Aum Versus Om, Round 2

Little word with a big sound.How can something so simple become so contentious?

A while ago, I published a post about saying the opening sound for a yoga class in different ways.  Some people are very passionate about how they say it.  Great!

Then the other day I visited this fantastic exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  They have a special going on with treasures from Japan, highlighting the shinto aspects of their religion.  Very interesting stuff.

But what touched me most with respect to yoga was what they said about the entry statues to a temple.  In many cases there would be a dog and a lion.  You’ve seen the pair.  Very popular.  People even put them in front of their houses nowadays.

Typically they would be poised with one mouth open, one mouth closed.

Here’s the cool part.  They symbolize infinity.  One represents the beginning.

The other one represents the end.

Both of them are speaking.  They are uttering a single syllable.

The open mouth represents the syllable “ah.”

The closed mouth represents the syllable “um.”

Guess what happens when you put them together?

AaaaaUuuuuuMmmmmm…..

 

PS: I’m not making this up, this is from the CMA, a world-famous institution, especially for its Japanese collection.  Many of the items in this current exhibit are from Japan, and are designated as important cultural objects.  That would be like sending the US Constitution out for a world tour.

Oh, and this other excerpt is always worth checking out, from Bill Moyers site 
(go to the bottom of that page)

Aum Versus Om

Little word with a big sound.Is it possible to turn my yoga class into a battlefield?

Sure!  Why not?  After all, as a writer, we have absolute power.  Don’t let it go to your head, however.

So, what’s the story?

The story is one of Aum.  Or Om, depending on who you listen to.

I’ve been doing this long enough to notice that some people like saying “Oh-mmm” as if it were two sounds.

Then there’s the peeps who enjoy saying it as if it were more sounds.  At least three.  Maybe five.  Maybe ten.

According to the guy at the bottom of this post, you should try and say every possible vowel sound.  Sweet.

According to many of the masters, including BKS, you should hear three.

Then again, according to my teacher, it’s alright to stick the “AU” together into an “O” sound.

Who’s right?

Everyone is “right” in the sense that each person is doing it the way THEY want.  If there was some great social cause in which the sound of AUM made a difference, then we could have a more logical discussion.  Since there are no external, quantifiable objectives, then this becomes a discussion about BEHAVIOR.

Part of the issue is that people like changing things, sometimes simply to have fun or be different.  This lends itself to something linguists call linquistic drift.

Let’s check out history.  Let’s look at videos of the old people saying it.  Let’s visit all around the world and compare.  Collect lots of data, find out that it is said many different ways.  And then what?

Look at the impact of what it DOES.  Are there bona fide physical implications about this “word” and how it’s pronounced?  (Disclaimer, there are, but that’s another column.)

How does it impact the preferences of the person arguing the issue?  Fact is, if it’s important to them, no matter what the reason (for now) then that’s a factor.

Finally, how does this impact every possible combination of people?  Starting with that one person, to that person’s partner and family, to that person’s neighborhood, to their country, and to humanity as a whole.  How does this behavior impact each of those different configurations of “peopleness?”

There you have it.  A way to answer OM versus AUM.  Personally I’m going for what this guy says below.  But getting the “right” answer to the question?  It’s the same process for AUM as it would be for capital punishment, or trading off democracy for autocracy.

That’s what science is all about.  Consistency of methods in understanding the universe around us.  And that concludes today’s practice.

AaaaaUuuuuuMmmmmm…..

 

 

This excerpt from Bill Moyers site  (bottom of that page)
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, that’s what people are doing all over the place. That’s what people are doing all over the place, dying for metaphors. And when you really realize the sound Aum, the sound of the mystery of the Word everywhere, then you don’t have to go out and die for anything, because it’s right there all around, and just sit still and see it and experience it and know it.
BILL MOYERS: Explain “Aum.” That’s the first time you’ve used that.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, “Aum” is a word that, what can I say, represents to our ears that sound of the energy of the universe, of which all things are manifestations. And “Aum”, it’s a wonderful word, it’s written A-U-M. You start in the back of the mouth, Ah, and then, Ooh, you fill the mouth, and M-m-m, closes it, the mouth. And when you have pronounced this properly, all vowel sounds are in that pronunciation: “Aum”. And consonants are regarded simply as interruptions of “Aum”, and all words are thus fragments of “Aum”, as all images are fragments of the form of forms, of which all things are just reflections. And so “Aum” is a symbol, a symbolic sound, that puts you in touch with that throbbing being that is the universe.
And when you hear some of these Tibetan monks that are over here from the Rgyud Stod monastery outside of Lhasa, when they sing the “Aum,” you know what it means, all right That’s the zoom of being in the world. And to be in touch with that and to get the sense of that, that is the peak experience of all. “Ab-ooh-mm.” The birth, the coming into being, and the solution to the cycle of that. And it’s just called the four-element syllable. What is the fourth element? “Ah-ooh-mm,” and the silence out of which it comes, back into which it goes, and which underlies it.
Now, my life is the “Ah-ooh-mm,” but there is a silence that underlies it, and that is what we would call the immortal. This is the mortal, and that’s the immortal, and there wouldn’t be this if there weren’t that.
BILL MOYERS: The meaning is essentially wordless.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Yes. Well, words are always qualifications and limitations.
BILL MOYERS: And yet, Joe, all we puny human beings are left with is this miserable language, beautiful though it is, that falls short of trying to describe…
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That’s right And that’s why it’s a peak experience to break past all that every now and then, to realize “oh, ah,” I think so.