Om. May we all be protected.
May we all enjoy the process (of learning).
May we all strive together.
May we become enlightened.
May our relationship never be vitiated.
Om. Peace. Peace. Peace.
This is an invocation from the Upanishads. Traditionally all scriptures begin with a prayer. This helps fine tune the mind and prepare it for the study of a subtle subject that requires the use of the subtle intellect or conscience. Only the subtle intellect has access to the sublime realm of the transcendental. In our transactions with the world we use the gross intellect which merely distinguishes between pairs of opposites. Here we need to discern the eternal from the ephemeral, sieve the permanent from the transitory distractions, place a value judgment on things and zero in on the Divine.
The invocation facilitates the integration of mind and intellect. Devotion helps intellectual penetration and the intellect supports surrender. When a door creaks at its hinges just a few drops of oil is all it takes to remove the irritant and the door moves with much less effort.
Om is the subtlest symbol of God. The goal of all spiritual practices is God, Atman or Self. That which is beyond the world, inconceivable. So the seeker has to select a symbol from the world to represent the goal in order to maintain focus. A symbol can be chosen from among the five elements that constitute the world – space, air, fire, water and earth. Of these the most popular symbol is fire because it is the first element to be seen with the eye. Earth is popular too – all the murtis and deities in temples. Space is the subtlest element and sound is associated with space. It is subtlest because only one sense organ, the ear, can perceive it. Of all sounds ‘Om’ is the most potent. It appeals both to the heart and head, mind as well as intellect. Om has an inspiring sound, uplifts your heart, soothes frayed nerves, moves us. Om also has a deep philosophical implication. It is the result of joining three alphabets – A, U and M which represent the waking, dream and deep sleep states of consciousness. A is guttural, U comes from the middle of the mouth and M from the lips. Thus Om covers all sound. There is no sound before A and none after M. Sound is audible only against the background of silence. The silence is Atman. A, U and M represent the waking, dream and deep sleep states which exist in the silence of Atman. Silence pervades sound and exists beyond all sound too. Similarly Atman pervades the three states of consciousness and exists beyond them, in its pristine glory. The endeavour is to go beyond the three states and experience Atman in its original grandeur. The chant of Om is a powerful reminder of the goal.
May we all be protected.
This prayer is not beseeching God for safety nor is it shirking of one’s responsibility. The student asks for a temporary reprieve from the uncertainty and danger lurking in the world because he is embarking on a difficult and important journey which calls for total focus and commitment. After doing all that he can possible do he now asks for cooperation from the forces of nature. In ancient times this knowledge was transacted in the deep Himalayan jungles where wild animals roamed, snowstorms struck, lightning and thunder prevailed. Here a fully prepared student is commanding a well deserved peace.
May we enjoy (the process of learning)
Spiritual study is exhilarating. Exciting. Invigorating. Thrilling. It is not drudgery. Only in the beginning it appears dry and unappealing. Once one gets the taste of it one eagerly looks forward to the teaching. True happiness is unpleasant in the beginning but leads to everlasting bliss in the end. False happiness, on the other hand, is very satisfying initially but leads to bitter sorrow later. Spiritual study leads to sustained happiness.
May we all strive together
The earlier phrase may indicate an easy life, one of indulgence. There must be effort, hard work. People are averse to work and expect enlightenment to come easily. Even in life nothing is obtained without hard work. In spiritual practice one is attempting the arduous task of breaking through ignorance and delusion. This requires diligence and consistent effort over a long period. There are no quick fixes. There is no instant salvation.
May we become Enlightened
May we unfold Atman. The student endeavors to become a better person, eradicate the desires and ego that come in the way of excellence and attain Realization. He is clear that academic brilliance is not what he wants. It is important to maintain this clarity right through the pursuit.
May we not hate each other
While transacting intellectually there will be difference of opinion. The guru sees Atman, the student is in delusion and sees the world. The master struggles to convey his vision. This is an almost impossible undertaking. During this discourse the student may get bitter and the guru may become too assertive. This reminds the guru to be patient and the student to be open-minded.
Om. Peace. Peace. Peace.
Om is repeated as a reminder of the goal. This is followed by saying shanti thrice. Shanti means peace. There are three kinds of disturbances that may disrupt the spiritual interaction – cosmic (adidaivika), external (adibhautika)and internal (adhyatmika). The first shanti is an appeal to quieten thunder, lightning, storms and rain. The second takes care of wild animals, noisy people etc and the third avoids headaches, indigestion or even mental agitations that disturb the student’s concentration and come in the way of study of the scriptures.