Chapter 9: The Fire of Knowing
There are many, many forms of Indian spiritual search and there are great differences between them all; contradictions, great arguments. For example, there are three main currents of Indian spiritual search, Jaina, Buddhist and Hindu. There are great theoretical controversies between them, because they are all so different. Hindus accept both God and the soul, Jainas accept only the soul but not God, and Buddhists accept neither God nor the soul. These are very basic differences. But one very interesting thing is that about om, all three are unanimously in agreement; about pranava there is no argument at all. They argue about trivia and there is no accord amongst them at all, but about this word om there is no disagreement. It seems that this om is not something theoretical, it is something scientific.
And not only in India, but the three major religions outside India, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, also have no disagreement about om, although they call it “amen” - that is the only difference. Otherwise the linguists say that om and amen are one and the same. The difference is only because of the linguistic differences in expressing the sound om.
So om is the only thing in the whole history of mankind where the six important religions of the world are unanimously in agreement. They all agree that there is something in it.
What is this om? You can understand it in a few different ways. One, man’s mind is a collection of words. What else is there in your mind except words? If you take away all the words from your mind, you will not have a mind anymore. Your mind is almost like an onion: if you peel away all the layers, nothing will be left behind. Your mind is just layers of words. What will be left behind if you take all the words away? - certainly not mind, but an emptiness. Just imagine: what mind can be in you if there are no words left? What will remain? Mind is just an accumulation of words, and it is with this mind that you do everything - good or bad, joyous or suffering, material or spiritual; whatsoever you do is with this mind.
This om is not really a word. It is not right to call it a word because it has no meaning. It is a sound. A word is a sound which has a meaning, om is a word which has no meaning, just sound - but in this sound is the essence of all basic sounds. a, u, m: these are the three basic sounds. As I said to you yesterday, Indian wisdom is very much aware of the number three. I have told you about Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the three aspects of life, and the electron, proton and neutron, the three basics of matter according to physics. In the same way, according to Indian wisdom, a, u and m are the three basics of all language, all speech, all words. All sound is a combination of these three sounds. The three basic sounds are all there in om. Or we can say it in this way: from the point of view of sound, om is the atom. The electron, proton and neutron create the atom of matter; the atom that is created by a, u, m is the atom of consciousness.