Om is the primeval, audible and inaudible sound of Hindu creation, also thought to mysteriously embody the very essense of the universe. Chanted at the beginning and end of prayers and mantras and also used as a form of meditation, it is pronounced with three sounds, A-U-M. It is written in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, and as early as the sixth century was used to mark the beginning of incantations and inscriptions. Today, it is seen everywhere in Buddhist writings. The symbol represents the four states of conciousness: sleeping without dreams, dreaming, being awake and satori (the transcendental state of enlightenment). Combined with the lotus, however, it takes on an even more complex symbolism. Like the rose in the West, the lotus of the East is probably the most important of the flower symbols and laden with meaning.
It springs forth from muddy and murky waters, eventually rising to float on the surface, opening in the morning and closing in the evening. For example, according to the Egyptians, it was the first flower of the universe, and from it sprang the first gods. Many of the ancient pillars of monumental architecture in Egypt are actually designed as bunches of lotuses. In Hinduism, the lotus blossom is one of the most important symbols used in spirituality and art. Brahma, the Hindu creator of the world, was born from a lotus blossom that grew from the navel of Vishnu on the water. However, the lotus paired with Om has a particularly significant Buddhist association. In Buddhism, the lotus is thought to symbolize the Buddha’s nature, pure and ascendant. Along with Om, it is part of the most famous of Buddhist mantras, Om Mani Padme Hum, or Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus.