The Meaning of Om
Before the beginning, the Brahman (absolute reality) was one and non-dual. It thought, "I am only one -- may I become many." This caused a vibration which eventually became sound, and this sound was Om. Creation itself was set in motion by the vibration of Om. The closest approach to Brahman is that first sound, Om. Thus, this sacred symbol has become emblematic of Brahman just as images are emblematic of material objects.
The vibration produced by chanting Om in the physical universe corresponds to the original vibration that first arose at the time of creation. The sound of Om is also called Pranava, meaning that it sustains life and runs through Prana or breath. Om also represents the four states of the Supreme Being. The three sounds in Om (AUM) represent the waking, dream and deep sleep states and the silence which surrounds Om represents the "Turiya" state.
Because the first of the three states of consciousness is the waking state, it is represented by the sound "A" pronounced like "A" in accounting. Because the dream state of consciousness lies between the waking and the deep sleep states, it is represented by the letter "U" which lies between the "A" and "M". This "U" is pronounced like the "U" in would. The last state of consciousness is the deep sleep state and is represented by "M" pronounced as in "sum." This closes the pronunciation of Om just as deep sleep is the final stage of the mind at rest. Whenever Om is recited in succession there is an inevitable period of silence between two successive Oms. This silence represents the "fourth state" known as "Turiya" which is the state of perfect bliss when the individual self recognizes his identity with the supreme.
The Symbol Om
Just as the sound of Om represents the four states of Brahman, the symbol Om written in Sanskrit also represents everything. The material world of the waking state is symbolized by the large lower curve. The deep sleep state is represented by the upper left curve. The dream state, lying between the waking state below and the deep sleep state above, emanates from the confluence of the two. The point and semicircle are separate from the rest and rule the whole. The point represents the turiya state of absolute consciousness. The open semicircle is symbolic of the infinite and the fact that the meaning of the point can not be grasped if one limits oneself to finite thinking.
The Power of Chanting Om
The chanting of Om drives away all worldly thoughts and removes distraction and infuses new vigour in the body.
When you feel depressed, chant Om fifty times and you will be filled with new vigour and strength. The chanting of Om is a powerful tonic. When you chant Om, you feel you are the pure, all pervading light and consciousness.
Those who chant Om will have a powerful, sweet voice. Whenever you take a stroll, you can chant Om. You can also sing Om in a beautiful way. The rythmic pronunciation of Om makes the mind serene and pointed, and infuses the spiritual qualifications which ensure self-realization.
Those who do meditation of Om daily will get tremendous power. They will have lustre in their eyes and faces.
Meditation on Om
Retire to a quite place, sit down, close your eyes and completely relax your muscles and nerves. Concentrate on the space between your eyebrows and quieten and silence the conscious mind. Begin to repeat "Om" mentally while associating the ideas of infinity, eternity, immortality, etc. You must repeat Om with the feeling that you are the infinite and all-pervading. Mere repetition of Om will not bring the desired result. Keep the meaning of Om always at heart. Feal Om. Feel that you are the pure, perfect, all-knowing, eternal, free, Brahman. Feel that you are absolute consciousness and the infinite, unchanging existance. Every part of your body should powerfully vibrate with these ideas. This feeling should be kept up all day long. Practice regularly and steadily with sincerity, faith, perseverance and enthusiasm in the morning, midday and evening.
There are many mantras used in worship. The first is always the Moola Manthirum. This mantra forms the foundation which supports all the others. It was not written by a person but was given to us directly from Amma Herself in Her oracle. This mantra has enormous power. Some of the benefits conferred by reciting the Moola Mantra are:
The Divine energy freely flows from the feet of Amma to the different systems of the body. The holy vibrations penetrate all the cells and revitalize the entire system.
Eradication of one's Karma.
Gives you what you rightfully deserve.
Helps solve ailments and genuine problems.
Confers blessings leading to prosperity and a happy life.
Helps one to reach the highest spiritual pedestal (Mukti).
Prevents fatal accidents.
Each type of pooja or velvi has specific mantras which are recited at a certain time during the ritual. The long mantras have either 108 or 1008 lines and are concluded with a short mantra of three lines and three om's. The mantras recited during mandram pooja in America are shown below. Amma has given us permission to omit the 1008 line mantra which is normally recited because She says we are so busy and have little time. All mandrams in India, however, recite the 1008 as is normally required.
The number 108 has been considered sacred for thousands of years in India. The origin of this number probably lies in astronomy. The average distance from the sun and moon to the earth is 108 times each of their respective diameters. This is true to an accuracy of 0.5% for the Sun and 2% for the Moon. The thought that this was known so long ago is amazing. Like all tantric mantras each line is preceded by om and concluded with om. These characteristics give the mantras great potency.
The terms Siva or Sankara mean Auspicious. Sam means Chitaananda (Blissful Awareness). Kara means the one who causes it. Sankara means the One who causes blissful awareness. Sankara is the One who confers Chitaananda on those who take refuge in Him or adore Him.
The secret of Creation is evident from the description of the form of Siva. The crescent moon on Sivas head symbolizes the consciousness in human beings, the Ganga symbolizes the Life Force and the snakes on Sivas body represent the myriad of living beings. He resides on a silver mountain. His dearest friend is Kubera, the Lord of Wealth. Despite being endowed with all these, why was He obliged to carry the begging bowl? To demonstrate to the world that every kind of wealth is a hindrance to spiritual advancement, Siva renounced everything. It is through renunciation Siva became the eternal embodiment of supreme bliss.
Iswara is also symbolized in the Linga Form, Lings is derived from the Sanskrit root, Li, means Leeyathe, 'merges'; it is the form in which all forms merge. Siva is the goal who blesses beings with the most desirable gift of meaning in the universe. That is the end, the death, which one should strive for, the end which Siva can vouch-safe.
Siva means, graciousness; auspiciousness; Mangalam. He is all graciousness, ever auspicious, Sarva Mangalam. That is the reason why the epithet, Sri, which indicates these qualities, is not added to the name Siva, Sankara, lsvara etc. It is added to the number of Avatars, for they have taken on perishable bodies for a specific purpose. They have to be distinguished from other humans, by the epithet, Siva is eternally gracious, auspicious, mangala and so the epithet is superfluous. Siva is adored as the teacher of teachers, Dakshinamurti. The form of Siva is itself a great lesson in tolerance and forbearance.
The Lord has another name. It is only when the love principle underlying this name is rightly understood, the real form of the Cosmos can be recognized. That name is Saambasiva. Saa means divinity. Amba refers to the cosmos. Siva means the Supreme person (Purusha).
Easwara has yet another name: Yogasikha. The sky is His blue form. The directions (Dik) are His garment. Hence He is known as Digambara. He is also known as Panchaanana - the Five-headed One. The five are: Earth, water, fire and aakaasa (space). His five heads represent the five basic elements (panchabhuthas). Siva is also described as Bhuthanaatha - the Lord of all created beings. Bhutha refers to creation. Easwara is the Lord of every creature in the universe. Hence, the entire cosmos is reflected as an image in the Lord. Siva is known as Subhankara- the one who is ever good (Subham).
The three eyes of Siva represent the three worlds (lokas). Siva's trident is symbolic of the Past, the Present, and the Future, the three aspects of Time. The three gunas (Satwa, Rajas, Thamas) are images of the Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. The three worlds, the triune aspect of Time, the three gunas (qualities) are the manifestations of the Easwara Principle.
It is for the well-being of the world that Siva swallowed the Halahala poison. Again, it is for the sake of the worlds good that Siva contained the Ganga in His matted locks. Siva bears the moon on His head to confer peace of mind on mankind. When man moulds himself on the pattern of Easwara, he will get rid of all his evil tendencies and offer to the world what is good in him. That is the meaning of the worship of Siva. It is only when man gives up utterly his bad thoughts, evil desires and wicked deeds, he will be able to transform himself into divinity.
Go through this brief description about the attributes of Lord Shiva:
Unclad body smeared with ashes: This form of Lord Shiva symbolizes the transcendental aspect of his nature and indicates that his presence is much higher than this physical phenomenon. The ashes on the Lord's body is cemetery ash, which points to the philosophy of the life and death and shows that death is the ultimate reality of the life. Most things in the universe reduce to ashes when burned and this aspect of nature is suggested by the ash-smeared appearance of Lord Shiva, who is held to be the God of destruction in Hindu mythology. The Lord is beyond the cycle of birth and death.
Jata (Matted Hair): The flow of his matted hair represents Shiva as the Lord of Wind or Vayu, who is the subtle form of breath present in all living beings. It shows that Shiva is Pashupatinath, Lord Of All Living Beings.
Sacred Ganga: The river Ganga (or Ganges) is the most sacred river for pious Hindus. According to a legend, the river Ganga has its source in Shiva and flows from his matted hair. This is symbolically represented by depicting Ganga as a jet of water sprinkling out of the head of the Lord and falling on the ground. Legend has it that the Lord allowed an outlet to the great river to traverse the earth and bring purifying water to human being. Hence, Lord Shiva is often referred to as Gangadhara or "Bearer of the river Ganga". The river Ganga also denotes fertility, one of the creative aspects of the Rudra. It also indicates that Shiva is not only the Lord of destruction but also the bestower of knowledge, purity and peace on the devotees.
The Third Eye: In the great Hindu epic Mahabharata, Lord Shiva is depicted as a three-eyed God. Hence, he is often referred to as Tryambaka Deva, meaning "three-eyed Lord". The sun is said to be his right eye, the moon the left eye while fire is his third eye. While his other two eyes indicate his activity in the physical world, his third eye in the center of his forehead looks beyond the obvious. It stands for spiritual knowledge and power, and is thus called the eye of wisdom or knowledge. Like fire, the powerful gaze of Shiva's third eye can search evil from anywhere and annihilate it completely. This is the reason why evil-doers fear his third eye.
Half-Open Eyes: The half-open eyes of Lord Shiva convey the idea that the cycle of universe is in process. When the Lord opens His eyes a new cycle of creation begins and when He closes them it signifies the destruction of the universe for creation of the next cycle. The half-open eyes signify that creation is going through an eternal cyclic process, with no beginning and no end.
Crescent: Lord Shiva is typically pictured as wearing a crescent-shaped ornament on one side of his head. This is why he is often called 'Chandrasekhara' meaning "Having the moon as his crest". The Crescent is actually the moon in its fifth day phase and symbolizes the time cycle through which creation evolves from the beginning to the end. The moon is a measure of time, and thus the Crescent on Lord Shiva's head signifies his control over time. The Lord is the Eternal Reality and He is beyond time. Thus, the crescent moon is only one of His ornaments, and not an integral part of Him.
The Snake around the neck: Lord Shiva is often shown with a snake curled three times around His neck and looking towards His right side. The three coils of the snake symbolize the past, present and future - time in cycles. The snake looking in the right direction of Lord Shiva signifies that the Lord's perpetual laws of reason and justice preserve natural order in the universe. The snake is believed to be the Vasuki Naga, a deadly cobra. The Lord wearing the deadly snake like an ornament signifies that He is independent of time and death. It also suggests the dormant energy, called Kundalini Shakti, that resides within him.
Vibhuti: The three line of ashes drawn on the forehead of the Lord is known as the Vibhuti. It signifies the Immortality of the Lord and his manifested glory.
Tiger Skin: Hindu mythology states that the tiger is the vehicle of Shakti, the Goddess of power and force. Lord Shiva is often shown seated upon or wearing a tiger skin, which emphasizes the fact that he is the master of Shakti and is beyond and above any kind of force. Tiger is also the emblem of lust. The Lord's sitting on Tiger skin indicates that he has conquered lust. Tiger also represents energy. Lord Shiva is the source of the creative energy that remains in potential form during the dissolution state of the universe. He activates this energy using his own Divine Will to project the universe in endless cycles.
The Elephant and Deer Skin: The Lord also wears elephant and deer skins. Elephants stand in for pride while deer represent the flickering mind. Wearing elephant and deer skin shows that Lord Shiva has conquered both these vices.
Rudraksha Necklace: He is almost always shown as wearing a necklace having 108 beads made with seeds of the Rudraksha tree. The beads represent the elements used in the creation of the world. The Rudraksha necklace points to the 'Rudra' aspect of the Lord, which is also His other name. The word 'Rudra' means "strict or uncompromising" and aksha means "eye." It illustrates the fact that Lord Shiva is firm about His cosmic laws and strictly maintains law and order in the universe.
Damaru (Drum): It is the small hourglass-shaped drum that the Lord holds in one of his hands in a specific gesture called 'damaru-hasta'. The two sides of the drum separated from each other by a thin neck-like structure represents the two utterly different states of existence, unmanifest and manifest. When a damaru is shaken, it produces Nada, the cosmic sound of AUM, which can be heard during deep meditation. According to Hindu scriptures, Nada is the source of creation. This is one of the attributes of Shiva in his famous dancing representation known as Nataraja.
Trishul (Trident): The trident, or the spear with three prongs, is one of the accessories of the Lord and symbolizes His three fundamental powers iccha(will), kriya(action) and jnana(knowledge). It also signifies His power to destroy evil and ignorance. As His weapon and instrument of punishment the trident represents Lord Shiva's manner of punishing the evil doers on all the three planes - spiritual, subtle and physical.
Kamandalu: The water pot (Kamandalu) often shown adjacent to the Lord is another of his accessories. It is said to be made from a dry pumpkin and containing amrit (nectar). Indian Yogis and sages are seen to carry the Kamandalu as an item of basic necessity. The carrying of the Kamandalu shows the yogic nature of the Lord. But it has a deeper significance. As a ripe pumpkin has been plucked from a plant, its fruit removed and shell cleaned for containing the nectar, an individual too must give up his attachment to the physical world and clean his inner self of egoistic desires to experience the bliss of the Self, symbolized by the nectar in the Kamandalu.
Kundalas: The Kundalas refer to the two ear rings, Alakshya (meaning "which cannot be shown by any sign") and Niranjan (meaning "which cannot be seen by mortal eyes"), worn by the Lord. The ornaments in the ears of the Lord signify that He is beyond ordinary perception. It is noteworthy that the kundala in the left ear of the Lord is of the type used by women and the one in His right ear is of the type used by men. The dual type of Kundalas represent the Shiva and Shakti (male and female) principle of creation.
Mount Kailasa: Lord Shiva is most often shown to be seated with the beautiful Himalayas serving as his backdrop. Mount Kailash in the Himalayas is said to be His traditional abode. In Hindu mythology, Mount Kailasa is said to represent the center of the universe. This denotes that Lord Shiva is 'Kailas' - the bestower of peace and also 'Kailashadhipati' meaning "Lord Of Mount Kailash".
Nandi, the Bull: Nandi is the Bull of Lord Shiva and is said to be his vehicle. The bull is a symbol both of power and ignorance which suggests that Lord Shiva removes ignorance of his devotees and gives them the power of wisdom. In Sanskrit a bull is called "Vrisha" which also means "righteousness". The Nandi bull beside Lord Shiva indicates that He is the eternal companion of righteousness.
Shiva - The Meaning
shiva the name of the Lord is a mantra. It is a part of the very holy mantra of shaivam The Holy Five Letters. mantra means powerful word. The mantras are revealed to and through the sages in their matured spiritual state to the entire world. These mantras may or may not be associated directly to one particular language. At times they get interpreted in the languages. The name shiva and The Holy Five Letters are accepted as they are in different languages.
In saMskR^itam the word shiva means auspicious, prosperous (maN^gaLam). The Lord who is called pashupati, Asutosha being the Supreme that can not be measured by the thoughts, appears to the one who worships as the God graceful, blissful and nurturing. Its auspicious and graceful forms and names are invoked by the worshiper for the upliftment of oneself.
In thamiz it refers to shiva - civappu - chemporuL meaning the Perfect Being. The God staying in a state blissful, enjoying in Its Own Self eternally, without any flaws is the Supreme Lord shiva. The Perfection is the completeness - there is nothing external that is required to make the Self blissful. In this context it would be worthwhile to contemplate on the mantra shivatarAya.