Om Namah Shivaya is a panchakshari mantra, meaning it’s made up of five syllables or literally the five holy letters na – mah – shi – vaa – ya, preceded by Aum or Om. This Shiva mantra goes back literally thousands of years and is the most important form of devotion to the Shaivism sect of Hinduism.

According to Hindu scriptures, there are 3 Gods who run this creation: Lord Brahma – who creates the universe, Lord Vishnu – who preserves the universe and Lord Shiva – who in the end destroys the universe.

Lord Shiva is the destroyer and also has a positive side in that destruction usual leads to new types of existence. Lord Shiva is transcendent, limitless, unchanging and formless. He was called a ”Maha Yogi” because He meditated for many hours for the well-being of the universe. His peaceful state of mind was disturbed only due to extreme reasons, but otherwise, He would always be in a higher state of consciousness.

Five-syllable mantra origin

This mantra comes from a Hindu stotra, the Shri Rudram Chamakam (dedicated to Rudra – Shiva), which is found in the second oldest of the Vedic texts, the Yajurveda.

Additionally, Tamil Saivite hymn starts with the five sacred letters ‘na’ ‘ma’ ‘ci’ ‘vaa’ ‘ya’. Some holy texts refer to the five letters as the forms of Shiva (the seed sounds of the 5 elements of creation – earth, water, fire, air, and ether) – Nagendra (one who wears a garland of snakes), Mandakini Salila (one who is bathed by the water of the Ganges), Shi (the supreme Lord), Vashishta (one who is praised by the sages like Vashishta), and Yaksha (one who takes the form of Yaksha).

Om Namah Shivaya mantra meaning in English:

The importance and glory of this Sanskrit mantra are stressed across the Shiva Purana, as the most important and powerful mantra the devotee has to keep like own soul.

  • Om – comprises 3 parts ”A-U-M”, which encompass the 3 bodies (subtle, gross, and causal), the 3 levels of mind (subconscious, conscious, and unconscious), and the 3 states (sleeping, waking, and dream).
  • Namah – means adoration, bow, homage, respect.
  • Shivaya – means Shiva; but more than that, it means the inner self. Also, the word ”Shiva” means perfection and auspiciousness.

This Panchakshari mantra is also known as the saranagati mantra. Saranagati literally translates as ”surrender”. We surrender to the Lord. Thus, this mantra signifies ”we surrender to the order of the law of the Lord – the universal law of karma and the universal law of dharma.”

Panchakshari mantra translation in English:

“Om and salutations to Lord Shiva, the bestower of fearlessness, inner strength, detachment and pure consciousness.”

or

“I honor the divinity within myself.”

Chanting Shiva mantra – Om Namah Shivaya benefits:

Scriptures describe that the Sanskrit word “mantra” has 2 roots – ”mana”, which means to understand and know; and ”tra”, which refers to protection. Thus, mantra refers to protection. Traditionally, this chant is considered a powerful healing mantra, beneficial for all mental and physical ailments.

Chanting this mantra purifies our system, actions, and behaviors and it infuses positive energy. Also, it helps bring meditativeness, elevates the psyche, activates certain energy centers (chakras) within our physical and energetical bodies and awakens higher states of consciousness.

When chanted with sincere devotion, this mantra will bring you very close to the divine inner nature within all of us and helps the devotee to overcome the difficulties in life. Sages believe that the chanting of these sacred syllables is sound therapy for the mind and body and nectar for the soul.

Note

An important level of the mantra siddhi (spiritual power of the mantra) is said to come after minimum 125,000 repetitions of a mantra (such an extended spiritual practice is called a purascharana). This is equivalent approximately to 1,250 rounds of a mala.