This shloka is one of the most popular Shanti Mantras and is recited at the beginning of any study or learning. It is widely used in many schools and educational institutions, seeking for Divine Blessings and wishing to create a good environment for learning.
It has originated from the Taittiriya Upanishad. It calls for protection, fruitful learning, mutual respect between teacher and students as well as peace.
OM Saha Nao Avatu (sahanavavatu)
Saha Nao Bhunaktu
Literal Translation of the Words
OM : Supreme God
Saha : together; Nao : both; Avatu : protect;
Saha : together; Nao : both; Bhunaktu : experience or rejoice;
Saha : together; Veeryam : joyful interest, enthusiasm, courage or energy; Kara-Vavahai : putting effort
Tejasvi : brilliance; Nao : both; Adheetam: study; Astu : gain
Maa: may never; Vid-Vishaava-Hai : have conflict
OM: Manifested and unmanifested Supreme Parabrahman
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti Hi: Peace, Peace, Peace - be there
Meaning of the Shanti Mantra
1. “OM Saha Nao Avatu (Sahanavavatu)”:
The student/s and the Teacher are together requesting Parabrahman for protection. The gap after OM represents unmanifested Parabrahman, who is being invoked for manifesting what we are asking for.
2. “Saha Nao Bhunaktu”:
They are both further asking together for the experience or delight for the fruit or the nectar of their study or togetherness.
3. “Saha-Veeryam Kara-Vavahai”:
They appeal to the Supreme Parabrahman that together, with joyful interest, enthusiasm and courage, may they put together tremendous effort, exercise their mental muscles, view the subject matter from different perspectives, exert to understand it, discuss, apply the knowledge, validate, seek clarification, and so on.
4. “Tejasvi Nao-Adheetam-Astu (Tejasvi naavadheetamastu):
They urge that may they together realize the brilliance from this study.
5. “Maa Vid-Vishaava-Hai”:
They pray that in the process, may they never get into any conflict. Whether the Teacher thinks that the student is not receptive or if the student doubts the teachings, in both cases, the exchange between them will not be productive. There is no joyful interest, zeal, no clarifications and no deeper study! Any doubts arising during the discussion must bring to light other facets of truth and not friction. So, they wish here that may they trust each other, co-operate, align and learn in harmony. Both must maintain their Heart centres big to achieve this.
6. “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti Hi”:
The repetition of the word “Shanti” has a specific purpose. There are multiple connotations.
One is, by chanting this line, we are seeking peace or purification on the Physical plane. Also, for peace on the Emotional plane by relieving us of the unwholesome feelings. And finally, for peace on the Mental plane by ridding ourselves of the unpleasant thoughts and worries. Peace is automatically prevailing on the Intuitional plane and higher. Hence, we are asking for peace in the lower three quarters of OM (A, U, M), that is, the Jagrut, Swapna and Sushupti. The fourth quarter, or the ardha matra of OM, is always in peace (i.e., Intuitional plane and all above). These quarters of OM represent our bodies and consciousness in various planes of manifestation and beyond.
Another inference is that we are asking for peace from all the known causes of suffering. Like, we are in discomfort as someone troubled us or because we have wronged someone that we know of. Additionally, we are asking for peace from the suffering that is not known to us. That is, we have caused pain to someone unknowingly or have forgotten about it or some unknown fear. However, the effect of discomfort is there. And finally, we are requesting for peace from any disturbance arising from inside of us. Like, not able to forgive our own self or discomfort within. If we understand the practice of Forgiveness, we can use it to forgive others, ask for forgiveness and forgive ourselves. Then, there will be peace at all the three levels.
Let us quickly sum up the meaning of this shanti mantra - May the Supreme Parabrahman protect both the Teacher and the student/s. May He help them enjoy the nectar of their deep study. May they together put effort with joyful interest, enthusiasm and understand deeper meaning of the scriptures or text. May their deeper exploration together make them brilliant, Tejaswi or illumined. May they not get into any possible conflict. May they be blessed with peace!
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