History & Shivaism
It’s hard to think of a more iconic or identifiable mantra in India than Om Namah Shivaya.
This mantra goes back literally thousands of years and is the most important form of devotion to the Shaivism sect of Hinduism.
Shaivism is a sect that believes Shiva is the most important- indeed, the only relevant- Hindu god. This has influenced many other sects within India, because Shaivism is very influential and very old; at 2500 years old, it’s considered to be one of the oldest forms of Hinduism.
In case you’re wondering, Shiva is the god most widely recognized as the god of destruction.
But according the Shivaism sect, he is the creator (typically thought of as Brahma), preserver (typically thought of as Vishnu), and destroyer force in the universe. Basically, in their eyes he’s the main guy in charge!
Of course, true to form in Hinduism, there are many schools of thought within Shaivaism…but all of them practice the sacred chant Om Namah Shivaya.
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According to texts, this chant bestows deep spiritual experiences and even boons (supernatural gifts) when practiced deeply and correctly.
The meaning of the chant is relatively simple:
- Om- Before there was a universe, there was a vibrationless void of pure existence. Out of this void came the vibration which started the universe, which is known as Om.
- Namah- This literally translate to bow.
- Shivaya- This, of course, Shiva; but more than that, it means the inner self.
When understood fully (and according to Shaivism), it means “I bow to the inner Self”.
There are no rituals or ceremonies involved with this mantra…just the simple chant.
This means that it can basically be performed anywhere.
The most important aspects are that you have an attentive mind and you’re sitting upright. You could practice on a chair, or even in a plane or car.
From there, just repeating the mantra over and over again becomes the focus. But as the mantra is repeated, visualize yourself bowing to your true inner Self.
It’s said that regular practice of this mantra will bring you very close to the divine inner nature within all of us.
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