Aum, the mystic emblem of the Deity, was first introduced into Europe by the translation of the Gita, in which we are told it is forbidden to be pronounced aloud, and in its complete expression is still in universal use as a Talisman throughout Asia. It is usually spelt om, but being tri-literal seems, according to most Sanskrit scholars, better expressed by aum, or aom, or awm, being formed of the three Sanskrit letters that are best so expressed. The date generally believed for its universal use is the thirteenth century B.C. It represents the Hindu Triad, or triform Deity, three in one, A the Creator, U the Preserver, and M the Destroyer, or Transformer, and is the image of the Ancient of Days; and in the Book of the Pitris it is written: "The husband is as ancient as the wife, and the wife is as ancient as the husband, and the son is also as ancient as the husband and wife, and the one that contains all these is called aum".
The signification of the invocation aum ma ni pad me hum (aum! the Jewel in the Lotus hum) is therefore very important, and accounts for the great veneration in which it is held (see Illustration No. 12a, Plate I), and in Buddhism in Thibet, by Waddell, we note that it is stated in the mani kahbum that this charm will bring the greatest happiness, prosperity, all knowledge, and the means of deliverance from enemies and all evil on earth, whilst the devout firmly believe that as they revolve the magical sentence within their prayer-wheels by day and night they are preventing the series of re-births otherwise inevitable, and that when their lives have ended here they will pass straightway to the Paradise of Buddha, for the:
"Aum closes re-birth among the gods,
Ma among the Titans,
Ni as a man,
Pad as a beast,
Me as a Tantalus, and,
Hum as an inhabitant of Hell".
To each of these words is given the distinctive colour of these six conditions of re-birth:
"Aum the godly white, Ma the Titanic blue, Ni the human yellow, Pad the animal green, Me the tantalic red, Hum hellish black".
There is also a special Rosary used for the repetition of this charm, composed either of the Conch Shell, or crystal beads; in use, the right hand is passed through the Rosary, which hangs down knotted end up, and the hand with the thumb upward is carried to the breast and held there. On the first syllable aum being pronounced, the first bead is grasped by raising the thumb and quickly depressing the tip to reach the bead against the outer side of the second joint of the first finger, during the remainder of the sentence the bead, still grasped, is gently revolved to the right, and on conclusion of the invocation is dropped down the palm side of the string; and with another aum, the next bead is proceeded with until, on conclusion of each cycle of the rosary, each of the keeper beads are touched, saying respectively.
In countries where Buddhism is practised, particularly in Thibet and India, this charm is depicted on silk flags, flown from lofty flagstaffs, so that when the flag is blown out by the wind the sentence may be wafted to heaven to bring down blessings to the entire district.
The prayer-wheel, which contains this mystic sentence printed on long lengths of silk ribbon coiled on cylinders, is revolved by the Lama priest sunwise, and he is very strict in this observance, believing that the reversing of the prayer would also reverse the results of the invocation.
Aum is recognised throughout India as an emblem of the Deity, carrying with its pronunciation a thousand good things to the faithful; and a Brahmin teacher when addressing an assembly will use this word when commencing his discourse, and also at the close, so that he may not lose his knowledge and understanding.