Adding a dimension to the Teacher Student Prayer
This piece is fruit of inspiration by three wonderful teachers that light the
path underneath my feet: Dharmanidhi Sarasvati, Rami Shivan and Hart
deFouw. May they continue to benefit all beings in all times and spaces.
One of the most precious prayers we enjoy on the yogic path is the teacher
student prayer. This is a very ancient invocation that comes to us from the
Vedas. Hardly a yoga class transpires in a yoga studio where this chant is not
invoked to harmonize energies between student and teacher. As westerners, we
enjoy it invokes, but this chant is more than that: it is a prayer, and if we
do not know the meaning of it, its potency is somewhat diminished. The more
multi-dimensionally we relate to it, the greater fruit it bears for our growth.
Why do we chant this prayer? Because in every learning session there is great
potential for insult, hurt, and anger. Because a lot of ego comes into the
student-teacher dynamic. Students may become irritated with each other. The
student may become irritated with the teacher, the teacher with the
student. The teacher student prayer conveys: let us never hurt each other.
We make a commitment to study together, to put up with each other. When we get
on each other's nerves we let it go because we say that the dharma is the most
important, to realize our nature is the most important. It is a contract that
we make in a call and response form, back and forth to each other. May we
shine brightly together in this study for the benefit of all beings.
One way to experience this prayer is as an ordering of the five elements in our
microcosm. Indeed, this prayer evokes the five elements. Lets go through it.
OM SAHA NAVAVATU
Earth element in the form of protection.
May that Truth that we are pursuing protect us both. Artha, security, is the
prime mandate human beings pursue, and fulfillment of that allows us to yield
to higher goals.
SAHA NAU BHUNAKTU
Water element in the form of nourishment.
May that Truth nourish us together. And may we not get emotionally attached to
the results of our study.
SAHA VIRIYAM KARAVAVAHAI
Fire element enables understanding to illuminate what we study.
May we work with energy to pursue that objective Truth together. May we gain
ability to understand what we study. May we receive the illumination of
Wind element enables communication of Essence (that which we have understood
via the fire element).
May we have great energy in our mutual study. May our study be brilliant.
May we overcome the inertia of our density. May our knowledge expand like the
wind and be brilliant for the benefit of others.
Space element as harmonious hosting capacity of all.
May there be no enmity or hostility between us. May we agree with one another.
Disagreement is symptomatic of space violation. When space is out of sync,
relative positions are out of sync and people disagree.
SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI
Peace, peace, peace.
Only when the five elements are aligned can there be peace.
And this luminosity pours out and helps everybody.
This prayer repeated at the onset of study/practice placates the five elements
and all that emanates from them. At a fundamental level it realigns us with the
building blocks of manifestation. If we experience the depth of this one chant
and practice, we are able to organize the five elements and senses
successfully. From that alignment arises a more coherent and sane experience of
that which is both within ourselves and beyond.