Meaning of OM NAMAH SHIVAYA Mantra
Affirmations of Faith
By means of the hymns, one attains this world, by the sacrificial formulas, the space in-between, by holy chant ,the world revealed by the sages. With the syllable Om as his sole support, the wise man attains that which is peaceful, unaging, deathless, fearless—the Supreme.
Atharva Veda, Praśna Upaniṣad 5.7. ve, 775
What Is the Holy Namaḥ Śivāya Mantra?
Namaḥ Śivāya is among the foremost Vedic mantras. It means “adoration to Śiva” and is called the Pañchākshara, or “five-letters.” Within its celestial tones and hues resides all of the intuitive knowledge of Śaivism. Aum.
Namaḥ Śivāya is the most holy name of God Śiva, recorded at the very center of the Vedas and elaborated in the Śaiva Āgamas.
Na is the Lord’s concealing grace, Ma is the world, Śi stands for Śiva, Va is His revealing grace, Ya is the soul.
The five elements, too, are embodied in this ancient formula for invocation:
Na is earth, Ma is water, Śi is fire, Va is air, and Ya is ether, or ākāśa.
Many are its meanings. Namaḥ Śivāya has such power, the mere intonation of these syllables reaps its own reward in salvaging the soul from bondages of the treacherous instinctive mind and the steel bands of a perfected externalized intellect.
Namaḥ Śivāya quells the instinct, cuts through the steel bands and turns this intellect within and on itself, to face itself and see its ignorance.
Sages declare that mantra is life, that mantra is action, that mantra is love and that the repetition of mantra, japa, bursts forth wisdom from within.
The holy Natchintanai proclaims:
“Namaḥ Śivāya is in truth both Āgama and Veda. Namaḥ Śivāya represents all mantras and tantras. Namaḥ Śivāya is our souls, our bodies and possessions. Namaḥ Śivāya has become our sure protection." Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
God Śiva dances His dance of creation, preservation and dissolution within the five elements. Namaḥ Śivāya holds the secret of transformation, a power so perfect it can turn the instinctive nature, depicted as a ruffian, toward super-consciousness.
How Is Namaḥ Śivāya Properly Chanted?
The Pañchākshara Mantra, Namaḥ Śivāya, is repeated verbally or mentally, often while counting a mala of Rudrākṣa beads, drawing the mind in upon itself to cognize Lord Śiva’s infinite, all-pervasive presence. Aum.
Japa yoga is the first yoga to be performed toward the goal of jñāna. In the temple perform japa. Under your favorite tree perform japa. Seated in a remote cave perform japa.
Om Namaḥ Śivāya can be performed on Rudrākṣa beads over and over when the sun is setting, when the sun is rising or high noon lights the day.
“Om Namaḥ Śivāya,” the Śaivite chants. Om Namaḥ Śivāya feeds his soul, brightens his intellect and quells his instinctive mind.
Take the holy tears of Śiva, the auburn Rudrākṣa beads, into your hands. Push a bead over the middle finger with your thumb and hold as the intonation marks its passage.
The duly initiated audibly repeats “Namaḥ Śivāya,” and when japa is performed silently, mentally chants “Śivāya Namaḥ.”
There are many ways to chant this mantra, but perform it as you were initiated. Those prone to angry rage should never do japa.
The Tirumantiram announces:
“His feet are the letter Na. His navel is the letter Ma. His shoulders are the letter Śi. His mouth, the letter Va. His radiant cranial center aloft is Ya. Thus is the five-lettered form of Śiva.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
A mystical solitaire sits deep in a forest, with only his Kamaṇḍalu, water pot, and a yoga daṇḍa on which to rest his arm. With Rudrākṣa mala in his right hand, he chants “Om Namaḥ Śivāya,” drawing awareness to Śiva’s all-pervasive presence.
Is Initiation Necessary to Perform Japa?
The most precious of all Śaivite mantras, Namaḥ Śivāya is freely sung and chanted by one and all. Mantra dīkṣā bestows the permission and power for japa yoga. Without this initiation, its repetition bears lesser fruit. Aum.
The Pañchākshara Mantra is the word of God, the name and total essence of Śiva.
But to chant Namaḥ Śivāya and to be empowered to chant Namaḥ Śivāya is likened to the difference between writing a check without money in the bank and writing a check with money in the bank.
Namaḥ Śivāya is the gateway to yoga. Initiation from an orthodox guru is given after preparation, training and attaining a certain level of purity and dedication. The guru bestows the authority to chant Namaḥ Śivāya.
After initiation, the devotee is obligated to intone it regularly as instructed. This forges the śiṣya’s permanent bond with the guru and his spiritual lineage, sampradāya, and fires the process of inner unfoldment.
From the lips of my Satguru- nātha I learned Namaḥ Śivāya, and it has been the central core of my life, strength and fulfillment of destiny. The secret of Namaḥ Śivāya is to hear it from the right lips at the right time. Then, and only then, is it the most powerful mantra for you.
The Śiva Saṁhitā affirms:
“Only the knowledge imparted by a guru, through his lips, is powerful and useful; otherwise it becomes fruitless, weak and very painful.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
A young king, wishing to rule by dharma under divine guidance, has been initiated into the Namaḥ Śivāya mantra. Even amid royal duties, he holds holy beads and wordlessly chants the Five Letters, his mind on Śiva, symbolized by the Nandi flags.
What Is Śaivism’s Affirmation of Faith?
The proclamation “God Śiva is Immanent Love and Transcendent Reality” is a potent affirmation of faith. Said in any of Earth’s 3,000 languages, it summarizes the beliefs and doctrines of the Śaivite Hindu religion. Aum.
An affirmation of faith is a terse, concise statement summarizing a complex philosophical tradition.
“God Śiva is Immanent Love and Transcendent Reality,” is what we have when we take the milk from the sacred cow of Śaivism, separate out the cream, churn that cream to rich butter and boil that butter into a precious few drops of ghee.
“God Śiva is Immanent Love and Transcendent Reality” is the sweet ghee of the Śaivite Hindu religion.
In the Sanskrit language it is Premaiva Śiva- maya, Satyam eva Paraśivaḥ.
In the sweet Tamil language it is even more succinct and beautiful: Anbe Śivamayam, Satyame Paraśivam. In French it is Dieu Śiva est Amour Omnipresent et Realite Transcendante.
We strengthen our mind with positive affirmations that record the impressions of the distilled and ultimate truths of our religion so that these memories fortify us in times of distress, worldliness or anxiety.
The Tirumantiram proclaims:
“Transcending all, yet immanent in each He stands. For those bound in the world here below, He is the great treasure. Himself the Parapara Supreme, for all worlds He gave the way that His greatness extends.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
How Is the Affirmation of Faith Used?
Intoning the affirmation of faith, we positively assert that God is both manifest and unmanifest, both permeating the world and transcending it, both personal Divine Love and impersonal Reality. Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
On the lips of Śaivites throughout the world resounds the proclamation “God Śiva is Immanent Love and Transcendent Reality.” It is a statement of fact, a summation of truth, even more potent when intoned in one’s native language.
“God Śiva is Immanent Love and Transcendent Reality,” we repeat prior to sleep. “God Śiva is Immanent Love and Transcendent Reality,” we say upon awakening as we recall the transcendent knowledge gained from the rishis during sleep.
These sacred words we say as we bathe to prepare to face the day, God Śiva’s day, reminding ourselves that His immanent love protects us, guides us, lifting our mind into the arena of useful thoughts and keeping us from harm’s way.
Devotees write this affirmation 1,008 times as a sahasra lekhana sādhana. It may be spoken 108 times daily in any language before initiation into Namaḥ Śivāya. Yea, the recitation of this affirmation draws devotees into Śiva consciousness.
The Tirumantiram says:
“The ignorant prate that love and Śiva are two. They do not know that love alone is Śiva. When men know that love and Śiva are the same, love as Śiva they ever remain.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
Homage to the source of health, and to the source of delight.
Homage to the maker of health and to the maker of delight.
Homage to the Auspicious and to the more Auspicious.
(Namastārāya namaḥ śambhave cha mayobhave cha, namaḥ śaṅkarāya cha mayaskarāya cha, Namaḥ Śivāya cha Śivatarāya cha.)
Krishna Yajur Veda, Taittirīya Saṁhitā 4.5.8. yvk, 359
(Namaḥ Śivāya, at the center of the Vedas)
From all knowledge, yoga practice and meditation, all that relates to the Om sound is to be meditated on as the only blissful (Śiva). Indeed, the Om sound is Śiva.
Atharva Veda, Atharva Śikhā Upanishad 2. upb, 782
Mantra yields early success due to practice done in previous life. Self- fulfilling, too, is the mantra which is received according to the line of tradition, with due dīkṣā, obtained in the right way.
Innumerable are the mantras; they but distract the mind. Only that mantra which is received through the grace of the guru gives all fulfilment.
Kulārṇava Tantra 11.3. kt, 112
Japa is the happy giver of enjoyment, salvation, self-fulfilling wish. Therefore, practice the yoga of japa and dhyāna.
All blemishes due to transgressions of rule, from the Jīva up to the Brāhman, done knowingly or unknowingly, are wiped away by japa.
Kulārṇava Tantra 11.1. kt, 111
There are two ways of contemplation of Brāhman: in sound and in silence.
By sound we go to silence. The sound of Brāhman is Om. With Om we go to the End, the silence of Brāhman. The End is immortality, union and peace.
Even as a spider reaches the liberty of space by means of its own thread, the man of contemplation by means of Om reaches freedom.
The sound of Brāhman is Om. At the end of Om is silence. It is a silence of joy. It is the end of the journey, where fear and sorrow are no more: steady, motionless, never-falling, everlasting, immortal.
It is called the omnipresent Vishnu. In order to reach the Highest, consider, in adoration, the sound and the silence of Brāhman.
For it has been said: “God is sound and silence. His name is Om. Attain, therefore, contemplation, contemplation in silence on Him.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upanishad 6.22-23. upm, 102
The bank of a river, the cave, the summit of a hill, the place of holy bath, the confluence of rivers, the holy forest, the vacant garden, the root of the bilva tree, the slope of the hill, the temple, the coast of the sea, one’s own house—these are the places lauded for the sadhana of mantra japa.
Kulārṇava Tantra 11.4. kt, 112
Letters five are the Lord’s gift. Centered in them, He dances, night and day, in endearment eternal, He that assumed forms eight.
Realize the truth of blissful Letters Five; the transcendent Reality fills your heart, immortal you will be. Pañchākshara is your refuge, none other, I emphatically say.
Tirumantiram 974, 980. tm
Thinking of Him, great love welling up in their heart, if they finger the Rudrākṣa beads, it will bring them the glory of the Gods. Chant our naked Lord’s name. Say, “Namaḥ Śivāya!”
Tirumurai 3.307.3. ps, 217
The mystic expression “Namaḥ Śivāya” is the sacred name of Lord Śiva, is the sum and substance of the four Vedas and conveys in the sacred path souls which are full of devotion and do utter it with a melting heart and tears trickling from their eyes.
Tirumurai 3.307.1. tt, 61
The Lord of Appati is both inside and outside, form and no form. He is both the flood and the bank. He is the broad-rayed sun. Himself the highest mystery, He is in all hidden thoughts. He is thought and meaning, and embraces all who embrace Him.
Tirumurai 4.48.7. ps, 114
Let not the effect of past deeds rise in quick succession and overpower you. Chant the Pañchākshara—the mantra of the five letters.
Yogaswami, Grace Ambrosia 5. sy, 407
Through the Letters Five, all sorrow was erased. Through the Letters Five, all want has disappeared. Through the Letters Five, true happiness arose. Within the Letters Five I stayed contained.
Through the Letters Five can God’s holy feet be seen. Through the Letters Five, the whole world you can rule. Through the Letters Five, mind’s action can be stilled. The Letters Five have come and entered my heart.
Natchintanai, “Adoration...” NT, 224