When practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa each session begins and ends with a chant or mantra. It is a beautiful way to bring those in the room together in a “collective consciousness”. Additionally, the chant helps to pace the breath for the practice.
I came to understand the mantra in three parts: prayer for truth, praise to the King of Nagas, appreciation and respect. The poetic beauty can be lost and the commentary below is a singular (loose) interpretation of the mantra. I am relying on the wisdom of my teachers and other readings as I unfortunately cannot read sanskrit, but I hope you can enjoy and find your own meaning.
Section I: Prayer for Truth
|Om||Original sound of the universe|
|Astoma Sat Gamaya||Lead me from non-truth to truth|
|Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya||Lead me from darkness to light|
|Mrityorma Amritam Gamaya||Lead me from death to that which is immortal|
|Om Shanti Shanti Shanti||Om peace, peace, peace|
The topic of truth is complex and can be discussed in great length. What I have gathered is ‘truth’ is dynamic, it is a state of being that must be lived. When the mind is somewhere else, asat- we stray further from the truth. A way to understand truth is to realize that ‘fact’ is a subset of truth and is past tense. A fact is something that has happened, while truth ‘is’ and now. An exploration of the 8 Limbs of Yoga digs deeper specifically discussion around Satya, one of five Yamas.
Specific translations include: (A) Sat – non-truth; Sat – truth ; Gamaya – deliver me/ bring me to; Tamasoma – darkness; jyotir – light; Mrityorma – nectar of reality; Shanti – peace
Section II: Praise to the King of Nagas, Lord Vishnu
|Jeevamani Prajatpana||A jewel shines|
|Sahasra Vidruth Visvampara||Radiating from the jeweled crown, 1000 different ways|
|Mandalaya Anadaya||A foundation, everlasting; Ananta (Lord Vishnu)|
|Nagarajaye Namaha||Bowing to the King of Nagas (snakes)|
The imagery in section II is vivid. According to Master Paalu a king cobra is very rare but highly sought after. It is believed that a king cobra only has one chance to use its venom and when it does the poison crystalizes into an everlasting crystal. We also learned that wisdom can come from darkness, and we should ‘spit’ goodness into the world, keeping the wicked inside, crystalizing it till our last breath.
Mandalaya is one of my favorite words in this manta, it represents structure and strength. Each day I look at a hand painted Bhutanese Mandala geometrically centered around ‘Om’. It provides me clarity and peace. Each time I chant I envision its beauty.
Section III: Appreciation & Respect
|Abahu Purushakaram||The soul with (human-like) hands|
|Sankha Chakrasi Dharinam||
Holding a conch shell, a wheel (discus of light) and a sword (discrimination)
|Sahasra Sirasam Svetam||1000 headed king cobra|
|Pranamani Patanjalim||Give thanks to Patañjali|
|Gurubhyo Namaha||Salute to all gurus|
|Devatabhyo Namaha||I bow to the divine|
Below the King of Nagas is depicted. I have seen this imagery throughout Asia, and am particularly fond of Nagas as they play a large role in Cambodian folklore and legend. The same 1000 headed snake adorns Cambodian architecture. A personal tie for me.
Parama. Rishbhyo. Namaha (3x) Om.
The meaning is to give thanks to the sages that have passed on the knowledge.
Weekday Hatha/Ashtanga 200 Hour YTT September 2015