Meaning of OM

To show everything is not separated from Īśvara, because he is the essence of everything, verse 8-12 are taught.


raso'hamapsu kauteya prabhāsmi śaśisūryayoḥ |

praṇavaḥ sarvavedeṣu śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṃ nṛṣu ||7.8|| Kaunteya (Arjuna)! I am the taste (basic taste) in the water; I am the light in the moon and the sun; I am om in all the Vedas: I am sound in space; and I am the strength in human beings.


I am the taste in the water, I am the essential of water which you experience in the form of taste. I am the subtle element of this gross element which you experience, the cause for water to be water. In the same way I am the sound in space, and all other three elements are talked about in coming verses. I am the light in the moon and the sun, there is no sun without light and without sun's light the moon also would not be visible.


I am om (pranava) in all the Vedas. Topics covered by Vedas are very broad, from karma, dharma, upasana, to vedānta. But all of these can be reduced to one thing, om. In Katha-upanisad said that "all Vedas talk about that goal, to know which, people take to a life of study and discipline, that I will tell you briefly. That is om". In sanskit language, om means one who protects (indicates aparā-prakrti) and one who sustains (indicates para-prakrti).

Thus, om is a name for Īśvara who is everything. Being an oral tradition, Vedas explain om as made up of three parts. These are phonetic parts of that om sound and each of those parts are loaded with certain meaning. In om, there is ‘A’ there is ‘U’, and there is ‘M’. ‘A’ is a vowel, ‘U’ is a vowel and ‘M’ is the consonant. Thus, this ‘A’ plus ‘U’ plus ‘M’ together becomes ‘om”. ‘A’ plus ‘U' becomes ‘O’, a diphthong. Then 'O' plus 'm' becomes 'om'.


In any language, whenever we want to utter a word, we need to open our mouth. When the mouth is open, and effort of making sound is there, it will produce 'A'. Therefore 'A' represents the creation. And when we have our mouth closed, and effort of making sound is there, it will produce 'M'. It represents resolution. And in between the 'U' represents sustenance. Who is the only creator, sustainer and resolution point of the world? He is Īśvara whose represent by om. Therefore whenever we are starting and ending something important like study and prayer, we invoke the grace of Īśvara by uttering om.


puṇyo gandhaḥ pṛthivyāṃ ca tejaścāsmi vibhāvasau |

jīvanaṃ sarvabhūteṣu tapaścāsmi tapasviṣu||7.9||

I am the sweet fragrance in the earth and the brilliance and heat in the fire. I am the very life in all beings and the ascetic disciplines and their results in the ascetics.


So far Lord Krsna has been speaking of the essence of things. Now he describes Īśvara as the support in the form of qualities. I am the austerity in the ascetics, which is the quality that makes one called ascetic. And I am also the results of the austerity, because any accomplishment of the austerity is nothing but manifestation of what is already possible in an unmanifest form, because we can only tap what is available as a potential; we are not able to create anything that is not there.


bījaṃ māṃ sarvabhūtānāṃ viddhi pārtha sanātanam |

buddhirbuddhimatāmasmi tejastejasvināmaham ||7.10||

Pārtha (Arjuna)! Understand me as the one who is the eternal seed in all beings. I'm the intellect of those that have the capacity to discriminate; I am the brilliance in the brilliant.


I'm the intellect of those that have the capacity to discriminate, this is what we call jñāna-śakti (power to know) of māyā. I am the one who is the eternal seed in all beings, Īśvara is the ultimate cause which unchanging nature inherent in every being in the creation.


balaṃ balavatāṃ cāhaṃ kāmarāgavivarjitam |

dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo'smi bharatarṣabha ||7.11||

Arjuna, the foremost in the clan of Bharata! In the strong I am the strength that is free from desire and attachment. In all beings, I am the desire that is not opposed to dharma.


I am the desire in all being, this is the icchā-śakti (power to desire) of māyā, and this desire is devoid of attachment. Here also said that Īśvara is the strength which is not apposed to dharma.


ye caiva sātvikā bhāvā rājasāstāmasāśca ye |

matta eveti tān viddhi na tvaham teṣu te mayi ||7.12||

Those beings and things which are indeed born of sattva, rajas, and tamas, may you know them to be born from me alone. They are in me but I am not in them.


Everything in the creation is born of mixture of these three guna: sattva, rajas, and tamas. One of them is dominant in the certain time and less dominant in another time. For example when our mind is sattva dominant, it expresses emotion such as happiness and tranquility. When it is rajas dominant, it expresses ambition, anger, restlessness etc. And when tamas dominant, mind becomes dull, delusional, depressed etc.

These three guna also can be expressions of certain quality of people like, sattva predominant people will keep their activities in keeping with dharma and benefit for others, rajas predominant people do activities mostly for the benefit of their own, and tamas predominant people do activities which bring disadvantages for others and themselves. But they are not to be used for judging people or ourselves, because these guna are kept changing, and we have free will to make them change as well. Therefore guna are only used as inference of this changing nature of aparā-prakrti.


These guna are born of me, being the product they are having changes as their characteristic, but the higher nature of mine is inherent in them. We see the changes in them but their true nature is unchanged - they are in me. Just like we have different roles in the family and society, and they keep changing at any moment. These roles are in me the basic person who is never change. And the unchanged nature of mine is not affected by them - I am not in them.

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