Aum or Om is a powerful sacred symbol recognized by most spiritual traditions. Some consider it as the primordial sound, some as the beej mantra and some as that power which pervades our life breath. It appears at the beginning of sacred verses and texts. By chanting this mystic syllable, we can penetrate our inner spiritual core and touch our divinity.
This soulful painting by Pramila Giria, a sensitive and talented artist from Bangalore, inspires us to write this post. Enjoy the painting and the write-up about Aum.
According to Jainism, the Sanskrit word Aum is made up of five sounds emanating from the letters: a, a, ā, u, and m. These five letters represent the ‘pancha parameshthi’ or five supreme beings.
What does Jainism mean by supreme beings? Are they like the Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva of Hinduism? Not really. God is not considered as the creator of this universe or an all-powerful magician. Each one of us has the potential to evolve to a godly status. Those who attain this godly status are considered as the supreme beings. There are five categories of supreme beings whose initials make up the sound of Aum sacred symbol.
- The first letter ‘a’ represents the Arihants or those who have conquered the four passions namely anger, pride, delusion and greed.
- The second letter ‘a’ represents the Ashareeri, another synonym for the Siddhas or those who have attained liberation.
- The third letter ‘ā’ represents the Acharyas or those who are the religious leaders.
- The fourth letter ‘u’ represents the Upadhyayas or those who are the religious teachers.
- The fifth letter ‘m’ represents the Munis, a synonym for monks (and nuns) who have embraced the path of renunciation.
- To summarize, a + a + ā + u + m = AUM.
Thus AUM is a salutation to the five supreme beings. Chanting this sacred sound purifies the atmosphere as well as the inner self.