Source: Philosophia Ultima, Osho.

AUM simply represents the whole reality. AUM has a special symbol for itself. It is a code word. To make it clear, the ordinary Sanskrit is not used for it - a special symbol, hence it is untranslatable.

It consists of three sounds and the fourth, the soundless sound. It consists of four things: three are sounds and the fourth is only the harmony of those three sounds. Three sounds are audibly there, you can hear them. The fourth is heard not by the ears; it is heard only at the innermost shrine of your being.

These three sounds are the basic sounds, all the sounds are created out of them. All the languages, all the words, are created out of these three sounds: a, u, m. And this is not a myth, now phonetics agrees that these are the basic root sounds. And the word aum is meaningless, it is simply a combination of all the three basic sounds.

Hindus say that aum is the sound of existence, and then it divides in three: a, u, m, and then the three become many. From one, three; from three, many and millions. Now even science agrees that there is only one energy in existence; that one energy is divided in three. You may call it electron, proton and neutron; you may call it a, u, m; you may call it the Christian trinity: God, the Son, the Holy Ghost; you may call it the Hindu trimurti: Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu – whatsoever the name, the name is irrelevant, but one thing is certain: one becomes three, and then three becomes many. And if you want to move backwards to the one, move from the many to three and then let the three combine – it will become one. Aum is a way, it is a mantra, a path, to combine all the sounds in three, to first reduce all the sounds to three – and then aum becomes the door for the one.

And this has been the experience of all the mystics all over the world, not only Hindus. They all have the same experience. They may have interpreted it differently. Mohammedans, Christians, and Jews end their prayers with amen. Hindu mystics say it is the same, aum. They interpreted differently, because the sound can be interpreted in many ways. You are traveling in a train and you can interpret the sound of the train in many ways; you can even feel that there is a song going on, because the interpretation is yours – sound is not creating the interpretation, the mind is creating the interpretation. Hindus say it is like aum; Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans have felt it as aumen, or amen.

AUM is the innermost music of your being. This is the basic trinity of sounds, then the whole music of life grows out of this. When all the thoughts and desires and memories have gone, have disappeared, and the mind is absolutely quiet and silent, there is no noise inside, you start hearing a tremendously beautiful music which does not consist of any meaning. It is pure music without any meaning, gives you great joy, fills you with celebration, makes you dance. The music itself has no meaning; it is pure music, not polluted by any meaning.

Aum is a very delicate sound. When you say Aum, it never goes below the heart. It is not very violent; it is very nonviolent. One of the most nonviolent sounds is Aum. Its for those who were very loving and nonviolent, for those who were very natural. Sufis invented the sound, Hoo. When you say Hoo it goes directly to the sex center. It penetrates directly to the sex center; it hits the sex center. This age is so sexual that you need a hammering on the sex energy. The heart is no more there.

Now scientists particularly physicists says that existence consists only of vibrations. It does not matter what name you give, what jargon you use, but vibration means sound. That is the meaning of AUM. All the Upanishads begin with AUM; AUM means the primordial sound. The RIG VEDA says – the most ancient scripture of the world – "First the absolute, the Brahman, then WAAK, the sound, the vibrating energy which becomes the universe." The Bible also says the same thing, but has missed the point in translation. It says: In the beginning there was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word and the God were one. AUM cannot be 'word', it can only be 'sound'. Because 'word' means sound with meaning and the moment meaning comes in it brings a limitation, it brings a definition. Sound is unlimited; it is simply vibration.

But the pundits, the scholars have been constantly missing the point. They think AUM is a mantra and just by repeating it you will attain to God. That is sheer nonsense! You can repeat it your whole life, it is not going to help you.

It is just like a thirsty person goes on repeating, "H20, H20, H20...." Of course what he is saying is right – H20 means water – he is not wrong. But H20 and its repetition is not going to quench his thirst. He misses the point. AUM is exactly the H20 of mysticism!

Just by repeating the sound AUM, nothing is going to be achieved. In fact, something totally different has to be done: you have to become so silent, so absolutely silent, that you can hear the sound within your innermost core. It has to be heard, not repeated. If you repeat it, it will be a head thing; it will only be your head playing a gramophone record. Let the head rest, let all noise from the head be gone, let the mind stop functioning, and then suddenly you will hear the sound. That is a totally different phenomenon; it has to be heard, not repeated.

The scholars are the most unconscious people who have not discovered the AUM within themselves. The scholars, the pundits are drunk with knowledge, knowing nothing but full of words. Beware of the scholars if you want to understand the Upanishads. These are the words of the Masters, of the Buddhas, of the awakened ones; these are not the words of the pundits and the scholars and the priests.


English has three or four words which are mysterious for linguists. They are omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and such words. They cannot reduce them to any logical order. What does omnipotent mean? And from where does omni come? It comes from the Hindu word aum. What does omniscient mean? From where does the word omni come? Linguists have no way to explain it, these words have remained unexplained in English. But if you can understand aum then those words become clear, because aum is the symbol of the universe for Hindus. So omnipotent means one who knows all, one who is all-powerful; omnipresent means one who is everywhere present – present in the aum, seeing the aum, powerful like the aum.

If you enter deeper meditation soon you will realize that a sound is continuously happening there. It is the sound of existence itself, the humming sound of existence itself. And if you listen without interpreting it, if you don’t force any interpretation on it, if you simply listen and watch and observe, sooner or later you will realize it is aum vibrating inside.

The first Sound 'A' of AUM, stands for the world – the universe; The second 'U' for radiance – life, lan vital; and the third 'M' for intelligence – consciousness, awareness.

The Upanishads say that aum is the very structure of this existence. When you are totally silent and the mind has dissolved and the thoughts disappeared, when the ego has ceased, then you hear the sound of aum – it is a soundless sound. No one is creating it, it is there. It is the very existential sound; it is how existence happens to be – just a humming sound of existence. Existence is there, alive – that aliveness creates a sound; or, to that aliveness a sound happens. That sound is not created by anybody; it is uncreated, anahat. It is called ANAHAT NAD; ANAHAT NAD means unstruck sound. AUM is the unstruck sound; there is no instrument. When you become absolutely silent, suddenly it is there.

Zen people have the right expression for it; they call it 'the sound of one hand clapping'. Zen masters go on telling their disciples to go and meditate, meditate on the sound of one hand clapping. One has to watch, meditate, and move towards a sound which is already there, which is not created. That is the meaning of the sound of one hand.

This aum is that sound. When all sounds disappear from the mind, then you hear a sound. The Upanishads have made that sound the symbol of the whole, because whenever the whole happens to the part, it happens in that music of aum, in that harmony of aum.

So the symbol AUM consists of four things. Three are the basic sounds: aa-oo-ma – A, U, M. These are the basic sounds; all other sounds are branches of these three sounds. This is the real trinity, the trinity of sounds. All these three have arisen out of the fourth, but the fourth is inaudible, unhearable. The fourth is represented only by a dot; that dot is called ANUSWAR.

If you go into an empty temple or a mosque or a church, or any empty house will do – utterly empty... go inside and start chanting the mantra AUM. "AUM, AUM, AUM.... " You go on chanting, then stop suddenly. Now you are no more chanting, but the vibe is still there, a humming sound... disappearing, disappearing... every moment disappearing, becoming more and more subtle... the humming sound, the tail-end of M. When you say "AUMMMMM..." that tail-end of M will be heard when you have stopped chanting.

That is represented only by a dot; in Sanskrit that dot is called ANUSWAR. Out of that dot arise three sounds A-U-M. These four represent the whole existence, these four are the four dimensions of existence.

You can think of it in another way also: put a dot on a piece of paper – this is the center – then draw three concentric circles around it. The last concentric circle, the biggest will be A, the first. The second concentric circle U, will be just in the middle between the first and the third. And then the third concentric circle, closer to the dot, the center, will be M. And the dot – the center of all these three concentric circles, these three circumferences – is the ANUSWAR: the soundless sound; what Zen people call 'the sound of one hand clapping'. The Mandukya Upanishad calls it 'the fourth' – TURIYA .

The three, the first three, represent your three states, and the fourth, your self-nature. Man is also exactly as AUM; man is a miniature universe. If we can decipher man we will be able to decipher the whole of existence. If we can know a single dewdrop in its totality we will have known all the oceans, because we will have dissected a single drop which contains the secret of all the oceans. We will come to know the formula H20, and that’s the secret.

You are a dewdrop of God, of the whole, of this organic infinity, of this eternity. The best way to understand the universe, the truth, the existence, is to understand yourself. Socrates is right when he says, "Know thyself," because, knowing that, you will be able to know all.

The first is the so-called waking state, the second is the dreaming state – it is introversion. The first creates science, the second creates art. The first is an objective approach towards reality, the second is a subjective approach towards reality. The poet, the painter, the singer, the dancer, the musician, they all belong to the second: the introverted state.

Extroversion and introversion are two sides of you. You can easily shift your gears. You just have to learn how to shift your gears, so when you are needed in the outside world you become an extrovert and when you are finished with the outside world you change your gear and you move into the inner world – the world of poetry and music and dance. The inner world will bring you closer to God and the outer world will bring you closer to matter; both are immensely needed.

Past-orientation becomes the very life-pattern of the introvert. And the extrovert is future-oriented; he is always looking to the future, his golden age is yet to come. And the introvert? His golden age has passed long before.

Beware! Future-orientation has its own difficulties, because you cannot live in the present. Past orientation also has the same problem: you cannot live in the present. So neither does the West live in the present nor does the East; the East lives in the past and the West lives in the future.

The first can be called, according to modern psychology, consciousness; the second, subconsciousness; and the third, unconsciousness.

The third is a negative state of transcendence, jad samadhi; it is not true samadhi, but very close. The man has fallen into a deep unconsciousness, but he is silent; there is no turmoil within. But it is a negative state; there is no light, there is only darkness. Even dreams have gone. There has happened a certain merging. He has tasted THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS, but in a deep unconscious state. It is just as when you wake up in the morning and you say, ”I slept a very deep sleep last night. It was so beautiful!” But it is only later on that you say it. When it was there, the DEEP sleep, you were not aware of it. It is only a later reflection, a later glow. In the morning you feel yourself so refreshed that you can see, you can infer, that you must have gone into deep sleep.

This is the closest to the fourth, TURIYA. The first man becomes scientific, objective; the second becomes introvert, a dreamer, poetic, aesthetic; and the third becomes a mystic. He knows but he cannot say anything, because his knowing is still lost in a deep darkness. He FEELS; there is a certain experience hovering around him, but he cannot define it, he cannot pinpoint it, he cannot show it to the world.

You will find many people in India – if you go to the caves and the monasteries you will find many people who look immensely blissful, but very stupid at the same time. I have come across a few persons who were very very blissful, but at the same time very stupid too. Their eyes don’t give the indication of a Buddha – not that awareness, not that sharpness – but they are very innocent. Their innocence is more like ignorance than wisdom.

Beware of the third, because many seekers have got lost in the third and thought they have arrived. This is the MOST dangerous place. The extrovert can NEVER feel that he has arrived; he knows that his life is insane, feverish. The introvert cannot accept the idea that he has arrived, because all that he has is a vague dreamworld. He cannot catch hold of those dreams; there is nothing to catch, only vapor, only clouds.

But the third person, one who has experienced dream!. less sleep, he is neither extrovert nor introvert; he has slipped out of that duality. He has had a certain merging with existence, hence the danger: he can think that he has arrived. And people can start worshipping him, seeing his innocence, seeing his childlike qualities. But he has yet to go one more step....

The third has only taste of God, the fourth has become God himself. He can say, "AHAM BRAHMASMI – I am the Supreme, I am the Absolute!" He can say, "ANA'L HAQ!" like Mansoor al- Hillaj – "I am the truth." Only then... but this can be said only when your unconsciousness becomes luminous, when the darkness of the third disappears, when its negativity disappears and it becomes a positive experience in full awareness. We call this state Buddhahood. and reaching the fourth, TURIYA, the part becomes bigger than the whole. The miracle has happened. The miracle is so immense that it cannot be described – words fall short.

No song can sing it, no poetry can contain it, no music can define it! And it is indivisible; you cannot divide it into parts. In fact, unless you achieve the fourth you should not call yourself an individual.

The root of 'individual' is the same as the root of 'indivisible'; they both mean the same: that which cannot be divided. Unless you attain to the fourth you are not an individual; you are only a person; a personality – and a person is a phony thing. A personality is a mask, individuality is your true nature. It is the supreme good, the SUMMUM BONUM. All virtue flows out of it.

Then you need not follow any morality, then you need not follow any discipline. Then you need not listen to any scripture – you are your own scriptural. Your own consciousness gives you every commandment. And because now you are fully conscious you can live spontaneously, moment-to-moment. Only the fourth lives in the present and lives consciously.

The third is also in the present, but unconscious. The first is in the future, the second is in the past, the third is in the present but unconscious, the fourth is in the present and consciously in the present. The fourth is the state of a Buddha, of a Christ, of a Krishna….

This is the goal of all sannyas. Unless this is achieved life has been a sheer wastage. Unless this is known you have not known anything at all. Unless you have reached this fourth state, the center, the very center, the innermost shrine of your being, your life cannot have meaning and significance. Then you missed the spring. Then you lived only a so-called life – futile, ugly.

The fourth brings you to the optimum. You become the Everest, the peak, the fulfillment, the flowering; the one-thousand-petal lotus opens up. Then all the blessings of existence are yours, all the love of existence is yours, all the freedom of existence is yours.

And the most remarkable thing to be remembered is: the fourth contains all the three. So the fourth can be scientific, can be poetic, can be restful. It is possible for the person who has achieved the fourth to move in all the dimensions, all the other three dimensions.

This is the ultimate philosophy: the method, the technique, the device, to reach the fourth. make it your only longing, your only desire. Become this longing, that you have to reach the fourth. And once you are committed, involved, there is no reason why you cannot reach – it is your potential, it is your birthright.

AUM has five matras, five steps. Three are gross and can be heard. When we utter AUM [long], and in the end the M resounds – "mmm". That is a half step – the fourth. The fourth is half gross. If you are very aware, only then is it heard; otherwise it is lost. And the fifth is just never heard. When the sound of AUM vibrates and the vibrations go into the cosmic emptiness, when the sound has gone and a soundlessness remains, that is the fifth. These five steps are just signs towards many things. Upanishads say that even the fourth is not the ultimate, because to be a witness is still to be separate. So when the witness also dissolves, if only the Existence remains, without a witness, that is the fifth.

When someone goes deep into Existence, to the roots, to the very roots, then thoughts are no more there, the thinker is no more there, objectivity is no more there, subjectivity is no more there – but, still, everything is. In that thoughtless, thinkerless moment, a sound is heard. That sound resembles AUM.

Upanishads reach to the Ultimate Reality through sound, through mantra. They use sound to reach soundlessness. By and by, the sound is dropped; by and by, soundlessness is achieved. Ultimately, when they reach to the bottom, they hear a cosmic sound. It is not a thought; it is not a created sound. It is just in the very nature of Existence that it sounds. That sound they have called AUM. They say that when we say AUM, it is just a resemblance. It is created by us! It is just like a photograph of something: it simply resembles. One should not mistake it for the real.

AUM is also a secret key. it resembles the ultimate sound, if you can use it and, by and by, go deep with it, you will reach to the ultimate door.

AUM is miraculous. It is as foundational to mystics as Einstein's formula of relativity is to physics. That formula is three things: a sign, a symbol and a secret key – and AUM is also three things. But, basically, it is a secret key. Unless you open the doors, it is useless to go on thinking about it, futile, wasting time and life and energy. Unless you are ready to open the door, what is the use of talking about the key? Even if you understand all the implications, all the philosophical implications, it is meaningless. So AUM is always put in the beginning, and it is always put in the end. The Upanishads always begin with AUM, they always end with AUM. This is the key!

If you enter the house, the first thing to be used is the key; and again, when you come out, the last thing to be used is the key. So enter! Use the key! But if you begin to contemplate on the key and continue sitting at the door, then the key is not a key for you but a barrier. Throw it! – because it is not opening anything. Rather, it is closing. And you are constantly thinking about the key.

One can go on thinking about the key without using it. There are many who have pondered, thought and contemplated about what AUM means. They have created structures, big structures on it, but they have never used the key. They have never entered the palace. It is a symbol, it is a sign, BUT basically it is a secret key. It can be used as a method to enter into the Cosmic, as a method to drop into the oceanic. The subtler it becomes, the deeper, the nearer it goes to the real; the grosser, the less.

Someone asked Jacob Boehme, "Where is the center of God? Where is the center of the universe?" He said, "Either everywhere or nowhere." Both mean the same.