This is another Mantram I recite often. It is also the third and last of the three Mantras we recite at our community gatherings. The first two, Gayatri Mantram and Mrityunjaya Mantram I have discussed in my previous articles. Shanti means Peace and Shanti Mantram is for Universal peace. Shanti Mantras are recited at religious ceremonies and at the beginning of cultural, educational and business programs and for that matter by anyone and at any gathering. Chanting of any Shanti Mantram is to calm the mind of the person and the group reciting it and the environment around them and to remove any obstacles and hurdles ahead of them. There are a number of Shanti Mantras from the Vedas. However the most commonly recited Shanti Mantram is from the Katha Upanishad, Shvetashvatara Upanishad and Taittiriya Upanishad:
“OM Sahanaa Vavatu Sahanau Bhunaktu
Saha Veeryam Karavaavahai
Tejasvinaavadheetamastu Maa Vidvishaavahai
OM Shanti Shanti Shanti”
The literal meaning of this Mantra is: “OM let all of us protect each other together, may all of us enjoy together, may all of us work together and let our study become radiant. Let there be no hatred between us, OM Peace Peace Peace.”
Like many Mantras, this Mantra also begins with OM. The Amrita Bindu Upanishad states that, “The imperishable sound OM is the supreme Absolute”. OM also spelled AUM is considered sacred and the greatest of all Mantras. The syllable OM is composed of the three sounds A-U-M and in Sanskrit the vowels A-U combine to become O. AUM’s threefold nature is central to its meaning. It represents several triads, the three worlds – Earth, Atmosphere and Heaven, the three Main Hindu Gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and the three Vedic scriptures – Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and the Sama Veda. Thus OM mystically embodies the essence of the entire Universe. This meaning is further deepened by the belief that God first created sound and the Universe arose from it. As the most sacred sound, OM is the root of the Universe and everything that exists and it continues to hold everything together.
Shanti Mantras always conclude with Shanti repeated thrice; as “OM Shanti Shanti Shanti”. This is for calming and removing obstacles in three realms – adhyatmika, adhibhautika and adhidaivika.
The first Shanti pertains to Internal or adhyatmika realm - the source of troubles and obstacles arising out of our own body and mind, such as pain, disease and other physical issues like laziness and absent-mindedness.
The second Shanti pertains to Physical or adhibhautika realm – the source of troubles and obstacles from external world, such as people, wild animals and natural calamities.
The third Shanti pertains to Divine or adhidaivika realm – the source of troubles and obstacles from extra-sensory world and spiritual factors including our own Karma.
These are called “Tapa-Traya” or three classes of troubles. When Shanti Mantras are recited, obstacles from all these sources of disturbance are believed to be pacified.