It is hard to think of a more famous, recognizable, and powerful Sanskrit mantra than “Om Namah Shivaya.” It has been in use for thousands of years, and it is an essential form of devotion to the Shaivism sect of Hinduism. The vibration of this mantra activates pure consciousness and resonates with your highest Self. Repeating this mantra with concentration, awareness, and devotion will allow you to manifest your inner truths, purify your energy system, and cultivate deep states of meditation. This mantra has a multitude of meanings, has profound metaphysical implications, and can bestow many sweet blessings.
Translation of Om Namah Shivaya
This mantra is often translated as “adoration to Shiva,” “I bow to Shiva” or “I bow to the inner self.” Om Namah Shivaya is also referred to as the five-syllable mantra or Panchakshara mantra because it has five syllables (Na-Ma-Shi-Va-Ya) that are preceded by the Om or Aum. The five syllables represent the five elements of earth (Na), water (Ma), fire (Shi), air or wind (Va), and space or sky (Ya).
Shiva is one of the three principal deities of Hinduism that rules over the energy of transformation. He represents the enlightened path of yoga and is said to help his devotees overcome worldly passions such as greed, anger, and lust. Shiva is depicted as a blue-skinned renunciate Yogi, who is most often in deep meditation on top of Mount Kailash.
Let’s look at the symbolic meaning of the chant in more detail. It is helpful to translate and discuss each word in this mantra separately.
- Om/Aum – Before the universe came into existence, there was a vibrationless emptiness of pure existence. The vibration that came from this emptiness started the world, which is referred to as Om. This is considered a bija or seed mantra that gives a boost of power and energy to the remainder of the mantra.
- Namah – This translates to bow, pray, or honor. It is a form of respect, homage, and adoration to the energy of Shiva.
- Shivaya – This is a variant of the word Shiva. This can refer to the inner self and universal consciousness. It can also call upon one or more of Shiva’s known traits and qualities.
Underlying this mantra is a great secret. As we chant the five syllables Namah Shivaya, the five elements that comprise the body are purified. 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.Paramahamsa Muktanandaji
The Om Namah Shivaya mantra goes back to thousands of years. It first appears in the eighth hymn of Namakam in Taittiriya Samhita of Krishna Yajurveda (without the starting Om). It is considered the king of mantras in the Siddha Yoga lineage.
Panchakshara Mantra Benefits
If this chant is practiced properly and deeply, it bestows deep spiritual experiences and even supernatural gifts (boons). Repeating the Panchakshara mantra can bring inner peace, clarity, and inner strength. This mantra can also boost energy, remove the fear of the unknown, and motivates one to attain enlightenment. Practicing this mantra regularly during yoga sessions can bring you close to the divine inner nature that is within us.
How to practice
Om Namah Shivaya is a powerful mantra so it is advised to only chant the mantra during meditation or similar spiritual practices. Make sure you practice with a long tall spine to allow the energy to flow freely through your body. Focus your attention on the crown chakra, especially when chanting the Om part of the mantra. Using a set of mala beads is recommended, and rudraksha beads are especially significant to Shiva. You can time the repetition of the mantra three separate ways with the breath:
- Chant “Om Namah Shivaya” on each inhale and exhale.
- Chant “Om” on each inhale, “Namah” on the exhale, “Shivaya” on the inhale, and hold the next exhale in silence.
- Chant each of the six syllables of the mantra with each inhale or exhale.