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Mantra - Panchaakshar
See also       Naarad Puraan, 1/27  --- for more elaborated explanation;   Keelak,    Mantra (in Astrology);    Panchaakshar;    Poojaa;   Soham
Mantra;    Mantra Hare Krishn;    Mantra Jaap (for "How to do Mantra Jaap");    Panchaakshar (in Shiv);     Mantra-Planets
Mantra-Principles  (How Mantra works);    Mantra-Recitation (for the method of recitation of Mantra);    Mantra-Saadhanaa;    Mantra, Tantra, Yantra 
Mantra-Principles;    Importance of Number 108    Jaap;

oly Five Syllables -
Panchaakshar Mantra as popularly known is the holy five syllables (literally holy five letters) that is the supreme Mantra of all devotees of Lord Shiv. As the name suggests it is made up of five syllables. This great Mantra is Namah Shivaaya. The five syllables in this Mantra are Na, Mah, Shi, Vaa, Ya. These two words of five syllables appear in Yajur Ved in the middle of "Rudra Prashn" or "Rudram Chamkam".

The Namah Shivaaya Mantra appears for the first time in Yajur Ved, in the center of all three Ved, Rig Ved, Yajur Ved and Atharv Ved as if Namah Shivaaya is the center of Divinity. Ma is the world, Shi stands for Shiv, 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, Shi is fire, Vaa is air, and Ya is ether, or Aakaash. Its meanings are many. The holy Natchintanai proclaims, "Namah Shivaaya is in truth both Agam and Ved. Namah Shivaaya represents all Mantra and Tantra. "Na" refers to the Gross Body (Annamaya Kosh), "Ma" refers to the Praanik Body (Praanamaya Kosh), "Shi" refers to the Mental Body (Manomaya Kosh), "Va" refers to the Intellectual Body (Vigyaanamaya Kosh) and "Ya" refers to the Blissful Body (Aanandamaya Kosh) and "OM" or the "silence" beyond these syllables refers to the Soul or Life within.

The Core of the Ved -
The Holy Five Syllables Namah Shivaaya is the heart of Ved. It is the core of the very famous chapter of Ved that stands in the middle of the Ved - the Shata Rudreeyam or Rudra Sooktam. This great Mantra of Ved Sanhitaa while hailing the God as the Lord of everything of the worlds, salutes the God as "Namah Shivaaya cha Shivataraaya cha" (Yajur Ved 8.1.11).

Meaning of the Panchaakshar Mantra -
The meaning of this matchless Mantra is abound. The Puraan and the philosophical texts talk in a very detailed and elaborate manner its meaning and significance and hail its ultimateness. Here only a simple meaning is presented to start with. The word Shiv means auspiciousness and perfection. It refers to the God Who is Perfect without any kind of dependency on anything external to make It complete. Naturally because of this self-perfection, It is completely blissful and ever auspicious. (All other auspicious things are in one way or the other dependent on the external circumstances). The prefix Namah is the Mantra of salutation. The Mantra Namah Shivaaya salutationally invokes the Perfect God Shiv. The subtle meaning of this very holy Mantra is - Namah means not mine; and Shivaaya means belongs to Shiv. It is negating the Ahankaar (ego) and realizing everything to belong to Lord Shiv.

Various Panchaakshar Mantra -
Panchaakshar has five syllables, so is Lord Shiv with five faces. Depending upon which letter the Panchaakshar is starting with. The Panchaakshar gets the name of a face of the God. Namah Shivaaya is the Aadyojaat Panchaakshar and Shivaaya Namah is the Aghor Panchaakshar or the Aghor Mantra. Similarly the other Panchaakshar also get the names. As the Panchaakshar "Namah Shivaaya" is at the center of Ved, it is referred as Vaidik way Panchaakshar. "Shivaaya Namah" is the Panchaakshar, used very much in the Agamik worship of the Lord. So it is referred as the Agamik way Panchaakshar. There are various Panchaakshar as Sthool Panchaakshar, Sookshm Panchaakshar, Ati-Sookshm Panchaakshar etc, each of which has its own specific significance. The Taantrik philosophic scriptures have the details about them.

Ways of Chanting the Panchaakshar Mantra -
While many Mantras have restrictions as to when and how it can be chanted etc., there is no such restriction to the Panchaakshar Mantra. "When you sleep as well as when you do not sleep, think of the Holy Five Syllables with heartful of devotion. This is the Mantra that terribly kicked out the death when chanted (by Maarkandeya Rishi) with sincerity." Whoever you are, whatever be the time, whatever be the situation chant the Holy Five Syllables. There are no restrictions of color, creed, caste, gender or any other restrictions. All it requires is sincerity. This Mantra could be chanted as it is as Panchaakshar or could be chanted along with the Pranav (Aum) as Shadaakshar Mantra (Aum Namah Shivaaya) . In fact it is to be noted that Pranav itself is Panchaakshar Mantra (Akaar, Ukara, Makaara, Bindu, Naad).

Benefits of Chanting This Mantra
The thoughts make the person. The one who has the positive thoughts is happier and the one full of worries is the sad one. The thoughts not only have effect at that moment but they definitely make impression on the personality of the individual, which could have a very long lasting impact. In this background while the good thoughts itself would be making things better, what needs to be said about the super-powered Mantra that are rich in meaning as well as energy. Given the fact that "we tend to become what we keep thinking about", when one chants the Sacred Panchaakshar that hails the God as Perfection and Auspicious, it would take one towards that Blissful Perfection. It takes to the union with the Supreme God. What else can be more rewarding. Even the worst sinner would get corrected and get to the glorious states if chants this Mantra piously.

Widespread Glory of Panchaakshar in Scriptures -
The importance and glory of this Mantra is stressed across the Shaiv scriptures, as the most important Mantra the devotee has to keep like own soul. Listing them would be highly arduous task given the importance this Mantra gets in the scriptures. One may find a few of them in the Stotra section.

Learning the various scriptures and chanting thousands of Stotra (praise) of God, is all given secondary importance to chanting this great Mantra. The authentic scriptures very clearly state that for the one who chants this Mantra, even if none of the other scriptures are known or even any other worship of God is undertaken, that person would definitely gets eligible for the immense grace of the Supreme Lord Shiv. For this the chanting of the Holy Five Syllables has been prescribed as a definite requirement for the devotee. While the Rudraaksh and Holy Ash are the ornament externally for the devotee, the internal ornament is the Panchaakshar Mantra.

This supreme Mantra is very simple to chant and comes with no restrictions attached in order for everybody to chant and get benefited. With no inertia in mind chant and keep chanting as much as possible Namah Shivaaya. Full of love, with melting heart, tears brimming, one who chants leading them to the Glorious path, the name that is the real essence of the four Ved is the Mantra Namah Shivaaya.

Some Other Information About Panchaakshar Mantra
Mantra are not devised by sages or gods but were revealed by gods. Ajapaa (A + Japaa = No + Chant) is the primal Mantra. This chantless Mantra pervades the breath going in and out, the subtle sound ‘sah’ going in and the subtle sound ‘ham’ going out. (Sa = Shiv, Vishnu, Lakshmee, or Gauree [Paarvatee or Shakti]; Ham = I am; so = Paarvatee.} As one chants this subtle-sound Mantra ‘soham’, a derivative of ‘sah-ham,’ ‘Hamsa’ comes into being by inversion. Soham, Hamsa and Aum (Pranav) are all equipotent. Hamsah is the union of the male and the female and the universe is Hamsah. The Triangular Kaam Kalaa is thus formed by Hamsah; Hamsah Peeth is composed of Mantras. Kaam is desire and Creative Will and unitary Shiv-Shakti, and Kalaa is their manifestation. Shiv and Shakti are known as Kaameshwar and Kaameshwaree. Shakti (Kalaa) is the manifestation of Kaam (desire), which is Ichchhaa Shakti. Shiv is Seed and Shakti is Sprout.

The origin of Namah Shivaaya and the Sanskrit alphabets according to Tirumular. (verse 891)
Ajapaa Mantra----> Soham----> Aum-----> Shi Va-----> Shi Vaa Ya Na Mah -----> 51 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet.>/font>

The Panchaakshar Mantra (5-letter Mantra) has two aspects: Subtle and Manifest (Sookshm and Sthool). Sookshm Mantra is Shivaayanamah. The manifest Mantra is NaMahShivaaYa. As you may notice the head of the Subtle Mantra is Shiv and the tail is Namah. In the Sthool Mantra the head and the tail are inverted or transposed. Significance: Manifest man--embodied soul (Ya) has the head in Naam meaning he suffers from Na (obscuration of spiritual knowledge) and Ma (a load of Mummalams). The liberated man Ya (Jeevan Mukt) enjoys Shi and Vaa (Shiv and Grace) and his NaMa left him.

Aum, though a three-letter word, is a one-letter Mantra. Soham is the un-intonated sound of normal breathing, meaning ‘I am He.’ Hans (inversion of Soham), meaning ‘Swan’, stands for an ascetic - Hans. Some call Hans a goose (Anser indicus). To the average Indian, goose does not sound very appealing compared to swan which is said to have the mythic ability to separate milk from water.

Hans - the wild goose (Anser indicus) is known for its discipline, grace and beauty. The west's association of goose with a silly or foolish person or simpleton does not apply here. It is the culture gap here. In Vaidik times, Hans, the bar-headed white goose was associated with the Sun, Spirit, Aatmaa, knowledge, Praan, Brahm and life itself. Hans = han + sa. Han is exhaled breath and sa is inhaled breath; thus, Hans is life. Hans is a high flyer and thus a metaphor for spiritual endeavor to attain Brahman. The Indian goose is also associated with Brahmaa and Saraswatee as their Vaahan (vehicle of transport) as it is portrayed as the Vaahan of Brahmaa and Saraswatee.

All of us including all air-breathing living beings recite this Mantra ‘Soham’ unknowingly for a lifetime. This chantless Mantra (Ajapaa Jap) is called Ajapaa Gaayatree. As you are breathing this chantless Soham in and out, you are identifying your individual self with the Great Self of the Supreme Being. Every breath (and the Mantra) that you take pervades the whole universe of your body. This life giving force or Mantra has the Great Self as the basis. Every time you chant a Mantra, it leads the individual soul to the Great Soul - the Source, the Essence. All Mantra rituals, inclusive of Shakti, Vishnu and Shiv Mantra and many more but not all, are Taantrik in origin; that is the reason why Tantra is called Mantra Shaastra. Devee or Shakti says that any Shaastra that is in opposition to Shruti, Smriti, and Oneness (Shiv and Shakti in Shaiv tradition, Vishnu and Mahaa Lakshmee in Vaishnav tradition) such as Bhairav, Gautam, Kapala, Sakala and the like are created by her Maayaa power for bewilderment of those devoid of Her Grace.

In Aum, A became the world, A and U became Shakti and Shiv and Aum became the Light (Gyaan = Wisdom). M became the Maayaa.
By one letter (A), He became all worlds.
By two letters (A and U), he became two, Shiv and Shakti.
By three letters (A, U and M), he became the Light or Gyaan.
By letter M, Maayaa comes into being.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 12/13/12