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Prashnottara: Shanti Mantras

Om sahanaava­vatu sahanaub­hu­nak­tu sahaveeryam kar­avaava­hai

Tejasv­inaavad­heethamas­tu maavid­vishaava­hai­hi

Om shan­thi shan­thi shan­thi­hi

Om Shri Gurub­hyo Nama­ha

Hari Hi Om

Why do we start with a Prayer?

Vikasa (name of the retreat pro­gram) means progress. Now when we say progress, we can look at two spe­cif­ic dimen­sions of it. One dimen­sion is out­er progress. Out­er progress includes even our career progress and the path that we choose to take up in our lives. Anoth­er dimen­sion is inner progress. Now these might be broad terms and this is one way to look at it, but as we go ahead, we will look at what progress exact­ly means — out­er as well as inner. What does progress real­ly mean? What are the var­i­ous aspects to it? And how to achieve it? We will look at var­i­ous tools to actu­al­ly con­sis­tent­ly deliv­er on what­ev­er we envi­sion for our­selves and the world around us. Towards that the first step is the prayer. Now prayer in the Indi­an tra­di­tion has always been the start­ing point. Why? It is sim­ply this: prayer fix­es the inner envi­ron­ment just as we fix the out­er envi­ron­ment, to be con­ducive to what­ev­er activ­i­ty we are envi­sion­ing or plan­ning. See, it is very pleas­ant out­side today. Over a week’s time you will get more com­fort­able with this out­er envi­ron­ment. Ini­tial­ly when you come in, it is uncer­tain, new, then over a peri­od of time you get used to it. And this is a pleas­ant envi­ron­ment. You know, Rishikesh espe­cial­ly has been con­sid­ered a very very pow­er­ful and con­ducive out­er envi­ron­ment for so much progress to hap­pen – both with­in and with­out. More with­in, because the kinds of peo­ple that came here were like us – seek­ing, ques­tion­ing, enquir­ing. And we fix the out­er envi­ron­ment to be con­ducive to pro­gress­ing along the lines that we have envi­sioned. Like­wise fix­ing the inner envi­ron­ment to be con­ducive is a very very sig­nif­i­cant step. In fact it is the pri­ma­ry step. On a nor­mal day, you wake up in the morn­ing, and first thing you see, it is cold, and you don’t want to come out of bed -” Today also I need to go to work. Today also I need to go to col­lege.” How many of you feel this way? Almost every­body! Oh my God! [Laugh­ter] So I am address­ing the right crowd. “Today also I need to go college…che!” And when will that end? This ends when you get your degree but then a new thing starts!

A big­ger men­ace starts — “Today also I need to go to office!” When will that end? Going by cur­rent stan­dards, most prob­a­bly there is no retire­ment for you all. I have retired. I am in my retired life [Laugh­ter]. So we are start­ing with an inner envi­ron­ment that is neg­a­tive. With this sort of an inner envi­ron­ment, all of us want progress, suc­cess and also sat­is­fac­tion, mean­ing and hap­pi­ness! When you start with this pri­ma­ry con­di­tion, you are on a self-defeat­ing tra­jec­to­ry. You will nev­er get where you wish to be. It is your wish, but you will nev­er get there, because the pri­ma­ry con­di­tion itself defeats the pur­pose. And hence set­ting the inner envi­ron­ment, by pay­ing atten­tion to it, is so very sig­nif­i­cant. And hence with this prayer, what we do is, we fix our inner envi­ron­ment. How do we fix it? This sim­ple prayer in San­skrit, tak­en from the Upan­ishads, means –sahanaava­vatu - let us live togeth­er. sahanaub­hu­nak­tu — let us have food togeth­er. sahaveeryam kar­avaava­hai – let us put our ener­gies togeth­er to achieve a com­mon pur­pose. Tejasv­inaa­va dheethamas­tu — let us get illu­mined with knowl­edge, togeth­er. But in the process of liv­ing togeth­er, work­ing togeth­er towards a com­mon cause, what hap­pens? A lot of fric­tion hap­pens right? What you call as ego clash­es or con­flict of inter­ests and con­flict of ideas hap­pen. Then you see, even some­thing like plan­ning a week­end get­away — “Hey, we should go here” …”Eh! No, that is bor­ing! We should go there!” This can cause some heart­burn. And hence maavid­vishaava­hai – may we not have any ill-feel­ing towards each oth­er, because it is very easy to get an ill-feel­ing. Nobody wants it, but some­where or the oth­er, all of us encounter that. And hence we try to fix it, at least invoke the envi­ron­ment, where mavid­vishava­hai — in the process of life, may we not have any ill-feel­ing towards each oth­er. That is the vision, that is the idea and that is very very impor­tant to have this an idea at least, as a vision, as an invo­ca­tion. Because the inner envi­ron­ment, you can only invoke. How do you feel good? You invoke it. You can­not approach it any oth­er way. So mavid­vishava­hai — in the process of liv­ing togeth­er, hav­ing food togeth­er, get­ting illu­mi­nat­ed with knowl­edge togeth­er, yok­ing our ener­gies togeth­er towards a com­mon cause and work­ing towards that com­mon cause, may we also not have any ill-feel­ing towards each oth­er. And that is progress on the out­er dimen­sion – work­ing towards a com­mon cause, liv­ing togeth­er and also progress on the inner dimen­sion, where you are hap­py, sat­is­fied and ful­filled. So both suc­cess and hap­pi­ness need to go hand in hand.

Why do we chant “Shan­ti” three times at the end of the Prayer?

So we end with Om shan­thi shan­thi shan­thi — three times. The first shan­thi is har­mo­ny at the lev­el of nature — the nat­ur­al forces, called adidaivi­ka. Because we see…for exam­ple, yes­ter­day all the peo­ple who came by train would have rec­og­nized that a sim­ple fog can delay your train to such an extent that it can become a last minute dash to anoth­er train, you know. And it is noth­ing great — it is just a fog. Today morn­ing when we were com­ing by the autorick­shaw- you would have seen the fog. The head­lamp of the the oncom­ing vehi­cle is just not vis­i­ble until it approach­es about 50 meters and it is com­ing at full speed! So fog is not entire­ly in your con­trol. Or let us say, a cyclone, or a tsuna­mi. So many events are hap­pen­ing, all of which are called adidaivi­ka. They are called nat­ur­al forces. Forces not exact­ly in your con­trol, but actu­al­ly you can peti­tion that. We will look at that as well, lat­er. So the inten­tion is to have har­mo­nious nat­ur­al forces, so that you can suc­ceed in what you have tak­en up. Oth­er­wise, if they don’t coop­er­ate, it will be very tough.

The sec­ond shan­thi, is for har­mo­ny at the lev­el of what is called the adib­hau­ti­ka forces. Adib­hau­ti­ka is the soci­ety around us, the peo­ple around us. They are a pow­er­ful pres­ence in our lives. Many of you face this when you do some­thing dif­fer­ent in your house. You close your eyes for 5 min­utes for med­i­ta­tion, and you will see all these forces at play, and that too if you do it right in your hall, with all your rel­a­tives around you, you will get to first hand expe­ri­ence adib­hau­ti­ka! [Laugh­ter] All sorts of obsta­cles will crop up all of a sud­den! Every­thing might be going smooth and sud­den­ly you will see all these obsta­cles crop up. Peo­ple start look­ing at you dif­fer­ent­ly, you know. A Swa­mi Vivekanan­da hap­pen­ing in some­one else’s house is okay. But in one’s own house, it is unac­cept­able, you know! If the soci­etal forces do not coop­er­ate, there is no way to suc­ceed. So we see that these are adib­hau­ti­ka. The social forces play a major role in our day to day lives. When we rec­og­nize this, we def­i­nite­ly want har­mo­nious social forces, har­mo­nious peo­ple around us, because they can throw us off our track. And that is the sec­ond shan­thi.

Now, every­thing might be per­fect, the adidaivi­ka forces and the adib­hau­ti­ka forces might be har­mo­nious, but if you are not able to do what you wish to do, for what­ev­er rea­son, then it is bad, very bad. That is why the third shan­thi, for what is called adhy­at­mi­ka. Adhy­at­mi­ka means…let us say you sit here, but you feel sleepy, for what­ev­er rea­son. That is very nat­ur­al. Or you are fid­get­ing and some­how you are not able to pay atten­tion to this dis­cus­sion. It is not wrong or right — this is not the rea­son­ing. It is there and it is an obsta­cle to what you have tak­en up. You have cho­sen this path and it is an obsta­cle on that path. What do you do? That is adhy­at­mi­ka. Or let us say there is some irri­ta­tion. Some­one has said some­thing and that is irri­tat­ing your mind so much that you are not able to pay atten­tion to what you have cho­sen. The irri­ta­tion is on inside your mind -”Aaaargh!” You keep on remem­ber­ing what­ev­er irri­tat­ed you. That is adhy­at­mi­ka. And hence at all these three lev­els you need shan­thi – har­mo­ny, for you to achieve progress. Oth­er­wise true and last­ing progress is a mirage. It does not hap­pen.

How do these forces impact our lives?

How do the nat­ur­al forces impact our lives? See for exam­ple, we were inter­act­ing with some peo­ple who had been hit by the tsuna­mi in 2004. Every­thing was going fine in their lives and all was per­fect. They had good fam­i­lies, they were doing well in their busi­ness­es and every­thing else in their life was going on fine. One moment, the tsuna­mi hit, the next moment, they had nobody left! The entire lives had been bro­ken apart, just washed away. Just washed away! All that they knew of them­selves had been washed away. That is the pow­er of nature, what we call adidaivi­ka. When you bring this into your con­scious recog­ni­tion, you actu­al­ly see these forces and process­es at play. And this recog­ni­tion also instills a cer­tain lev­el of grat­i­tude with­in you. The ground on which we stand has not been built by us, you know. You rec­og­nize that intel­li­gent­ly. And that instills a cer­tain sense of grat­i­tude and you wish for these forces to be har­mo­nious. You will do what­ev­er you can towards not desta­bi­liz­ing that. Now what we call as eco­log­i­cal dam­age is desta­bi­liz­ing such forces, right? Maybe we have done it in our igno­rance, but still it is desta­bi­liza­tion. You would nev­er pur­pose­ly do that. You would at least intro­spect. So that is adidaivi­ka. Adib­hau­ti­ka refers to the social forces — the peo­ple around us. The peo­ple play a major part, even for small things. I used to jok­ing­ly say …one of my stu­dents want­ed to build six-pack abs. So that is very good, every­one should aspire for it! [Laugh­ter] There is noth­ing wrong, it looks good, it makes you feel good, it makes oth­ers look at you and say,”Hey! Very good!” Even if it is not true appre­ci­a­tion, still you can brag about it, at least for that it is worth­while! But it is some seri­ous invest­ment — sus­tained invest­ment. It does not hap­pen overnight. In just one day, by sim­ply thinking,“Okay this sin­gle bag has to become six-pack.”, it does not hap­pen. You need some sus­tained input in that direc­tion — there is an inten­tion, a focussed inten­tion and the putting in of effort to make that hap­pen. And then you will see your desire come true. But in the process of putting in effort, you will see that you will also have trans­formed, you know. That is the key thing. But set­ting his mind to work­ing towards that, what hap­pened? Our guy announced it to his friends. Poor guy! So what will hap­pen if you tell your friends about your ambi­tion? You announce your desire in the hos­tel. So every­body will coop­er­ate in mak­ing that hap­pen for you right? [Laugh­ter] Our guy keeps an alarm to wake up at 5:30 am in the morn­ing, and what did his friends do? They just flipped the alarm nee­dle, instead of 5:30 am, it was point­ed at 1:30 am [Laugh­ter] So that is the first set back. Then there would be oth­er things like,”Hey, let us watch some movie man. Why are you strug­gling so much. How many peo­ple have six pack here, show me? Nobody has six packs. That is a utopi­an dream.” Pur­su­ing your ambi­tion requires great strength, to be able to con­tin­ue try­ing even after such dis­cour­age­ment and dis­trac­tions. That is called mano bala. Mano bala means strength of your mind, inner strength. And the key aspect is enthu­si­asm — pro­tect­ing your enthu­si­asm, against these adib­hau­ti­ka forces. These are all adib­hau­ti­ka forces. It is not that you are against them. Your friends might do it for fun, but if you give in to such dis­cour­age­ment, you will not have pro­gressed any fur­ther from where you are. You would have seen this in nor­mal oper­a­tion in your dai­ly lives. So when I say pro­tect, it is not about build­ing up a fortress and going into a shell and get­ting ready to fire at any­one who comes near you. This is not pro­tec­tion; this way you will lose out on friends — on friend­ship, on the mean­ing of life and on rela­tion­ships. So what is required is a bal­ance.

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