The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, November 26, 2000

The significance of OM
By S.S. Bhatti

OM is a mantra for all persons, all places, all seasons. It is a single-syllable masterword compounded of three primary sounds: ‘a’ and ‘u’ (vowels) and ‘m’ (consonant), which are present in all the languages of the world. The two vowels are welded into a single one: ‘o’, and the word is written as shown above. When it is uttered aloud, so that the sound begins to issue from the base of the throat, it creates an acoustic vortex — a voice-winged whirlwind — soon after the pouted lips are closed at the drop of ‘m’. The vacuum created by the vortex sucks in energy from outside until it meets the inside energy to restore the original state of rest: active silence. When that subtle point of nomotion is touched, the subject experiences a thrill of self-renewal.

Having tried the exercise myself, independent of liturgical prescriptions, I am convinced that om is indeed the word of God incarnate, which operates as the active principle living in and determining the world. The word becomes a palpable evidence of God’s omnipresence when activated by deep personal love. With the letter ‘I’ added, the word becomes Wor-l-d, the most beautiful manifestation of divinity, eternally beautiful, infinitely bountiful.


The insights gained through my meditative exercises lead me to the conclusion that Om should be written with ‘M’ inserted in ‘O’ as shown below:-

My architectural explanation for this radical departure from the centuries-old tradition is that the primary sounds of ‘a’, ‘u’ and ‘m’, respectively, symbolise the three fundamental functions of God: Generation, Operation, Destruction. The Hindu Trinity has a deity for each of these in the stated sequence: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. All the primary sounds are forms of the same Primal Energy: ‘a’ is open-mouthed sound (Brahma), ‘u’ is modulated by cupped lips (Vishnu), and ‘m’ is entropy produced by closed lips (Shiva). When the Primary

Energy is self-contained, it is Being (God as transcendence) beyond time and space. But in a process of Becoming (God as imminence), the Primary Energy is multiform-multiple manifestation as unending flux in space, through time. Writing the mantra traditionally as om suggests Time as a sequence. This, in my view, is simplistic, because Time is both linear (past, present, future) and cyclical (seasons). The compounding of the two aspects produces a helix, which is a movement from eternity to eternity. But any manifestation of Primary Energy is an embodiment both of time and space. In other words, Being expanding as Becoming requires time-space continuum.

In the light of the foregoing exposition, om must represent time-space continuum, whose two components the mantra already has. Space is represented by ‘o’ — an infinitely mouldable passivity. Time is represented by ‘m’ — a tripartite, creative activity. The following diagram should explain it well:-

Legend for diagram

Past is accumulated unfoldment of events and evolution.

Future is incremental unfoldability of events and evolution yet to be.

Present is a point of active consciousness of the here-and-now.

The two strokes forming the letter ‘v’ drop to a single point which is the present. The first and last strokes, respectively, represent past and future. Past is memory; future is hope. Both are unreal for they are only intellectual constructs of time with varying quanta of psycho-emotional passivity. Pursuing either of them is a wild goose chase, because life as personalised in physical bodies does not have the facility of ‘rewind’ (past) and ‘fast-forward’ (future) experience. Even present is as elusive, being a point on the flux of chronometrical motion, as past and future. Before one can utter the word ‘present’ it has already flashed by. Remember a nanosecond that is one thousand-millionth of a second. Of course, this splitting of the second is limited only by the instruments we humans can invent. An Australian supercomputer can reportedly perform three trillion functions per second. Three trillion is a figure whose fastest oral count will take several thousand millions of years to complete (a trillion taken as a cube of a million)!

To my reckoning, therefore, all the three segments of time are equally elusive. What the world has so far believed (or been made to believe by prophets, poets, and philosophers) is a mirage of wishful thinking raised by the heat of desperateness on the sands of time. What we call present is a naive notion of a manageable segment of time: this moment, this hour, this day, etc. In other words, present can exist only when experienced in an act of creation sustained by human energy, initiative, enterprise, and art. When such a miracle happens, present becomes a creative continuity between past and future. Time so experienced and superimposed on space, i.e. the location of the human being as the active agent of life, creates time space continuum, whose principal aspects are eternity and infinity, encompassing Becoming as an ever-expanding progression of events and evolution.

It should be clear that putting ‘M’ into ‘O’ is the only logical way of making this wonderful mantra yield its operative matrix: the time-space continuum. By involution, this can become condensed into an inconceivable minute bindu, a self-sufficient point — the timeless, spaceless lodge of G-O-D: Generator, Operator, Destroyer.

If life is seen to exist in sub-microscopic organisms such as viruses, there is little wonder that the bindu of incredibly condensed energy is beyond humans’ capacity to imagine. Just the same, it is this elusive point which prophets, seers, sages, saints, and yogis have, through the ages, endeavoured to grasp but failed. Because to succeed in grasping the bindu is to become it, and slip into the abyss of Being. In this light, all the sacred literature of the world is the recorded description of their authors’ experience of God. But it is obvious that the description of a thing is not the thing itself.

To my experience, om is the best mantra to explode the myth of racial superiority and to demolish all forms of religious self-avowals. The ultimate reality is a living force observable in phenomena which is a somewhat messy conglomerate of all known pairs of opposites. If life is lived without condescension, rejection, approval, belittlement, or exaltation, a spurt of zest breaks in the human heart and renders it a receptacle worthy of receiving the benediction of grace. When that comes to pass, om becomes an infallible path-finder for the soul on its arduous journey back to the source: sachch khand (literally, the domain of truth) where God, the formless one, dwells.

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