Weekly Theme Week 5: Pranava

“Brahman is Om, this whole world is Om.”
— Taittiriya Upanishad


At the center of everything is pranava, the cosmic origin sound of the universe. This sound is better known as OM (pronounced ouuuunnngggggg) and the name pranava is a reference to the energetic quality inherent in OM itself. Om is a bija mantra, and one of the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. Within this sound is the entire cosmic reality or Brahman. It’s deeply mystical yet often misunderstood. Most mantras begin with OM because the resonance of Brahman and this universe is present in all things. The symbol is deeply sacred and should be treated in written form as a sacred object.


According to Patanjali, OM is Isvara , or God: “The sacred word designating this creative source is the sound OM, called Pranava. This sound is remembered with deep feeling for the meaning of what it represents. From that remembering comes the realization of the individual Self and the removal of obstacles.”


It is said that OM is the closest sound humans can make to replicate the hum of the universe. Anyone who has correctly and deeply chanted OM is familiar with the deep resonant quality of the sound. Without reducing to platitudes, it is a reminder that energy is what powers this universe: it holds stars in place relative to one another and keeps our cells in formation. A lack of balance of energy can be disorienting or even destructive. OM is a reminder that our goal as students of yoga is to seek, always, for balance and harmony within our internal experiences and to extend those beyond ourselves. You breath is OM. Your heart beat is OM. The river is OM. The silence in the dead of night is OM. Listen for it always, and in everything you do, consciously cultivate the experience of OM as you walk through your life.


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