Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 8, Verse 13

ओमित्येकाक्षरं ब्रह्म व्याहरन्मामनुस्मरन् |
य: प्रयाति त्यजन्देहं स याति परमां गतिम् || 13||

oṁ ityekākṣharaṁ brahma vyāharan mām anusmaran
yaḥ prayāti tyajan dehaṁ sa yāti paramāṁ gatim

omsacred syllable representing the formless aspect of God; itithus; eka-akṣharamone syllabled; brahmathe Absolute Truth; vyāharanchanting; māmMe (Shree Krishna); anusmaranremembering; yaḥwho; prayātideparts; tyajanquitting; dehamthe body; saḥhe; yātiattains; paramāmthe supreme; gatimgoal


BG 8.13: One who departs from the body while remembering Me, the Supreme Personality, and chanting the syllable Om, will attain the supreme goal.


The sacred syllable Om, also called Praṇav, represents the sound manifestation of Brahman (the formless aspect of the Supreme Lord, without virtues and attributes).  Hence, it is considered imperishable like God Himself.  Since here Shree Krishna is describing the process of meditation in the context of aṣhṭāṅg-yog sādhanā, He states that one should chant the syllable “Om,” to bring the mind into focus, while practicing austerities and maintaining the vow of celibacy.  The Vedic scriptures also refer to “Om” as the anāhat nād.  It is the sound that pervades creation, and can be heard by yogis who tune in to it. 

The Bible says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)  The Vedic scriptures also state that God first created sound, from sound He created space, and then proceeded further in the process of creation.  That original sound was “Om.”  As a result, it is accorded so much of importance in the Vedic philosophy.  It is called a mahā vākya, or great sound vibration of the Vedas.  It is also called the bīja mantra, because it is often attached to the beginning of the Vedic mantras, just as hrīṁ, klīṁ, etc.  The vibrations of Om consist of three letters: A…U…M.  In the proper chanting of Om, one begins by making the sound “A” from the belly, with an open throat and mouth.  This is merged into the chanting of the sound “U” that is created from the middle of the mouth.  The sequence ends with chanting “M” with the mouth closed.  The three parts A … U … M have many meanings and interpretations.  For the devotees, Om is the name for the impersonal aspect of God. 

This Praṇav sound is the object of meditation in aṣhṭāṅg-yog.  In the path of bhakti-yog, devotees prefer to meditate upon the personal Names of the Lord, such as Ram, Krishna, Shiv, etc. because of the greater sweetness of God’s bliss in these personal Names.  The distinction is like the difference between having a baby in the womb and a baby in the lap.  The baby in the lap is a far sweeter experience than the baby in the womb.  

The final examination of our meditation is the time of death.  Those who are able to fix their consciousness upon God, despite the intense pain of death, pass this exam.  Such persons attain the Supreme destination upon leaving their body.  This is extremely difficult and requires a lifetime of practice.  In the following verse, Shree Krishna gives an easy way of gaining such mastery.