Swamiji is a highly acclaimed scholar of Vedanta, Indian history, Sanskrit and has a Doctorate in Science before he took up his role as a Swami at AVG. His talks are very enjoyable and insightful.
Question: What does ‘svaahaa’ mean?
Answer: Svaahaa is an utterance. It is one of the utterances that is used in the sense of offering, “May this offering be unto you!” Typically, whenever we make an offering to a devataa in a fire ritual, we say, svaahaa. For example, when we make an offering to Lord Indra, we say ‘Indraaya svaahaa.’ It is said that Svaahaa is the name of the wife of Agni, Lord of Fire.
Svaahaa is also used when there is a spirit of offering, e.g., Om namo bhagavate dakshinaamurtaye mahyam medhaamà pradnyam prayacca svaahaa, ‘Oh Lord Dakshinaamurti, please grant me medhaa, intelligence and the purity of mind, and pradnya, the wisdom.’ Here, svaahaa is the offering of my own self, my own ego. What comes in the way of a pure mind and wisdom is my ego in the form of my own likes and dislikes. Therefore, I offer them to you, oh lord, and you in turn offer me medhaa and pradnya. Thus it is a trading with Lord Dakshinaamarti. I offer you something and you give me something back. What do I offer you? My ego, likes and dislikes. You give me intelligence and wisdom. That is a good bargain. But only the lord can afford that bargain. He can receive all the garbage, but can give us everything that is divine. It is this garbage in the form of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ notions, the likes and dislikes that is in fact veiling our intelligence and wisdom. Therefore these obstacles are dumped or offered to the lord.
Svaahaa is also used in the sense of a prayer. In the Taittriya Upanishad [1-4-2], for example, there is a prayer, aa maa yantu brahmacaariNaH svaahaa, ‘may the brahmacaarins come from all the directions.’ In this context, svaahaa means please fulfill my desire.
Question: What does ‘namaH’ mean?
Answer: Shivaya namaH, my salutations to Lord Shiva. NamaH means aham namami, I salute. I bow down, I prostrate to Lord Shiva, I offer my salutations to Lord Shiva. The word namaH is an indeclinable word which is secondarily interpreted as ‘na mama.’ There is a style of interpreting words which is not in the sense of grammatic derivation. They take the elements of a word and each element is interpreted in a certain way. For example, in the word, ‘guru,’ the syllable ‘gu’ stands for that which veils and the syllable ‘ru’ stands for that which removes that veiling. Similarly, there are two letters ‘na’ and ‘ma’ in namaH. So they interpret it as ‘na mama.’ This secondary interpretation is not grammatical. NamaH primarily means salutation. But na mama also conveys the sense of salutation. When we say Indraaya svaahaa, usually the priest will ask us to say, ‘Indraaya svaahaa indraya idam na mama.’ Indraya svaahaa is offering to Indra. It now belongs to Indra, and it does not belong to me. So after svaahaa they ask you to say, na mama. When we offer something, we are in fact, transferring ownership. Till the offering was made, I was the owner and now the ownership has been transferred.
(This has been shared from AVG website and has been very kindly transcribed and edited by Chaya Raj and KK Davey)
Pranaam from Kamal Kothari