Previously published in August 2015
The chant Om Namah Shivaya is a love song, to ourselves. A love song we sing to our own deepest inner nature. In this song we recognize that we are the source, like a hologram, a piece of god that also represents the whole. In the Siddha yoga lineage (from which this chant comes) it is considered to be the king of all mantras. The intelligent field of conscious energy of which the universe is made, and concentrates into the dense form we know of as matter, is represented by the god Shiva. Shiva is the totality.
Since the ancient Siddhas did not have the language and metaphors of modern physics they represented the unified field of energy of the cosmos through the metaphors they could grasp, metaphors which allowed them to experience this vast field of conscious energy of which we are an interconnected part of. Their metaphor was the god Shiva. Through deep meditation they experienced the universe as Shiva, and themselves as Shiva. Shiva was said to dwell in the heart and be the size of a thumb and be the whole universe! When we chant this mantra we are allowing the sound vibration tune into our true self, which is a manifestation of the universal energy field condensed into the unique and precious mystery of ourselves. The sound vibration of the mantra is said to be a very pure expression of our deepest nature.
The mantra is said to be the five syllable mantra, na ma si va ya. In exploring the manifestations of the absolute the number five comes up. Five toes, fingers, senses, elements, acts etc.. Shiva is said to have five actions, to create, to maintain, to destroy, to conceal, and to gracefully reveal. This mantra purifies our actions and behaviors tuning them to the pure actions of Shiva, of the source. Our five senses of smelling, tasting, seeing, feeling, and hearing are also purified and refined. The different syllables of the chant are said to purify the five elements of our being and the chakras, or centers of subtle energies. The five elements are not literal elements like those of the periodic table, but fundamental ways that we and the world are structured. The solidity of earth, the liquidity of water, the fieriness of fire, the gaseous and invisible nature of air, and lastly ether or the quality of space. The alchemical process of chanting refines and purifies these elements or aspects of our being.
Om is said to be the heart of Lord Shiva. Om resonates in the head in the sixth chakra, located in the´ center of the forehead. It is also referred to as the third eye center. The emotional issues associated with it focus on the right to see. The sixth chakra is also the place of the guru (the one who sheds light on the darkness, another manifestation of our own deep nature) So the first part of the chant keys us into seeing the absolute on very refined levels.
Na ma si va ya. Na represents earth, ma water, si fire, va air, and ya ether. The na drops into the first chakra, the foundation place which embodies earthiness and solidity and has a lot to do with survival issues on an emotional level, the right to belong and to have. It is found at the base of the spine between the anus and genitals. The ma rises to the second chakra, represented by the water element and issues around sexuality on an emotional level, the right to feel and to desire. It is located a little below the navel. The si rises to the third chakra or jeweled city and is located in the solar plexus. The element is fire and emotional issues center around themes of personal power, the right to act and stand in one’s power. The va rises a little further to the fourth chakra or heart center. The element is air . This chakra is the first to move beyond the lower three densities of the animal soul and allows an opening to love, the right to love and be loved. The ya resonates in the fifth chakra or throat center, and is associated with the ether and space. It often deals with issues around expression, the right to speak and be heard.
In the chant the energy starts in the highest center, resting in the source and then dips down and rises up, purifying the elements, the chakras, and the emotional issues surrounding them. When I chant this mantra I often visualize myself in front of me and sing the mantra lovingly to myself.
Raphael Rod Birney MD 2014
References: Play of Consciousness by Swami Muktananda
Talks on the Omá Namah Sivaya Mantra by Professor Muller Ortega in a course, “The King of Mantra,” given at Shree Muktananda Ashram in December 1991.