OHM Symbol - AUM Symbol  - OM Symbol
The Absolute
AUM (OM, OHM) within Hinduism symbolizes the unborn non-dualistic, omnispresent, impersonal Absolute, which incoperates all forms of life; which is life. The sacred AUM symbol above represents both the unmanifest, nirguna, and manifest, saguna, aspects of the Absolute. By sound and form, AUM symbolizes the infinite Brahman* (ultimate reality).
  • A stands for Creation
  • U stands for Preservation
  • M stands for Destruction or dissolution

This is representative of the Trinity of God in Hindu dharma (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva)

(You can also download the first part of this article in PDF)

AUM, the 'Sound of Light'
In Hindu scriptures, in the Vedas, AUM is the 'Sound of the Sun', the 'Sound of Light'. Muslims call it Saut-I-Sarmadi, the Unstruck Melody, or Kalma, meaning 'Word' like mentioned in St. John 1:1-4. Sikhs call it Shabd. Tibetan Buddhists call it bden tshig. Every religion has equivalents for OM.

AUM (Om, Ohm) manifests via light and sound when one converts the scattered outer attention and focus single minded at the eye centre. The dot, the third eye, between the eye brows on both Hindu and Buddhist statues is referring to this door of inner perception which can be entered direct or via meditation. Hearing the inner sound (bhajan) and seeing the inner light (dhyan) is a common theme in mystic literature of all religions. (See also St. Matthew 6:22).

Buddha on the 'Sound of Light'
In Buddhism the inner light is considered a manifestation of the intrinsic Buddha nature of all men. Also the Buddha teached listening to the Sound of Light. In the Mahasakuludayi Sutta (77:32 |Nanamoli & Bodhi translation p. 644) Buddha says:

"Again, Udayin, I have proclaimed to my disciples the way whereby with the divine ear element [dibbasota], which is purified and surpasses the human, they hear both kind of sounds, the divine and the human, those that are far as well as near (…) And thereby many disciples of mine abide having reached the consummation and perfection of direct knowledge."
(See also St. Matthew 13:13-17.)

In the Surangama Sutra (PDF-version p. 203-212) listening to sound is considered the most beneficial method of meditation "for men of various kind". (On an individual bases other methods can be more suitable).

"To hear your very Self, why not turn backward
That faculty employed to hear Buddha's words
Hearing is not of itself,
But owes its name to sound.
Freed from sound by turning hearing backwards,
What do you call that which is disengaged
When one sense organ has to its source returned,
All the six senses thereby are liberated.
Ananda and all you who listen here
Should inward turn your faculty
Of hearing to hear your own nature

Which alone achieves Supreme Bodhi.
That is how enlightenment is won.
Buddhas as many as the Ganges' sand
Entered this one gateway to Nirvana.
All past Tathagatas
Have achieved this method.
All Bodhisattvas now
Enter this perfection.
All who practise in the future
On this Dharma should rely."

The practise of listening to inner sound in Buddhism
According to both Hindu and Buddhist scriptures before starting any spiritual practise above all one first need to find a spiritual friend, an accomplished guru of a lineage of gurus of good reputation, with whom one has a (karmic) connection and who is alive; 'in the flesh'. See for instance the Buddhist Words of My Perfect Teacher, or and the Hindu The Spiritual Master and the Disciple.

In the past Buddhist Masters taught 'to listen to the listener', like the fourteenth century Japanese Zen Master Bassui (See Mud & Water p. 159-164). Within Tibetan Buddhism the teachings of Guru Buddhapada are an example of focussing on Unstruck Sound (See Masters of Mahamudra p.91-93). In modern times Chogyal Namkhai Norbu is one of the rare Buddhist teachers speaking openly about inner and secret sound. In August 2001 he said:

"Why then is sound important? Because when we speak of our real nature, the source of everything is how sound manifests from emptiness. What we firstly manifest is sound and sound manifests light and rays. These three are called our primordial potentiality. Sound doesn’t mean ordinary sound, what we hear with our ears. When we speak of sound immediately we think of that. That is outer sound, which we can hear with our ears. There is also inner sound we can feel only through vibrations; we don’t need ears for hearing or discovering inner sound. Still more important is secret sound. Secret sound we discover only when we discover our real nature. When we discover our real nature and how it is related with this energy and how it manifests, then we discover secret sound." **

The practise of listening to inner sound in Hindu tradition
In 2003 H.E. Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, teacher of H.H. Dalai Lama XIV comfirmed that up till today the spiritual practice of listening to inner sound is found in more than just one spiritual tradition, indeed. While seeing a picture of the most famous master of the interreligious ashram Dera Baba Jaimal Singh, Sant Satguru Baba Sawan Singh Ji Maharaj also know as Great Master (1858-1948), His Emminence declared: "This Great Yogi walked a Hindu Tantrayana path which is almost identical to Buddhist Tantrayana." ** The path Great Master walked, is the path of Surat Shabd Yoga. The current lineage holder, Baba Gurinder Singh Ji, still initiates people of all faith in this Dharma of hearing OHM, The Gateway to Nirvana of which the scriptures speak.

* With 'n' (Brahma, without 'n', is, as mentioned, part of the Hindu trinity, Brahma, Vishnu en Shiva.)
** “Working with Circumstances”, The Mirror:
Newspaper of the International Dzogchen Community. Edited by Liz Granger and Naomi Zeitz. Source: http://www.tsegyalgar.org/teachings/dec_2001.html, accessed April 3, 2009
*** H.E. Chogye Trichen Rinpoche made this clear statement to MFI President André Kalden during Losar (Tibetan New Year) 2003 at Boudhanath, Nepal. Rinpoche underlined his words with a gesture pointing out two ways going closely and almost parallel, heading in the same direction. In the above mentioned context Rinpoche used the label Tantrayana as opposed to Sutrayana.

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