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“Seeking Shantih”

Om shantih, shantih, shantih – From the Vedas

Meaning: Om. Peace within myself, peace with those around me, but most of all universal peace. – Interpretation, Austin Sanderson

Quote: “Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.” ― Ramana Maharishi

How many of you have ever thought about peace? Do you think that the concept of peace is possible in the world we live in today?

In Sanskrit, shantih means “peace.” Shantih can have different spellings: shanti, santhi, or shanthi. All are correct. The word is commonly translated as “peace,” and that is correct; however, it can also be interpreted as “rest,” “calmness,” “tranquility,” “alleviation,” or “bliss.”

The opposite of shantih is ashantih, a Sanskrit word that means, “noise,” “conflict,” or “turmoil” and can even be a way to express “war.” Most of humanity exists in a chronic state of ashantih, a life filled with noise, conflict, and violence. Being in a state of ashantih makes it more difficult for us to embrace the inner peace we see; when we are personally in a state of turmoil, it is impossible for us to extend that peace to others. When we remain in conflict with ourselves and those around us, we create a cycle of universal discord. Our minds and emotions become more and more agitated: ashantih.

Shantih is cited as one of the components needed for mental equilibrium to achieve yoga. We chant shantih three times to acknowledge the three states of conscious peace. In the Urban Sadhu Yoga Method we explain it as the threefold meaning of shantih:

1. The first chant of shantih is a means of cleansing and purifying our own body and mind of suffering – inner peace.

2. The second chant of shantih is to express a desire to have peace with all beings we share this realm with – peace with those around us.

3. The third shantih touches on the fact that the soul or spirit is beyond this realm and is beyond the body and mind. It expresses that the soul is one with the universe and wishes that the universe be in a state of harmony and peace.

When the sadhaka (practitioner) understands that the threefold shantih can be realized in one’s own lifetime, a true inner peace is achieved. This inner peace is beyond happiness. Happiness is an emotion that changes from minute to minute, or day to day; it is different for shantih. The peace that shantih brings is unchanging and eternal; it is within and without.

This way of looking at the mantra comes from what is called Bhakti Yoga: shantih is an act of devotion. One of the oldest reasons for shantih to be understood as an act of Bhakti Yoga comes from the ancient Indian Samkhya system of philosophy, a dualistic system of thought: dualism is a theory that treats dualities (good/evil, high/low, them/us, man/God) as fixed rather than transcendable. Samkhya sees the God, soul, and world as separate: it offers the first shantih to God, the second to the physical world, and the third to oneself.

This system is in sharp contrast to the Urban Sadhu’s non-dualistic approach, because Samkhya implies that only God (from outside) can bring about universal peace. Urban Sadhu implies that the yoga practitioner, a holy being themself, has control over the cosmic energy of shantih from within. When peace starts from within, the sadhaka (practitioner) realizes ayam atma braham (Athatva Veda) meaning “The Self is Brahman” (identification with Absolute Brahman or God). In the system we teach at Urban Sadhu, God, the physical world, and Self are all one and the same. Through the sadhana (practice) of yoga we start to understand that there is no separation, only oneness; therefore the sadhaka has the shakti (power) to evoke the highest intention of shantih, throughout all realms, achieving shantih for all. Both interpretations (dualistic and non-dualistic) are forms of Bhakti Yoga because both systems require devotion to something greater than the individual ego. In the end, both traditions are looking to achieve the same result.

Through Yoga sadhana we can manifest shantih. The kriya (cleanse) of yoga asana along with deep meditation starts to reveal our true nature, which is unconditional love, boundless joy, endless happiness, and inner peace. Once this true nature is realized, “all conflicts are vanquished” and shantih radiates from the realized yogi. It is important to emphasize that this is not just a temporary calming of the mind but a permanent state of shantih within the yogi. Yes, there will still be bad days, but the accomplished yogi rooted in shantih will deal with bad days in a different way than those who are rooted in ashantih.

Here are six easy yoga sadhanas to help achieve shantih in one’s life:

• Yoga Asana: Have a daily yoga asana sadhana (practice). Yoga asana is a purification ritual, both physically and spiritually. Also, a daily practice in a yoga shala or studio means that you are part of a satsang, coming into close contact with other shantih seekers.

• Control the breath: Pranayama is an important part of inner peace. When the breath is peaceful the being is peaceful. When the breath is uneven and disjointed the disjointedness is reflected in our being. In times that could be stressful, focus on an even, deep, smooth breath.

• Meditation: In deep meditation you are able to come into full contact with shantih. An eternal peace that is in all of us will be made manifest if we tap into it.

• Smile: Mother Theresa once said, “Peace begins with a smile.” The truth is, whenever we smile we project joy. When we are joyful others around us will find their joy also.

• Appreciate your life: We can’t find peace if we spend our lives consumed with resentment about life’s problems and disappointments. Negativity only breeds ashantih, a war against inner peace. Making peace with one’s life is mastery of spiritual diplomacy.

In the Bible, Matthew 5:9 states, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Shantih is a divine state of being that connects us all back to the source of shantih, God. Making and committing to peace with ourselves and those around us naturally leads to universal peace, which is the oneness of all.

~ Austin Sanderson Urban Sadhu Yoga


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