OM is one of the most vital Hindu concepts. Ancient and mysterious, OM is said to be a sacred sound. It is the vibrational hum of the entire universe, the first sound from which all other sounds have come. As a symbol, OM represents ultimate unity. It is a sign of high awareness, creation, healing, sacred connection, and enlightenment.
Because it is so integral to the Hindu and Buddhist faiths, the OM can be found within many of their symbols. Today, we will examine these different OM symbols. We’ll dive deep into the secrets of this vital sound, discovering all the things it can represent in different contexts.
14 Powerful OM Symbols and their Meanings
1. Tri-Shakti (Three Powers)
The Trishakti is an emblem of protection featuring a Trishul, a Swastika, and an OM. It is common to hang the Trishakti outside a home or business, as these three symbols offer three distinct blessings for the building and its inhabitants. The Trishul is a spiritual weapon guarding the household against evil. The Swastika is a warm, welcoming sign for guests.
The OM is perhaps the most essential element of the Trishakti, helping to stabilize the energetic flow within the household. It draws beneficial energies and good luck to the home and dispels negative energies. The Trishakti brings peace, tranquility, and prosperity to the dwelling and is good luck for everyone inside.
2. OM with Unalome
The Unalome symbol is a Buddhist depiction said to be modeled after Buddha’s urna. An urna is a sacred dot or spiral drawn onto a practitioner’s forehead, representing the third eye and divine vision. The Buddha’s urna is considered the most sacred and potent of all. It is also one of the 32 major marks of Buddha.
The Unalome symbol represents the spiritual journey to enlightenment. We utilize our third eye to see the path ahead more clearly and rely on the OM to ground us and spur us toward Nirvana. The OM with Unalome is an anchor we can cling to in an uncertain world, giving confidence and guidance when we falter or get lost.
3. Sahasrara Yantra (Crown Chakra Yantra)
The Sahasrara Yantra is the Yantra of the Sahasrara or Crown Chakra. It is a sacred illustration depicting important concepts surrounding this Chakra. The Crown is our highest Chakra, and its Yantra is a thousand-petaled lotus with an OM symbol at the center. The Sahasrara Yantra rules the brain, spine, and nervous system within our physical body.
Spiritually, it aligns with the OM to indicate vast and divine knowledge. When one attains this knowledge, one reaches enlightenment. The OM is not only featured in the Sahasrara Yantra, but it is also the Beej Mantra of the Sahasrara—the sacred mantra or chant representing the Crown Chakra.
4. OM Shanti
OM Shanti is a spoken greeting and blessing that is common among Hindus and Buddhists. The word Shanti translates directly from Sanskrit as “peace.” While OM has no direct translation, it can be taken to connotate divine energy. To say “OM Shanti” is to invoke peace upon the person and the upcoming interaction. It is more common to repeat Shanti three times, saying, “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.”
The repetition calls for peace upon all three stages of a person’s consciousness: waking, dreaming, and sleeping. It also blesses the person in the three vital elements of mind, body, and spirit. OM Shanti can be used to bless an entire congregation during a religious gathering, or even as a personal mantra to repeat during singular meditation.
5. OM Mudra
A Mudra is a gesture Hindus make during meditation, yoga, and prayer. Mudras are sacred hand gestures channeling certain energies, and the highest of all is the OM Mudra. This Mudra is made by placing the thumb and index finger together, forming a circle. You’ll often see statues holding this Mudra, and it’s common for people to form the OM Mudra while sitting in the Padmasana yoga pose.
The thumb symbolizes a gateway or connection with the divine universe, while the forefinger symbolizes ego. By connecting the two, you are surrendering your ego and connecting yourself with a higher universal power. Chanting OM while making the OM Mudra is a powerful way to bring peace and harmony into your life. It can even affect others sitting nearby, sending out positive vibrations all around.
6. OM Mandala
A Mandala is a sacred circle depicting the universe. It is often used in art to decorate holy places and homes. Mandalas incorporate sacred geometry and various symbols to draw attention and consciousness towards certain concepts. The OM Mandala expands the mind, organizes thoughts, and calls for psychic order.
It is used to connect ourselves with our own mind and with the sacred vibrations of the universe. The OM Mandala can be as simple as an OM symbol inside a circle, but you’ll most often see it drawn artistically with other components. For example, the lotus flower makes frequent appearances in OM Mandalas. The flower is a symbol of beauty, purity, and divine connection, so having it inside the Mandala can help open us up to spiritual connection.
7. OM Tat Sat
OM Tat Sat is a sacred mantra found in the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu religious text. Here, “OM” indicates the ultimate reality, or Brahman. “Tat” is the mantra of the god Shiva, while “Sat” is the mantra of Vishnu. Sat can also be taken to mean the divine truth, tying in with the theme of true reality.
When chanted together, OM Tat Sat means “all that is.” When we say it, we remind ourselves of the intangible reality lying outside the realm of our senses. We are grounded in the absolute truth of the universe, which is higher than our physical form and the things we can touch and see. Chanting OM Tat Sat is both awakening and deeply comforting, a reflection that Nirvana is possible and attainable for all.
8. OM Mani Padme Hum
OM Mani Padme Hum is a sacred Mantra in Buddhism that is often chanted during meditation and prayer rituals. This mantra contains six powerful syllables namely OM, Ma, Ni, Pad, Me and Hum. Each syllable carries a powerful vibrational energy with it which upon chanting can help clear many different forms of negative or low vibrational states.
The mantra is often represented in the form of a syllabic mandala, which contains six petals representing the six syllables (with OM at the top) and an additional syllable at the center – Hri (hrīḥ), which means conscientiousness. While chanting, the hrīḥ sound is not always vocalized aloud and instead chanting in the mind so as to internalize its essence.
It is believed that chanting the mantra or simply looking at or meditating on the mandala can invoke powerful blessings from the Buddha and Guanyin, the goddess of compassion. It is said to bring positive energy, purify negative karma, and increase one’s spiritual well-being.
9. OM + Trishul + Damru
Just as OM appears on the Trishakti, it also shows up frequently on the Trishul + Damru symbol. As we know, the Trishul is Lord Shiva’s sacred trident representing the power of three. It is an emblem of his divine spiritual protection and ability to create, preserve, and destroy.
The Damru is the sacred drum. Hindus often use a Damru in prayer and during religious ceremonies to invoke the power of Shiva. The Damru makes the sound of OM and was the mechanism through which all languages were formed. The OM + Trishul + Damru is a way to create the sacred sound of OM, calling upon Lord Shiva’s help and protection.
10. OM Namah Shivaya
Translated literally as “I bow to Shiva”, OM Namah Shivaya is one of the most important chants for Hindus. It is a statement of complete surrender to the divine and is the holiest and highest mantra in Shaivism, the worship of Shiva.
OM is a fitting first syllable for this special mantra. It is the holiest and most divine sound, calling forth ancient creative energy to power the chant. The five syllables of “Namah Shivaya” fuel the rest of the chant with the five energies of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. OM Namah Shivaya is a declaration of faith and a gesture of dependence on the universe’s natural order.
11. Ik Onkar
Ik Onkar is a sacred symbol and phrase of the Sikh religion. “Ik” means one, and “Onkar” means divine. Together, Ik Onkar means “One God”. Unlike Hindus, Sikhs are monotheistic—that is, they believe in only one God. Though this god can have many interpretations, divine power all flows from the same source or being.
Onkar is a deeply meaningful word. It contains a strong spiritual vibration comparable to OM in that sense. Ik Onkar is the opening line in the first verse of the Sikh Holy text, the Guru Granth Sahib. It initiates the Mul Mantra, the first line of the scripture, and is the most vital tenet of the Sikh belief system.
12. Maha Sudarshan Yantra
Yantras are sacred diagrams consisting of geometric shapes and symbols, revered for their potent mystical properties that can be harnessed through meditation, prayer, and ritual practices. They hold a significant place in the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist traditions There are many types of Yantras each associated with a specific deity, mantra, or energy. Almost all Yantras have an OM symbol at the center.
For instance, the Maha Sudarshan yantra (as shown in the image above) is associated with Lord Vishnu’s divine weapon, the Discus, which is said to repel all forms of evil energies. This Yantra has an OM symbol at the center and is believed to keep all negativity away when place at the Northeast, North or East corner of your home.
Another powerful Yantra is the Gayatri Yantra which is a physical representation of the Gayatri Mantra, a meditation aid. It is a powerful symbol of knowledge, wisdom, and triumph. The Gayatri Yantra represents learning and self-transcendence. It is used widely for good luck and is said to attract positive energy, especially for students and those working in competitive fields.
The Gayatri Yantra has an OM at its center. It is through the sound of OM that the Gayatri Mantra derives its power, so it’s only natural for the corresponding Yantra to feature an OM symbol as well. The Yantra also features sacred geometric patterns representing the four directions, and has a circle indicating the endless life cycle.
Some other popular yantras include the Sri Yantra, Shakti Yantra, Ganesha Yantra, Kuber Yantra, Kanakdhara Yantra, and Saraswati yantra.
13. Sanskrit Breathe Symbol
In Sanskrit, OM is the symbol for breath or breathing. OM is the seed of life, and the air we intake gives us life and allows us to feast on this ancient seed. In Vedic practices, breath is known as “Prana.” Prana is divine in nature, an energy that flows in and out of us to sustain life.
When we breathe with purpose and intention, this breathwork is known as Pranayama. Pranayama is essential during meditation, prayer, and yoga. There are many different kinds, but they all help us connect—both with ourselves and with the universe on a higher level. Chanting OM helps us perform Pranayama by allowing us to express our energy and draw it back in again with intention. Since it is so connective, OM enforces the process of breathwork and helps us achieve divine unity.
14. Lord Ganesha
Lord Ganesha is one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon. He is not only the maker of the sacred OM sound, he is a symbol for OM himself. People commonly use the term oṃkara-svarupa to refer to Ganesha, meaning “OM is his form.” When Ganesha is drawn, his outline is shaped like an OM symbol. He is also known as the Omkara or OM-maker.
As a physical manifestation of the primordial OM sound, Ganesha is so vital that many Hindu practitioners will pray to him first before praying to other gods. Some believe that other gods cannot hear prayers unless the one praying says OM first. Since OM in and of itself is a prayer to Ganesha, it can be said that Ganesha is always the first to receive the prayer.
What does OM Symbolize?
OM is an extremely powerful symbol that represents creation, healing, protection, consciousness, source energy, cycle of life, peace, and oneness. Let’s take a deeper look into the various symbolisms associated with OM.
1. Creation & life energy
In Hindu and Vedic cultures, OM is considered the divine sound (or vibration) of creation. It is also an eternal sound that is present as the base vibrational energy in everything that exists.
The Vedas (Hindu sacred texts) also present the concept of ‘Nada Brahma’ which means, ‘Sound is God’ or ‘The Universe is Sound’. It is believed that everything in the universe, vibrates at a certain frequency and these vibrations are part of the universal sound – OM. It also means that the whole universe was created from the energy of sound. Every sound gives rise to a form, similarly, every form generates a sound based on its vibrational frequency.
OM also consists of three different sounds namely – Ahh, Ouu, and Mmm, followed by silence. The starting sound, ‘Ahh’, represents the spirit world and the ending sound, ‘Mmm’, represents matter or the material world. Hence, OM is said to represent both the manifested and the unmanifested cosmic reality.
Also, when you begin to chant OM, you will first feel the vibration in your navel (or abdomen) area as you utter the, ‘Aaa’, sound. This represents creation. The ‘Ouu’, sound that follows is felt in upper chest area and represents preservation or sustenance of the manifested reality. Finally, the ‘Mmm’, sound is felt in the head area and also has the lowest pitch of the three which represents destruction of the old to form the new. The chant ends with a silence which represents merging with pure consciousness and the fact that everything is one.
Thus OM is also called Pranava in Sanskrit which translates to life force or life energy.
2. Primordial sound/vibration
OM is the primary sound from which all other sounds (vibrations) are created. As discussed earlier, OM is essentially the product of three syllables – Ahh, Ouu, and Mmm. When these three syllables are chanted together, OM is formed. It is through these three syllables that all other sounds are formed.
In fact, if you look at it, there are only three sounds that you can produce using your throat (without using your tongue). These sounds are the three syllables that form OM. In order to create the first sound, ‘Ahh’, you need to keep your mouth fully open. For, ‘Ouuu’, the mouth needs to be partially closed and for ‘Mmm’, your mouth needs to be fully closed.
Apart from these three sounds, all other sounds can only be created by the use of the tongue. The tongue simply mixes these three sounds in many ways to produce the other sounds. This is very similar to how all colors are created from the three primary colors – Red, Blue and Yellow. Thus, OM is the root sound or the primary sound that is present in everything that exists. This is why OM is considered the universal mantra and chanting this mantra helps you connect with the very essence of reality.
3. Four states of consciousness
OM represents the four states of reality or consciousness which is also depicted in its visible form in Sanskrit. As shown in the above image, the lower curve (which is larger of the two) represents the conscious waking state of a human being. In this state, the mind is governed by the ego and forms belief systems based the input it receives from the outer world via the senses.
The smaller upper curve represents the dreamless sleep state when you are detached from the world of forms. The middle curve represents the dream state when consciousness turns inwards and you gain access to your subconscious mind. The imaginary dream world that you enter is created based on the beliefs and ideas stored in your subconscious mind.
The Dot or Bindu represents enlightenment and freedom from the egoic state of existence. This can also be looked at as the fourth state of consciousness. In this state (which is known as Turiya) you become conscious of your egoic mind and hence become liberated from it. In this state, the mind does not control you, rather, you gain control over your mind. This state is experienced during the silence that follows after chanting OM. When the mind becomes silent it merges with the state of pure consciousness.
Finally, the crescent represents the world of maya or illusion that separates the material world from the spiritual world. It keeps you bound to the egoic existence and from reaching the state of enlightenment. Thus by chanting OM, you can travel through all these states of consciousness and experience the egoless state, even if it is only for a few moments.
4. Holy trinity & cycle of life
As we saw earlier, OM is made of three distinct sounds. These three sounds represent the holy trinity of Hindu gods – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma is the god of creation, Vishnu is the god of sustenance and Shiva represents destruction of the old so as to make space for the new. Shiva also represents the destruction of negativity and negative forces to balance the positive. Thus OM represents the cyclic nature of existence that goes on forever without an end or a beginning.
5. Healing & Protection
OM is the sound of healing and protection. When you chant OM, the resulting vibrations are felt throughout your body that have the power to heal and activate all your energy centers (also known as chakras).
Starting with, ‘Aaa’, the vibrations are felt in and around your belly area that helps heal and activate your root, sacral, and solar plexus chakra. The second syllable, ‘Ouu’, creates vibrations in and around the lower and upper chest areas healing the heart chakra. The third sound, ‘Mmm’, products vibrations around the neck and head areas healing the throat and third eye chakras.
Finally, the silence that follows after a single chant of OM (known as Turiya) creates a state of No-Mind when your entire being becomes one with pure consciousness. This state of deep calm and relaxation is known in Sanskrit as ‘Sat Chit Ananda’ or the state of eternal bliss. This state heals and activates the crown chakra.
6. Peace & oneness
As we saw earlier, the sound of silence that exists between two recitations of OM is known as Turiya which is the state of ultimate bliss and pure consciousness. In this state, for a few moments, the mind detaches from its egoic identify and merges with the source or pure consciousness. Thus, all divisions that exist within the eogic mind are gone and there is the experience of peace and oneness or ultimate bliss.
This state is also known as Sat Chit Ananda. In this state, you exist only as awareness and are at peace with yourself and everything else that exists. Thus OM represents peace, bliss, and oneness. The sound that resonates within your body unifies you with all other sounds in the universe.
7. Auspiciousness & good fortune
In the Hindu religion (and others like Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism), “OM” is considered the most auspicious symbol and is frequently chanted during religious rituals like pujas, prayers, and even during wedding ceremonies. Similarly, many important mantras and prayers begin with the OM sound.
OM is also present as the central symbol in pretty much all Yantras like the Sri Yantra, Shakti Yantra, etc. as we already saw in this article. It is believed that the chanting of OM or even having the symbol around promotes peace, love, positivity, and prosperity, and helps dispel everything that is negative.
As you can see, OM is an incredibly powerful symbol. It embodies the tenets of many vital Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, including universal energy and divine connection. Chanting OM is a way to engage in spiritual practice, and visualizing the OM symbol brings clarity and tranquility. OM elevates the senses while calming the nerves, and this physiological effect can help improve all aspects of existence. If you want to surround yourself with good vibrations and bring peace into your life, consider hanging some OM symbols around your home today.