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Mmmmaths of Om

india Updated: May 04, 2010 22:03 IST
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Two Indian scientists — Ajay Anil Gurjar and Siddhartha A. Ladhake — are wielding sophisticated mathematics to dissect and analyse the traditional meditation chanting sound ‘Om’. The ‘Om team’ has published six monographs in academic journals, which plumb certain acoustic subtlety of Om that they say is “the divine sound”.

Om has many variations. In a study published in the International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, the researchers explain: “It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it may be slower, several seconds for each cycling of [the] Om mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods but still pulsing at that slow rate.”

The important technical fact is that no matter what form of Om one chants at whatever speed, there’s always a basic ‘Omness’ to it.

Both Gurjar, principal at Amravati’s Sipna College of Engineering and Technology, and Ladhake, an assistant professor in the same institution, specialise in electronic signal processing. They now sub-specialise in analysing the one very special signal. In the introductory paper, Gurjar and Ladhake explain that, “Om is a spiritual mantra, outstanding to fetch peace and calm.”

No one has explained the biophysical processes that underlie the ‘fetching of calm’ and taking away of thoughts. Gurjar and Ladhake's time-frequency analysis is a tiny step along that hitherto little-taken branch of the path of enlightenment. They apply a mathematical tool called wavelet transforms to a digital recording of a person chanting ‘Om’. Even people with no mathematical background can appreciate, on some level, one of the blue-on-white graphs included in the monograph. This graph, the authors say, “depicts the chanting of ‘Om’ by a normal person after some days of chanting”. The image looks like a pile of nearly identical, slightly lopsided pancakes held together with a skewer, the whole stack lying sideways on a table. To behold it is to see, if nothing else, repetition.

Much as people chant the sound ‘Om’ over and over again, Gurjar and Ladhake repeat much of the same analysis in their other five studies, managing each time to chip away at some slightly different mathematico-acoustical fine point.