Om: The Sound Symbol is on the various meanings of Om, as unfolded by Swami Dayananda Saraswati. The first Part contains linguistic interpretation of Om, Om as a word symbol-pratika, superimposition of the three states of experience on AUM by the Upanisad, Om as a phonetic symbol of Brahman, and the mantra So’ham being Om.
The second Part of the book is a collection of origin of Om in various Vedic literatures-the Vedas, its origin is in Chandogya Upanisad. Om is equated with Brahman in Taittiriya, superimposition of the three states of experience on A-U-M in Mandukya, Om being the representation of Saguna-Brahman as well as Nirguna-Brahman in Katha, Om as the bow in an imagery of archery in Mundaka, how chanting Om during the last stages takes a person to higher lokas, also is mentioned in Prasna Upanisads. Its references are in Isavasya, Brhadaranyaka, Maitrayai, and Mahanarayana Upanisads; besides Upanisads, also is about on Om in Yogasutra, Bhagavad gita, Baudhayana Dharmasutra, and Manusmrti. The book has an elaborate Glossary and Index, along with some images.
The text will be immensely helpful to spiritual seekers, as well as Indological scholars in demystifying Om.
Swamini Atmaprajnananda Saraswati is a student-disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. After twelve years of studying with Swamiji in his gurukulas in Rishikesh, Coimbatore, and Saylorsburg, she took samnyasa in 2008. Meanwhile, she completed her degrees of Master (2005) and PhD (2012) in Sanskrit.
She is an MBA and has worked in a Public Sector Bank in India for fourteen years and in Muscat for six years where she met Swami Dayananda Saraswati.
She is the author of two books: Nomenclature of the Vedas (2012) and Rsikas of the Rgveda (2013), and writes regularly for “Speaking Tree” in The Times of India.
Her other areas of study and research are- Vedic Studies, Temple Architecture, and Buddhism. An Advaitin, a committed scholar and an enthusiast of Indian culture in all its dimensions, Swamini is the Founder Acarya of Arsha Vidya Vikasa Kendra, a Teaching and Research Centre for Vedanta and Panini. In addition to her teaching and research activities, she has convened four national conferences in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013. She is involved in many community services in areas of primary education and health.
When I Listened to the unfoldment of the Om for the first time in Rishikesh in 2000, I was spellbound. My spiritual Guru Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati unfolded it so well. I am sure, that day everyone in the class got some insight into the meaning of Om. The unfoldment has remained in my notebook since twelve years. Two of my gurubhais took copy of my notes, and many have been requesting me for the same. Then I felt the text must be available not only to my gurubhais/gurubehens, but also to all others who may benefit from it.
I wanted to supplement the class notes. I searched for reference and explanation of Om in various Upanisads, and was amazed. I collected them along with the translation, and Sankara-bhasyam. However, Sankara-bhasyam is lohe ka cana, as popularly known in the North. Hence, Pujya Swamiji’s unfoldment in Part I will give a good grounding to the readers, I feel.
There is a pattern in Part II. First, I have presented the Rgveda followed by Sukla-Yajurveda. Although I had a vague feeling that Om is not explicitly mentioned in the Rgveda, I was confirmed only on further research. Coming to Om in the Upanisads, there is a sequence in the presentation. I have presented Chandogya (since it presents the origin of Om, which was revelation for me), Taittiriya, of course Mandukya (which is only about interpretation of Om), Katha, Mundaka, Prasna (because it answers/elaborates on Mundaka), and Isavasya. I have placed Brhadaranyaka the last, so as not to tire the readers, although it should come before/or along with Chandogya. Mahanarayana was a discovery, based on Sankara’s reference to it in his Br. Up. Bhasyam. Then comes Yogasutra followed by Bhagavadgita (which draw heavily from Kathopanisad). I have concluded with two Dharmasastras-Baudhayana Dharmasutra and Manusmrti. The sequence is amenable to change based on the feedback of the readers. In Kena and Aitareya, Omkara is not mentioned.
For translation of Sankara-bhasyam on Mandukya, Katha, Mundaka, Prasna, and Isavasya Upanisads and Bhagavadgita, I have taken Swami Gambhirananda’s translation. For Brhadaranyakopanisad, I have taken V. Panoli’s translation. In the first edition, I am not furnishing any further explanation, since I know many readers/scholars would prefer unadulterated Sankara-bhasyam.
I have provided elaborate Glossary to help the readers. Our scriptures are indeed vast and deep. It takes decades just to be acquainted and see the connection.
The significance of Om is more intimately known to the samnyasis who practice Omkara upasana. A samnyasi is expected to chant Omkara 12,000 times per day. It indeed develops vairagya. After chanting of Omkara, everything else appears insignificant. I state this from my own experience.
Interestingly, no graphic representation of Om has yet been found in the extensive excavations of the Indus Saraswati Valley civilization (although seals of Swastika were found, both clockwise and anticlockwise). The reason may be either that Om was considered too sacred to be graphically represented, or that it had not yet been envisioned, and brought into the mainstream spiritual practice.
The title is Om: The Sound Symbol, as repeatedly emphasized by Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Nevertheless, I could not help providing some interesting photographs of Om, in various languages. Pujya Swamiji will be amused to see them. Scholars opine that from the sixth century CE, the written symbol of Om was used, to mark the beginning of a text in a manuscript, or an inscription. By the way, the existence of Om Parvat, a sacred peak at 6,191 m in the Indian Himalayas, revered for its snow deposition pattern that resembles Om, continues to baffle me. And of course the cow with distinct symbol of Om on its body.
In preparing this text, I have taken the liberty of reproducing some of the images of Om available on the internet. Due credit has been given for same.
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