By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Pancaksari, PaJcAksarI, Paycaaksari
Pañcāksarī literally means ‘a mantra of five syllables’.
Meditation on the form of the iṣṭadevatā and also the japa or repetition of the mantra connected with that deity is an important and integral part of sādhana or spiritual practice. Out of the several modes of designating a mantra, the one that indicates the number of syllables is quite common. Thus ekākṣarī, pañcāksarī, ṣaḍakṣarī, aṣṭākṣarī, navākṣarī and dvādaśākṣarī represent the mantras having one, five, six, eight, nine or twelve syllables.
Significance of Pañcāksarī Mantra
However, some of these general terms, due to constant usage, get particularized. For instance, the pañcā-kṣarī refers to the five-syllabled mantra of Śiva only, viz., namaś-śivāya. Hence it is called Śiva-pañcākṣari. This pañcākṣarī mantra has been highly eulogized in Śaivite works. Similarly the aṣṭākṣarī refers to the famous mantra of Nārāyaṇa which is om namo nārāyaṇāya.
By adding the letter Ohm to the five-syllabled mantra of Śiva, we get the ṣaḍakṣarī mantra. Both these mantras of Śiva are well-known and are widely used for japa or repetition. Since Ohm is often an integral part of most mantras, even the six-sylabled mantra is considered as Pañcākṣari only. It was originally discovered by the sage Vāmadeva and the chandas of revelation is the Vedic paṅkti. Sadāśiva is the deity.
Japa of Pañcāksarī Mantra
The works on the mantras, like the tantras and purāṇas, give the processes of purification of oneself like aṅganyāsa of limbs, karanyāsa of the hands and so on as also the dhyānaśloka, giving the details for meditation on the form of the deity. This mantra can be repeated for the sake of mokṣa or liberation through self-purification. However it can also be repeated to get one’s desires fulfilled, such as long life, freedom from diseases as also the troubles created by evil forces, and so on. Such japa or repetition may run into lakhs and has to be practiced in places like the top of a hillock, the bank of a river or some such holy place of solitude. It must then be followed by homa, the number of oblations generally being one-tenth of the number of japa.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore