Om in art and daily use

Doors with Aum sign, Varanasi

Doors with Aum symbols, Varanasi. By ampersandyslexia via Wikimedia Commons


Devanagari Aum. By Andriy Makukha and AnonMoos via Wikimedia Commons

Om or Aum is a supercharged word and a mystical sound. Much has been written about it and many have heard the word chanted or sung. When “Aum” is produced, it vibrates in particular chakras or energy centers in the body. “Its initial sound ‘aa,’ vibrates within the muladhara, the chakra at the base of the spine,” said Gurudeva and the Himaylan Academy. “The second sound of this mantra, “oo,” vibrates within the throat and chest chakras,” he continued. “The third sound, “mm,” vibrates within the cranial chakras, ajna and sahasrara,” the Third Eye and top of the head. Om or Aum is an ancient Sanskrit word, a primal mantra that is often chanted at the beginning of other mantras. Said three times, it is a blessing, along with a prelude. The meaning is abstract and tied to Eastern thought. “Aum is explained in the Upanishads as standing for the whole world and its parts, including past, present and future,” said Gurudeva. “It is from this primal
vibration that all manifestation issues forth.” While the word is rooted in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, Gurudeva clarifies that it may be used by anyone, regardless of their religion. Looking at the symbol above, you can see there are different visual elements. “Its three letters represent the three worlds and the powers of creation, preservation and destruction. In common usage in several Indian languages, aum means
‘yes, verily” or ‘hail,'” concludes Gurudeva.


Statue of Ganesha in the form of an aum. By Hinduism Today Magazine and Himalayan Academy Publications via Wikipedia

About five or six years ago, I created some tiles with Hindu symbols at Gillian McMillan’s  ceramic studio here in Port Moody. I lived across the street from her at the time. As it turned out, I gave them to some of my Hindu friends, but I still remember them well. The symbol for Om lends itself well to design. You can stretch it, condense it, fatten it, or constrain it. It is neat to work with, really. Some years back, Gurudeva and the Himalayan Academy put together a fantastic collection of Oms, each one a work of art. To see the color, black-and-white, and  poster galleries, click here. You won’t be disappointed! Some of my favorite Oms are ones that incorporate the form of Ganesha, the Hindu god who is half elephant, half human. To create an Aum-Ganesha combination, the Om is constrained enough to illustrate both god and symbol. Working with Oms in clay is a form of meditation itself: the acts of devising a design, determining materials, making decisions about relief, creating, firing, and glazing. Oms are powerful sacred art and when you’re working with a mystical symbol that long, it is bound to affect you…. My experiences and spiritual growth led me to create Oms, not just chant it. The chanting experience is very special, though, and incredible if it’s with a whole room of people. When you are chanting Om, it vibrates through your entire body, creating a hum, literally, along with meditative state. Of course, meditation has many health benefits, too, such as lowering blood pressure and relieving stress. To be certain, chanting Aum can hurt no one and help everyone. However, to experience the full benefit of chanting, as with the practice of yoga, one must go beyond North American confines and learn its true form, the one for which it was developed, spirituality, not just for stress relief or exercise. Believe me, yoga is not about  current trends or snazzy exercise clothing…. Back to Oms, however. The versatility of the design means the the Om symbol can be worked with many ways. In addition, different languages have their own symbolic representation of Om, as is the case with this example above, in Tamil, or Tibetan, to the left. Below, you can listen to a mantra being chanted, one which prefaced by Oms. While I prefer Oms that are longer, deeper, and more drawn out for full vibrational effect, this is still very nice. You’ll hear the powerful the Gayatri Mantra, with Ravi Shankar and George Harrison.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Ancient History, Articles and Interviews, How-to-do-it, Videos/Photos/Slides

Thank you for visiting Jane Street Clayworks!