21. Why do we chant Om?

Om is one of the most chanted sound symbols in India. It has a profound effect on
the body and mind of the one who chants and also on the surroundings. Most mantras and
vedic prayers start with Om.
All auspicious actions begin with Om. It is even used as a greeting - Om, Hari Om
etc. It is repeated as a mantra or meditated upon. Its form is worshipped, contemplated
upon or used as an auspicious sign.
Om is the universal name of the Lord. It is made up of the letters A (phonetically
as in "around"), U (phonetically as in "put") and M (phonetically as in "mum"). The
sound emerging from the vocal chords starts from the base of the throat as "A". With the
coming together of the lips, "U" is formed and when the lips are closed, all sounds end in
"M".
The three letters symbolize the three states (waking, dream and deep sleep), the
three deities (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), the three Vedas (Rig, Yajur and Sama) the
three worlds (Bhuh, Bhuvah, Suvah) etc. The Lord is all these and beyond.
The formless, attributeless Lord (Brahman) is represented by the silence between
two Om Chants. Om is also called pranava that means, "that (symbol or sound) by which
the Lord is praised". The entire essence of the Vedas is enshrined in the word Om. It is
said that the Lord started creating the world after chanting Om and atha. Hence its sound
is considered to create an auspicious beginning for any task that we undertake. The Om
chant should have the resounding sound of a bell (aaooommm).
Om is written in different ways in different places. The most common form
symbolizes Lord Ganesha’s. The upper curve is the head; the lower large one, the
stomach; the side one, the trunk; and the semi-circular mark with the dot, the sweetmeat
ball (modaka) in Lord Ganesha's hand. Thus Om symbolizes everything - the means and
the goal of life, the world and the Truth behind it, the material and the Sacred, all form
and the Formless.

contd.13

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