The Panchakshara Mantra is a mantra which consists of 5 letters – na, ma, si, va, and ya. The term itself means ‘five letters’. It is associated with Om Namasivaya, which is a Vedic mantra for Lord Shiva. Five elements constitute the human body – earth, water, fire, wind, and sky. The five letters in this mantra are said to represent these five elements. Thus, Na stands for earth, Ma stands for water, Si stands for fire, Va stands for wind and Ya for sky.
When one chants the Panchakshara mantra, one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health becomes energized. This is because the mantra is associated with the elements of the physical body. It was Adi Shankara who once said that those who recite the Panchakshara mantra praising the five syllables of na, ma, si, va, and ya, will be near Shiva all the time and will attain His abode and enjoy His bliss.
This is a very potent and powerful mantra which has great importance in the Vedas and Tantra. There are many descriptions of it. The description which is given below focuses on what it means when it is used for meditation that leads to self-realization.
Om/Aum, the sound, has three parts, A-U-M, which represent the three states of waking, sleeping, and deep sleep. It also represents the three levels of gross, subtle, and causal as well as the three levels of conscious, unconscious and subconscious. The three processes of coming, being, and going, which are universal, are also represented by it. The silence after AUM is the absolute silence beyond the three levels. It may also denote Tripura, the one who dwells in the three cities, as in Mahamrithyunjaya mantra and the light referred to in the Gayatri mantra.
Namah/namaha – It means nothing is mine (as an individual person); everything is thine (as the Absolute Reality). All the three levels and states mentioned above are not mine as the true properties of who I really am. Indeed, nothing is mine. But all of this is thine or the Absolute Reality.
Shivaya/ Shiva – That Absolute Reality is that from which the others emerge. It is like the ink which is not separate from the forms that is created from it. When one realizes this, one can see that one is the same with the Absolute Reality. The great utterances or Mahakavyas are seen as the truth. Shiva, (the static or ground) and Shakti (the active or creative) are seen to be the same. Shakti, while one with Shiva, is realized in direct experience, as the one in the three worlds (Tripura) outlined in Om.
The mantra makes us aware of the source from which manifestation arose.
It is very effective if one wants to please Shiva and get his blessings. Chanting this mantra on Chaturdashi is very good. The one who does this will receive results that are equivalent to all pilgrimages. It could be chanted 108 times on this day. By doing so, one can be free of all obstacles.