is to be realized through feeling; and the third is the application of OM to your character, singing it in your acts, and so through your life.
OM represents the Self which is the Supreme Nondual Reality. The Self is known in four states, namely, the waking state, the dream state, the deep-sleep state, and the fourth state called the turiya. All these states are represented in the three sounds of OM (i.e., A, U, M***), and the silence that follows and surrounds the syllable.
The sound A represents the waking state; the sound U represents the dream state, and the sound M represents the deep sleep state. The waking state is superimposed on the A sound because it is the first of the three states of consciousness, and so is the sound A the very first of the letters of the alphabet – in all languages. The dream is but a view within the mind of the impressions that had reflected on the surface of the mental lake during the waking state. Besides, the dream state occurs between the waking and the deep-sleep state, and comes second among the three states of consciousness. And so, U, being next to A in order of sounds, and also since it is between A and M, is treated as representing the dream state. On the M sound of OM is superimposed the deep-sleep state. The comparison between the last sound of the OM and sleep lies in that it is the closing sound of the syllable, just as deep sleep is the final stage of the mind in rest. A short pregnant silence is inevitable between two successive OMs. On this silence is superimposed the idea of the fourth state, known as turiya. This is the state of Perfect Bliss when the individual Self recognises the identity with the Supreme.
In OM, the sounds A, U, and M are called mantras or forms; there is also in AUM the common principle called the amatra-OM, that which signifies the things-in-itself, running through and pervading the threefold phenomena of waking, dream, and deep sleep. The law of memory is that the rememberer and the experiencer must be one and the same individual, or else memory is impossible. So, as we can remember all our experiences in all three planes, there must necessarily be a single common factor which was a witness of all the happenings in all the three planes. There must be some entity within ourselves who is present in the waking world, who moves and illuminates the dream, who is a distant observer in the deep sleep world, and yet who is not conditioned by any of these three realms. This entity, conceived as the fourth state (turiya), is the Real, the Changeless, the Intelligent Principle.
The syllable OM symbolizes both the spheres:(1) the phenomenal, visible sphere