By Mahanidhi Swami
The chanting of the spiritual mantra OM, the primordial vibration of transcendence, Divinity in sound, is probably one of most popular chanting mantras in the world. Before coming to Krishna consciousness many devotees dabbled in the continual chanting of: OM…OM…OM…OM…OM…OM…OM…
Bhagavata-gita (10.8) tells us that everything, and that means EVERY THING, begins with Sri Krishna, that beautiful flute player, the darling sweetheart of the cowherd damsels of Vraja; (aham sarvasya prabhavo, mattah sarvam pravartate). And yes, from Muralidhara’s flute comes OM to ignite this world with transcendence. Let’s learn more about this most famous and intriguing spiritual mantra.
Regarding the origin of OM, Srila Prabhupada said, “When Krishna began to play on His flute, that sweet sound vibration entered into the ear of Brahma as the Vedic mantra OM is composed of three letters—A, U, and M, OM describes our relationship with the Supreme Lord (sambandha), the activities by which we can achieve the highest perfection of love (abhidheya), and the actual position of love on the spiritual platform (prayojana). “When the sound vibration of Krishna’s flute was expressed through the mouth of Brahma, it became Gayatri. Thus being influenced by the sound vibration of Krishna’s flute, Brahma, the first living entity of this material world, was initiated as a brahmana.
“Srila Jiva Gosvami confirms that Brahma was initiated as a brahmana by the flute of Krishna. When Brahma was enlightened by the Gayatri mantra through Krishna’s flute, he attained all Vedic knowledge. Acknowledging the benediction offered to him by Krishna, he became the original spiritual master of all living entities.” (TLC ch. 31)
Meaning of OM
The first mantra is pranava OM. The Vedas glorify OM as the origin of the Vedas and as the source of the whole creation. For this reason, OM precedes every Vedic mantra. OM expands into the vyahrtis (bhuh, bhuvah, svah) which indicate the whole expanse of the creation: the earth and lower planetary systems, the region of the sky, and the upper planetary systems. The vyahrtis then expand into the Brahma-gayatri mantra. The Gayatri then expands into all the Vedas.
The pranava OM, the vyahrtis, and the Brahma-gayatri combined together are the essence of the Vedas, and the most powerful of mantras. Chanting these mantras has remained the cornerstone of spiritual progress in Vedic culture since time immemorial. OM, the sacred syllable of assent, is a seed mantra mentioned throughout the Vedic literatures and chanted by all varieties of transcendentalists.
It has also worked its way into many languages to indicate God. In English, all-important descriptions of God have “OM” as its root. OM enters the English language as the prefix omni. Therefore words like omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient are valid descriptions of God and, all begin with the root OM. Christians end prayers with Amen meaning OM, and Muslims say Amin, denoting God.
One net entry described OM like this: “In every breath man utters and repeats it unintentionally and inevitably. Every vibration in the body and in the universe emerges from OM. A child cries “OM! OM!” The ocean roars “OM! OM!” The bees buzz “OM! OM!” The musician hums “OM! OM!” OM is the expression of the seer of the Truth. OM is Veda, the wisdom of God. OM is the sound of God. OM is eternal, the indestructible word.”
Despite the apparent universality of the word OM, only Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the Gaudiya Vaisnavas have revealed the full spiritual significance of OM. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna says, pranavah sarva vedesu: “I am the syllable OM mentioned in all the Vedas” Besides indicating the Supreme Personality of Godhead, OM is nondifferent from the sound of Krishna’s flute. Unfortunately, most people today have an impersonal conception of the sacred syllable OM.
Srila Prabhupada said that OM means Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. “The sound of OM in the beginning of every Vedic hymn addresses the Supreme Lord. Because the impersonalists are very much afraid of addressing the Supreme Lord Krishna by His innumerable names, they prefer to vibrate the transcendental sound omkara. But they do not realize that omkara is the sound representation of Krishna. The jurisdiction of Krishna consciousness extends everywhere, and one who is in Krishna consciousness is blessed.” (BG 7.8 p.)
“OM is the alphabetical representation of Krishna. This representation of Krishna, however, is impersonal. It is like Krishna’s bodily luster or His brahman effulgence. Impersonalists like to chant OM, but we wish to chant Krishna’s feature of pastimes because His personal feature is the ultimate understanding. OM is the symbol of eternity (sat), but there is no bliss (ananda) and knowledge (cit). OM tat sat: tat means the Absolute Truth, and sat means eternity. So OM tat sat means, ‘Oh, the Absolute Truth is eternal.'” (SPL 17/3/68)
The Upanisads and realized Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas like Sri Jiva Gosvami reveal that OM, besides indicating the Supreme Lord Krishna, also includes His personal energies or saktis in the form of His divine pleasure potency, Srimati Radhika, and His eternal servants, the jiva-sakti or individual souls. “OM is a combination of the letters, A, U, M. The letter ‘A refers to Krishna; ‘U’ refers to Radha; ‘M’ refers to the jiva soul.” (GVV)
“The Gosvamis declare that (pranava) omkara is the complete representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They have analyzed omkara in terms of its alphabetical constituents as follows: omkara is a combination of the letters A, U, and M. The letter A refers to Krishna, the master of all living entities and planets both material and spiritual. The letter U indicates Srimati Radharani, the pleasure potency of Krishna, and M denotes the living entities (jivas). Thus OM is the complete combination of Krishna, His potency and His eternal servitors.
“In other words, omkara represents Krishna, His name, fame, pastimes, entourage, expansions, devotees, potencies and everything else pertaining to Him. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu states in the present verse of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, sarva-visva-dhama: omkara is the resting place of everything, just as Krishna is the resting place of everything (brahmano hi pratisthahamy “(Cc. Adi 7.128 p.)
(Excerpt from Gayatri Mahima Madhuri by Mahanidhi Swami)
Om Tat Sat!
Jai Jai Sri Radhe!