”AUM”: this word ”AUM” is very significant – significant as a sign, as a symbol, as a secret key. So first we must decode it.
AUM has five matras, five steps. The first step is A, the second is U, the third is M. These are gross steps. When we utter AUM, A-U-M – these are three words. But utter AUM [long], and in the end the M resounds – ”mmm”. That is a half step – the fourth. Three are gross and can be heard. The fourth is half gross. If you are very aware, only then is it heard; otherwise it is lost. And the fifth is just never heard. When the sound of AUM vibrates and the vibrations go into the cosmic emptiness, when the sound has gone and a soundlessness remains, that is the fifth. You utter the word AUM, then A-U-M is heard very clearly, then a lingering sound of ”mmm” – half a step – and then soundlessness. That is the fifth. These five steps are just signs towards many things.
First, the Upanishads know that human consciousness has five steps. We know the three gross ones – the waking, the dreaming and the sleep. These are three gross – A-U-M. The Upanishads call the fourth turiya. They have not named it because it is not gross. The fourth is that in which one becomes aware of deep sleep also. If you have been deep in sleep, in a deep dreamless sleep, if in the morning you can say, ”I have been in a deep, deep sleep,” then someone in you has been aware and remembers somehow that there has been a very deep, dreamless sleep – but a witness was there. That witness is known as the fourth. But the Upanishads say that even the fourth is not the ultimate, because to be a witness is still to be separate. So when the witness also dissolves, if only the Existence remains, without a witness, that is the fifth. So this AUM is a sign for many things – for many things – for five bodies in man. The Upanishads divide them into anamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vigyanamaya and anandamaya – five sheaths, five bodies.
This AUM is a cosmic sign. This is just a sign, but it is also a symbol. What does it mean when I say it is also a symbol? When someone goes deep into Existence, to the roots, to the very roots, then thoughts are no more there, the thinker is no more there, objectivity is no more there, subjectivity is no more there – but, still, everything is. In that thoughtless, thinkerless moment, a sound is heard. That sound resembles AUM – just resembles it. It is not AUM; that is why it is a symbol. We cannot reproduce it. This is the approximate resemblance. That is why it has been likened to many sounds, but it is always nearer to AUM.
~ OSHO – The Ultimate Alchemy