Let Peace Prevail
Invoking peace and harmony, Shanti mantra is a beautiful, age-old prayer from the Vedas, depicting the infinite compassion and benevolence of the sages and rishis of yore. Each syllable of this chant resonates with the intense desire for the welfare of all beings everywhere. When chanted from the heart, it makes one experience tranquillity both within and without. Let’s understand its meaning and imbibe the essence of this universal prayer.
OM Sarvéshām Svastir Bhavatu
OM Sarvéshām Shāntir Bhavatu
OM Sarvéshām Poornam Bhavatu
OM Sarvéshām Mangalam Bhavatu
Sarvéshām means ‘to all beings, in all places, at all times’. The Sanskrit word svasti has diverse meanings - it conveys prosperity, auspiciousness, to be established in one’s real Self, and also indicates good health. Thus the sage’s sentiment behind this invocation is for svasti in all places, at all times. Then, the sage prays for shānti (peace) to all sentient beings.
Our body and mind can and do suffer from three types of sorrow. Physical illness is one type of human suffering. Disease, then be it inborn, or secondary to wrong diet/lifestyle, or due to a previous intractable sinful karma, entails pain, sorrow. Such bodily suffering is known as ādibhautik dukkha. The other type of suffering is not physical but mental and is known as ādhyātmik dukkha. Unfulfilled desires, un-avenged grievance, resentment, envy, egotism, competitiveness – all these are nothing but causes of mental suffering. And ignorance is the root of all these off shoots. The third type of suffering that sentient beings may have to face is caused by natural forces. These are calamities like earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, erupting volcanoes, tornadoes etc. which cannot be prevented. Such prakriti generated devastation leads to large scale suffering, and this is known as ādidaivik dukkha.
Although with expanding civilisation and uncontrolled development, directly or indirectly, mankind too is becoming increasingly liable for such disasters. What with rampant deforestation, rising pollution, chemical wastage, unrestrained mining – disasters are not entirely natural but also related to human greed. Our body is made up of the five elements, prakriti is constituted of the five elements, and our mind too is made from the subtle aspect of the five elements. Thus the three are linked - physical suffering, mental suffering and suffering related to natural calamities. And the sage prays for alleviation of all these three sufferings.
He prays for peace to prevail everywhere. In the third verse, the sage calls for attainment of the whole without which mind cannot perceive completeness. All objects in this material world are incomplete. That is why one cannot experience complete joy even after attaining all worldly objects. That which is incomplete, that which is changeable, that which fluctuates, that which is destructible is known as apoorna.
There is no object in this world which can be called poorna (immutable, non-fluctuating, eternal and indestructible).Thus it is logical to infer that one cannot experience complete joy from that which is incomplete. Thence the sage prays, ‘May all beings attain the whole, the complete.’ In other words, the sage says, ‘May all sentient beings attain Brahman.’ Though, it is another matter that it cannot be attained by those who don’t want to attain it! In the last verse, the sage calls upon auspiciousness to prevail everywhere. ‘May no one have any inauspiciousness in their lives’, prays the sage. See how magnanimous the sage’s vision is! He is not asking for his peace, his joy, his completeness, but rather he prays for everyone - for all plants, birds, animals, insects, for all sentient beings residing in this universe. Thus the word sarvéshām! And the word bhavatu means ‘so be it’.
--Excerpted from ‘Mantra Yoga’