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Many buddhist mantras have Om/Aum in starting of it. In buddhism, esp. theravada, what is the meaning and "significance" of "Om"?

(note:although I am open to mahayana,vajrayana interpretations too as an "additional" input)

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There is no OM or AUM in Theravada to my knowledge. It's found only in Mahayana and Vajrayana.

The 14th Dalai Lama explained here the meaning of OM in "OM MANI PADME HUM" as:

The first, OM, is composed of three pure letters, A, U, and M. These symbolize the practitioner's impure body, speech, and mind; they also symbolize the pure exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha.

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    In Thailand, although the majority of Buddhists there are Theravada, there are many verse invocations or 'thai kathas' for various protective verses, amulets and occult practices which adopts the 'Om' as its beginning or in the middle mixed with verses from the Pali Suttas. buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/archive/index.php/t-1114.html Hence atleast in thai theravada, I could find very prevalent usage of Om. So your assumption is wrong in thai theravada. But I do not know about Srilankan brand of theravada though. – zaxebo1 Mar 22 '18 at 0:35
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    @zaxebo1 OM is a Hindu thing. In Sri Lanka we are usually clear about what is Buddhist and what is Hindu. Even in Thailand, I doubt if OM is used by any serious Theravada monk. – Sankha Kulathantille Mar 22 '18 at 6:27
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    @zaxebo1 I am a thai. I confirm that om/aum is not theravāda. There is no pali-grammar support to om/aum. – Bonn Apr 21 '18 at 2:00

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