The meaning of chanting Shanti three times.

In the ashram before and after the puja, before and after yoga classes you will often hear this:

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti! Om peace, peace, peace!

The ancient Vedic scriptures tell us that chanting shanti three times mindfully allows us to overcome three types of obstacles or suffering called ashanti (opposite of shanti) that originate from three main sources: The three-fold suffering or the three ashantis are:

  1. Adhidaivika (ashanti of divine origin)
  2. Adhibhautika (ashanti from material world)
  3. Adhyatmika (ashanti created by ourselves)

Adhidaivika Ashanti

The word daivika means “of divine origin.” Adhidaivika refers to the suffering arising from divine causes over which we have no control. These include natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, etc.

Adhibhautika Ashanti

The word bhautika is derived from bhuta which means all material beings and refers to all entities, living or non-living. Thus air, water, or even a stone can be termed as bhutas. So adhibhautika refers to suffering caused by any material surrounding us including humans, animals, reptiles, insects etc etc.

Adhyatmika Ashanti

The word adhyatmika means “self-inflicted.” Adhyatmika suffering is the most damaging and long-lasting because it is inflicted by us on ourselves. This could be physical suffering from poor diet and lack of exercise, mental suffering from unfulfilled wants or desires, or emotional suffering from constant negativity.

What is the Significance of  Shanti, Shanti, Shan-tee-hee?

There is yet another interpretation of Shanti in terms of self or individuality.  Shanti is repeated thrice for peace in the body, mind, and emotions. When Shanti is chanted first time, it signifies the purification of the physical body. The body is thus refreshed. The second chant is to bring peace and calmness to the mind. The third Shanti is to provide relief to the individual from constant negativity. The third Shanti. which is often recited with a slight emphasis (shan-tee-hee), is for any individual to have a heightened spiritual experience.

The Suffering That is Yet to Come

Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, says suffering is an integral part of this creation and people experience all or one of the above-mentioned kinds of suffering daily. In sutra 2.16 Patanjali says “Heyam Dukham Anagatam,” which translates as “The suffering that is yet to come can be avoided.” But how do we do this?

Practicing yoga (not just the asanas but the core philosophy as well) helps us cope with any suffering and live in the present moment. The Yoga Sutras provides hundreds of tips to learn to live, hope, and choose things that will serve us best by making the right choices and drawing in harmonious impressions. In addition, we need to keep on uttering “shanti”consciously to emphasize our intense desire for peace from the three sources of suffering. It also lends a hand to us to let go of materialistic feelings and realize the divine within and outside us. It also highlights our powerful yearning for peace and harmony.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!