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Ik Onkar (Gurmukhi: ੴ, ਇੱਕ ਓਅੰਕਾਰ; Punjabi pronunciation: [ɪkː oəŋkaɾ]) is the symbol that represents the one supreme reality and is a central tenet of Sikh religious philosophy. Ik Onkar has a prominent position at the head of the Mul Mantar and the opening words of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Ik (ਇੱਕ) means one and only one, who cannot be compared or contrasted with any other, Onkar (ਓਅੰਕਾਰ) is the one universal ever flowing divine melody and existential unstruck, never-ending sound of God.
To simplify Ik means one, Oang the creator and Kar means the creation. So the creator and his creation are not different and He the supreme creator resides everywhere and in everything.
The sound is Oang (anhad naad) and Kar is the never ending continuation of Oang sound. This melody manifests in billions of galaxies and universes and leads to protect and preserve. Ultimately, everything gets merged back into this sound; this has happened countless times before.
It is a symbol of the unity of God in Sikhism, meaning God is One or One God, and is found in all religious scriptures and places such as gurdwaras. Derived from Punjabi, Ik Onkār is the first phrase in the Mool Mantar referring to the existence of "one constant divine melody" which is proved by Gurbani itself in:
ਓਅੰਕਾਰ ਏਕ ਧੁਨਿ ਏਕੈ।।
Oangkar one and only divine melody
ਏਕੈ ਰਾਗੁ ਅਲਾਪੈ।।
One melody is tuned
ਏਕਾ ਦੇਸੀ ਏਕੁ ਦਿਖਾਵੈ ਏਕੋ ਰਹਿਆ ਬਿਆਪੈ।। ਮਹਲਾ ੫
One is his land, one way he shows and that one is omnipresent.
Page 885 (Shree Guru Granth Sahib Ji)
ਓਅੰ ਆਦਿ ਸਰੂਪੈ।।
ਓਅੰ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕੀੲੋ ਪਸਾਰਾ।।
It is found in the Gurmukhi script and is consequently also part of the Sikh morning prayer, Japji Sahib. It is a combination of two characters, the numeral ੧, Ikk (one) and the first letter of the word Onkar (Constant taken to mean God) - which also happens to be the first letter of the Gurmukhī script - an ūṛā, ੳ, coupled with a specially adapted vowel symbol hōṛā, yielding ਓ.
In Mul MantraEdit
It is also the opening phrase of the Mul Mantar, present as opening phrase in the Guru Granth Sahib, and the first composition of Guru Nanak. Further, the Mul Mantar is also at the beginning of the Japji Sahib, followed by 38 hymns and a final Salok at the end of this composition.
- Punjabi: ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
- Simplified transliteration: Ik Oankaar Satnaam Kartaa Purakh Nirbhau Nirvair Akaal Moorat Ajoonee Saibhan Gur Prasaad
- English: One universal Creator God who created the universe with the sound "Oang", Truth and eternal is the name, Creative being, Without Fear, Without Enmity, Timeless and deathless Form, Not affected by the circle of life and death - unborn , Self-Existent, He can be realized by the grace of the true and eternal Guru who has the power to enlighten us. 
The phrase is a compound of the numeral one (ik) and onkar, states Doniger, canonically understood in Sikhism to refer to "absolute monotheistic unity of God". Ik Onkar has a prominent position at the head of the Mul Mantar and the opening words of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The Onkar of Sikhism is related to Om in Hinduism. Some Sikhs disagree that Ik Onkar is same as Om. Onkar is, states Wazir Singh, a "variation of Om (Aum) of the ancient Indian scriptures (with a slight change in its orthography), implying the seed-force that evolves as the universe". Guru Nanak wrote a poem entitled Oankar in which, states Doniger, he "attributed the origin and sense of speech to the Divinity, who is thus the Om-maker".
Oankar ('the Primal Sound') created the Creator, Oankar fashioned the consciousness,
From Oankar came mountains and ages, Oankar produced knowledge,
By the grace of Oankar, people were saved through the divine word,
By the grace of Oankar, they were liberated through the teachings of the Guru.— Ramakali Dakkhani, Adi Granth 929-930, Translated by Pashaura Singh
It is constituted of two components - Ek and Onkar. Ek means one, and is written as a numerical figure '1'. Onkar stands for the Primal mystical Divine Name of God referred to as Brahman in the Vedic literature. In order to grasp fully the underlying spiritual significance and meaning of Ek-Onkar each of its components needs to be studied in depth, beginning with Onkar.
The root of Onkar is traceable to the Hindu sacred syllable Om, also written as Aum. Historically, in the beginning, Om was used as a reply of approval or consent.
At a later stage, with the evolution of Indian philosophic thought, the sages of Upanishads pronounced it as an adequate symbol of the Absolute Transcendent Reality, Brahman. It is considered as the unity of all sound to which all matters and energy are reduced in their primordial form, hence fit as a symbol for Atman (soul) or Brahman, the Supreme Being, which is the unity of all existence. These - and possibly some other - considerations led the Vedic sages to accord to Om the highest Divine reverence and worship. As a very sacred and powerful Mantra it forms part of daily worship and meditation by Hindu devotees. It is treated as the holiest symbol of Divinity calling it Nada Brahma or Shabda Brahma in the form of sound. Its nearest equivalent in the West is Logos or the 'Word'. St. John's Gospel expounds it thus:
"in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." The Word was the true light that enlightens all men!
Written in original, it is composed of three letters of Sanskrit alphabet, corresponding to A U M of English alphabet. According to certain interpretations, the three sounds represent three facets of Nirguna Parabrahm Paramatma - the One Formless Supreme Being. These facets namely are creation, preservation, and destruction. Symbolically, these different facets of the One are sometimes represented in the Sagun forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. There always is consciousness in Hinduism, however, that these forms are simply representations of the One.
Guru Nanak followed in the tradition of Nirguna Parabrahm Paramatma - One and Only One Formless Supreme Being, an Indivisible Entity. This belief in the unity of God he has re-iterated in various ways in his other compositions as well. At one place he emphatically affirms, Sahib mera Eko hai, Eko hai Bhai, eko hai.
'My Master is One, One only, Oh Brother, He is Sole.'
So Guru Nanak's revealed Scripture place numerical figure '1' before Onkar thus enhancing his firm conviction in the unity of God. Its main importance and underlying significance lies in the fact that one is not represented by 'one' in words, but by a numerical figure '1'; thus completely eliminating any possibility of words being given different meaning. It was Guru Nanak's own inspired vision that transformed AUM into Ek-Onkar representing the Supreme Being, the Sole Absolute Eternal Reality which, while manifesting itself in multiplicity as Onkar, is still in its essence 'Sole and Absolute'; Transcendent as well as Immanent. Impersonal is also Personal in Ek-Onkar.
By the large, Sikhs worship 'Waheguru' as God's name for constant remembrance by repetition aloud or Sotto Voce. In Sikh parlance, this is known as 'Naam Simran'. There are, however, many a Sikh who also meditate upon and use Ek-Onkar for 'Naam Simran'. Like 'Waheguru' this is also considered to be a powerful Mantra for achieving spiritual progress and Divine Grace for final emancipation of the individual soul.
In conclusion, it can be said that Ek-Onkar is the true symbol of Sikhism given to us by Guru Nanak based on his spiritual experience and inspired vision at the very inception of the Sikh faith.
- Rose, David (2012). Sikhism photpack. Fu Ltd. p. 10. ISBN 1-85276-769-3.
- "Basic Articles". SGPC. Archived from the original on 25 July 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
- Doniger, Wendy (1999). Merriam-Webster's encyclopedia of world religions. Merriam-Webster. p. 500. ISBN 978-0-87779-044-0. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
- "ਇੱਕ - meaning in English". Shabdkosh. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
- "Ek-Omkār / Ik-Omkār / Ekankār It is from the Sanskrit word Omkar. The mystic name of God. It is used at the beginning of prayers and holy recitations, and also at the beginning of writing respectful salutations. The unmanifest, God in power, the holy word, the primal manifestation of Godhead by which and in which all live, move and have their being and by which all find a way back to Absolute God. God is the Supreme Reality. His other name is 'Sat Nām'. The Sikhs meditate on God as Ek-Omkar, and not in any other way like worship of idols “Rām Nām Jap Ek-Omkar". (GGS, p. 185) Ek Omkar is the Transcendent Lord of entire creation, who existed before the creation and who alone will survive the creation. (GGS, pp. 296 and 930, and Bhai Gurdas Var, 4011.)" — Ramesh Chander Dogra & Gobind Singh Mansukhani, Encyclopaedia of Sikh Religion and Culture, pp 138–139
- Real Sikhism: Meaning of word Ik Onkar.
- Mayled, John (2002). Sikhism. Heinemann. p. 16. ISBN 0-435-33627-4.
- David Rose, Gill Rose (2003). Sacred Texts photopack. Folens Limited. p. 12. ISBN 1-84303-443-3.
- Arvind Mandair (2008), Shared Idioms, Sacred Symbols, and the Articulation of Identities in South Asia (Editor: Kelly Pemberton), Routledge, ISBN 978-0415958288, page 61
- Singh, Wazir (1969). Aspects of Guru Nanak's philosophy. Lahore Book Shop. p. 20. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
the 'a,' 'u,' and 'm' of aum have also been explained as signifying the three principles of creation, sustenance and annihilation. ... aumkār in relation to existence implies plurality, ... but its substitute Ekonkar definitely implies singularity in spite of the seeming multiplicity of existence. ...
- Singh, Khushwant (2002). "The Sikhs". In Kitagawa, Joseph Mitsuo. The religious traditions of Asia: religion, history, and culture. London: RoutledgeCurzon. p. 114. ISBN 0-7007-1762-5.
- Wazir Singh (1969), Guru Nanak's philosophy, Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 1, Issue 1, page 56
- Pashaura Singh (2014), in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Editors: Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199699308, page 227