There is a traditional chant that a Thai massage therapist says, quietly or aloud, before a session, and it starts out with an invocation, "Om Namo Shivago." It is the most common chant given to Thai practitioners, but there are many more, just as there may be many ways for a person to express thanks, ask for guidance and focus on healing like this chant does.
Chanting is part of the practice in Thai called wai khru, which means "to pay respect". The intention is to pay respect to family and teachers, to the people of Thailand, the ancient tradition of healing and those who have shaped these practices and passed them along to us. Wai khru is a practice intended to be personalized. For many, it is a way to give gratitude and ask for gifts to pass along in healing. Which makes me think of Joseph Campbell and the boon a hero gets along his journey. For those with more Buddhist training like myself, it is also a way to generate compassionate energy and open to insight.
The term wai khru also brings to mind the Wahe Guru mantra from kundalini yoga, which is simultaneously a call for the guru (the inner guru ultimately) and an expression of ecstatic joy and greeting, as the guru always arrives just as it is called for, with guidance to bring us from dark to light, from ignorance to awakening. And in the opening line, "Om Namo Shivago," I can't help but hear an echo of the familiar kirtan, "Om Namah Shivaya," which is another mantra rich in history, meanings, and also used for healing.
Below, the Om Namo chant is presented in the Pali language (transliterated into the English alphabet), which was spoken in India over 2,500 years ago. There’s also an English translation to give a rough sense of what it says.
OM NAMO SHIVAGO SILASA AHANG
PAPASO SURIYA JANTANG.
WANTAMI BANTITO SUMETHASSO
(to be said 3 times)
PIYO-NAKHA SUPANANANG PININSIANG
NAVON-NAVIEN NASATIT-NASATIEN EHI-MAMA
NAVIEN MAHAKU EHI-MAMA PIYONG-MAMA
(to be said 1 time)
NA-A NA-WA ROKHA PAYATI VINA-SANTI
(to be said 3 times)
"We invite the spirit of our Founder, the Father Doctor Shivago, who comes to us though his saintly life. Please bring to us the knowledge of all nature, that this prayer will show us the true medicine of the universe. In the name of this mantra, we respect your help and pray that through our bodies you will bring wholeness and health to the body of the one whom we touch."
"The Goddess of Healing dwells in the heavens high, while mankind lives in the world below. In the name of the Founder, may the heavens be reflected in the earth below so that this healing medicine may encircle the world."
"We pray for the one whom we touch, that illness will be released and happiness will follow."