Excerpted from Adinarayanan’s talk at IIT Delhi on 22 Jan 2017, this podcast highlights the meaning of the prayer “Sahanavavathu” and the significance of saying Shanti 3 times.
An Unending Quest – IIT Delhi
So we have designed this echo-proof hall …see even the seats have been designed in such a way that there is no echo. This wooden flooring. We have set the outer environment to be conducive to the activity which we want to engage in, here. Likewise it becomes important to set the inner environment, for the activity, or whatever is our purpose in life — to set it in the right mode. It becomes very very critical. So that is to do with the feel. The right feel, getting the right feel is so very critical, just as we engineer the outer circumstances, inner circumstances also need to be brought to a conducive state. It is not random. There are clear sciences in that dimension. So what we just did, the reason we used prayer. So prayer as a tool is to invoke the right inner circumstances, and gives you the right feel. For example this prayer was a simple Samskrit prayer, stating Sahanavavatu – et us live together, sahanaubhunaktu – let us gave food together, sahaveeryam karavavahai – let us put our energies together to achieve a common goal. Tejasvinavadheetamastu – let us get illumined with knowledge together and in this process, mavidvishavahaihi – may we not have any ill-feeling towards each other. If we observe what happens typically, if we work together, in a classroom, or during an event, putting something together, oyu would see, it is very easy to get an ill-feeling. You work in a project together – “Are yaar! I am doing all the work. Those guys are not cooperating.” It is very easy to get this feel, but this feel – would it be conducive? Actually no, it would not be conducive to what you wish to achieve. It would not be conducive to peace, not to well-being, it is about wellness, it would not be conducive to actually what you cherish, what your priorities are. That becomes critical. So these are not random processes, that we are talking of. Living together is not such a simple process. It is a conscious process. For example, now many people choose to live together. Is it so simple? Most of our movies depict it, it happens in many lives as well – that relationships become very very tough to handle. So as the popular saying goes – “Everything is good in love, after that, it is a downward hill.” It is not so. That is because the principles have not been appropriately understood. So sahanavavatu – living together. Sahanaubhunaktu – having food together – and that if you look at- see we were observing in Delhi, there are so many that don’t have shelters. Down south, you don’t have a shelter it is still okay, because it is not so cold. You don’t have shelter, you can live by the road and it would be okay. But there you don’t have food, that would be a problem, but now so many people don’t have the simple necessities of life, like food and shelter. And this is not empty sentimentalism. This is something very concrete. When you observe that, as a society, have we learnt to live together and have food together? Not yet. The principles are not clear. Our actions don’t empower each other. Still, not yet. That means it is a random happening. Consciously we don’t want it that way, nobody wants it that way. Still, we are there. Consciously nobody wants to invite misery, still people are miserable. All of us want us happiness. But still we end up being miserable, because the principles have not been understood appropriately. And hence it is a random occurrence. It is like, suddenly it is okay, suddenly it is not okay, and that is how it goes, that means the principles have not been understood appropriately. So sahanaubhunaktu – let us have food together. That is not an easy thing. There are principles involved. Sahaveeryam karavavahai – in organizations, in any place, even a family has to work together. There have to be guiding values, there is a vision driving it, but that also is not clear. Working together seems to be a big problem. Now people talk of ego conflicts – should it be my way or their way. That seems to be a big question. We can agree to disagree, but still who has the final say. So working together –that again, sahaveeryam karavavahai. It is not very obvious. Let us get illumined with knowledge together- Tejasvinava dheetamastu – even there, in classrooms for example, it is very easy to — see “Okay, Yeah..but the lecture is boring.” Or some find it interesting – “Ai! Sahi hai! Wow!” But some would say,”Okay… does not seem to be moving at all.” So the same physical circumstances, but each individual’s experience of that is completely unique. Some are interested, some are bored, some are indifferent. Some are in some other reality. How is that possible? But that is how it happens. So we see that, all of these simple processes are not automatic, even gaining knowledge together, and hence in this process, may we not have any ill-feeling towards each other. So that is a concrete invocation – handling the inner realities is to direct it through self-invocation. It is not through outer pressures or outer commands that it works. It is through getting that feel. You hang out with friends, you get the right feel. You are relaxed, you chill out. You get that feel. But how do you self-direct it and self-navigate to where you want to go? So those are critical aspects. In the outer realities , you use Google maps or some such app to navigate form this place to that place, or you know, but in inner realities as well, there is navigation facility available as well. You learn how to use that through appropriate mechanisms, tools – that becomes very very important to navigate to a state which you want, which is a priority to you at that point in time. So these are not random occurrences and hence – a simple way to use prayer is to navigate to what you wish to establish, inwardly. So here we have just done that, okay, and we end with “Om shanthi shanthi shanthihi” Three shanthis. The reason why I am explaining this is also to set the background for this session. How to set inner priorities, and achieve them. Even something like being happy – I want to be happy. Setting it is one thing, but achieving it, you need skills, qualities, that help you navigate to that point. So we end with three shanthis. You know why 3 , why not 5 or 1?
To be at peace at the physical, mental, and spiritual levels?
Actually so. Yeah. Why is it so very important. You know in technical terms, it is called adidaivika, adibhautika and adhyatmika. What it means is, it is very simple. The first shanthi or harmony is an invocation – as I said, when you wake up in the morning, “Ara yaar, aaj bhi college jaana hai kya. Muzibhat hai. Today being a Sunday, I don’t want to come out of bed. Ooooh….tsk. Why should life be like this?” So that actually if you observe the patterns, over a period of time, you would simply choose to wake up in a good mood, or would you choose to wake up in a bad mood – “Nahi yaar. I don’t want to wake up. Kya…Idon’t want to go to work. “ Would you want to struggle the first thing in the morning? Or would you want to wake up (rubbing hands enthusiastically) –“Yes! Eh! Okay, what am I going to do today?” How would you like for it to happen, for you? Exciting? All of us want that excitement. But how does it end up? “Yeah I need to do this that that this….pffff” But actually you would see that it is a simple decision. What do we decide to do at that point in time. That is invocation. You invoke to be in a good mood. Otherwise, it would be left to the circumstances, does it not happen often, that it is left to the circumstances. To decide how you feel. Someone passes a comment it is gone haywire here. Someone says,”Hostel food..ithna kharab hai..kya…daily the same stuff…ohhh…yooo… and inwardly what would be your feel?” Defintiely not hwat you want. Like this it is left to the vagaries of the circumstances, is it not so? It is very simple. That is why a concrete invocation becomes important. It is a simple decision. You direct it the way you want to. It is like movement in space – here we are grounded. There is a gravitational pull – how about in space? Where there is no the g‑factor, the gravitaional factor – how would it be? It would be intention-based. Yoy want to move there, a slight shift and it would go there, otherwise you would move any which way, you fling your arms around, you would go there and right now, our inner compasses work that way, because we don’t know how to navigate in terms of simple intention, and taking us there. It is actually that simple. So that is called invocation and it is a feel. It is not such a tough thing. So the first shanthi is clled adidaivika. It is a very very simple thing. Adidaivika, you can look at it as, natural forces. All of us wish to succeed in whatever we take up, it is very natural thing, but towards that, if you break it down into details, and analyze what are all the supportive, causative- not just causative, but supportive parameters that help us achieve what we wish to achieve. If we look at those details, we encounter three definite categories – which if they are conducive – shanthi is being conducive. If they are conducive, they lead us to that. If they are not conducive, they can critically block our progress. Just like for example, a plant to grow, how do you succeed in growing a plant?
We plant a seed, and regularly water it and put in some fertilizer.
One has to make sure the soil is regularly irrigated and aerated, and if there are weeds growing around the plant, you pluck them out. If the plant is growing in a manner in a way it is not supposed to be growing, then you support it, nip it, guide it.
Are you growing the plant?
No, it blossoms by itself, but we just set the conditions right.
Yes, so we work on the conditions. That is active effort. You look at the conditions, still there is an intention that the plant should grow. The intention is there but you need to work on so many indirect conditions. You recognize all those conditions, somethings will require direct effort, some things will require periodic effort, some things will just require an eye, to make sure,”Okay everything is right.” And under such conditions, the plant grows. Even then there is no guarantee of plant growth but the chances of success improve. So you don’t always handle it like — “Hey grow…grow…GROW…GROW!” That way it might directly impede its growth. Or it may die out. So we are similarly talking of such conditions where there are definite three categories. The first category is what we refer to as adidaivika, or the natural forces – for example, you know, for us to have this discussion here, if there is a cyclonic storm or something else happening, actually this would not happen. Poeple would not be able to reach here, and hence we would not be able to transact on a very simple action. A simple step, we would not be able to take, if there is an earthquake. This is a no-brainer. Everyone understands it, but for most of us, it does not figur in our consicous reasoning process. Since we take it fro granted, many a time it so happens that if something shifts there, it affects us badly, and only then, we recognize it. So the reason why I am stating it is, for it to be a conscious recognition. See, it so happened, in 2004, the tsunami happened, down south. Many people were devastated. We happened to interact with some people, who had been devastated by the tsunami, about a 50-footer wave just crashed on to the land. That would be difficult to imagine. So people just living with their friends and family, one moment, their family, next moment, gone! Just washed out! And they were in a state of shock — “What had just happened?” For them to come out of that shock took a long time – businesses, everything wiped out. All that they know as reality wiped out in one stroke. That is adidaivika. Without that support,actually it is not possible to transact. So it is a consicous recognition, and you want it to be conducive to human affairs, to earth affairs. The second is called adibhautika. Adibhautika is to do with the people around. All of you here wanted to be engineers, or are there other than engineers? Ok. How many of you did not want to pursue this line of study — “I didn’t want this?” Ok.
Before I took economics, I never thought I would study economics. I was sure I was not going to study it, but then circumstances happened and then I fell in love with the subject.
Okay [ Laughter] That is good. Atleast you love I now, so that is good. I have encountered people, who did not want to what they are doing, did not want to be there, where they are, and in that state of frustration, they just wanted to make sure that those people responsible for them being in their current position, suffer. Even if they are their parents — “How dare they? I will teach them a lesson.” You mith have wanted to be a rockstar, let us say, but your parents said,”No, come on…what?” And that could be the end of the story. Or you want to do something, but the people around you don’t support you with respect to that. Let us say, in hostel it might happen, that I have interacted with a lot of students, and have come across many anecdotes. So once a student narrated to me this, that he wanted to develop a six-pack, instead of a single bag. That is a very nice aspiration, you know, a good aspiration to have. But it does not happen overnight, does it? It does nto happen overnight. So he planned some schedule — “Morning I would wake up, I would go to the gym, I would do this this this this. In these many months, I will have it.” Nice plan, everything done and he announced it to his roommates. Mentioned it and his roommates said — “Okay, we will support you.” So the 5:30 am alarm, it was kept to 1:30 am. After he went to sleep, it was changed to 1:30 am. That is a very very good support that your friends can extend, to support you in your activities.[Laughter] So he wakes up at 1:30 am and sees -”Okay” and he is all fresh. He goes and sees that the gym is not open, because who would open it at 1:30 am? Like that, you need the support of your friends, the people around you, whether you recognize it or not. In the hostel it might even happen, maybe in higher semesters, you have individual rooms, otherwise —
“Hey, lights off”
“No, lights on”
“No lights off”
“No, lights on”
It becomes like — “Aaaaargh!” . Or —
”Hey man, I want to sit and study.”
“That is you problem” [Laughter]
So like that, there could be any kind of conflicts. These might even appear strange, but simple steps, even if we make one resolve, without the support of the people around us, you will see, it can become infinitely difficult to just take one step, to navigate through that one step might become extremely difficult. This is a limited number of people in our known circles. Imagine society – just blow it up – where there are so many complex differences of opinions, viewpoints and so on. It can become infinitely difficult for a society to function. We are having this session here. We travel a bit, and once we had been to Srinagar and Kargil. In Srinagar, for the first time, we encounterd a live tank, with the barrel pointed at you. It would go off at any time “Boom!” That was a scary scenario. Till then I had never encountered a live tank. Maybe I had seen one in a museum, that is about it. But a live tank is something that, atleast down south, you don’t experience. Even here, except for Republic Day parade you might not get to see that. In Sringar we cencountered it, on road, and few tens of meters, semi-automatic rifle — carrying jawans. We had never encountered this. It was a scary scenario – gun-carrying soldiers – you don’t see that in normal society atleast. I had not encountered that, but that showed the state of affairs, curfews – we were interacting with a professor there who mentioned — “Hey, you people are lucky. You put up a timetable and you just follow it. For us it is not so straightforward. There is timetable, but it s a lot of luck, if we get to stick to the timetable.” What is the luck in it? But there that is so. That is adibhautika. The societal forces don’t actually support even such a simple activity as classroom interaction. Anytime there is a bombing, a shelling, a militant attack, and it could happen on campus as well. Anytime. And that’s it. Gone. You know. Very simple things that we take for granted are not simply automatic. That is where we consciosuly recognize that with the shanthis. For adidaivika, adibhautika.
Now, everything would be going for you, but fundamentally, we call it adhyatmika. Adhyatmika means yourself. You could pose obstacles on your own path, to what you aspire for.