What is Om… Aum… ॐ…

What is Om… Aum… ॐ…

OM or AUM signifies the One Eternal Being which is The Beginning, Middle and End of All Beings.


The Beginning

Explanation from a Sage

On such a profound and important subject of Om, it is only right that I start with the authority of a Sage. In the words of Sri Ramana Maharshi : “In the sphere of speech, Pranava (the mystic sound AUM) represents the transcendental (nirguna). Om is the eternal truth. That which remains over after the disappearance of objects is Om. It does not merge in anything. It is the State of which it is said: “Where one sees none other, hears none other, knows none other, that is Perfection.” (Yatra nanyat pasyati, nanyat srunoti, nanyat vijanati sa bhuma.) All the upasanas are ways to winning it. One must not get stuck in the upasanas, but must query “Who am I?” and find the Self.”

The Middle

Meaning of Om

Om represents the Eternal, Absolute, Unlimited, All-pervading, All-powerful, Blissful Reality, the One Self.

Om or Aum, is constructed with three sounds. A (pronounced as Ah), U (pronounced as Ooh), M (pronounced as Im as in him). Ah is the Beginning sound, Ooh is the Middle and Im is the End. A (Ah) emanates from deep in the body indicating the beginning, U (Ooh) emanates from the throat indicating the middle, M (Im) is said with closed lips, indicating the end. Together they indicate the Being-Consciousness-Bliss Self, as the One that is the Beginning, Middle and End of all Beings.

Again, A (Ah) refers to the Waking State, U (Ooh) refers to the Dream State and M (Im) refers to the Deep Sleep State. When Om or Aum is chanted, there is a brief silence afterwards. This Silence indicates the Absolute Blissful Being Reality.

Where is Om used

Om, (Auṃ or Oṃ, Devanagari: ॐ) is a sacred sound and a spiritual icon in Hindu religion. It is also a mantra in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

Om is part of the iconography found in ancient and medieval era manuscripts, temples, monasteries and spiritual retreats in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

What is Om in Hinduism

In Hinduism, Om is one of the most important spiritual symbols (pratima). It refers to Atman (soul, self within) and Brahman (ultimate reality, entirety of the universe, truth, divine, supreme spirit, cosmic principles, knowledge). The syllable is often found at the beginning and the end of chapters in the Vedas, the Upanishads, and other Hindu texts by great Sages of India. It is a sacred spiritual incantation made before and during the recitation of spiritual texts, during puja and private prayers, in ceremonies of rites of passages (sanskara) such as weddings, and sometimes during meditative and spiritual activities such as Yoga.

The syllable is also referred to as omkara (ओंकार, oṃkāra), aumkara (औंकार, auṃkāra), and pranava (प्रणव, praṇava).

The syllable Om is referred to as praṇava. Other used terms are akṣara (literally, letter of the alphabet, imperishable, immutable) or ekākṣara (one letter of the alphabet), and omkāra (literally, beginning, female divine energy).

The Om symbol  ॐ  is a ligature in Devanagari, combining ओ (au) and chandrabindu (ँ, ṃ).

How is Om used in Hinduism

Om came to be used as a standard utterance at the beginning of mantras, chants or citations taken from the Vedas. For example, the Gayatri mantra, which consists of a verse from the Rigveda Samhita (RV 3.62.10), is prefixed not just by Om but by Om followed by the formula bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ, waking, dream and deep sleep. Such recitations continue to be in use in Hinduism, with many major incantations and ceremonial functions beginning and ending with Om. 

What do the Upanishads say about Om

The syllable Om is first mentioned in the Upanishads, the mystical texts associated with the Vedanta philosophy. It has variously been associated with concepts of “cosmic sound” or “mystical syllable” or “affirmation to something divine”, or as symbolism for abstract spiritual concepts in the Upanishads. In the Aranyaka and the Brahmana layers of Vedic texts, the syllable is so widespread and linked to knowledge, that it stands for the “whole of Veda”.
The origin and historic foundations of Om are repeatedly discussed in the oldest layers of the Vedantic texts (the early Upanishads). The Aitareya Brahmana of Rig Veda, in section 5.32, for example suggests that the three phonetic components of Om (pronounced AUM) correspond to the three stages of cosmic creation, and when it is read or said, it celebrates the creative powers of the universe.
The Brahmana layer of Vedic texts equate Om with Bhur-bhuvah-Svah (waking, dream, deep sleep), the latter symbolizing “the whole Veda”. They offer various shades of meaning to Om, such as it being “the universe beyond the sun”, or that which is “mysterious and inexhaustible”, or “the infinite language, the infinite knowledge”, or “essence of breath, life, everything that exists”, or that “with which one is liberated”.
The Sama Veda, the poetical Veda, orthographically maps Om to the audible, the musical truths in its numerous variations (Oum, Aum, Ovā Ovā Ovā Um, etc.) and then attempts to extract musical meters from it.

Specific references from Upanishads

Om is a common symbol found in the ancient texts of Hinduism, such as in the first line of Rig veda, as well as an icon in temples and spiritual retreats.

The syllable “Om” is described with various meanings in the Upanishads. Descriptions include “the sacred sound, the Yes!, the Vedas, the Udgitha (song of the universe), the infinite, the all encompassing, the whole world, the truth, the ultimate reality, the finest essence, the cause of the Universe, the essence of life, the Brahman, the Atman, the vehicle of deepest knowledge, and Self-knowledge”.

Chandogya Upanishad

The Chandogya Upanishad is one of the oldest Upanishads of Hinduism. It opens with the recommendation that “let a man meditate on Om”. It calls the syllable Om as udgitha (उद्गीथ, song, chant), and asserts that the significance of the syllable is thus: the essence of all beings is earth, the essence of earth is water, the essence of water are the plants, the essence of plants is man, the essence of man is speech, the essence of speech is the Rig Veda, the essence of the Rig Veda is the Sama Veda, and the essence of Sama Veda is the udgitha (song, Om).

Chandogya Upanishad states that Rik (ऋच्, Ṛc) is speech, and Sāman (सामन्) is breath; they together produce song. The highest song is Om, asserts section 1.1.1. It says: “Let a man meditate on the syllable Om, called the udgitha; for the udgitha (a portion of the Sama-veda) is sung, beginning with Om.” It is the symbol of awe, of reverence, of threefold knowledge.

The second volume of the first chapter continues its discussion of syllable Om, explaining its use as a struggle between Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons). Ancient Indian scholars have considered this struggle between gods and demons as representing the good and evil inclinations within man, respectively. The legend in section 1.2 of Chandogya Upanishad states that gods took the Udgitha (song of Om) unto themselves, thinking, “with this song we shall overcome the demons”. The syllable Om is thus implied as that which inspires the good inclinations within each person.

Chandogya Upanishad’s exposition of syllable Om in its opening chapter combines the origin of Om, its metric structure and philosophical themes. In the second chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad, the meaning and significance of Om evolves into a philosophical discourse, such as in section 2.10 where Om is linked to the Highest Self, and section 2.23 where the text asserts Om is the essence of three forms of knowledge, Om is Brahman and “Om is all this”.

Katho Upanishad

The Katho Upanishad is the legendary story of a little boy, Nachiketa – the son of sage Vajasravasa – who meets Yama, the Indian deity of death. Their conversation evolves to a discussion of the nature of man, knowledge, Atman (Soul, Self) and moksha (liberation). In section 1.2, Katho Upanishad characterizes Knowledge/Wisdom as the pursuit of good, and Ignorance/Delusion as the pursuit of pleasant, that the essence of Veda is make man liberated and free, look past what has happened and what has not happened, free from the past and the future, beyond good and evil, and one word for this essence is the word Om.

Katho Upanishad, 1.2.15-1.2.16 : Quote

The word which all the Vedas proclaim,
That which is expressed in every Tapas (penance, austerity, meditation),
That for which they live the life of a Brahmacharin,
Understand that word in its essence: Om! that is the word.
Yes, this syllable is Brahman,
This syllable is the highest.
He who knows that syllable,
Whatever he desires, is his.

Maitri Upanishad

The Maitrayaniya Upanishad in sixth lesson discusses the meaning and significance of Om. The text asserts that Om represents Brahman-Atman. The three roots of the syllable, states the Maitri Upanishad, are A + U + M. The sound is the body of Soul, and it repeatedly manifests in three: as gender-endowed body – feminine, masculine, neuter; as light-endowed body – Agni, Vayu and Aditya; as deity-endowed body – Brahma, Rudra and Vishnu; as mouth-endowed body – Garhapatya, Dakshinagni and Ahavaniya; as knowledge-endowed body – Rig, Saman and Yajur; as world-endowed body – Bhūr, Bhuvaḥ and Svaḥ (waking, dream, deep sleep); as time-endowed body – Past, Present and Future; as heat-endowed body – Breath, Fire and Sun; as growth-endowed body – Food, Water and Moon; as thought-endowed body – intellect, mind and pysche.[59][63] Brahman exists in two forms – the material form, and the immaterial formless.[64] The material form is changing, unreal. The immaterial formless isn’t changing, real. The immortal formless is truth, the truth is the Brahman, the Brahman is the light, the light is the Sun which is the syllable Om as the Self.

The Maitri Upanishad asserts : The world is Om, its light is Sun, and the Sun is also the light of the syllable Om. Meditating on Om, is acknowledging and meditating on the Brahman-Atman (Soul, Self).

Mundaka Upanishad

The Mundaka Upanishad in the second part, suggests the means to knowing the Self and the Brahman to be meditation, self-reflection and introspection, that can be aided by the symbol Om.

Mundaka Upanishad, 2.2.2 – 2.2.4 : Quote

That which is flaming, which is subtler than the subtle,
on which the worlds are set, and their inhabitants –
That is the indestructible Brahman.
It is life, it is speech, it is mind. That is the real. It is immortal.
It is a mark to be penetrated. Penetrate It, my friend.

Taking as a bow the great weapon of the Upanishad,
one should put upon it an arrow sharpened by meditation,
Stretching it with a thought directed to the essence of That,
Penetrate that Imperishable as the mark, my friend.

Om is the bow, the arrow is the Soul, Brahman the mark,
By the undistracted man is It to be penetrated,
One should come to be in It,
as the arrow becomes one with the mark.

Adi Shankara, in his review of the Mundaka Upanishad, states Om as a symbolism for Atman (soul, self).

Mandukya Upanishad

The Mandukya Upanishad opens by declaring, “Om!, this syllable is this whole world”. Thereafter it presents various explanations and theories on what it means and signifies. This discussion is built on a structure of “four fourths” or “fourfold”, derived from A + U + M + “silence” (or without an element).

Aum as all states of time
In verse 1, the Upanishad states that time is threefold: the past, the present and the future, that these three are “Aum”. The four fourth of time is that which transcends time, that too is “Aum” expressed.

Aum as all states of Atman
In verse 2, states the Upanishad, everything is Brahman, but Brahman is Atman (the Soul, Self), and that the Atman is fourfold.

Aum as all states of consciousness
In verses 3 to 6, the Mandukya Upanishad enumerates four states of consciousness: wakeful, dream, deep sleep and the state of ekatma (being one with Self, the oneness of Self). These four are A + U + M + “without an element” respectively.

Aum as all states of knowledge
In verses 9 to 12, the Mandukya Upanishad enumerates fourfold etymological roots of the syllable “Aum”. It states that the first element of “Aum” is A, which is from Apti (obtaining, reaching) or from Adimatva (being first). The second element is U, which is from Utkarsa (exaltation) or from Ubhayatva (intermediateness). The third element is M, from Miti (erecting, constructing) or from Mi Minati, or apīti (annihilation). The fourth is without an element, without development, beyond the expanse of universe. In this way, states the Upanishad, the syllable Om is indeed the Atman (the self).

Shvetashvatara Upanishad

The Shvetashvatara Upanishad, in verses 1.14 to 1.16, suggests meditating with the help of syllable Om, where one’s perishable body is like one fuel-stick and the syllable Om is the second fuel-stick, which with discipline and diligent rubbing of the sticks unleashes the concealed fire of thought and awareness within. Such knowledge, asserts the Upanishad, is the goal of Upanishads. The text asserts that Om is a tool of meditation empowering one to know the God within oneself, to realize one’s Atman (Soul, Self).

Aitareya Aranyaka Upanishad

Aitareya Aranyaka explains Om as “an acknowledgment, melodic confirmation, something that gives momentum and energy to a hymn”.
Om (ॐ) is the pratigara (agreement) with a hymn. 

Tripura Rahasya

In this great scripture, recommended and referred to by Sri Ramana Maharshi, the very first verse starts with Om.

Salutation to Aum (undifferentiated Brahman, and yet the) Primal and Blissful cause, the transcendental consciousness shining as the unique mirror of the wonderful universe:

Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita, in the Epic Mahabharata, mentions the meaning and significance of Om in several verses. For example, Verse 9.17 of the Bhagavad Gita says “Om which is the symbol for the indescribable, impersonal Brahman”.

Krishna to Arjuna, Bhagavad Gita 9.17 Quote:
I am the Father of this world, Mother, Ordainer, Grandfather, the Thing to be known, the Purifier, the syllable Om, Rik, Saman and also Yajus.

The significance of the sacred syllable in the Hindu traditions, is similarly highlighted in various of its verses, such as verse 17.24 where the importance of Om during prayers, charity and meditative practices is explained as follows :

Bhagavad Gita 17.24 : Quote

Therefore, uttering Om, the acts of yajna (fire ritual), dāna (charity) and tapas (austerity) as enjoined in the scriptures, are always begun by those who study the Brahman.

Yoga Sutra

The aphoristic verse 1.27 of Pantanjali’s Yogasutra links Om to Yoga practice, as follows,

Yogasutra 1.27 : Quote
तस्य वाचकः प्रणवः ॥२७॥

His word is Om.

Puranic Hinduism

The Hindu deity Ganesha is sometimes linked to the symbol Om and as the symbol for Upanishadic concept of Brahman.
The medieval era texts of Hinduism, such as the Puranas adopt and expand the concept of Om in their own ways, and to their own theistic sects. According to the Vayu Purana, Om is the representation of the Hindu Trimurti, and represents the union of the three gods, viz. A for Brahma, U for Vishnu and M for Shiva. The three sounds also symbolise the three Vedas, namely (Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda).

The Shiva Purana highlights the relation between deity Shiva and the Pranava or Om. Shiva is declared to be Om, and that Om is Shiva.

The End

To Summarize, once again it is better that I quote the words of a Sage. 
Sri Ramana Maharshi : “In the sphere of speech Pranava (the mystic sound AUM) represents the transcendental (nirguna). Om is the eternal truth. That which remains over after the disappearance of objects is Om. It does not merge in anything. It is the State of which it is said: “Where one sees none other, hears none other, knows none other, that is Perfection.” Yatra nanyat pasyati, nanyat srunoti, nanyat vijanati sa bhuma. All the upasanas are ways to winning it. One must not get stuck in the upasanas, but must query “Who am I?” and find the Self.”

Two kinds of Culture

Two kinds of Culture

Hindu Culture
The Definition of Culture
Talks by Swami Tejomayananda

A question is asked : how many different kinds of culture are there?

There are many communities and nations and each one has its own culture our tradition. Nevertheless we mainly divide our classify these cultures into two general groups : spiritual culture and material or materialistic culture. These words will also have to be understood very carefully.

In Sanskrit, spiritual culture is called “adhyatmic samskriti“,  and materialistic culture is known as “bhautic samskriti“. 

These terms are often and misunderstood, for we generally think that materialistic culture means to go on enjoying – just to eat drink and be merry! But this is a very superficial way of looking at it. At the same time, people have the notion that to be spiritual one has to renounce everything, to run off to the Himalayas and just sit there! So one person is saying, “enjoy the world” and the other is saying, “Escape! Run away from this world. Everything in it, is bad. Go somewhere far away and contemplate.”

Others have the notion that spiritual culture is very good, but materialism is very bad – that the people of a particular culture and their country are bad. Each person becomes proud of his own culture. The follower of the materialistic culture who does not fully understand spiritual culture says “you people are just getting poorer and poorer, your culture is useless.” Then those of the spiritual nature say to the materialist,” you are only running after objects, going through stress and strain, tension, and temptation. What kind of a life is that?” So each person thinks his own culture is superior. Most people do not have a clear understanding of what material culture and spiritual culture really mean, for it is not that one is good and the other is bad.

Some teenagers and youngsters say, “Oh, we know what spiritual culture is : when you  see an elderly person, you must prostrate to him. That is called spiritual culture – prostration, salutation,.” And some parents insist insist on it so much that they push the child’s head down to touch to the elders feet; and the child just thinks,” why should I smell his feet?” Is this what spiritual nature is?

In Sanskrit, the term “bhautic vaada” (materialism) comes from the word bhuta,”Element”; “bhautic” means elemental. One generally takes as real only that which is directly in front of one’s eyes, which is tangible and in a material form. The philosophical basis of “bhautic vaada” is : seeing is believing”. Thus, whatever I see is real. Perception of the material tangible world is given complete validity and reality, and something that is not seen or known, for it is not verifiable by scientific experiment in the laboratory, is not accepted as real. Materialism means faith in matter, the physical things that are perceived by our senses. That this is why some people who have studied only a little bit of science say,” What is religion? Religion is only a matter of faith, and you are just accepting what you do not see.”

I met a man of few days ago in Washington DC who, while a student in Delhi, had met Dr. Radhakrishnan, the then Vice President of India. He had asked Dr. Radhakrishnan a question : “Sir, since you are a great philosopher, can you explain the difference between science and religion, as there seems to be a contradiction between the two? Religion speaks of something that is not seen, and people have faith in that. But in science one says,”No, I only accept what I see,” so it appears that scientists are anti-religious.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan gave a very nice answer. He said,” it is something like this : a little science takes you away from religion but more of it takes you near religion.” Dr. Radhakrishnan meant that those students who have studied only a little bit of science –  atomic physics, particle physics and so on, speak of religion and God in derogatory terms. Einstein would not agree with this negative view, as is evident from his writings.

Thus the materialist has faith in, and bases his life upon, the supposed validity and the reality of seen things, whereas spiritual philosophy says,”Yes, whatever is seen is fine, But do not think that truth is only that which is seen by the senses.” There are many things that exist even though you cannot see them. Sense perception is not the only valid means of knowing what is it real. Through the senses we can only observe objects of the world, but there are things that lie beyond sense perception, and different means exist for knowing them.

The need to refine our behaviour

The need to refine our behaviour

Hindu Culture
The Definition of Culture
Talks by Swami Tejomayananda

What we need to do is to control discipline and refine our behavior in that human being. In the human being, Nature has released its control and said, ” Now you are blessed with an intellect. You have the faculty of reason and discrimination; therefore, you can choose and know what is good for you and live accordingly”. If a person can live like this, it is good; if not he becomes even worse than an animal.

In order to refine the person, to prevent Prakriti from turning into Vikriti, what we need is Samskriti or culture. Mere education or rising to higher positions, gaining money gaining more money and power, would not necessarily make one a cultured person. One’s mind may yet remain animalistic.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to say that our minds are you like that of a vulture. A vulture flies very high in the sky, but where our is his eyes? They are on the dead body lying on the ground. The moment he sees the dead body he sweeps down to eat it! We are also like that. A person may fly to a very “high” position of political, economic, or financial power; and others may even be prostrating to him. But where is his mind? This is, as we say, “corruption in high places”. So when our minds is like that of a vulture fixed on low, base things, we need culture in order to fly high, not only materially, but morally and spiritually as well. Then the mind rises to true spiritual heights.

It is difficult to explain what culture is, and it cannot be taught through discourses. As Swamiji (Swami Chinmayananda) says , culture cannot be taught,  but it can be caught ( by the children)”. Just as children automatically “pick up” whichever language is spoken at home without being taught, culture is also “picked up” the same way. If we constantly instruct the children on do’s and dont’s, yet we ourselves live differently, they will not follow our instructions. Example always speaks louder then words, this is why culture cannot be taught merely by words.

Living life based on noble values is the most important point concerning culture. Why do we need values? Why do we need to respect them and live by them? Because in the human being, that is every danger of his nature transgressing its limits and becoming a perversion. This is what we see in the world today; greed for money, power, and position. No one knows what will happen next. Yet we cannot just blame the political leaders, because these tendencies are in our minds as well and we act accordingly. It is just that one who has more power will terrorize more, that is all.

We find this same behavior in some school children also, for some of them are monster-like in creating troubles for others. Concerning the worst-behaved child in the classroom, a teacher once said, “What is great about him is his attendance record at school is hundred percent”. The teacher is thinking to herself, “Stay home at least one day, please !” But no, he attends every day, and every day he creates problems!

There are bullies in the classroom as well as in world politics, and it shows the absence of something – the absence of refinement. One may be rich, a well-educated scholar, or a politically powerful person; but he may not have the refinement of character which we call Samskriti. The beauty of the person does not lie in his physical, educational, or other capabilities; but in but in his culture which expresses itself every moment in his day-to-day life.

Sankrit word for Culture and its meaning

Sankrit word for Culture and its meaning

Hindu Culture
The Definition of Culture
Talks by Swami Tejomayananda

2b. Sanskrit word for culture

We will now look at the actual Sanskrit word for “culture”, and see its meaning and deeper implication.

In Sanskrit, the word for a culture is Samskriti. Kritam means”That which is done”, sam means “very well”; samskriti means “that which is very well made, very well refined”. Therefore, even the Sanskrit language itself is that which is a well-refined, purified language.

In terms of behavior, when we speak of culture we also mean a kind of a refinement. We often say that an individual is “cultured”, his behavior is “cultured”, although he may not necessarily be an educated person.. Many times, in fact, an educated man may be a brute because being truly cultured is different from merely being formally educated. But to fully understand this concept of samskriti, we must understand two other basic points.

The first point is the concept of prakriti, which we generally translate does as “nature”. The inherent nature or tendency of a thing is called its prakriti. For example, animals have urges such as hunger, thirst, feelings of fear or insecurity, and the need for sleep, and they live according to these desires or urges. This is defined as their nature.

A human being also has the same feelings off fear, hunger, thirst, and the desire for progeny. These are natural urges. Therefore, when a person feels hunger and goes in search of food, the action is called prakriti – action in accordance with nature. There is nothing wrong in this.

As long as we are acting according to nature, that is no problem. But there is a difference between the urges of an animal and a human being. The animal’s urges and pursuits are controlled by nature; they remain within limits and never transgress nature. Therefore, the animals behavior is true to its prakriti.

For instance, when a dog has satisfied its hunger, it will not eat anymore. In the ashram where I was studying,  some three or four dogs would remain around the kitchen and dining hall when the food was being served, and afterwards they would be fed. If there was more food than the dogs could eat at that time, they would each dig a hole in the earth and keep the food there until later. When they become became hungry, they would go back, dig up the food, and eat it. Also when dogs are sick, they will not eat food at all, but only different grasses – as medicine. Nature has given them this understanding.

But a human being! Whatever sickness he may have, even if his stomach is upset, the first question he would ask the doctor is, “What can I eat?” He just cannot control his eating. So the difference is that the animals that remain true to their prakriti; they do not transgress it. Even the animals desire for progeny is according to season. Everything is controlled.

In Sanskrit, there is another word, vikriti, which in this context, I will translate as “perversion”. When some urge or desire grows out of proportion and we transgress the control and limits of prakriti, it is vikriti, perversion; no longer prakriti. When I feel tired, naturally I sleep for sometime to revive myself and then again begin to work. Here, the sleep is not a problem, it is not a vikriti. But if one sleeps for 16 hours at a stretch then something is wrong; it is not natural and is therefore because vikriti. These are people who sleep tend to 10 to 12 hours and still say, “I think I got up too early this morning exclamation”!” But 12 hours of sleep is abnormal and unnatural and is called the vikriti.

In the same way, when I am hungry and want to eat, this is prakriti. However, if I continue to eat like a glutton, and in order to satisfy my taste buds I am ready to ready to do anything (kill animals, and even destroying nature to fulfill my desire), then this is perversion.

I once heard a story about a Roman Emperor who was so terribly fond of eating that he used to over eat and afterwards take medicine in order to vomit. Then he would again begin to eat! Even when we hear about such a thing we feel nauseous! This obsession of the emperor with eating is vikriti.

All living beings have natural urges, and as long as they live within their limits, it is not the perversion; it is simple prakriti. In the case of animals, their behavior is controlled by nature itself, back in the case of human beings, that is the difference.

The human being is blessed with the faculty of thinking, which allows a lot of freedom. And what is that freedom? I can either destruct or construct myself; both are possible. Thus this faculty of thinking is a blessing if we use it rightly. If we do not know how to use it properly, it can become a curse. Our prakriti, our nature, can become an obsession, an abnormality. This is why psychology books contain sections on abnormal psychology, dealing with the thought and behavioral patterns of people whose nature has taken the form of perversion.

Definition of Culture – Defining Culture

Definition of Culture : Defining Culture 

Hindu Culture
The Definition of Culture
Talks by Swami Tejomayananda

The word “culture” is very well known to all of us. But when it comes to defining this word we find that it is not very easy. Swami Chinmayananda has explained that when a group of people live together for a long time in a particular geographical area, living certain values, the special individuality or fragrance that emanates from that group is said to be their culture.

In this definition of culture the four important factors are: that a group of people must exist, that they must live together in a particular area, that they must live there for a long period of time, and that they respect certain common values of life. Only in such a situation will the unique characteristics of those people be created. If the individuals are spread out – one living here, another one there – or if they are constantly roaming about with no values in common, then you will not find any recognizable culture emerging from them.

The special mark or characteristic that develops under the above circumstances is called Culture, which is not characteristic of only one individual, but of the group as a whole.

There is a difference between the community’s and individual’s nature, which I would like to explain. When a certain individual behaves in a particular way, we generally say, “that is his nature“. But when a community responds to different situations in a particular way, we say “it is its culture“. The difference is that with respect to one person’s mode of behavior we call it nature; and with respect to a community, we call it culture. They influence each other, no doubt, for the individual will influence the total, and the total also affects the behavior of the individual. But let us first understand the meaning and significance of each term by itself.

In Sanskrit, we call the individual’s nature samskara. In a family with three or four children, though each is born into the same culture, we find that each individual behaves differently. Then we ask : if they are all born in the same family, the same culture, and in the same country, then why does each person behaves differently? We answer that it is his nature (samskara, svabhava); and his actions are in accordance with those particular tendencies. When it comes to a group, however, we say that the group’s mode of behavior and its response is its culture .

Cultures differ very much from place to place. Even in the Eastern hemisphere, for instance, the Middle Eastern countries are different from the Far Eastern countries, and India is again different from both. When we come to the Western countries, we also find that the European culture is different from the American culture; thus even though we may say “Western culture”, many differences are contained within this generalization.