The Word That Is God
Writing about Ishwara, the Lord, Patanjali says: “His spoken form [vachaka] is Om.” (Yoga Sutras 1:27) Swami Vivekananda translates it: “His manifesting word is Om.”
In Chapter One it is said, “To enable the spirits to enter into this process, God breathes forth His own Self as the Power from which is manifested all the realms of relative existence, from the most subtle worlds of nearly-perfected beings to the most objective worlds of atomic matter.” Om is both the Consciousness and the Power that is God. It is His manifesting Word because It makes God manifest to us and is Itself the Power by which God manifests His will–especially through His creation.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) The first “act” of God is the projection of Himself as Cosmic Vibration: Om. He “speaks” Himself and becomes all things. Then we enter Om Itself to come into manifestation. The bodies which we take on are all formed of variations on the fundamental energy or keynote that is Om. We come into relative existence through Om, we evolve within relative existence through Om, and we transcend relative existence and return to God’s perfect Being through Om. It is no wonder, then, that Om is also called the Pranava, the Word of Life, the Living Word.
“I am Om, the Word that is God.” (Bhagavad Gita 7:8) So declared the infinite Satchidananda through the lips of the avatar Krishna. Also: “I am Om.” (Bhagavad Gita 9:17) And: “Among words I am the sacred syllable Om.” (Bhagavad Gita 10:25) Long, long before that the Vedic Seers had declared: “In the beginning was Prajapati [God the Creator], with Him was the Word, and the Word was truly the Supreme Brahman.” (Prajapati vai idam agra asit. Tasya vak dvitiya asit. Vag vai paramam Brahman. Krishna Yajurveda, Kathaka Samhita, 12.5, 27.1; Krishna Yajurveda, Kathakapisthala Samhita, 42.1; Jaiminiya Brahmana II, Samaveda, 2244)
How can a Word be God? How can God be a Word?
All things–the entire cosmos itself–are formed of vibrating energy.
This cosmic energy possesses the dual nature of light and sound, both of which are essentially consciousness. The totality of that Consciousness is contained and summed up in the Divine Word, Om, known as the Shabda Brahman, the Sound God. Om is spoken, yet It is beyond speech in Its essence because It is the source of speech. Its spoken form is the final step or state in the objectification of the primal creative stream arising from the inmost depths of Being Itself, that “point of light within the mind of God” from which has issued all manifested being, all that IS. It is the original movement outward from the Omnipresent Center which took place when the Supreme Consciousness willed, “I am One; let Me become Many.” (Chandogya Upanishad 6:2:3; Taittiriya Upanishad 2:6)
The Word that is God
The Upanishads tells us that Om is Brahman:
“Om is Brahman, the Primeval Being. Through It one knows what is to be known.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.1.1)
“I will tell you briefly of that Goal which all the Vedas with one voice propound, which all the austerities speak of, and wishing for Which people practice discipline: It is Om.” (Katha Upanishad 1. 2.15-17)
“Om is the Supreme Brahman.” (Svetasvatara Upanishad 1:7)
“The real nature of Brahman is identical with the Pranava.” (Svetasvatara Upanishad 2:8)
“God is the Syllable Om.” (Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:17)
“Om is Brahman. Om is all this. [That is, Om is the Absolute and Om is the Relative that is the manifestation of the Absolute.] He who utters Om with the intention ‘I shall attain Brahman’ does verily attain Brahman.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.8.1)
The Word that is me!
They also tell us that Om is our own self, as well:
“The self [atman] is of the nature of the Syllable Om. Thus the Syllable Om is the very self. He who knows It thus enters the Self [Supreme Spirit] with his self [individual spirit].” (Mandukya Upanishad 1.8.12)
“Meditate on Om as the self.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.3)
Om the mantra
“In the Yoga tradition, Om is the supreme mantra, the most sacred of holy words”
Om is the original Word of Power, a mantra. A mantra is a series of verbal sounds whose effect lies not in an assigned intellectual meaning, but in an inherent sound-power that can produce a particular effect, physically or psychologically. The word mantra itself comes from the Sanskrit expression manat trayate which means “a transforming thought;” literally, “that which when thought carries across”–which produces an objective, perceptible change. It also literally means “a liberating thought.”
In the Yoga tradition, Om is the supreme mantra, the most sacred of holy words. Although it is first found in the spiritual writings of Hinduism, Om is used by Buddhists and Jains in their rituals and meditation. Tibetan Buddhism particularly emphasizes the power and value of Om. In Chinese Pure Land Buddhism, Amida Buddha is invoked by saying “Omitofo” [Amida Buddha]. One time when I was participating in a Name Recitation (Nienfo) session, during the dharma talk at the close the leader, the Venerable Manpu, explained that in the depths of meditation–and especially at the time of leaving the body–the practitioner passes from “Omitofo” to “Omito” [Amida] and thence to “Om” which is the essence of “Omitofo” and is the force that carries the cultivator into the consciousness that is the Pure Land (Sukhavati). Pure Land Buddhists also bless water by drawing an Om symbol in it.
Om has also passed over into the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem religions in the form of Amin (Amen), which is intoned at the end of all prayers, and in Christianity is even a title of Christ. (“These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” Revelation 3:14)
Om is also called: Pranava, Omkara, and Ekakshara. Pranava means both life-giver (infuser of prana) and controller of life force (prana). “That which causes all the pranas to prostrate themselves before and get merged in the Paramatman, so as to attain identity with Him, is for that reason known as the Pranava.” (Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:10a) Omkara means “the Om” or even “the Om thing” just as ahankara means “I-ness” or “the principle of ‘I.’” Ekakshara means “one letter,” but its usual meaning is “one syllable” or “the one-syllable Word.” It also means “the Only Imperishable,” indicating its identity with God, and always refers to Om.
This sacred syllable is spelled out either as Om or Aum, but It is usually written in the ideogrammatic forms: