Sacred Sunday: “Om Namah Shivay Dhun,” Jagit Singh

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This is one of the most popular mantras in Hinduism, and the most important in Shaivism, the sect of Hinduism that reveres the god Shiva.

Shaiva temple in Sibsagar, Assam, India.

Shaiva temple in Sibsagar, Assam, India.

These words are known in Shaivism as the panychAkshara mantra, or the Holy Five Syllables.   Its loose translation is, “Adoration to Shiva,” but its essence is much more closely associated with the sublimation of the ego along with complete devotion.  The mantra has been set to countless melodies but this is one of my favorites.

Today is the Sunday in church we read the gospel lesson in which Jesus tells his followers, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  As Bishop Mariann Budde, the head of the Diocese of Washington, preached this morning, it’s a deceptively difficult statement to wrestle with because it seems to imply exclusion – i.e., the only way towards the divine is through Jesus, and therefore through the Christian faith.  Bishop Budde said that, to her, this is much more of a statement of love between Jesus and his disciples than it is a commandment that those who are not followers are condemned.  The Holy Five Syllables is another such love song.  What a wonderful thing that humans evolved so many ways of approaching the divine, and that each of them begins with love.

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