Om Namah Shivaya
Om Namah Shivaya (Devanagari: ॐ नमः शिवाय ; IAST: Om Namaḥ Śivāya) is one of the most popular Hindu Mantra and the most important mantra in Shaivism. Namah Shivaya means "O salutations to the auspicious one!", or “adoration to Lord Shiva". It is called Siva Panchakshara, or Shiva Panchakshara or simply Panchakshara meaning the "five-syllable" mantra (viz., excluding the Om) and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is a holy salutation to Lord Shiva. This Mantra appears as 'Na' 'Ma' 'Śi' 'Vā' and 'Ya' in the Shri Rudram hymn which is a part of the Krishna Yajurveda and also in the Rudrashtadhyayi which is a part of the Shukla Yajurveda.
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Origin of the mantra
This mantra is present in the Shri Rudram hymn which is part of the Krishna Yajurveda. Shri Rudram hymn is taken from two chapters in fourth book of Taittiriya Samhita (TS 4.5, 4.7) of Krishna Yajurveda. Each chapter consist of eleven anuvaka or hymns. Name of both chapters are Namakam (chapter five) and Chamakam (chapter seven) respectively. Om Namah Shivaya mantra appears without OM in eighth hymn of Namakam(TS 126.96.36.199) as Namah shivaya ca shivataraya (Sanskrit: नमः शिवाय च शिवतराय च; IAST: Namaḥ śivāya ca śivatarāya ca). It means "Salutations unto Śiva the auspicious one, unto Śivatara the one than whom none more auspicious can exist".
This mantra also appears in the Rudrashtadhyayi which is a part of the Shukla Yajurveda. In the Rudrashtadhyayi, the mantra appears in the 5th chapter (also known as Namakam) verse 41 as Namah shivaya ca shivataraya (Sanskrit: नमः शिवाय च शिवतराय च).
Translations among different traditions
Namah Shivaya means "O salutations to the auspicious one!", or “adoration to Lord Shiva" preceded by the devotional syllable "Om".
- Na sound represents earth
- Ma sound represents water
- Śi sound represents fire
- Vā sound represents Pranic air
- Ya sound represents sky or ether
Its total meaning is that "universal consciousness is one" .
In the Shaiva Siddhanta Shaivism tradition the five letters also represents :
- Na is the Lord’s concealing grace
- Ma is the world
- Śi stands for Shiva
- Vā is His revealing grace
- Ya is the Ātman or soul 
The Tirumantiram (a scripture in Shaiva Siddhanta Shaivism) announces, “His feet are the letter Na. His navel is the letter Ma. His shoulders are the letter Śi. His mouth, the letter Vā. His radiant cranial center aloft is Ya. Thus is the five-lettered form of Shiva.”: Tirumantiram 941. TM
Presence of mantra in different scriptures
- This Mantra appears as 'Na' 'Ma' 'Śi' 'Vā' and 'Ya' in the Shri Rudram hymn which is a part of the Krishna Yajurveda. Thus predates the use of Shiva as a proper name, in the original context being an address to Lord Rudra (later Shiva), where Shiva retains its original meaning as an adjective, meaning "auspicious, benign, friendly", a euphemistic epithet of Rudra. 
- This mantra is also appears in the Rudrashtadhyayi which is a part of the Shukla Yajurveda.
- Whole Panchakshara Stotra is dedicated to this mantra.
- Tirumantiram, a scripture written in Tamil language, speaks of the meaning of the mantra. 
- It also appears in the Shiva Purana in the chapter 1.2.10 (Shabda-Brahma Tanu) and in its Vidyeshvara samhita and in chapter 13 of the Vayaviya samhita of the Shiva Purana as 'Om Namaha Shivaya'.
- The Tamil Saivaite hymn Tiruvacakam begins with the five letters 'Na' 'Ma' 'Śi' 'Vā' and 'Ya'.
This mantra is repeated verbally or mentally, drawing the mind in upon itself to Lord Shiva’s infinite, all-pervasive presence. Traditionally it is repeated 108 times a day while keeping count on a strand of rudraksha beads. This practice is called japa yoga. It is freely sung and chanted by everyone, but it is most powerful when given by one’s guru. Before this initiation which is called mantra diksha, the guru will usually require a period of study. This initiation is often part of a temple ritual, such as a puja, japa, homa (fire ceremony) , dhyana or and while smearing vibhuti. The guru whispers the mantra into the disciple’s right ear, along with instructions on how and when to chant it. 
This mantra is associated with qualities of prayer, divine-love, grace, truth, and blissfulness. When done correctly, it calms the mind and brings spiritual insight and knowledge. It also keeps the devotee close to Shiva and within His protective global fellowship.
Traditionally, it is accepted to be a powerful healing mantra beneficial for all physical and mental ailments. Soulful recitation of this mantra brings peace to the heart and joy to the Ātman or soul. Many Hindu teachers consider that the recitation of these syllables is sound therapy for the body and nectar for the Ātman.  The nature of the mantra is the calling upon the higher self; it is the calling upon Shiva.
In popular culture
Om Namah Shivay was also a TV serial telecasted on an Indian TV Channel, DD National (DD-1).
In Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (2007), Elizabeth Gilbert explained that the first chant provided by her guru was "Om Namah Shivaya." Gilbert wrote that this meant "I honor the divinity within me."
These words are chanted by characters Yogi & Reggie as in the 2014 video game Far Cry 4 as the protagonist experiments with their psychedelic concoctions; the fictional religion in the game is loosely based on Hinduism, thus the chant.
"Om Namah Shivaya" is also featured in the "Serpente" (Serpent, snake) song in the SETEVIDAS (SEVENLIVES) album (Deckdisc, 2014) by the Brazilian singer Pitty, the princess of rock in Brazil.
Om Namah Shivay is the tenth album (and eighth solo album) by Nina Hagen, released in 1999.
"Om Namah Shiva" is found in Jah Wobble's Heaven and Earth album.
"Om Namah Shivaya" is found in MC Yogi's Elephant Power album.
"Om Namaha Shiva" is found on Shiela Chandra's Weaving My Ancestors' Voices album.
"Om Namah Shivaya" Peace offering is found on Apache Indian's Best of Apache Indian 2000 album.
"Om Namah Shivaya" is found on Album Vairagya: Bonding with Beyond by Isha Sounds. “Om Namah Shivaya” is found on the album “Om Namah Shivah ” by Robert Gass & On Wings of Song, and is a 43 minute version of the mantra.
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- "Other Prayers: Aum Namah Shivaya Mantra". www.AradiaGoddess.com. Retrieved 9 September 2010.