Thursday, June 26, 2008

Om Namah Shivaya

Shiva Meditating
A short walk on any esoteric or inner-wisdom based tradition requires the seeker to develop at least some skills in the ancient art of meditation. So much so I believe the importance on practicing many different types of meditation and experimenting with meditation that I decided a short while ago to begin developing a set of audio based meditations that included a participatory element and a instructional/history/background element also. I have started writing some of the scripts and putting together an outline of the program and the way it progresses; but as part of that I wanted to discuss in particular one mantra that keeps popping up in my life; and as a result - one I am personally drawn to and practice regularly.

Om Namah Shivaya .. Om (Listen)
Om Nama Shivaya

The potency and resonance of this mantra to me personally was awesome to say the least, which is understandable, once a little digging below the surface is done. The mantra itself can be found at the core of the Vedas and Tantra and used to awaken Spiritual awareness, encourage Self-Realization and help guide on the spiritual journey they are undertaking - an appropriate place to start for a first (non-welcome) post to this blog.

I first encountered this mantra on Israel Regardie's "The Complete System of Golden Dawn Magic" (audio recordings). The first time I sat and listened to Israel chanting the mantra for around 20 minutes I felt deeply moved and as a result started to use it, and continue to use it more and more regularly.

At the time I had my head in a million other things so I continued practicing it without doing much research into what it was about. (Logically, this isn't something that I ordinarily would have done if the initial exposure to it hadn't been so positive, motivating and uplifting). Weeks passed, and the mantra came up in discussion over dinner one night. I wasn't able to explain it's meaning to the person who asked me about it and so triggered some elementary research into what it was all about.

An interesting analogy could be drawn here, and it's to do with the spiritual impact of something and an understanding of it. You don't need an understanding of something for it to have a spiritual impact on you; but an understanding on some level helps empower the concept more so, at least in my experience and while the most perfect place to find this understanding is within, a look into the history and meanings can be equally rewarding.

It can been seen in the Missa Tridentina or Roman Rite Mass; a spiritual experience that can be rewarding without a gnosis or even knowledge of what words are being used or what it represents. However the Tridentine Mass is even more mystical and meaningful with greater understanding of the symbolism involved; and from my personal experience, the same can be said of this mantra (and any other spiritual encounter or experience)..

Back to our mantra; let me take the opportunity to break it down a little, with what it means to me at this point in time.


It's hard to say what Om means.

"In the beginning was the Supreme word, and the word created everything. That word is Om. This divine sound has the power to create, sustain and destroy, giving life and movement to all that exist."

Om it could be said, is the sound of the underlaying divine cosmic power; that intoning Om in the right tone places you in vibratory harmony with the entire cosmic. From my experience of Om, I can personally say that Om is in vibratory harmony with something much greater than myself, my inner master and the physical world. Just what it is in vibratory harmony with, that is hard to say.

Something I often like to do is point out when I find something seems similar to something from another tradition (as I did above with the Roman Rite Mass). While I said in my previous post that I don't subscribe to any particular religion as such; I have an affinity and respect for all belief systems and religion. I would also like to point out the similarities here between the above paragraph and John 1:1-3 -
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All tings were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made."
And another reference in Psalm 33:6 -
"By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth."
As interesting as comparative creation myths are; I think that is a subject area suited to a whole series of posts at some time in the future; but once again, it seems like a good place to start this blog.. In the beginning... Ommmmmmmmmm


Namah is a much easier word to describe. Namah is simply a salutation or greeting. I've read some alternative meanings, however I personally do not feel that these alternatives alter the meaning of the translated mantra, and for the sake of simplicity leaving it to the reader to further research should they feel it necessary.


Shivaya is the destroyer and the restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality, the benevolent herdsmen of souls and the wrathful avenger. This duality of destroyer and restorer or creator and destroyer I personally see as reincarnation, evolution, changing ever, yet ever the same.

Shiva was originally known as Rudra; a minor deity mentioned only three times in the Rig Veda. He gained importance after absorbing some of the characteristics of an earlier fertility god and became Shiva; part of the trinity, or trimurti with Vishnu and Brahma. Shiva, the word, means auspiciousness and perfection; it refers to the "God Who is Perfect", without any kind of dependency on anything to make It complete - the perfect state, the state of the Rose-Croix, a state that human consciousness and spirituality are gradually evolving toward.

Looking Deeper

Further research also revealed that this mantra is also known as the Holy Five Syllable mantra or panchakshara due to it containing five syllables, without the Om (panch meaning five). The mantra is said to increase awareness in particular awareness of the source of all manifestation.

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami breaks down the mantra to each of the five syllables:
  • 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 the earth
  • Ma is water
  • Śi is fire
  • is air
  • Ya is ether or akasha.
The relationship between Shiva and the number five doesn't end there. Shiva is often depicted with five faces; said to represent those five elements, with each of these faces also have specific attributes associated with them.
"One should know all things of the phenomenal world as of a fivefold character, for the reason that the eternal verity of Śiva is of the character of the fivefold Brahman."

Pañcabrahma Upanishad
The mantra first appears in Shri Rudram Chamakam a vedic stotra dedicated to Rudra, an early example of worship by repeating multiple deity names. Om Namah Sivaya appears with
another famous mantra, "Om Namo Bhagavathe Rudraya"; which I hope to share with you in another article soon.

I hope you have enjoyed delving into Shiva and the five syllable mantra; I look forward to taking another step of this journey with you soon.



piratenoir said...

very good and well done !
- a great work :P

An Unknown Philosopher said...

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed!