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The Panchakshar Mantra

"Wear Rudraaksh beads, repeat the Panchaakshar Mantra, let your heart grow soft and melt. Chant the letters five, and in love you will discover Shiv's will. Chant so that impurities, anxieties and doubts are destroyed." Om Namah Shivaaya

This Mantra is said to be the heart of all the Ved and Tantra. Namah Shivaaya is found, quite literally, in the middle of the Ved, in the Rudram. In the Agamas its meaning is elaborated upon.
Natchintanai says that, "Namah Shivaaya is in truth both Agama and Ved. Namah Shivaaya represents all Mantra and Tantra. Namah Shivaya is our souls, our bodies and possessions. Namah Shivaaya has become our sure protection."

It is difficult to give a clear meaning to the Mantra. The easy exposition of it would be "Om, I bow to Shiv". But this interpretation does not do it justice. Shiv means Auspicious, so it could be said that the Mantra means bowing to the Auspiciousness. Shiv however should be understood in the fuller context, and not in the overly simplistic picture that is typically given in books and websites as a God of destruction.

In Shaivism and other Hindoo systems, Shiv is the formless transcendental Being (often called Param Shiv) ,the Divine source. This is the source that rests in each and everyone. It is not a God separate from yourself, it is the core being of your self. Nothing external or separate from you, rather it is your heart of hearts. More important than the literal translated meaning of this Mantra is it's sound, it's vibration. Just as with all Mantras the sound of it is more important than its literal meaning. This Mantra is also known 5-syllabled Mantra, for it consists of five syllables, Na - Ma - Shi - Vaa - Ya. The start of the Mantra, Om, does constitute as a syllable because it is the Mahaa Beej, the great seed from which all other Mantra and sounds arose. The syllables within the Mantra are said to have a range of meanings and attributes.

Satguru Shivaaya Subramaniya Swami writes that - "Na is the Lord's concealing grace; Ma is the world; Shi stands for Shiva; Va is His revealing grace; and Ya is the soul." He continues - ''The five elements, too, are embodied in this ancient formula for invocation. Na is earth, Ma is water, Shi is fire, Va is air, and Ya is ether, or Aakaash. Many are its meanings."

Paramahans Muktanand also eloquently explains this point and tells of how it benefits ones mind and spiritual path, he speaks of the Naadee's, the channels of Praan and the purity of mind. Repeating this Mantra rids the mind of Tamas and Rajas, making it suitable for lofty spiritual experience. Muktanandaji says - "Underlying this Mantra is a great secret. As we chant the five syllables Namah Shivaaya, the five elements that comprise the body are purified. Each of the syllables corresponds to one of these elements: the syllable Na to the earth element, the syllable Ma to the water element, the syllable Shi to the fire element, the syllable Va to the air element, and the syllable Ya to the ether element. Each syllable purifies its corresponding element. As long as the body and the mind are not completely pure, we cannot fully benefit from our spiritual practice. Therefore, we repeat Om Namah Shivaya to help cleanse them."

In Yoga Magazine, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati expounds somewhat on the vibrational quality of the Mantra and its relationship with the main Chakras, he says "When we repeat the Mantra Om Namah Shivaaya, for example, we are not becoming a Shaivite, we are not adoring or worshipping a deity, but we are stimulating the force of these different chakras. Om is the sound of Agya chakra which is responsible for clarity, for creativity, for the intuitive faculty of mind. Ya or Yam is the Mantra of Anahat CHakra, Va or Vam is the Mantra of Swaadhisthaan. Similarly Na, Ma, Sha are different sounds or syllables corresponding to the different Chakras."

Subramuniyaswami again offers some elucidation on the Mantra's relationship with the Chakras, and other matters such as Praan and the astral. The sage says that "When "Aum Namah Shivaaya" is repeated, we go through the Chakras, Na Ma Shi Va Ya Aum. The Aum is in the head Chakra. Within Namah Shivaaya is each of the elements -- earth, water, fire, air and ether --which in the mind are transmuted into all - pervasive consciousness, and that is also transmuted into the great Chakra way above the head at the end of the Aum. In just the breath, the space of time between the next repetition of "Aum Namah Shivaaya Aum Namah Shivaya Aum Namah Shivaya," the Praan, having reached Paraa Shivaa, fall back into the spiritual, mental, astral and physical worlds, blessing them all with new energy, new life and new understanding. "Namah Shivaya Aum, Namah Shivaaya Aum, Namah Sivaya Aum, Namah Shivaya Aum" is the constant process of life. It is the essence of life itself."

It is really only in the repeating of this Mantra, whether aloud or mentally, that a true taste of what it is can be had.

How to Repeat the Panchaakshar Mantra
Paramahamsa Muktananda suggests that we should ideally repeat the Mantra silently (Maanasik - mental repetition) and at the same speed at which you talk. It is also possible to coordinate it with your breath, repeating once when you inhale and then once when you exhale. Muktananda says that if you do it in this fashion the Mantra will saturate your mind, circulate round your body and permeate your blood cells with its vibration. He even suggests that the walls of the room in which you daily sit to repeat it will become infused with it. On this matter he tells of his own account, he says --

"In my Aashram, in India, there used to be a special room where I lived for a long time and where I meditated and repeated the Mantra. Eventually I moved into other quarters, and the room was kept locked. Several years ago, a government official came to the Aashram. He told me, "I have heard many people say that if anyone stays in your Aashram, he can get into meditation very easily." I took him to the room, showed him inside, and told him to sit for meditation. "What Mantra should I repeat?" he asked. "If you hear a Mantra in this room, repeat that," I told him. When he came out, he said, "I heard Om Namah Shivaaya coming from the walls! The entire room was repeating it!" Mantra is a living force. If you repeat it one-pointedly for a long time, it will permeate your whole environment.

Since truly ancient times many of India's greatest sages and illuminated ones (both men and women) have praised this Mantra and the practice of Jap in general. A further insight as to why this Mantra is so special is given by Swami Subramuniyaswami, who says that it "is such a precious Mantra because it is the closest sound that one can make to emulate the sounds rushing out of the Self into the mind. Chanting it is profound because it is a sound channel which you can follow to get close to the Self of your self [ie Shiv, your own Divine Essence or Higher Self]"

The sage Upamanyu explained its secret in that it nullifies the need for special rituals, particular times or external needs, the sage said: "If this Mantra vibrates continually in your heart, then you have no need to perform austerities, to meditate, or to practice yoga. To repeat this Mantra you need no rituals or ceremonies, nor must you repeat it at an auspicious time or in a particular place."

Also put forth is the fact that this Mantra is open to all. Paramahamsa Muktananda tells that this Mantra is not bound by rules and regulations, he expounds, "This Mantra is free of all restrictions. It can be repeated by anyone, young or old, rich or poor, and no matter what state a person is in, it will purify him. The sages said, "This Mantra is mysterious. Repeat it, repeat it, repeat it."

This Mantra is said to be the Mantra that will take those who earnestly practice it across the ocean of Sansaar, to the shores of realization. The great woman saint of Kashmir, Lalla or Lal Ded, chanted this Mantra and wrote of it - "With right knowledge, open your ears and hear how the trees sway to Om Namah Shivaaya, how the wind says Om Namah Shivaaya as it blows, how water flows with the sound Namah Shivaaya. The entire universe is singing the name of Shiv. Pay a little attention!

If given the chance, the Mantra will offer so much in return for the effort given to it. In modern life finding the time for such practices can be difficult. But if time can be found for activities such as TV, socializing, etc then if we are sincere we can find 10 minutes on most days to do Jap and repeat the Mantra also. Once given the opportunity to let it's worth shine through in experience, the practitioner sees that the benefits derived, such as stress, anxiety and negativity disappearing while peace and serenity increase, are worth more than gold.

Shiv Yogaswami encouraging those who are receptive said inspiringly: "Wear Rudraaksh beads, repeat the Panchaakshar Mantra, let your heart grow soft and melt. Chant the letters five, and in love you will discover Shiv's will. Chant so that impurities, anxieties and doubts are destroyed."
Best Regards



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Created and Maintained by Sushma Gupta
Created on 05/18/2008 and Updated on 08/24/2011