The Sanskrit word ‘Om’ is perhaps the most significant word in Hindu mythology. It stands for everything and nothing, it is used to address every God and Goddess, yet by itself it means nothing. It is the primary invocation for any and all holy chants. This curious, liminal characteristic of the word makes it relevant to Lord Shiva, more than any other deity because Mahadev represents infinity and eternity alongside a limitless void. How then is the Shiva Omkara special? When chanted, the word ‘Om’, a form of primal energy is said to originate from the navel, rising upward through the lungs and into the vocal chords till it finally comes to the throat and exits through the mouth. Modern science is only beginning to understand the importance of healing and rejuvenation through sound therapy. Groundbreaking studies are being made that have reported how plants and animals grow faster and become more productive in terms of yielding fruits and milk respectively when exposed to certain kinds of sounds. What scientific discourse is discovering now had been put into use by sages and learned men of India thousands of years ago!
The ‘Omkara’ or the sound of ‘Om’ is very similar to the Sanskrit word ‘Vyom’ which means space- the fifth and final element that constitutes the universe. The vastness of space is still a matter of major inquiry in the scientific community even though mankind has already managed to travel to space. It is only now that we are beginning to understand the immensity of our universe and our relative insignificance not only as a species but also as a planet. Thousands of galaxies and millions of star systems have been identified yet we are no closer t finding out the actual extent of the universe. Astrophysicists only have theories to make assumptions, whether it be the Big Bang Theory or the latest Higgs Boson particle, we have presumptuously called the ‘God particle’.
This ultimate expanse cannot be plotted. The void or ‘Vyom’ encompasses everything. In other words, it fits one of the description given to Lord Shiva thousands of years before the advent of science. This is not to question the validity of scientific thought but when one thinks about it one realizes there are things beyond the reach of human comprehension. Once again this thought takes us back to thinking all about the Shaivaite philosophy which depicts the Hindu god Shiva as a formless or ‘Nirguna’ entity. Almost all the sects of Shaivism concur on the belief that Shiva the destroyer also operates in the ways that is beyond human comprehension. Lord Shiva’s ‘leela’ or divine will, ensures that humans gain knowledge and wisdom even as the same ‘leela’ conceals knowledge and challenges the human senses and mind.
The third eye of Lord Shiva if opened can turn to ashes, anything that stands in its field of vision. The same eye when shut, allows Shiva to look within and meditate, generating the cosmic power that runs all of creation. Interestingly the word Lord Shiva chants when He meditates is ‘Om’. As He does that, He invokes the power of all Gods and Goddesses at the same time.
The ‘Shiva Omkara’ therefore has immense value both in the spiritual and scientific context, operating literally and metaphorically, signifying everything conceivable and non-conceivable, representing the awesome power of Lord Shiva.