You may have heard me chant the opening mantra before the start of each class and wonder what in the world is being said. A mantra is a sound or group of words believed to have psychological and spiritual benefits when recited. See below for the mantra and translation/meaning.
Om gam ganapataye namaha
Salutation to ganesha for removing the obstacles from the way
Om gum guruveyo namaha
Salutations to the teacher within us for opening our eyes
Om aim saraswatye namaha
Salutations to Saraswatii (goddess of knowledge and art) for giving us inspiration and knowledge
Om saa nau-avatu
Om, may God protect us both (the teacher and the student)
Saha nau bhunaktu
May God nourish us both
Saha viirayam karava-avahai
May we work together with energy and vigor
May our study be enlightening
Not giving rise to hostility
Sound of creation (see below)
Shanti Shanti Shanti
peace, peace, peace.
The Light within in me bows to the Light within you
The Meaning of OM
Om is the most sacred mantra, and it is the first and last sound you will hear in our yoga classes. It is made of of three syllables A, U, and M. To pronounce OM correctly, remember it rhymes with "home". The three syllables of OM encompass all sounds and words in the human language. Each of the three syllables have special symbolic meaning:
1. The A, pronounced "Ahhh": represents the creation of the universe and all things in it. Ah is the beginning of all sound and "a" is the first letter of the alphabet. While chanting this syllable you feel it in the back of the throat and mouth.
2. The U, pronounced "Oooo": represents the sustaining of energy. When you chant this syllable the sound moves forward between the tongue and the palate.
3. The M, pronounced "Mmmm": represents the transformative energy of the universe. The sound mmm is produced by closing the lips and and vibrates the crown of the head
4. The fourth sound is silence: it is the vibration beyond verbal pronunciation and represents the pure consciousness of the self.
Om is said to represent the sacred trilogy found throughout spiritual practices and it can represent all sorts of trios in life: past, present, future; the Hindu Gods Brahma (creator), Vishnu (sustainer), and Shiva (destroyer); as well as the dreaming, dreamless, and waking states that represent all of consciousness.
When we recite the word OM with its meaning in mind, we come closer to our true nature.
Why do we say Shanti (Peace) Three Times After the Opening and Closing Mantras?
Ancient scriptures tells us that the purpose of life is to remove three kinds of obstacles of three kinds of suffering. The three kinds of suffering are:
1. Adhidaivika: suffering due to divine origin that we have no control over i.e natural disasters
2. Adhibhautika: suffering due to other beings (humans, animals, insects, reptiles etc). Ex. Suffering due to physical or verbal abuse from someone; suffering from an insect or snake bite etc.
3. Adhyatmika: Self inflicted suffering. This is the most damaging of the three. Most suffering stems from the mind. We suffer when we focus on negative emotions: anger, hatred, jealousy, greed etc. The reason we say shanti three times at the beginning and the end of class is to pray for peace in all three types of suffering in our lives and in the lives of others.