The Markandeya Purana

by Frederick Eden Pargiter | 1904 | 247,181 words | ISBN-10: 8171102237

This page relates “exposition of the word “om” with regard to the law of religious devotion” which forms the 42nd chapter of the English translation of the Markandeya-purana: an ancient Sanskrit text dealing with Indian history, philosophy and traditions. It consists of 137 parts narrated by sage (rishi) Markandeya: a well-known character in the ancient Puranas. Chapter 42 is included the section known as “conversation between Sumati (Jada) and his father”.

Canto XLII - Exposition of the word “Om” with regard to the Law of Religious Devotion

Dattātreya expounds the composition, meaning and efficacy of the sacred word “Om”—It designates the Supreme Soul Brahma; and thorough comprehension of it and meditation on it bring final absorption into Brahma.

Dattātreya spoke:

The yogi who lives thus, rightly busied in religious devotion, cannot be turned away even by hundreds of other lives. And when he has beheld the Supreme Soul, visible, existing in all forms, whose feet and head and neck the universe composes, the lord and creator of the universe, let him in order to attain thereto utter the one mighty and holy syllable Om! Let it be his study as he listens to its true form.

A and U and M are its three letters; these are its three instants; they are characterized by goodness, passion and ignorance. And another, a half instant,[1] which has its seat on the top of the syllable, is without quality and can be understood by yogis only. It is called gāndhārī,[2] as it is to be uttered in the gāndhāra note.[3] Being pronounced it reaches the head, and it conveys the feeling of ants moving over the body.

As the syllable Om being pronounced reaches the head, the yogi who is lost in meditation of Om should become united with Brahma, the Supreme Soul. Life is his bow, the soul is his arrow, Brahma is the target sublime. It is to be pierced by the heedful man; he should be united with Brahma, as the arrow becomes embedded in the target.

The syllable Om, consisting of three and a half instants, should be known in its true sense as the three Vedas—the Ṛc, Sāma and Yajus—the three worlds, the three fires, and the three deities Viṣṇu, Brahmā and Śiva. And the yogi, who is absorbed in religious meditation thereon, may obtain extinction therein.

Moreover the letter A is designated the bhūrloka, or terrestrial world; and the letter U the bhuvarloka, or atmospheric world; and the letter M with its nasal mark is decided to be the svarloka, or celestial world. Now the first instant is called the discrete,[4] and the second the indiscrete, and the third instant is the intellectual faculty;[5] the half instant is the highest abode.[6] In this very order must these stages of religious meditation be known. By uttering the word Om, everything both existent and non-existent may be grasped. Now the first instant is short, the second is long, and the third is prolated, and the half instant is not cognisant to speech.

Such is this word. Brahma is designated the Supreme “Om.” The man who truly understands it and further meditates on it, escaping the circle of mundane existence casts off the three-fold bonds, and gains sublime extinction in Brahma, the Supreme Soul. And he who is bound with the unconsumed results of his actions, after experiencing death through ill omens,[7] and recollecting it at the time of his departure, attains to a yogi’s condition again. Hence by means of imperfect religious devotion, or again by perfected religious devotion, are always to be known the ill omens, so that be does not sink into despondency at the time of his departure.

Footnotes and references:


Anusvāra, into which the M may be converted ?


A meaning not in the dictionary.


See note * page 130.






Final emancipation from existence.



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