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Meaning of the shanti mantras

The mantras chanted during college prayer are called shanti mantras. Therefore to conclude each one, "shanti," which means "peace," is chanted three times. As a Vidyarthi Knowledge seeker, one chants shanti in desire for the occurrence of circumstances conducive to education. Shanti is chanted thrice not for emphasis but because disturbances are of three distinct categories. In Sanskrit, these are referred to as adhi-daivikam, adhi-bhautikam and adhyatmikam. Adhi-daivikam literally means "mental disturbances that come from God"i.e. things that are utterly beyond our control: hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, etc. We have no control over these types of disturbances. So when we say the first shanti, we are praying, "O God, may we be protected from these obstacles that are beyond our control." Adhi-bhautikam literally means "disturbances that come from the world." That means anything stemming from the world around usmosquitoes, noisy neighbors, barking dogs, the phone ringing, family arguments. As opposed to the first category, we have some control over this second category of disturbances. We can use mosquito repellent, we can call the police on our neighbors, we can turn off the phone, we can leave the place altogether, etc. So this shanti means, "O God, may we be protected from the people and surroundings." The third type of disturbance is the most powerful and, at the same time, the only one over which we have total control. Adhyatmikam means "disturbances stemming from the self." For one who is still identified with the ego, the people, places and things of this world stimulate one of two reactions in the mindattachment or aversion. Whether we physical see someone we consider our enemy as we walk down the street or remember him during meditation, the mental turbulence that results is the same. Lust, jealousy, anger, sorrow, hatred destroy our peace. This third shanti is therefore the most important one, because even if we are free from outside disturbances, if the inner realm is not calm we will never know peace. Conversely, once we have found inner peace, no external force can ever disturb us. So chanting this third shanti is akin to praying, "O God, please remove all the inner obstacles." ================================================================== svasti prajabhyam paripalayantham nyayeana margena mahim maheesah gobrahmanebhya shubamsthu nityam lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu May there be well being to the people; May the kings rule the earth along the right path; May the cattle and the Brahmins have well being forever; May all the beings in all the worlds become happy;

The sloka is an invocation for harmony and blessings for all of creation. In ancient days the social structure and form of government differed from ours in many ways that is why we need not take the literal meaning of this sloka, but the essence.

For peace and harmony to prevail, the kings--i.e. the politicians and leaders--should have a healthy approach towards their subjects and govern according to principles of dharma. This, we sadly note, is very rare indeed in today's world where power and wealth seem to be the prime motivation for the ruling elite. Nevertheless, the ideal remains as it is. Brahmin is one who has either realised his oneness with Brahman, the Absolute, or one who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of that realization. Such selfless people are the enlightened thinkers who provide society with a healthy understanding of life. They give guidance to all sections of society, including the political leadership. A Brahmin can also mean a brilliant intellectual who is using his talents to selflessly serve society. Thus for a stable and bright society, it is essential that these Brahmins are healthy. The sage who gave voice to this mantra obviously does not assert Brahmin-hood as a hereditary vocation as found today. Now, one might wonder about the cattle in this prayer, saying to one's self: "What on earth have I, a city-dwelling modern person, to do with cattle? Shouldn't I rather be praying that my BMW stays in good condition?" We need not be too literal-minded. The ancients didn't use language in such a one-dimensional way as we do. If we contemplate deeply on the meaning of any given mantra, it is likely that it will reveal more and more layers of meaning. "Cattle" signifies nourishment and abundance in general. In ancient time cattle served as a sort of bank account. The number of cattle a person had was the measure of his wealth. Also, the milk was the primary source of livelihood for a large portion of society. Milk and milk products such as ghee comprised the majority of the offerings made into the sacrificial fires used in formal ritual worship. Thus cows are mentioned in many ancient texts as a symbol of plenty. It can be taken symbolically, like "the daily bread." When cattle and the rest of the animal kingdom are devoid of well being, humanity will also suffer. Thus harmony between humans and the rest of creation is also stressed in this prayer. Actually cow can be taken as representative of the entire animal kingdom. The Sanskrit word for cattle is "go," which is a most profound Vedic symbol and has many subtle spiritual meanings. Two such secondary meanings are "earth" and "mother," and as such the sloka could also be a prayer for the welfare of Mother Earth. The most important aspect of the mantra is that the sage does not pray only for his clan or nation but for the whole world. This, as Amma tells us and shows us, is the correct way to pray. Instead of asking for something for our self, Amma advises us to pray for the whole creation. Praying for the welfare of all sentient beings--all humans, all animals, all plantsour mind becomes more expansive. Through such prayer we slowly can go beyond our limited egocentric concepts of self to identify with the entire creation, recognising its true nature to be none other than our own. And as we too are part of the world, we also are benefited from the blessings of the prayer. While chanting Om lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu next time, let us try to feel deeply for all living beings, and make a resolve to live in this selfless spirit.

asato ma sadgamaya tamaso ma jyotirgamaya mrtyorma amrtam gamaya Lead me from the asat to the sat. Lead me from darkness to light. Lead me from death to immortality. (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad I.iii.28) This is true prayerthe seekers admission of his sense of limitedness and his heartfelt cry for assistance in transcendence. It is not a prayer for the things of the world. It is not a pray for food, shelter, health, partnership, riches, success, fame, or glory. One who recites these three mantras has realized that such things are full of holes, soaked in pain and, even in abundance, will forever leave him wanting. It is in this full understanding that one turns to this prayer. The essence of each of these three mantras is the same: "O, Guru, help me free myself from my sundry misunderstandings regarding myself, the universe and God and bless me with true knowledge." The first mantraasato ma sadgamayameans, "Lead me from the asat to the sat." In fact, it is best to not translate sat (nor its negative counterpart asat) for, as with many Sanskrit words, sat has many meanings and not only are most of them applicable here, their deliberate combined import provides a depth that no one of them could hold independently. These co-applicable meanings include: existence, reality and truth. (Co-applicable meanings for asat being: non-existence, non-reality and untruth.) The seeker giving voice to this prayer has come to understand the finite nature of all the objects of the world, and he wants the Guru to guide him from the asat to the sat. He is fed up with depending on things that are not real. Why? Because just as the sandcastle is always washed away by the tide, dependence on the asat always ends in pain. Sat is our True Selfthe blissful consciousness that ever was, is and ever will be. Being beyond time, this consciousness can never be washed away by the times tides. In fact, sat is there as the essential part of all of the asat objects. It is a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff, as it were. The second mantratamaso ma jyotirgamayameans "Lead me from darkness to light." When the Vedas refer to darkness and light, they mean ignorance and knowledge, respectfully. This is so because ignorance, like darkness, obscures true understanding. And in the same way that the only remedy for darkness is light, the only remedy for ignorance is knowledge. The knowledge spoken of here is again the knowledge of ones true nature. The final mantramrtyorma amrtam gamayameans: "Lead me from death to immortality." This should not be taken as a prayer to live endless years in heaven or on earth. It is a prayer to the Guru for assistance in realizing the truth that "I was never born, nor can ever die, as I am not the body, mind and intellect, but the eternal, blissful consciousness that serves as the substratum of all creation." It is important to remember that, with all these mantras, the leading is not a physical leading. The Atma is not something far away that we have to make a pilgrimage to, nor is it something we need to transform ourselves into. Atma means "self." We dont need to

transform our self into our self. Nor do we need to travel to it. We are it. The journey is a journey of knowledge. It is journey from what we misunderstand to be our self to what truly is our self. What the mantras really means is "Lead me to the understanding that I am not the limited body, mind and intellect, but am, was and always will be that eternal, absolute, blissful consciousness that serves as their substratum." "That is perfect. This is perfect. Perfect comes from perfect. Take perfect from perfect, the remainder is perfect. May peace and peace and peace be everywhere." That (supreme Brahman) is infinite and this (conditioned Brahman) is infinite. This infinite conditioned Brahman) proceeds from the infinite (supreme Brahman). (Then through knowledge), taking the infinite of the infinite (conditioned Brahman), it remains as the infinite (unconditioned Brahman) alone. Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!

Om Sahana Vavatu Sahanau Bhunaktu Sahaveeryam Karavavahai Tejas Vinavati Tamastuma vidhwishavahai Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi May He protect both of us. May He nourish both of us. May we both acquire the capacity (to study and understand the scriptures). May our study be brilliant. May we not argue with each other. At the beginning of a class, the teacher and students general y recite this peace invocation together. Both seek the Lords blessings for study that is free of obstacles, such as poor memory, or the inability to concentrate or poor health. They also seek blessings for a conducive relationship, without which communication of any subject matter is difficult. Therefore this prayer is important for both the teacher and the student.