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Vedic quest for Shanti- Deciphering Shanti in Vedic era

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Shanti is not a simple word. It is not a mere “happiness” or even “peace”. Shanti purports unison of our intellect with the intellect of our surroundings.

The collective state when the air, water, humans, animals, thoughts, sky, fire, earth, plants, herbs —all work for each other instead of, working against each other is called Shanti. It is a state of equilibrium or harmony.

Vedic people were obsessed with Shanti just like in today’s world we are obsessed with technology or money. In all the Vedic literature they have only said “Om Shanti, Shanti Shanti”. They have never said “Om धन“ or “Om शक्ति, प्रेम” etc.. . They only craved for Shanti because they had understood it is above all.

It is worth thinking and asking the question — Why Vedic people were so much after Shanti?

Perhaps, because, there was a lot of “Ashanti” in those times. Since they lived in close net societies — they saw pain and sufferings daily — like illnesses, cattle dying, crops washing away, apart from battles and animal attacks. They should have been under a lot of stress. There was so much worry that they kept desiring Shanti — where everything was in harmony.

In their quest for “Shanti” they devised various methods. Somehow, they knew that everything has sprung from Om — the sound of big-bang. They very intelligently used this Om to connect with everything.

This could have been their hypothesis- “Everything is a result of the primordial “Om” sound so, all creation knows the language of Om and can respond to it. If this “Om” sound is tamed; it can be used to connect with everything.“

After all , what could have been a better tool than “Om” — the only common factor in all creation — to connect with everything! . This was the first step.

And thus, Vedic people prefixed everything with Om.

Shanti mantra’s start with Om to invoke Shanti in all existence. One of famous mantras and my favorite is

ॐ द्यौः शान्तिरन्तरिक्षं शान्तिः
पृथिवी शान्तिरापः शान्तिरोषधयः शान्तिः।
वनस्पतयः शान्तिर्विश्वेदेवाः शान्तिर्ब्रह्म शान्तिः
सर्वं शान्तिः शान्तिरेव शान्तिः सा मा शान्तिरेधि॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om. May peace radiate there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere.
May peace reign all over this earth, in water and in all herbs, trees and creepers.
May peace flow over the whole universe.
May peace be in the Whole Universe.
And may there always exist in all peace and peace alone.
Om peace, peace and peace to us and all beings!
— (Translation by Swami Abhedananda, Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, India)

It is also interesting to note that the Vedic people knew that Om appeared from the vibrations of nothing. They termed this nothing as ‘शून्य (Shunya/zero/void)’ or ब्रह्म ( Brahm).

Now, comes the second step — “realization”of ब्रह्म ( Brahm).

Once one has realized ब्रह्म he is able to see ब्रह्म everywhere and attains “Shanti”. Surely, some people- the enlightened sages — must have reached this state of realization. In this state they might have experienced several attributes of ब्रह्म which they tried to explain to us via Upnishads. Surprisingly and oxymoronically, अनन्तता (Infinity) is an attribute of this ब्रह्म (Brahm) which itself is शून्य (Shunya).

The अनन्तता “infinity” is also explained in shanti mantra of Isha and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad almost like the mathematical rules for infinity (∞ — ∞ = ∞ , and ∞ + ∞ = ∞). By the way, my father had discovered the similarity with maths that I am only quoting here.

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदम् पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते |
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ||
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः |

The infinite proceeds from the infinite.
(Then) taking the infinitude of the infinite (universe),
It remains as the infinite (Brahman) alone.
Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!

Hindu methodology has given many complete and step by step process to gain ultimate Shanti or Bliss by connecting with Brahma .

If one starts at the right age, there is a high chance that one can become one with that ब्रह्म.

One of the methods is the “technique of elimination, coupled with visualization” whereby, you eliminate more gross and complex forms of nature like your gross body and start to connect to subtler forms like your breath , the red hue of rising sun etc.. . You continue eliminating connection with grosser forms and start connecting with subtler forms till you are able to connect with the “nothingness” and feel it . Once U can visualize this nothingness you will realize the infinite. This is the state of ultimate Shanti or Bliss.

Now, how do you Eliminate ? There are various methods outlined by Vedic sages. For example — To eliminate excess weight do yoga, to eliminate toxins the way is व्रत (vrat) and upwas, to eliminate thoughts use jap (chanting) . This process of elimination and visualizations go hand in hand. With practice, these visualizations become stronger and stronger and one is able to visualize and realize energy centers in his body.

According to Vedic scholars these energy centers have different kind of energies. They called the invisible controller of these energy center’s as देवता — one that gives. What does it give ? It gives various organs the ability to perform what they are suppose to do. They codified and differentiated the देवता or deities based on their functions by giving them various names like Idha (Indra), Shiva etc..

Now, the next task was to connect with these देवता. For that they devised a method called यज्ञ (yagna). Yagya is a way to gain Shanti by contacting these deities “within” by means of fire and visualizations.

This idea of yagya is quite an intelligent and wonderful idea. It is a “ near zero cost self-service ” method that can be done almost “anywhere”, “anytime”. All you need is — “your own sound”, “fire”, “ability to visualize”, “some basic food items” and “some fuel-wood “. That’s it! You are all set to establish connection with nature and yourself via sound, light and heat therapy.

This can do wonders if one is able to do Yagya’s properly. For example — Let’s say you have established connection with earth — You may be able to predict earthquake by sensing any differences in the earth.

Sound was of great importance. They had specific patterns for recitation of Mantras which were called as “meters” . One Hymn in Yajurveda says —

O learned ones, may the gaytrf, the tristubh, the jagati, the anustup, along with the pankti, the brhatf, the usnik and the kakup metres bring peace to you with their sweet recitations.”

They immersed themselves in certain frequencies of sound. The heat and light infused with aroma from medicinal herbs cleared their surroundings and minds.

It could have worked wonders in those times and might perhaps even work today. Unless, we try it for sometime we will not be able to understand the techniques and its impact.

Many people have done studies and have found that it does have a positive impact on people’s mind and environment.

Thanks to the Vedic people for discovering these techniques in their quest of Shanti and passing it on centuries over centuries. Now, it is on to us to rediscover them because we need “Shanti” more than anything else in today’s world.

I will conclude this blog with the Shanti mantra — Om Shanti , Shanti Shanti!. ( ॐ शान्ति, शान्ति, शान्तिः)

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