Shaanti Mantras are loudly chanted usually at the beginning and end of any lecture, study or meditation session. Loud chanting helps us to switch the context of our mind from whatever we were doing earlier to the current activity. Chanting with our attention on the meaning puts us in the right attitude to think deeply. Here is a popular Shaanti Mantra.
ॐ सह नाववतु ।
सह नौ भुनक्तु ।
सह वीर्यं करवावहै ।
तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु ।
मा विद्विषावहै ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om – The Lord is the personification of all that exists
saha naavavatu – May the Lord protect us
saha nau bhunaktu – May the Lord give us the fruits of action
saha viiryam karavaavahai – May we work with energy
tejasvi naavadhiitamastu – May we be enlightened by studying
maa vidvishaavahai – May we not be hostile to each other
Om shaantih – May we be free from self-created obstacles
shaantih – May we be free from obstacles put by other people
shaantih – May we be free from obstacles put by Nature
The word “Om” is the most popular and de facto sound representation of God in all sects of Hinduism. It is the most popular sound symbol even in other religions of Indian origin like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. It is a combination of three sounds – “a” (as in roman), “u” (as in uber) and “m” (as in mother). “a” is the most basic sound. It starts from the innermost part of our vocal system. “u” starts from the middle part. “m” starts from the lips, which is the outermost part of the vocal system. Thus, “Om” represents all the sounds that a human being can make. This is the sound symbol of God, because God is the sum total of everything that exists.
The next four phrases mention the four pursuits of man – security/wealth, comfort/entertainment, virtue/contribution and knowledge/freedom. The fifth phrase seeks cooperation and not confrontation. Thus, through the mantra we seek the whole Universe to cooperate with us in all our virtuous pursuits. The prayer uses “we” and “us” in the plural form. Thus, you do not seek these for only yourself. You seek it as a group or you seek it for everyone whom you represent. You seek for the whole of humanity or all living beings.
The last phrase identifies, acknowledges and seeks freedom from three areas from which we can have obstacles to our virtuous pursuits. The first is from ourselves in the form of laziness, carelessness, arrogance, forgetfulness, etc. The second is from other living beings in the form of competition and misunderstanding. The third is from Nature in the form of unforeseen natural circumstances, accidents, natural calamities, etc. For example, suppose you want to go from one place to another place in a car. If I get delayed because your fuel tank got empty, it is a self-created obstacle because of carelessness. If you get delayed because of heavy traffic, it is created by other human beings because of competition. If you get delayed because you had to replace a flat tire with a spare one, it is because of unforeseen natural circumstances. We need to overcome self-created obstacles by correcting ourselves. We need to overcome obstacles created by others by cooperation, coordination, social service, charity and better communication with others. We need to overcome obstacles created by Nature by being prepared for them and having the right attitude.