The syllable OM is an ancient Sanskrit letter first found in the Vedas, originating between 1500 – 1200 BC. A collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns, they were sung in praise of the Divine. They were not written out at first, but were vibrated into existence using human speech. Teachings on the metaphysics of OM were later elaborated on in the Upanishads, ancient Indian mystical texts.
David Frawley, in his book Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound writes: “Shakti bija mantras are probably the most important of all mantras, whether for meditation, worship of deities, energizing prana or for healing purposes. They carry the great forces of Nature such as the energies of the Sun and Moon, Fire and Water, electricity and magnetism, not simply as outer factors but as inner potentials of Divine Light. They project various aspects of force and radiance for body, mind and consciousness. They hold, resonate, and propel the Kundalini force in specific and transformative ways.”
OM, the first of these syllables and carrying immense pranic life force energy, is a mystic syllable, considered the most sacred mantra in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. It appears at the beginning and end of most Sanskrit recitations, prayers, and texts. "OM Namah Sivaya" is just one of many examples where OM is included within a larger mantra, at the beginning. Considered to represent the primal or primordial sound of the Universe, OM connects us to and carries the Divine in vibrational form, making our prayers and mantras more effective with its increased pranic energy.
Seed mantras like OM are no ordinary words with dictionary definitions. These mantras are more about the vibrational content than the meaning. OM is the prime mantra of the Higher self, or Atman. It attunes us with our true nature. It is the sound of the creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe, who is also the inner guru and prime teacher. It reflects both the manifest and un-manifest Brahman, sustaining the vibration of being, life, and consciousness in all worlds and all creatures.
A prominent figure in Buddhist and Egyptian culture, and native flower for both India and Vietnam, the lotus holds enormous symbolic weight. It spans various thousand-year-old Eastern cultures and yet, is still considered one of the most sacred flowers today. The lotus also has a life cycle unlike any other: With its roots based in mud, it submerges every night into murky river water, and—undeterred by its dirty environment—it miraculously re-blooms the next morning without residue on its petals.
Although cultures have their own interpretations of this daily process, there is a general consensus among ancient texts that it symbolizes spiritual enlightenment and rebirth. The lotus stunned people with its ability to dip into the grime and revive itself unscathed—an incredible daily cycle of life, death, and a sudden immaculate rebirth that can only be described as spiritual. It is no wonder the lotus is associated with such celestial symbolism—the flower simply defies logic.
The lotus flower's daily resurrection is certainly interesting, and surely symbolic of revival. But the flower also has a fascinating will to live. A lotus seed can withstand thousands of years without water, able to germinate over two centuries later.
The flower also blooms in the most unlikely of places such as the mud of murky river water in Australia or Southern Asia. Not only does it find sanctuary in the muck, but due to the waxy protection layer on its petals, its beauty is blithely unaffected when it re-blooms each morning. It continues to resurrect itself, coming back just as beautiful as it was last seen. With such refusal to accept defeat, it's almost impossible not to associate this flower with unwavering faith. It is also regarded as a symbol of leaving behind the material world and forming a spiritual union with the universe at large.
Although cultures have largely dubbed the lotus as a spiritual figurehead, it is most emblematic of the faith within ourselves. It is particularly what the Buddhist proverb, aims to edify; living life with unwavering faith, as the lotus does, ensures the most beautiful revivals.
"The Mandala is an archetypal image whos occurence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies wholeness of self."
- Dr. Carl Jung
The literal translation of the word Mandala means circle, and circle mandalas are also one of the most commonly available forms of mandalas. Circles have very powerful significance in countless religions and traditions, primarily Hinduism and Buddhism. We first saw their emergence in regions across the Himalaya and India, where people used the artistic expression of mandalas to form symbolic relationships between the universe and the spirit.
Ancient Hindu scriptures depict mandalas as a period of creativity, of powerful existence, and a symbol of deeper connection with the self and the universe at large. Today, mandalas have become a popular symbol of meditation, which aids in enhancing focus, silencing thoughts while meditating, combatting stress and anxiety, appreciating the beauty of nature, and forming a greater connection with oneself.
Most of the mandala patterns and designs that have risen to popularity in the modern world trace their roots back to Tibetan Buddhist cultures, where spiritual significance represents the purity and sacredness of existence, as highlighted by the Buddha. These mandalas can be described as highly complex paintings with captivating detail vibrantly rich colours that depict the cosmological traditions of Hindus and Buddhists.
In Hinduism, mandalas are a tool to view the spiritual universe, and represent the cycle of occurrence, reoccurrence and existence. Many of these designs are symbolic of Hindu deities, such as Ganesha, Saraswati and others. Carl Jung, a popular Swiss psychoanalyst, was the first to introduce mandala to western thinkers and scholars after becoming fascinated by the therapeutic powers. He believed that mandalas were symbolic of the psychological and spiritual self, and they lead to greater awareness of life and spirit.
This ancient Eastern art is an extremely popular expression that helps countless individuals regain their focus, their confidence, and their concentration by forming a deeper connection with their real self.