Ashtanga Yoga Mantra

ASHTANGA YOGA MANTRA (OPENING CHANT)

SANSKRIT

OM

VANDE GURUNAM CARANARAVINDE

SANDARSITA SVATMA SUKHAVA BODHE

NIH SREYASE JANGALIKAYAMANE

SAMSARA HALAHALA MOHASANTYAI

ABAHU PURUSAKARAM

SANKHACAKRASI DHARINAM

SAHASRA SIRASAM SVETAM

PRANAMAMI PATANJALIM

OM

PHONETIC SPELLING VERSION

OM

VANDAY GURUNUM,CHARANARA VINDAY

SANDARA SHEETA SVAHTMA SOOKAVABODAY

KNEE SHREYARSAY JANGALLA KAYAMANEE

SAMSARA, HALAHALA, MOHAR-SHANTEEYAY

ABAHOO POOROO-SHACKARAM

SHANKA CHAKRASEE DHARINUM

SAHAZRA, SHEERASAAM, SHVAY-TUM

PRANAMAMI, PATANJALIM

OM

I pray to the Lotus feet of the Supreme Guru who teaches the good knowledge, showing the way to knowing the self-awakening great happiness;

Who is the doctor of the jungle,

able to remove the poison of the ignorance of the conditioned existence.

To Patanjal, an incarnation of Adisesa,

white in colour with 1000 radiant heads (in his form as the divine serpent, Ananta),

human in form below the shoulders, holding a sword (discrimination),

a wheel of fire (discus of light, representing infinite time),

and a conch (Divine sound) To Him……I prostrate

Instead of looking at the Mantra as a literal translation of the Sanskrit, I see it as an invocation and a living part of our yoga practice. The Ashtanga Mantra has been translated a number of times and the following translation by John Berlinsky from California, I have found to be the most useful when trying to understand the mantras true meaning.

Ashtanga practice is traditionally begun with the recitation of the mantra. What we call the Ashtanga Mantra is really two shlokas from different sources. The first is a verse from the “Yoga Taravalli” by Sri Shankaracharya and the second verse is from a longer prayer to Patanjali.

Many times we routinely recite the mantra before practice without really feeling a connection to it. Regarding the mantra as an invocation sets the tone and the intention of our practice. This provides a guide to experience our asana practice in a larger philosophical context – a context directly related to the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.

I see the mantra as metaphorical in the way it guides us in our own practice. The first line “I pray to the lotus feet of the supreme guru” is not necessarily a command to pray to the feet of an individual that we think of as our

guru, but is a metaphor for the practice itself. By thinking of the practice as the guru, we offer ourselves to it and look to it for guidance. The first line is an invocation to surrender to our practice. The word surrender, however, can be interpreted in two very different ways. Taken in the western context, surrender is a term of weakness and giving up. In the context of hatha yoga philosophy, surrender is a quality that comes from fearlessness, trust and confidence – a quality of strength. These qualities are made clear in the Bhagavad Gita. In surrendering to our yoga practice, we offer ourselves to the practice itself, trusting that it will lead us in a beneficial direction.

The remainder of the first verse of the mantra defines what the practice itself can do when we think of the practice as the “supreme guru”. The second line contains two words that, to me, capture the essence of yoga practice – sukha bodhe. Sukha is usually translated as happiness. Bodhe comes from the Sanskrit root “bd” pronounced bood, as in “to know”. Buddha is probably the most widely known word from this root, which means “one who knows or has knowledge”. Together, the words Sukhava bodhe describe a true goal of yoga practice: the knowledge of happiness. In the context of the mantra, the supreme guru reveals the sukhava bodhe of our own self, or svatma.

The third line of the mantra uses a metaphor for ashtanga practice. The jangalikayamane is one who is able to cure or heal. The words “nih sreyase” mean “without comparison” or „beyond better.” In other words, the curative possibility of practice itself is without equal. It is beyond comparison with any other thing.

The last line of the first verse, like the second line, tells what the supreme guru may do. This line also includes two words that capture the essence of yoga practice. Moha means delusion and S(h)antyai means pacification. This last word is related to the word shanti, or peace. Mohasantyai can be thought of as the pacification, or peaceful resolution of delusion. This relates to the two previous words Samsara Halahala the poison of samsara or conditioned existence. Our samaras hold us in conditioned patterns of limitation. These are limitations that we experience in our practice, in our emotional and spiritual lives and in our egos. Often we are unconscious of these patterns, which create negative, or poisonous, delusion. To think of yoga practice as a vehicle for the pacification of this delusion is a powerful idea that calls for devotion, willingness and surrender within ourselves.

This first verse of the mantra guides us toward the potential offerings of our practice. The mantra doesn‟t encourage regarding practice, or the “perfection” of asanas themselves as goals. Practice is not about achievement or acquisition. Thinking back to the idea of surrender, the mantra offers a possibility of what practice may bring us if we approach it with reverence, trust and humility.

The second shloka of the mantra is a homage to Patanjali. The Patanjali Yoga Sutras, a root text of hatha yoga philosophy, are a guide to yoga as a spiritual practice and an examination of our own true self and nature. The Patanjali Sutras can be seen as the “supreme guru” of the first verse of the mantra. The sutras clearly define the ideas embodied in the fist verse and greatly expand upon them. By bowing, or offering pranamans to Patanjali, we symbolically acknowledge yoga practice as a spiritual practice, which offers “sukhava bodhe” or, the true knowledge of happiness.

John Berlinsky teaches at the Mill Valley Yoga Studio in California.

MANGALA MANTRA (CLOSING CHANT)

SANSKRITOMSWASTHI – PRAJA BHYAH

PARI PALA YANTAM

NYA – YENA MARGENA

MAHI – MAHISHAHA

GO – BRAHMANEBHYAHA – SHUBHAMASTU NITYAM

LOKAA – SAMASTHA SUKHINO – BHANVANTHU

OM

OM SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTI

PHONETIC SPELLING VERSIONOMSWASTEE-PRAJAR, BEEYAR

PAREE PALLA-YANTUM

KNEEYAI-YENA, MARGENA,

MAHIM-MAHISHAHA

GO, BRAMANA-BEEYA-HA,

SHOOBA-MASTOO, NEETIYAM,

LOWKAR, SAMASTAR, SOOKI-NOU, BAVANTOO

OM

OM SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTIHE

Let Prosperity be Glorified

Let rulers (administrators) rule the world with law and justice.

Let Divinity and Erudition be protected.

Let people of the world be happy and prosperous.

This mantra is chanted at the end of your practice, following the closing sequence,

then you lie down in Savasana.

May the welfare of citizens be protected,

with the path of law and justice by rulers and administrators;

May good fortune befall cows and scholars everyday

May all the worlds be happy and comfortable.

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