Intricacy of the Shiva Beeja Mantra

Om Na Ma Shi Va Ya

Attainment of spiritual bliss has its various levels. To the totally ignorant just the mention of these syllables is a great feeling of achievement, since they are unable to control their fleeting mind racing from one thought to another. To the more inquisitive kind, these sacred syllables make their presence felt more often by constant recitation yet the significance of it does not awaken them yet. To the connoisseur the skill of pronunciation is of maximum importance, and clarity in each word matters the most. To the lover of Lord Shiva these syllables are pure music, so sacred and divine that even the utterance of these syllables makes them feel supremely blessed.

This is not just about having devotion but it takes us one step further towards the intensity of it. With every level of contemplation on this mantra crossed, there is a new high to be reached.

Om Na Ma Shi Va Ya, does not end here. It extends into a series of verses each starting with a sacred syllable assigned to this summary:

This is the Panchakshara Mantra



Nagendraharaya Trilochanaya|
Basmangaharaya maheswaraya||
Nithyaya shudhaya digambaraya|
Tasmai nakaraya namashivaya||


Mandakini salila chandana charchithaya|
Nandeeswara pramadhanadha maheswaraya||
Mandra pushpa bahupushpa supoojithaya|
Tasmai makaraya namashivaya||


Shivaaya gowri vadanara vrinda|
Sooryaya dakshadwaranaasakaya||
Sri neelakantaya vrishadwajaya|

Tasmai sikaraya namashivaya||


Vasishta kumbhodhbhava gowthamadhi|
Munendra devarchitha shekaraya||
Chandrarka vaiswanara lochanaya|
Tasmai vakaraya namashivaya||


Yaksha swaroopaya jada dharaya|
Pinaka hasthathaya sanathanaya||
Divyaya devaaya digambaraya|
Tasmai yakaraya namashivaya||

To the beginner, this is hard to pronounce. It requires skill and regular practice to twist the tongue around to recite each syllable properly. To the intellect, meaning of each word matters. Each word stitched into these verses either describes Lord Shiva in name or describes His actions in praise. For example, Trilochanaya is the 3 eyed Lord Shiva and Bhasmangaharaya is the ash clad Lord Shiva. Pinaka Hastaya is the one who holds the bow and dakshadwaranaasakaya is He who destroyed the sacrifice of Daksha.

At this level of intellect one would like to believe that the recitation of this mantra results in praising the Lord even by mere recitation. It is a time consuming art to remember the meaning of every word that is recited in this mantra. Having got the skill or correct pronunciation and having learned the meaning of each word recited one would like to believe one has done the best and has achieved all that there is to achieve in this.

But is this where it stops?

What we most often omit, which is beyond the realm of the intellectual mind clouded by ego, is that of hard core devotion and in that state we get to experience something else, something that is very different.

There is subtle truth in this mantra, and this goes far deeper. The secrecy in the magnitude of energy embedded in this mantra in not just in the realization of the meaning of what is being recited, but in identifying the rhythm of recitation. Stress and clarity of words matter, but what matters even more is the rhythm and the music it falls into. There is a difference between mechanical recitation and devoted recitation.

Each word in each verse has been selectively chosen to impart a rhythm of a particular nature. Similar words with similar stress level that need to be recited properly in exactly the same rhythm with adequate knowledge of where to stop and where to start with nuances of change in minor rhythmic pattern are strung together in a single verse.

Therefore the collection of words in each verse varies from that of the previous verse giving that beeja mantra its character. The sound emitted when the bhakta recites the first verse gives the bhakta the experience of the rhythmic flow of the Lord’s Sacred damaru beat in that order which is described by "Na". Similarly the character of the sacred syllable "Ma" "Shi" "Va" "Ya" is described by the words of praise painstakingly strung together giving a feel of alterations in sound for each verse. None of the verses appear to have the same rhythm, but the flow of sound elaborated the real meaning of the syllables that compose the summary of Lord Shiva's Beeja Mantra.

Language in its restrictive nature, allows me to explain just this much of the experience. To those who are inquisitive it is a good exercise to keep reciting and listening to one self, to identify this subtle underlying beat in each verse. A level of bliss is felt when we realize the pattern of this beat and start to sing it and make it a part of us, a part of our rhythmic breath. When the excitement of subtle beauty in realizing and appreciating the nature of sound touches us, bliss is felt in its own small way.

The experience of realization is undoubtedly most amazing and hard to leave once it has been started. At the end it is an overwhelming feeling to realize that this is just the tip of the larger iceberg.

[Please note:

There might be textual flaws in this mantra as I have come across 2 versions of it with minor variations.
This post in entirely my personal interpretation of the most sacred verse that describes Lord Shiva, and this interpretation has just started.]


Bart said...

The five Beeja Mantras Na Ma Shi Va Ya represent of course too the five elements in Prakrtti/Creation, which has been emerged from Om, to be ruled by Mahadeva Maheshvarah. The very same meaning have the five heads of Sadashiva or in the Panchamukha linga.

Om-syllable is the Divine Consciousness, from that (Tat) came Space, from Space Air, From Air Fire, from Fire Water, from Water Earth. And than further on from Earth again came Vegetation, from Vegetation Food and from Food Animals and Human Beings. That’s the creational sequence as the Sages of the Vedanta have taught us.

So I tried to recognize the Space-Air-Fire-Water-Earth in the Five-Syllable-Stotram, but then I saw soon that the Indra (King God) of the Nagas, must be meant as symbol of the Earth, and the Mandakini, Mata Ganga, Water. Surya represents of course than Fire. The last two couplets give me still some more problems to recognize the hidden hints to Air and Space in it.

But I had understood enough to put myself the question: What could Shankaracharya have meant with the reversal of this sequence? What does and did the sequence Om Earth-Water-Fire-Air-Space mean?

Than in a flash I became aware that Shankaracharya has been a devote Shaktibhakta too and at once I knew the answer: It is the sequence of the Kundalini, in its way through the first five charkas, upwards. It is the way up from Shakti to Ishvara. With this reversal of the sequence Shankaracharya has meant to say us:

The great Mother Goddess is the real Author of this Mantra. It has been Her words spoken out each time since the very first time when approaching Her beloved Divine Consort. Om Namah Shivaya! Om, I greet You, I call You, and I name You: Shiva, Auspicious One! Om Namah Shivaya! Om, I honour You and I Love You forever. Om namah Shivaya!

And we? Let us share in that Divine Love by knowing from now on that we can the Author of these holy words together with the addressed One. Om Namah Shivaya! Honoured be Our Divine Lord and Lady together. Om Namah Shivaya!

Obedience to the Divine Mother Who taught us to pray: Om Ambika Prathana Devi Ki Jay!

Anonymous said...

is it Na Ma Shi Va Ya or Na Ma Si Va Ya?

Kavitha said...

It could be Shi, Si, Chi... there are many variations... and am not sure which is the real one. As I am trained to say Shi, i say it that way.

YOSEE said...

While in sanskrit mantras, the correct "sound" is said to be all important as subtle differences in vibrations cause different effects, when it comes to bhakthi and saranagathi,its the thought and emotion invested into the word/letter that matters; call your parent pita, papa,appa or pater or abbu,he responds as Father.

"Vedam naangilum meipporul aavathu, nathan naamam Namcchivaayave" pronounced Thirugnanasambanthar and still attained Sivasayujyam.

Anonymous said...


JC said...

'I' got access to the computer only today (24th instant) and got to read interesting comments from many visitors to various posts entered during the intervening period.

Of course, we have earlier also discussed the 'beej mantra' or the concept of physical universe having sound energy - which is formless and is related with zero time and space - as its basic seed, that however needs to be read with the eventual realisation that each and every form apparent in the illusory physical universe, necessarily had the 'panchtatva', or the 'five elements' (also related with time and space zero), as mentioned by Bart also...

Best wishes for the Navratri, (related with nine planets from Sun to Saturn the 'suryaputra' or 'the son of Sun' the evolved one in the hierarchy of the solar system!)...

JC said...

As 'I' have come to realise it reading between the lines, the 'Hindu belief' is about the believably one and only unborn and unending immortal formless being - represented symbolically by sound energy 'OM' as the Omnipotent and the Omnipresent 'Shiva' who is related with time and space zero - attempting eternally to visualise the self through innumerable imaginary processes of evolution - starting from infinite numbers of mortal forms rendered thus by 'Visha' the poison as the cause of eventual mortality of each of the physical forms, in eternal cycles...

JC said...

A gardner/ farmer is better trained to realise that before he/ she sows any seed, proper preparation of ground is necessary for a healthy tree/ plant to germinate. A yogi/ muni similarly knows the basics: Absolute silence is the ground on which the infinite physical universe is sustained...

katerade =) said...

i love seeing stuff like this out here! i just started working for this global cause that's all about cultural sustainability through art, music and film. i just graduated, so working for a global cause has been such a great first experience. it's a nice reminder that there is a whole big world beyond campus walls. they have these great daily mantras with photographs and stuff and indigenous music. check out their facebook if you are interested: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Last-Voices/213978194896?ref=ts

Anonymous said...

Please see last lines of the third snippet THASMAI SHIKARAYA NAMA SHIVAYA

it is the sh of shivaya in om nama shivaya 'श' 'ശ'