You have probably heard and even chanted the mantra ‘om Shanti Shanti Shanti at the end of a yoga or meditation session and felt the meaning transform into the very experience of peace. Mantras are not just words; they are sounds that carry immense power behind them. These ancient, energizing sounds have remained in the consciousness for millions of years, and when you chant them with a certain reverence, you feel their depth.
Transcending the Mind through Mantras
In Sanskrit, ‘mana’ translates to mind, and a mantra is a sound or syllable that takes you beyond the mind. You might find it interesting to know that it is the ether element among the five elements that nourish our mind and mantras revitalize the ether element.
Have you ever entered a room where people have recently had a heated argument and for no reason, you start feeling angry too?! Similarly, when there has been chanting of mantras in a place, you feel your mind quieted when you walk into such a space. Such is the power of mantra chanting. Just like the negative vibrations of anger, the positive vibrations produced by these mantras also stick around in the environment.
When we chant a mantra, our mind should become the mantra. When the mind assumes the form of the mantra that we repeat, the impact of it transcends our limited logic and intellect.
What is the Shanti Mantra?
The main chant here is ‘Om Shanti.’ In some Sanskrit verses and hymns, it is chanted as om followed by Shanti Shanti Shanti, and in other places, the practices close with chanting om Shanti thrice—om Shanti om Shanti om Shanti. The mantra is part of not just Hinduism but also other oriental religions like Buddhism and Jainism, just as every faith has a prayer for peace.
Art of Living founder and spiritual master Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar aptly says, “Attention enlivens the principle and whatever your mind attends to, that principle gets enlivened. If your attention is something negative, you are the cause of making it bigger or more negative, you enliven it. And if your attention is on peace, then peace gets enlivened. That’s what we do in meditation, we begin with the Shanti mantra.”
Why is the Shanti mantra chanted thrice?
There are several ways and explanations for why the mantra is repeated three times. According to some schools of thought, they stand for a prayer for peace in the body, mind, and spirit. It is also said to stand for peace in the three times—peace in the past (no disturbance from our memories), present (right now), and future, or the time to come.
In ancient times, all assemblies would begin with the Shanti mantra. There was a good reason for this. Whenever a group meets, there are bound to be differences in the minds of people, different opinions, intentions, and interests. So how do we reach a consensus and make it a meaningful endeavor? Chanting ‘Shanti Shanti Shanti would create peace in the atmosphere, uniting the divided minds to pursue a common goal.
“The mantras would be a way to pray that let us all come to a serene atmosphere, let us bring serenity amongst us,” says Gurudev. “When serenity is there as the foundation then discussions and any activity gain momentum and there is listening and reception. Wisdom can be gained only in such a conducive environment. If there is no peace inside us then nobody would listen. When there is no listening, there is no dialogue. So I would say that this is the most profound psychological understanding that the ancient people had, to first chant ‘shanti-mantra.’”
Peace on Three Levels
In Ashtanga yoga, as prescribed by Sage Patanjali, a practice concludes with chanting the Shanti mantra as a prayer for peace and harmony at three levels.
Adi-Daivik (level of gods or angels)
The first is a prayer for peace to persist on the level of divine angels or gods, whose protection from obstacles and blessings was believed to have been sought by seekers in learning practice or attaining wisdom. These would include protection from events such as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes—events we humans had no control over.
Adi-Bhoutik (worldly level)
The second level where we experience disturbance is the world—violence, noise, aggression, cars honking, and loud voices, among other things. Here again, we chant the Shanti mantra for peace in worldly affairs and surroundings.
Adi-Atmik (level of self)
This is the most important one—disturbance and botherations on the level of the Self. These troubles or disturbances could be our vices, self-harming patterns, negative emotions, cravings, and aversions that do not let us see the light that we are. So the third time is a prayer for peace on the level of our spirit.
Even on the body, mind, and spirit level, the chant brings peace, health, and harmony on the physical level; it brings calmness and focus to the mind and nourishes our soul.
Benefits of Chanting Shanti Mantras
In a broad sense, it brings immense peace, mellows and focuses the intellect so we can receive and learn, purifies the body and mind, and brings a sense of relaxation.
Relieves tension. Chanting om Shanti Shanti Shanti automatically calms the nervous system down, activates the resting phase, and releases feel-good hormones. It empties the mind of all the stresses and strains we had been carrying around before the chanting.
Supports mental health. Shanti mantras are specifically known to support better mental health among practitioners. People suffering from anxiety often dread situations that are far-fetched and unreal. Chanting om Shanti Shanti Shanti brings peace and harmony to all levels—the physical level, metaphysical level, and causal level.
Rejuvenates the body. Chanting supports good heart health. For example, chanting om before the Shanti mantra calms the nervous system, reduces blood pressure, lowers stress levels, and regularizes the heartbeat.
Emotional and cognitive health. Chanting mantras is known to bring more focus, improve your attention span (which has suffered considerably with the advent of social media), improve memory and concentration, make you feel positive and hopeful, build optimism, and help you manage negative emotions and sleep better.
Preparation for meditation. Chanting the Shanti mantras is a great way to prepare the mind for deep, blissful meditation. It seamlessly takes you within yourself. To that extent, the mantras are the doorway to the source. Going back to our source is the ultimate goal of any spiritual practice and spirituality in general, and mantras are a great way of ‘reaching home.’
Try these powerful Shanti mantras for sound mental health.