When thinking of all the images in this universe that hold meaning, it is still amazing that so much meaning can come out of such a small design. The om symbol is proof that big ideas come in small packages. In the tattoo society, some people believe that bigger is better. Getting those giant back tattoos and full sleeve tattoos does say a lot about a person. On the other hand, getting the om tattoo is just as powerful a symbol.
It might be surprising, but the om tattoo has a significant, deep and spiritual meaning. At the same time, the message is almost unconceivable. We should mention that “ohm” is not the same word we are talking about. Ohms refer to electrical currents.
What is the Om?
“Om” (ॐ) is an ancient Sanskrit word, used in many different chants and mantras. Although the language of Sanskrit is meant for chanting, the written symbol is meant as a representation of the divine universe, a sound that serves to symbolize the majesty of the unknowable interconnections of the cosmos. It is used in nearly all ancient Indian religions as a mantra of the divine, in an attempt to introduce the magic of the cosmos into the banality of human life on Earth. The “om” symbol is known several names, but in any case, it is a highly respected symbol, integral to the religious beliefs of the ancient Vedic cultures that developed into Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism over the last couple millennia.
Think of “Aum” as the actual spelling and “om” as the phonetic spelling. The sound made when saying this word aloud is a calm and slowing chant. It is said it is the sound that was made when the universe came into existence. This gets a little deep but all of creation and the heart of the universe is wrapped up into one term called Brahman in the Hindu religion. The “om” is representative of the Brahman four divine states. These include compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita), loving kindness (metta) and equanimity (upekkha).
The om sound is supposed to be the sound of life. There are some theories that say there is set point of vibration for the core of existence. It was as if there was a nothingness where the cosmic mouth opens to release the sound of creation.
The symbol is typically rendered quite small and simply, allowing the great significance of the icon to remain the focus of the design. Small additions, like lotus flowers or cosmic symbols like stars and moons, are sometimes added as well. “Om” is also often placed in the center of other Indian symbols such as mandalas or the lotus flower. Devanagari script, a modern form of Sanskrit, can also be added in order to include a fuller mantra into the design.
For designs specific to one Indian religion, major divine figures are often incorporated, often as a filler when “om” is rendered in thicker lines. Images of Buddha are often used to denote an affiliation to Buddhism, while Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, is used for Hinduism. Sikhism uses five symbols that are worn by Sikh men, any of which are incorporated with “om” to specify the Sikh religion.
Specifically, for Buddhism, “om” is sometimes seen placed beneath a Bodhi tree, the place where Buddha sat to contemplate life through meditation. To denote Hinduism in another way, the Trishula is commonly placed in the background of “om”, a trident that was carried by the supreme god Shiva and also by the warrior goddess Durga.
You can see from these few paragraphs that there are some big meanings behind the om tattoo and symbol. This symbol isn’t just a small image to be tattooed. You should really understand what you are having tattooed when you get this. We understand it is a cool looking symbol but to know what it means when you get it makes it even more powerful of an image.
Om Tattoo Variations
When you get the om tattoo, you can get it in a variety of ways. As we said above, the om tattoo is often paired with other images to add to the meaning. We only spoke of a few images that go together but people have been known to be very creative when getting the om tattoo. We love seeing what everyone does and below are a few examples of some of the om tattoos we’ve seen.
Om Tattoo in the Paintbrush
The om tattoo inked in a paintbrush style is really fitting for this tattoo. The paintbrush stroke is very flowing. It starts and one end and flows all the way through to the end. This is like the beginning of creation flowing to the end of life. When you see this style used for the om tattoo, it just feels like it fits.
Om Tattoo with Buddha
Many times we’ll see Buddha incorporated into the om tattoo. The connection is obvious, and the Hindu religion has both of these as two of the most important symbols in the religion. One of the cool ways we saw this done is by having Buddha in the negative space of the tattoo. By doing this, the om is the main focus of the tattoo and when you look closer, you see Buddha in the background.
Om Mandala Tattoo
The om with the mandala tattoo happens to be a really popular way to have this image inked on your body. The mandala translates loosely to “circle” and they are said to represent the universe. The shapes and balance of the image is said to represent unity and harmony. The mandala helps in meditation to absorb the mind. This coincides with the om and the two images together have strong ties to the universe.
When looking for a shop or artist to ink your om tattoo, take your time and do some research. Many have made rash decisions and went into the first shop they saw and ended up with a tattoo they weren’t a big fan of. So, make sure this doesn’t happen and take your time and have a consultation with the artist. If you have done all this and you’re still not sure on who to use, ask us. We’d love to make a recommendation for you.