IITD Talk Part 1: Meaning and Significance of Shanti Mantra

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

Jan­u­ary 2017

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.