Words have a powerful impact on us. Our derogatory self-talks can destroy us, and positive affirmations can work wonders. The ancient sages took this a step further. They observed that we could be affected by words, even if we don’t understand their meanings! That criticality of sound vibrations laid the foundation for advancements in music and Mantra Science.
Chanting a mantra with mindfulness has numerous benefits. Repeated chanting is said to activate different parts of the brain resulting in stress reduction, increased energy levels, sharpened awareness, and an overall sense of peace. Moreover, redirecting our mind to a singular mantra helps us build Ekagratha, one-pointed concentration.
Since my goals aligned with what it offered, Mantra Sadhana/Yoga felt like a beneficial addition to my life. Despite this intention, performing severe austerities associated with special mantra initiations didn’t appear to be my cup of tea. So, the onus to find something less complicated fell on me. When I was confused about where to start, I was guided by a voice in my dream to chant the iconic mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. On researching further, I fell in love with this truly incredible mantra! Why? Read on:
1. Universal Mantra
- Obtained from the Krishna Yajur Veda’s Sri Rudram hymn, Om Namah Shivaya, is the core mantra of Lord Shiva (Rudra).
- Typical to Vedic chants, this mantra begins with Om, the Cosmic Sound. An entire primary Upanishad expounds on this Universal Sound! Nonetheless, in this context, Om represents the Formless Divine.
- The 53rd epithet of Lalita Sahasranamam is Shivaa. That associates Sri Mata, the Mother Sri Devi, to this mantra.
- In Bhagavad Gita (11.23-32), Arjuna describes a terror-inducing form of Krishna that resembles Rudra. On being questioned, Krishna refers to himself as Kaala or Time, a typical definition of Rudra. In the same scripture, Krishna declares himself to be Vishnu. Thereby, the Gita indirectly reveals Vishnu and Rudra’s unity, that many other Puranic texts state directly. Also, in Vishnu Sahasranamam, the 600th epithet is Shiva. Hence, this chant could certainly eulogize Lord Vishnu as well.
Thus, this simple chant extols Rudra, Devi, Vishnu, and the Formless Divine in one-shot! Uttering just one name from Sri Rudram, Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam, or Sri Lalita Sahasranamam with Bhakti steers us towards salvation. Mindful chanting of this potent mantra, comprising an epithet that appears in all of those sacred hymns, is a Tapasya, penance to burn away our inner impurities.
2. Our Spiritual Goals
The Sanskrit word Shiva means the gracious one. Graciousness is a state of mind where a person is compassionate, benign, and elegant. Such refinement comes from developing wholesome habits and working on self-purification. Irrespective of the path treaded, a spiritual seeker’s goal remains the same – to declutter the mind out of both the evident and subconscious tendencies. A clutter-free and crystal clear mind feels peaceful and radiates Divine presence.
Another meaning of the word Shiva is liberation. Whether we’re aware of it or not, freedom is the fundamental requirement of every human being. Liberation is the eternal freedom from our insecurities and conditioning of the mind. A liberated soul lives life with objectivity and merges with the source after death. Building that Vairagya or exemplary objectivity, and becoming non-reactive, is the highest spiritual achievement.
3. Salutation to the Self
Esoterically, Lord Rudra represents our consciousness, also referred to as the Inner Self. One significant meaning of Namah or Namaha is: I salute or bow. The Panchakshara, 5-syllable Namah Shivaya, thereby means, I salute to my consciousness. Consequently, this chant that pays obeisance to the Divine within is nothing but a generous shower of love to ourselves!
4. No Initiation Required
Almost all powerful mantras have been “cursed” or “password protected” by the sages. Only a rigorous process called utkeelan can unlock them. Alternatively, we need initiation from a Guru, who has obtained the coveted results using that mantra. Further, if we end up with a Guru who isn’t genuine, our efforts become pointless! Considering the complexity of this process, a few accomplished practitioners “open up” or “remove the password” of some mantras.
As per the scriptures, at the request of Devi, Lord Shiva opened up the Om Namah Shivaya mantra. That is, a practitioner of this mantra does not require Deeksha or initiation. The mantra science expert, our beloved Om Swami, presented this beautifully in The Ancient Science of Mantras. Here’s an excerpt of Lord Shiva’s declaration from the book:
“From this day on, all Vedic mantras are exempt from phonetic and compatibility checks. Even if an uninitiate were to chant, no harm would befall on him.”
“My own mantra of five letters, Om Namah Shivaya, will also be exempt as will be all mantras imparted by any female practitioner because you live in all females, Devi, and today with your intervention, mankind will benefit in a big way.”
5. Sound Therapy
This mantra is called the Pancha Bootha Tattva, the essence of the five elements. As revealed indirectly by the Shiva Panchakshara Stotram, each sound of this mantra represents a vital element of creation. Additionally, the Soundarya Lahari (Verse 9) associates each element with a Kundalini Chakra in the human body.
When we combine all of that information, we can observe that the Om Namah Shivaya mantra provides sound therapy benefits. That is, it is said to purify and energize us corporally. Below is a tabular mapping of this information:
To conclude, from personal experience, this magical mantra bestows inner peace and spiritual insight upon those who recite it with reverence. Lord Shiva is the Adi Guru, the first Guru of Tantrik tradition, which includes Sri Vidya. This mantra, which pays homage to that Guru of all Gurus, can be treated as a pre-requisite of Sri Vidya Tantra.
Therefore, if you desire to do Mantra Sadhana but don’t have a Mantra Deeksha from your trustworthy Guru, please don’t overlook this transformational mantra. The Om Namah Shivaya mantra, combined with Bhakti and other uncomplicated disciplines towards self-purification, can give you way more than you can imagine!
Oṃ Namaḥ Śivāya