Thursday, December 13, 2007

Panchakshara Stotra

Panchakshara Stotra means the Hymn of the Penta-Syllabic, and glorifies Shiva through the Yajurvedic penta-syllabic mantra – Namah Shivaya. Later on, these five syllables (na-mah-shi-vā-ya) are prefixed with the monosyllabic mantra (Aum) to form the Hexa-syllabic mantra (Aum Namah Shivaya), which we normally use in chanting. The Panchakshara Stotra translated below is quite famous with Shaivites, Shaktas and Smartas, and is attributed, like dozens of other hymns, to Adi Shankaracharya. As with the Shadakshara Stotra, in the below hymn the individual syllables are pulled apart and used to glorify the Lord with the utmost beauty.


Hymn of the Penta-Syllabic
By Adi Shankārācharya

To the One embodied in the syllable na, adorned with a serpent garland;
To the three-eyed Lord, besmeared with ashes, to the great Ruler over all,
To that eternal One, who is pure and sky-clad, salutations be unto Shiva. ||1||

To the One embodied in the syllable ma, honored with the waters of Mandākini
And anointed with the paste of sandalwood;
To the Lord of Nandi, the Bull, who rules over all the hosts of spirits,
To that great Lord worshipped with myriad flowers, with Mand
āra flowers,
To that ever-blissful One, salutations be unto Shiva. ||2||

To the One embodied in the syllable shi, who, like the Sun,
Causes the lotus face of Gauri (Shakti) to blossom;
To the Destroyer of the yaj
ña of Daksha, to the Blue-Throated One,
To the Bearer of the emblem of the bull, salutations be unto Shiva. ||3||

To the One embodied in the syllable va, venerated by Vasishtha,
Agastya, Gautama and other noble sages, as well as hosts of Devas;
To the One whose three eyes are resplendent like the sun, moon and fire,
To the Bearer of the Moon-Crest, salutations be unto Shiva. ||4||

To the One embodied in the syllable ya, who takes the form of a Yaksha,
To the One with matted locks, to the Bearer of the pināka bow, that Primeval Lord,
To that effulgent God, the sky-clad One, salutations be unto Shiva. ||5||

Whosoever recites this Hymn of the Penta-syllabic in the presence of God Shiva,
He will certainly attain the Supreme abode of Shiva,
And enjoy everlasting bliss with Him. ||6||

Aum Namah Shivaya.

For printable version click here.

Related posts: Shadakshara Stotra & Greatness of the Panchakshara.

Listen to the Panchakshara Stotra.


Anonymous said...

Does Adi Shanksracharya's philosophy describe proper shaivism, also are the directional Shankaracharya's of the modern-day representative of shaivism

Thank you

Agnideva said...

Hi Anonymous,

The simple answer to your question is no (complex answer to follow). Adi Shankaracharya's Advaita Vedanta philosophy is not specifically Shaivite. In fact, followers of Shankaracharya's philosophy claim that they are neither Vaishnavites or Shaivites.

There is however a significant contingent among Shankaracharya followers who are Shiva worshippers. Also, wearing of Shaivite holy marks, rudraksha beads and using the panchakshara mantra is common practice for monks of this sect. This is because historically speaking this sect probably arose from medieval Shaiva-Shakta traditions. Therefore, the Shankaracharya sect can be called a "liberal, Vedantic form of Shaivism". In fact, most Vedantic texts of Shaivism (Shaiva Upanishads, Shiva Gita, etc.) were likely composed by Vedantic Shaivas.

The modern representatives of Shaivism (whose philosophy and theology are based on the Shaiva Agamas) are followers of Kashmir Shaivism, Saiva Siddhanta, Gorakh Pant (Siddha Siddhanta), Vira Shaivism and Pashupata Shaivism.

Having said that, you will find that most of the differences are philosophical. In practice, there are a lot of overlap between Shaiva, Shakta and Smarta (Shankaracharya) traditions. None of these sects are mutually exclusive.


Anonymous said...

Thank You,

Is it common/ appropriate for Shaivites to follow the teachings of the modern Shankaracharyas? I thought that as "pope is to roman catholicism, shankaracharya is to shaivism", but now I realised that I was some what wrong. Who is the religious leader(s) of shaivism?
Thank you once more

Agnideva said...

Hi Anonymous,

You can think of modern Shaivism as having two sides.

One side is Vedantic and is essentially part of the Shankaracharya sect and accepts the Advaita Vedanta philosophy. The directional Shankaracharyas are technically leaders of this sect. Since in the Shankaracharya tradition theism is theoretical, it brings together all the Tantric theistic traditions (Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism), and does not call itself “Shaivism”.

The other side is Tantric/Agamic, and historically calls itself Shaivism. Tantric Shaivism is branched as described in my previous reply, and is theistic. Each sect has gurus and leaders (mostly low profile masters) just like Vaishnavism has its gurus. Philosophically, Tantric Shaivism has three branches – monistic, monistic-dualistic and dualistic traditions. And all traditions, including Shaivite monism (Paradvaita, Advaita Ishvaravada) have differences with Advaita Vedanta of Adi Shankaracharya.

Religious leaders of Shaivism are the Acharyas and Swamis of all the Shaivite sects. There are no central pope-like figures.

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