53) The Grandeur of OM – 12 aphorisms of Mānḍūkya Upaniṣad

Hi Friends, in today’s article, I would like to explore the grandeur of what is known as OM. The authority on this subject of OM is attributed to Mānḍūkya Upaniṣad (from here on I will abbreviate it as M.U.). We all know “OM” as a mantra, as a seed principle, as a meditative sound, etc. We all know from one source or other that OM = A+U+M. On whose authority did we accept these epithets? It is M.U., that first established the triple aspect of OM. Not only that, it has much LIGHT to offer for a truth seeker. So, today I take this M.U., as the torch under which we are going to study the subject of OM.


In previous article 52) Introduction to Taittirīya Upaniṣad , we have seen what an upanishad is. I don’t think I need not repeat it again. Given the esoteric significance of an Upanishad understood by you, know that the M.U., takes its place as one of the prominent upanishads of Vēdic lore. Also interestingly, it is the shortest of all, with only 12 aphorisms in total! In 12 simple mantrās, the upanishad establishes the foundations of OM in as deeply as necessary and possible. Let us look in brief.

The number key:

As always, the number associated with the subject is of primary importance. This upanishad has 12 mantrās in total or 12 aphorisms. The number 12 is symbolic to an year-cycle with 12 months. “Yajñō vai samvatsaraha” says the vēda => The year cycle is verily the Yajña. Therefore, the 12-number is related to the Yajña-Puruṣa or the in-dweller of Yajña (by whom the 12 month cycle is ever rotating). So, the 12 aphorisms in this M.U., should externalize the nature of that in-dweller. Later you will see that that in-dweller is verily OM.

The peace invocation:

Every upanishad has a peace invocation before and after the main text. This is to stabilize the wavy mind into ripple-less lake of existence which then clearly shows us the gems and pearls of wisdom inside us. In one of my earlier articles, namely 22) Peace Invocations, we have seen the basics related to this aspect of vēdic culture. M.U., also has a peace invocation starting with “Om Bhadram Karṇēbhi ….“. Let us just take a rough import of it for completeness:

Om! Oh dēvās, may we hear only what is auspicious. Oh lord of sacrifices, may we see only that which is auspicious. May we enter into long stable life forms with help of gods. Oh Indra, the glorious, and Pūshā, the wisest, Tarshkya arishtanēmi and Bṛhaspati, may you all bestow unto us the well being 

Thus, we pray to the subtle and inner faculties of our human existence (Indra, Pūsha, etc.) as well as to the cosmic faculties like Dēvās for a seamless and uninterrupted evolution into the light of wisdom pearls of inner OM!

Essence- 12 Aphorisms:

PS: In the following, I give summary and necessary links as the main numbered text and the characters of OM as extolled by M.U., in the bullets.


The Universality of OM: This first step lays a foundation as to how to approach OM. If anyone asks us what is OM, the following will form part of the answer. It is only in these lines, when one meditate OM, can they “realize” the essence of OM.

  • OM is imperishable – Akṣaraṃ. 
  • OM is every-thing.
  • OM is the whole cosmos.
  • OM can be characterized by time as past, present and future.
  • OM is still beyond time.


Now, the concept of “BRAHMAN” and “Ātman (self)”is brought into picture. Brahma is different from Brahman. An ending consonant (here, “n” ), by virtue of it beiung static, implies the primary stationary SOURCE or neuter deity (the parā aspect) while an ending vowel, by virtue of its freedom to flow (hence dynamic) implies an expressive deity. Expression exists only via the source. That is why, BRAHMAN stands as base as well as medium for the expressive/creative BRAHMA. 

  • All that you perceive is Brahman.
  • Being Brahman, all this is eternal.
  • This self (being part of Brahman) must then also be Eternal
  • There are four-paths to this self or the self is four-fold. (four paths would imply that the descent of BRAHMAN into the ĀTMA (self) occurs in four stages. Self being four fold implies the simultaneous existence of self as 4-fold matrix (like many threads weaved into a unit cloth))


The characters of this 4-fold self or 4-rays of descent of self are being described hereon. IT seems that the first fold has the following characters:

  • The first fold is called Vaiśvānara.
  • It is the wakeful consciousness.
  • It is awakened outward.
  • It has 7 limbs (They are the 7 planes in which the in-dweller dynamically exists).
    • Bhūlōka           (Plane of Matter)
    • Bhūvarlōka     (Etheric Plane)
    • Suvarlōka        (Plane of Consciousness)
    • Maharlōka      (Plane of Light)
    • Janalōka          (Plane of Generation)
    • Tapōlōka         (Plane of Heat-Light-Electricity-Magnetism)
    • Satyalōka        (Plane of Truth of Existence of all the six lower planes)
    • (English translation of the planes taken from Master.E.K’s book on Suparna Suktam)
  • It has 19 doors. (19 = 1+9 = 10)

Vaiśvānara is a name of AGNI in vēdic lore which symbolizes the “self”. The same can be seen in “Kaṭhōpaniṣad” as the name given to Nachikēta who is symbolic in-dweller of human existence. Thus, Vaiśvānara is the first ray that emanates from the BRAHMAN or universal self, as the individual self. It seems that it’s consciousness is outward i.e., it perceives the “dual existence” (being individualized ego, it feels it is different from the ONE).

The 7 limbs suggest the 7 lōkās or p[lanes of existence: Bhū, Bhuvaha, Suvaha, etc. They are called limbs because these planes of existence act as dynamic medium for the in-dweller’s existence. The 19 doors are the 1+9 holes that human body has. Note that the tenth hole exists in woman for giving birth to another self and thus, 19 doors implies the 9 doors for male and 10 doors for female combined = 9 + 10 = 19. 


The second fold of SELF is being spoken here. It seems that:

  • The second fold of self is all brilliant – “Taijasa”.
  • The consciousness of this mode of self is always DREAMY.
  • The gaze is inward.
  • It has 7 limbs.
  • It has 19 doors.
  • It enjoys subtle objects.

The second mode is the plane of MIND. Mind, being attached to the physical body  (fold-1) has same number of doors and limbs i.e., these both folds are inter-twined. It seems that this mind enjoys subtle objects i.e., when you taste sugar, tongue of fold-1 touches sugar while the mind of fold-2 enjoys the “sweetness” of sugar. Where does the sweetness exists? In sugar? No, in our mind. Therefore, its gaze is inward! Can you quantify minds’ reactions? Its hazy. Can you say how much you love your parent? We can’t. Thus, it is in the mode of “DREAM or HAZY-ness”


The third fold is being explained here. It seems that:

  • The third fold is PRAJÑA.
  • PRAJÑA is characterized by a state called “SUṢUPTI” or deep sleep having no dreams or desires.
  • The joy and delight of existing in this mode of self occurs by virtue of being itself as oneness.
  • The door for this is the consciousness.

Thus, the third fold of the self is nothing but that which primarily expresses through consciousness i.e. itself. That is why there is no secondary element needed for its delight of existence.


This is self-explanatory. The “this” is pointed to 3rd fold. So, aphorism-6 is like 5b.

  • This is the lord of all beings
  • This is the all knowing and all wise lord
  • This is the permeating in-dweller of all
  • This is the birth womb of creation and destruction of manifestations


Now comes the fourth and final fold of the self. 

  • Neither inward turned PRAJÑA nor outward turned PRAJÑA nor both put together 
  • Not the coagulated and grouped consciousness
  • Not the known or un-known
  • almost many such negations of qualities……..
  • are not the 4th fold.
  • The ONE from which all teh above arise, all teh above persist and all teh above merge is the 4th fold of SELF which is the TRUE SELF ever existent (BRAHMAN)

This aphorism forms the CRUX of “Brahma Vidya” and all wisdom branches. Because BRAHMAN, true omnipresent is quality-less, only negations and UNITIES are the words that occur in above bullet points. It seems that this 4th fold – TRUE SELF or ĀTMAN or BRAHMAN is the primary and permeating fold through all four folds of self. Thus, manifested are 3 and manifested is 1 part of totality of SELF.

Coming of the theory of OM


This is where the link between OM and the SELF starts. This is the aphorism where the epithet of OM=A+U+M is actually established.

  • What ever we said about the 4th or the ALL-Permeating part of SELF, that self is verily the indestructible OM.
  • This OM has three syllables (modes):
    • “A” – uttered as in “Umberilla”
    • “U” – uttered as in “Uma”
    • “M” – uttered as in “Man”

Aphorism-9, 10, 11, 12:

The final four aphorisms form a link between A+U+M and the aforementioned 4-fold self.

  • A.9
    • Vaiśvānara is the “A”.
    • He (A) is the wakeful consciousness.
    • First syllable to be uttered by vocals – hence first form of creation.
    • From it the WORD starts and therefore fulfills all desires 
  • A.10
    • Taijasa is the “U”.
    • He (U) is in dreamy or hazy state of consciousness.
    • No-one who is descendant of those who know of “U” is born without knowledge of the BRAHMAN.
    • This forms as fulcrum between A and M and thus allows us to travel between both the worlds – spiritual and mundane; wake-deep sleep. Thus with proper understanding the “U” helps us achieve mastery over the dual roles.
  • A.11
    • Prajña is the “M”.
    • HE (M) is in deep-sleep state
    • This “M” forms the base of all measures.
    • Those who know “M” will therefore, enter and exists beyond any measure (i.e., from them or from M all measures occur – symbolically they become the “MĀTĀ or creator of this universe”)
    • This forms the pen-ultimate step to culmination of all eternity. The “M” being a nasal sound, also suggests “NĀDA” and hence “Śabda Brahma” from which everything originates. That is why it is said that those who knows “M” becomes measures or creators.
  • A.12
    • The fourth is the letter-less AUM-OM.
    • NOthing can be talked of this …….
    • Meaning, the culmination or final step of all the above three-fold states is this fourth state of UNIT existence which has no dual and hence there exists no word to describe.
    • It  (the realization we get by uttering OM and meditating on the sound uttered) is an eternal be-ness.

Extra Notes:

  • Link the “A” with Vaikharī Vāk. “U” with Madhyamā Vāk. “M” with paśyantī Vāk. The realization attained by union of these three – A-U-M is the grand totality – Parā Vāk. 
  • The 4-fold self is described in reverse order i.e., physical; manifestation to the ethereal Omniscience.
  • Symbol of OM has much depths associated with Kundalini Shastra – hint: Elephant’s face+trunk (ida+pingala+sushumna symbolically) as Om symbol in Sanskrit.
  • OM is to be uttered while listening to the utterance. This is the way of Upanishad or Vēda which is “Shruti Vidya”. So, just contemplation is only of partial help.



In one blog article, we have seen in brief the whole “Mānḍūkya Upaniṣd“. It is that short! But the content itself speaks for its grandeur and majestic glory. I tried to fill in gaps and added hints for a proper exploration of a truth seeker. I hope this article serves the intended purpose. If you have any doubts, please let me know. Thank You!


Text- sources:

  1. Swami Krishnananda’s translation of M.U.
  2. Aurobindo’s book on Kēna and Other Upanishads.




  1. I am glad you writing about OM. This is my favorite subject related to Hinduism. Your 12 aphorisms give an interesting understanding of OM. Mine is a simplistic view on the universality of OM with naive attempt to link it with physics. This is how I have discerned OM.
    The myriad journey of Hindu divinity begins with a simple and pure sound of Om. It is considered to be the primordial sound introduced in this universe and perhaps in the whole celestial world.
    Besides being the sound, Om is considered to be the very basis of all that constitutes the universe, including life and matter. Thru metaphysical theorization which can be numinous, Hinduism cognized the sound to create the contents of the universe.
    It is indeed a subject of astronomical acceptance that from the very sound frequencies of Om the building blocks of the universe are evolved.
    Treading thru this acknowledgment based on Hindu transcendental concepts, along with modern scientific theories, that a perambulatory voyage can help us to discern and understand the physics of Om.
    The significance and consequence of sound have been perceived as part of the development of Hindu philosophy. Nada Yoga is the faculty dealing with the science of sound. Nada means sound, and yoga implies science.
    Nada Yoga originated with the recognition of the dynamism of Om. In its metaphysical explanations, Nada Yoga establishes that the inception of entire cosmos and our universe, including life and matter is based on sound vibrations. These vibrations carry energy in motion, which creates atoms. And the atoms aggregate into molecules, the building blocks of matter, and ultimately the universe.
    This has been a mystic significance of Om as a metaphysical truth, which is now a recognized scientific concept backed by the quantum theory that explores the world at the sub-atomic levels.
    The string theory is considered as the theory of everything. And this corresponds well with the metaphysical concept of Om being the primordial sound originating from the strings advanced in the quantum theory of modern physics.
    As Om resonates in the stings of atoms then according to the science of quantum physics atoms themselves are made up of whirling mass of radiating energy without manifested structure. Likewise, Om is not merely a sound but a mass of energy itself in invisible formation.
    Om is energy constituting the universe.
    The universe begins with Om. There is a sound of Om in every matter. It resonates there till eternity. Its resilience lies both in the matter and the sound itself.
    The creation of Om is, in fact, is the creation of the universe. And its cosmic vibrations keep the constituents of the universe connected.
    (This is an abstract from Chapter 4 titled “significance of OM” from my book Hinduism beyond rituals,customs and traditions.)

    Liked by 5 people

  2. So beautifully explained in short… have read the Mandukya Upanishad and tried to understand it… The meaning of AUM is so beautifully enshrined in every word of the Upanishad… Thank you for making me revisit my memories…
    Also the comment of Promodji is great…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Following is the interpretation, only through the utterance of OUM.
    O = opening of vowel
    M = closing into consonant
    U = transition

    With two opposites, OM expresses the simplest form, that of the expansion and contraction, of a closed system. Bound in a single phonetic, its chanting resembles a cycle, that of a single universe. Its prolonged sound projects an inertia of its vibration throughout the space.

    On the contrary of its reverse, the passage of OUM represents the period of life in universe as the phase after birth (O) and before death (M).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Oneiridescent: it is exactly what I proposed in https://ardentdisciple.wordpress.com/2018/08/15/ls_1_30/?preview=true for SRI.

      These tertiary aspects of creation, destruction and sustenance along with cyclicity forms basis of most of esoteric wisdom.

      Also, if you understand this Upanishad correctly, you will realize that Om is not a phonetic sound but a basis for sound itself. So when we utter Om, we take help of true Om in uttering Om. Unless we go and dissolve in that true Om, we are left with just physical Om and it’s repeating utterance causing fatigue.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your comment that, seems to clarify a recent act posting the comment.

        Thought of “suggesting” you to shorten posts for more readability, but everything seems to happen for a reason, not necessarily for benefits-of-a-long-post as you may think, but what you shall soon see below. While reading your post on Om, as big as usual, I was tempted to quit but owing to the subject matter, I naively thought of taking a shortcut. Imagine what ? Instantly, I paused, shut my eyes, and uttered It, not that I did for the first time in life, but hoping to rediscover one of your twelve posted aphorisms this time ! “Fools dare what angels fear.” 😂 One single utterance dawned on me with the above revelation, keeping me wonder struck, what made the difference this time – “true Om” it seems I targeted, as your comment contrasted with “physical Om” (alike during yoga).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 🙂 we have a long way ahead in understanding the approaches we envision.

        Next time meditate on the aspect “why did I want to utter so”. The subtlest impulse, without our control compels us to ideas and actions. That is birth place of Omn or Akshara or etc. It’s called Para Vak.

        So you think my posts are long! Thanks for feedback. But small posts leave lot of blanks. Also, my aim in not like an FB post for a quick look, but to give the sweet wisdom that O tasted to at least the serious aspirants, like the limited and dedicated followers of my blog. With that motto, though timetaking and painstaking at times (due to difficulty of daily routine) I try to expand to ease in the content into thought planes of readers.

        Thanks though for feedback. I will try, but can’t promise 🙂


      3. “Dedicated” – Very true.
        “Limited” – the question is to spread such wisdom to the “unlimited.”

        So, curtailing of the content is not desirable, as you’d know which words and lines, with what depth, would express them better. Perhaps, splitting into part posts may increase the reach.

        Frankly speaking, your posts may be compiled into lectures or books. You’d know when it is time.

        Liked by 1 person

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