Weekly Food For Thought

Unique significance of Omkaara

Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 17 (1984)

MANTHRA is not a mere collection of words. It is a compounded set of words pregnant with enormous significance. It emanates from the inner power of man. Filled with such power, the manthra (sacred formula), when it is pronounced properly, brings out the Divine power in man. The vibrations produced by the utterance of the manthra, uniting with the Cosmic nadha (primal sound) in the Universe, become one with the Universal Consciousness. It is these Cosmic vibrations which assumed the form of the Veda (sacred revelations of spiritual knowledge). For all the manthras, the primary manthra, which enshrines the attributeless, Omniself, is the Omkara. The Omkara embodies in the form of sound the Supreme Brahman.

Omkara Is The Manifestation Of Brahman As Sound

The body is regarded as Brahma and the tongue is regarded as Saraswati and the vibrations emanating from the heart find expression in sound through the union of the body and the tongue. Although there are many letters and words, the fundamental aksharam (letter), which has primacy of place, is the Omkara, says the Geetha. All other letters and words are linguistic creations. They do not possess the unique sacredness and divine character of ‘OM.’ The special significance of ‘OM’ is not generally recognized or understood. The Manthra Shasthra (ancient scripture related to sacred formulas) has laid emphasis on the letter ‘OM’. Omkara has no form. It is the manifestation of Brahman as sound. It is present in all creation. It is effulgent. It is in all speech. It is ever blissful. It is Parathparamyee (embodiment of the Supreme). It is Mayamayee (the repository of illusory power). It is Shreemayee (embodiment of prosperity). The Omkara is the only sound that has these eight divine attributes, according to the Manthra Shasthra.

Omkara Is Imperishable

What is the difference between the Omkara and all other sounds and words? The Omkara has a unique, distinctive quality in the way it is pronounced and the goal it represents. When other letters are uttered, the lips, the tongue, the cheeks and the jaws are in action. But when the Omkara is pronounced, none of these move at all. This is a unique characteristic of Omkara. Hence ‘OM’ alone can be regarded as Aksharam (imperishable). All the other sounds are expressions of different languages. The Omkara is the base for the Veda. To grasp the full significance of Omkara, which is all-pervasive, it is necessary to have the same kind of self-control which one has to exercise to bring the sensory organs under control.

Only By Elimination Of Ego Can Brahman Be Realized

In reciting any manthra the primacy to be accorded to OM should be recognized. The manthra ends with the word Namah (as for example, in Om Keshavaya Namah: Prostrations to Keshava). The integral connection between Om and namah should be recognized. Namah represents Prakrithi (objective world). In ordinary parlance Namah is understood to mean namaskaram (salutation). But it has a wider meaning. It means Prakrithi (the phenomenal world) OM connotes Purusha (Divinity). The purpose of the manthra is to reveal the connection between Prakrithi and Purusha.

If in the manthra Om Keshavaya Namah the word Keshavaya is omitted, and Om Namah is uttered, the unity of Shiva-Shakthi (Purusha and Prakrithi) is established and the dualism implicit in the manthra is removed. The manthra states, “I am offering obeisance to Keshava,” thereby positing two entities, besides the action of obeisance itself being a third element. To eliminate this dualism, the Manthra Shasthra laid down that if instead of namah, na mama (not for my sake) is employed, the identity of the worshipper and the worshipped will be established. “Om Keshavaya, na mama” would mean “for Kesava, not for me.” By this process, the ego is destroyed. And only by the elimination of the ego can the attributeless Brahman be realized.

Weekly Food For Thought


Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered around the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. He is the man Martin Luther King called “An Apostle of peace and nonviolence.” His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world. Excerpts from one of his talks is given below.

· Mindful walking simply means walking while being aware of each step and of our breath. It can be practiced anywhere, whether you are alone in nature or with others in a crowded city.

· Walking on this earth is a joy. Mindful walking allows us to be aware of the pleasure of walking. We can keep our steps slow, relaxed, and calm. There is no rush, no place to get to, no hurry. Mindful walking can release our sorrows and our worries and help bring peace into our body and mind.

· Placing our footsteps one after the other slowly and in silence, we can create joy with each step. If we take steps without anxiety, in peace and joy, then we will cause a flower to bloom on the earth with every step.

· “Usually when I go to the airport, I like to arrive early so that I can do walking meditation before the flight. About thirty years ago I was walking in the Honolulu airport. Someone came up to me and asked, “Who are you; what is your spiritual tradition?” I said, “Why do you ask?” And he said, “Because I see that the way you walk is so different than the way others walk. It’s so peaceful and relaxed.” He had approached me simply because of the way I walked. I hadn’t given a speech or a conference. With every step you make, you can create peace within yourself and give joy to other people.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh