2500 BC, somewhere in central India, the day begins with recitation of the Vedic peace mantra from Ishavasya Upanishad.
First rays of the sun had just kissed the earth. A glorious morning was about to sprout, lending a healing touch to everything, lush green trees, big blue river and all living beings living nearby. But the young boy had no time to stop and admire all this. After a cool bath and with nimble steps he rushing to his teacher’s āshrama [holistic, live in school]. Another day of his studies under the loving and stern gaze of his Guru, the teacher had started. Thousands of years back in India, students would live with their Guru for at least twelve years, in his āshrama located in forests far away from towns, for holistic education.
As he paid obeisance to his Guru, our boy sat cross legged on the ground, in meditation. And then both the Guru and the students burst into a melodious and energising, structured sound of the Shanti Mantra [peace chant]. The Guru looked at his students with a loving, benevolent gaze and spoke:
“Shanti Mantrās are embedded in every Upanisad [Philosophical texts found in Vedas]. Shanti Mantra is an invocation, sung at the beginning and closure of any Dharmic activity, studies included. Every Shanti Mantra begins with OM, the most definitive, signature sound of the highest reality called Paramātma [God, Brahman] and ends with three repetitions of Shanti, Shanti, Shantih [Peace, Peace, Peace]”
A gentle breeze brushed their hair and face as they soaked themselvesin every word of the Guru.
“This is a unique invocation of peace and requires elaboration. Ved shastra [Vedic literature] recognises human existence to be extremely vulnerable to Dukha [sorrows and troubles]”
Years later, this concept was to become the foundational teachings of Gautam Buddha.
“Vedic Shastra talks about trividh-tap [three fold calamities] that befall man. Aadhyatmic or troubles caused within and by our body-mind complex. Such as anger, stress and depression, desires and Rāāg-Dwesha [attachments and aversions]. Adhibhautic or sorrows caused by known sources, those caused by the elements and other sentient beings, such as earthquakes, floods, war, poisonous creatures and so on. Adhidaivic or troubles emanating from unknown sources, from providence, Prārabhda karma [accumulated past Karma], divine will as it were.
At the end of every discourse we invoke peace thrice, in order to invoke removal of calamities. All actions, rituals and studies in Sanatan Dharma must begin with a loud and melodious OM. Om is a seed word and denotes all that exists. Om is how we address Brahman, the ultimate reality. Let us then study the most profound of the Shanti mantras :
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदम् पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते |
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ||
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ||
Om poornam-adah poornam-idam poorna-aat poornam-udachyate poorna-asya poornam-aadaaya poornam-evaa vashishyate
Om shaantih shaantih shaantih!
As he taught them the chanting of this mantra, it was time for the morning meal, cooked on fire wood by the caring, motherly hands of Guru Mata [Guru mother].
“In the next session we shall study and understand this beautiful prayer of deep significance. Let us chant this mantra together” said the Guru as he folded his hands in front of his chest, in a gesture of gratitude to God.
(Note – This shanti mantra appears in the ‘Ishavasya Upanishad’