वन्दे गूरूणाम् | Vande gurūṇām

This quite well-known mantra is often chanted before a yoga practice. It honours the ancient tradition of enlightened and illuminated sages who, as teachers, have preserved and handed on the great knowledge of liberation to those who have followed them.

Carana is usually translated as 'feet', but can also refer to a wandering celestial minstrel. Thus these are the teachers who travel everywhere to ensure that their knowledge is accessible to all. Their feet are of lotuses to indicate that they are venerated sources of instruction. It is they who teach seekers to apprehend the Self within (svatma), which brings joy and contentment (sukha). Jangali means 'jungle' or 'impenetrable forest' and refers to the thicket of deeds and actions that intervene between us and the Light. The kayamane refers to being within a small thatched hut. This is where the recluse lives, free from worldly ties, and working patiently for knowledge. Samsara refers to the cycle of existence. It is made up from sam-, 'together with', and sara from the verbal root sri meaning 'setting in motion' or 'running along after'. Samsara is constant activity—the deeply hidden habit of, and desire for, existence. Samsara perpetuates moha, the great illusion of being. Halahala is the poison of the universe. It binds us to existence. As kalakuta, Siva drank it to save the universe at the time of the churning of the ocean. It is why Siva is frequently depicted with a blue throat. From all this, the teachers deliver santi or peace. It is chanted three times.


वन्दे गुरूणां चरणारविन्दे


निःश्रेयसे जाङ्गलिकायमाने


ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॐ॥


vande gurūṇāṁ caraṇāravinde


niḥśreyase jāṅgalikāyamāne

saṁsāra hālāhala moha śāntyai

Aum śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ Aum


I honour the teachers with their two lotus feet;

who have revealed to me the joy that is mine;

most excellent sages, my refuge in the dark impenetrable thicket;

who bring peace from the poison and illusion seeking ever to exist.

Aum Shanti shanti shanti Aum