I have been using this mantra as an invocation lately and I really like it. The mantra is a traditional verse recited between teacher and students before embarking on study together. Roughly the prayer means.....
Let us together (-saha) be protected (-na vavatu) and let us together be nourished (bhunaktu) by God’s blessings. May we work together with great energy and strength (-viryam) for the benefit of humanity. (karavaavahai) May our study be luminous (tejasvi) filled with joy and endowed with the force of Purpose (vadhita mastu). Let us never (-maa) be poisoned (-vishaa) with the seeds of hatred for anyone.
Let there be Peace in me. Let there be Peace in my environment. Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me.
I love this chant for a lot of reasons.
First and foremost,t the chant speaks to the heart of what I think of as the possibility of enlightened community. I believe that when we join together with a shared aim and a common intention- like studying yoga, for instance- we have the opportunity to engage a transformational circumstance. There is no guarantee, of course, that a group will become a community and that a community will transform its members, but I do believe that we have an opportunity to engage the process of being together as a profound experiment in growth and change.
I love that the chant reminds us to ask for protection, for blessings, nourishment, strength and a sense of deep purpose; all things that we need in study, in community and in the process of transformation and awakening.
And given that I am both a realist and an idealist when it comes to community, I really love that the chant asks that we never be poisoned by the seeds of hatred for anyone, particularly one another, teacher and student who are engaging the teachings together. I find it so refreshing that all those years ago, all the way back to the Upanishads, there was an acknowledgement of the difficulties involved in "sitting down near one another." (The word Upanishad, after all, means to "sit down near" and they are a group of teachings that were first given orally and then written down and compiled.) And so all the way back to the early teachings of yoga, teachers and students engaged an intimate process together in which they sat down near one another, sat down near themselves, and sat down near the teachings. And here is the great thing- they acknowledged it was a bit of a dicey proposition, fraught with potential problems and pitfalls.
And so they prayed.
And since the process of teaching and learning, of being a teacher and being a student is ultimately about our own relationship with ourselves and our lives and the way we learn to live inside our own wisdom and learn from our own experience, I think its also important that we apply this prayer to ourselves so that seeds of self- hatred do not arise as we sit down near ourselves in the work of studying yoga. So often I see well-meaning, sincere and ardent seekers learn about yoga, inevitably fall short of its very high aims and start to beat themselves up about it.
Having a high aim can be inspiring and can guide the larger spheres of our lives but also, we have to remember that these tools are not given to us to fan the flames of our own self-criticsm and self-hatred. Yoga is a teaching of love, compassion for self and others and can give us amazing tools and technology for understanding ourselves better if we use it in that spirit. And if we use it negatively it will always give us more information abut what we can't do yet, how un-evolved we are and how we don' quite meet the mark. (maybe type-A people shouldn't do yoga after all!)
So to me this chant is both about the relationships of our outer community we form as we study but also about our inner relationship with ourselves.
Here I am teaching the invocation in Austin at our Asana Junkies Group Practice. Enjoy and sing along!
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