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14 January, 2012

MANTRAS FOR PEACE - Invocatory Prayer Part 1

Invocatory Prayer in Sanskrit

Om Sahanavavattu. 
Sahanau bhunaktu . 
Saha viryam karavavahai.
Tejasvni navadhitamastu ma vidvisavahai.
Om santih santih santih

Meaning of the Mantra

Om May (He) protect us both (teacher and student).  
May (He) cause us to enjoy. 
May we strive together. 
May our study become brilliant. 
May we not become disputatious.

Om Peace Peace Peace


       This prayer is chanted both by the guru preceptor and the sisya disciple before starting the study of the scriptures.  There are other prayers as well.  The chanting of the invocations invocatory prayer helps to claim the mind and tune in the subtle intellect for comprehending the philosophy ingrained in the scriptures.

       The human intellect is of two distinct types viz., gross and subtle.  When your intellect engages its discriminating faculty in the realm of the terrestrial world it is said to be 'gross.Gross intellect thinks thoughts pertaining to the world.  It discriminates between the pairs of opposites all within the boundary of this world.  It could range from the simplest discrimination of a dog between its master and a stranger to the finest discrimination of a scientist in nuclear technology.  But all of them are still classified as 'gross' because its field of operation is the terrestrial world.  When however your intellect crosses the boundary of the terrestrial world and conceives the possibility of a transcendental Reality, it is called the 'subtle' intellect.  No other creature except a human being can posit the transcendental Reality.  The subtle intellect is the discriminating faculty which contemplates upon and distinguishes the transcendental Reality from the terrestrial world, discerns the difference between Spirit and matter, between Atman (Self) and the world you experience through your material equipments.

       The common man engages his gross intellect in the affairs of the world practically day long.  He hardly uses his subtle intellect.  It is therefore important to invoke and tune in his subtle intellect for understanding the deeper import of the scriptures.  This is achieved by chanting the invocatory prayer.  The prayer starts with Om which represents the supreme Reality, the goal of all spiritual pursuits.

       The protection sought by the teacher and the taught is only a temporary safeguard against any disturbances that may prevent their study.  The prayer is not to be understood as beggary, an outcome of lethargy.  Neither the teacher nor the student means to avoid action and begs the Lord to take care of everything.  Both of them will be engaged in deep study and reflection.  Hence, their request to the Lord is to protect them during the period of study from any disturbances.  This line conveys their spirit of surrender to the supreme being and their earnestness for study.

       In the next two lines they pray for enjoyment and exertion.  Spiritual study can bring about results only when the preceptor and the disciple put in their best efforts.  They exert their maximum to teach and to learn the knowledge respectively.  the teaching and the learning are thoroughly enjoyed by both.  Spiritual study ought not to be a drudgery.  With the right attitude the study becomes a pleasure.

       The next line speaks of the goal of spiritual study.  The aim of the spiritual study is the unfolding of the supreme  Self.  The supreme Self within is at present clouded by vasanas/desires.  The study, reflection and the meditation of the knowledge contained in the scriptures help the seeker to exhaust his vasanas/desires and bring out the brilliance of the Self within.  This idea is indicate by praying for brilliance.

       In the last line the teacher and the taught pray that there be no hatred between them.  This appeal is necessary because spiritual knowledge is difficult to administer, difficult to comprehend and that leads to a lot of controversy, arguments and bitterness.  The prayer is meant to caution both to avoid such a contingency by being humble and refrain from egoistic and dogmatic assertions.

       The three sources of disturbances are:

1.  Adhidaivikam (cosmic disturbances)

2.  Adhibhoutikam (environmental disturbances)

3.  Adhyatmikam (inner disturbances)

       The first type of disturbance is from the phenomenal powers like lightning, thunder, rain, earthquake, etc.  Hence, the first santih is chanted loudly

       The  scond type is the environmental disturbance like noise around, animals prowling, insects crawling etc.  The second chant is softer than the first to indicate that it is directed to the environmental disturbances.

       The third type is disturbance springing from one's own body or mind like sickness, worry etc.  The last chant is therefore in whispers directed to the inner disturbances.


       The invocatory prayer when sincerely and repeatedly chanted prepares a proper mental climate for spiritual study and reflection.

Source: Excerpts from the book on THE SYMBOLISM OF HINDU GODS AND RITUALS by AParthasarathy.

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