- Sanskrit text
- English Transliteration
- Word by word meaning
- Learn to chant the mantra
The word mantra can be broken down into two words man which means the sensory mind (manas) and tra which means, and instrument or vehicle. So a mantra is an instrument of the sensory mind.
In the Vedic traditions, Mantra is generally used before starting a process (eating, physical practice, etc). One very important purpose of this is to bring our awareness into the process we are going to start. The natural tendency of the mind is to chatter, acknowledging this nature, a mantra is introduced at the beginning of the process so that the mind could be centered and be brought into the present moment.
The Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga opening mantra helps us to recollect the mind’s attention and focus it on the practice. This mantra has two parts, the first part pays respect to the lineage of Guru who shared this knowledge with us (One of the old texts in which this part of the mantra is mentioned is Yoga Taravalli written by Adi Shankaracharya); the second part pays respect to Sage Pathanjali (this part can be seen to be used in a number of old texts, mostly in the ones where people have written a commentary on Patanjali’s works)
वन्दे गुरूणां चरणारविन्दे सन्दर्शितस्वात्मसुखावबोधे ।
निःश्रेयसे जाङ्गलिकायमाने संसारहालाहलमोहशान्त्यै ॥
सहस्रशिरसं श्वेतं प्रणमामि पतञ्जलिम् ॥
vande gurūnāṃ charaṇāravinde sandarśita-svātma-sukhāvabodhe |
niḥśreyase jaāṅgalikāyamāne saṃsāra-hālāhala-moha-śāntyai ||
ābāhu-puruṣākāraṃ śhaṅkha-chakrāsi-dhāriṇam |
sahasra-śirasaṃ śvetaṃ praṇamāmi patañjalim ||
Word by word meaning
In Sanskrit there are a few rules which are followed while joining two words together (called sandhi) and while breaking a long word/sentence into individual words (called sandhi-viched). In this section, we will try to break down the mantra into smaller words following those rules and present its meaning.
|Sanskrit text||English transliteration||Meaning|
|वन्दे||vande||I praise, I salute, I bow down|
|गुरूणां||gurūnāṃ||supreme teachers, guru|
|सन्दर्शित||sandarśita||shown, displayed, uncover, reveals|
|स्वात्म||svātma||ones own self|
|जाङ्गलि||jaāṅgali||snake charmer, snake catcher|
|कायमाने||kāyamāne||shunning, to keep away from something|
|संसार||saṃsāra||world, cycle of existence|
|हालाहल||hālāhala||a deadly poison (prepared from the root of a particular plant)|
|चक्र||chakra||a discus (circular weapon)|
|सहस्र||sahasra||a thousand petal lotus|
|प्रणमामि||praṇamāmi||I praise, I bow down|
I bow down to the lotus feet of the Supreme teacher who helps reveals one’s own self, and brings happiness and awakening; he brings well-being and peace by keeping away the deadly poison of delusions of this cycle of existence like a snake catcher keeping away the snakes. He is in a human form with the arms holding a conch, discus, and sword; I bow down to Pathanjali who has a thousand-petalled white lotus on his head.
The word “Guru” is not so easy to understand. When this sacred word is used for a living person it means the person has reached the stage of self-realization. On a non-physical level the word “Guru” denotes the guiding principle on the path of spirituality, the force that is guiding you by making things happen around you.
Another meaning of Guru is Gravity (the word for Gravity in Sanskrit is Gurutva गुरुत्व). It is the force that can pull you back on your spiritual path.
While chanting this mantra you can focus your awareness on Sage Pathanjali as a Guru or on the universal guiding force.
Note:- Just any teacher/ guide cannot be considered a Guru. If you are learning under any (unrealized) teacher be respectful to them as a guide. Sometimes a teacher might start considering themselves as a guru out of their ego (ahamkara) because of the power this word carries.
Lotus feet -Lotus is a flower that grows in mud, this Guru was once among the part of normal people, got realized and flowered and became distinct from their surroundings. The word lotus is extensively used in Sanskrit as a sign of respect.
A Guru helps us to reveal and awaken one’s own self (svatma) which is hidden beneath the layers of ideas and conditionings.
There seem to be a lot of wrong translations of this line on the internet, I guess because of two similar-sounding words and losing some of the sounds during transliteration. The word jaāṅgali (जाङ्गलि) means a snake charmer or a snake catcher which is very similar to the word jaṅgali (जङ्गलि) means wild (of the jungle). In most of the texts, jaṅgali (जङ्गलि) has been mistakenly used, and the translation seems to have been twisted around to mean a thing even though it doesn’t flow (blame the copy-paste culture without any research).
jaāṅgali-kāyamāne – Like a snake catcher who shuns away snakes and keeps people safe (the popular translation on the internet is – like a jungle doctor/shaman).
saṃsāra-hālāhala – The word saṃsāra means the cycle of existence, all our unconscious patterns, and conditionings which we keep on repeating. These unconscious cycles are like a deadly poison (hālāhala). Repeated patterns of anger, hate, fear, addictions, etc can create a toxic environment both inside and outside our bodies.
śhaṅkha- Means a conch which signifies “OM” the sound of creation.
chakra- Is a circular weapon (a discus); it signifies our inner instrument which we use to destroy the cyclical nature of Maya (patterns, conditionings, delusion).
āsi- This means a sword that signifies a sharp mind which can cut through anything and reach the truth.
If you observe the artistic representation of the gods and goddesses in the Hindu culture then you will see that they have many hands with each of the hands holding something. This doesn’t actually mean they have more than two hands but is a mere visual representation of the different attributes they have.
Here sage Pathanjali is depicted as having a human form with various attributes, the objects being held in the arms are revealing these attributes; he is holding a conch (the creative power); chakra (the power to break patterns), and a sword (the sharp intellect).
sahasra-śirasaṃ – A thousand-petalled lotus on his head. In yoga, Sahasrar is a chakra on the crown of the head which is described as having a thousand-petalled lotus flower arranged in 20 layers with each layer having 50 petals. The Sahasrar chakra symbolizes detachment and self-realization.
Learn to Chant Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Opening Mantra
Here is a short video to help you learn this mantra.
You can also download just the audio file and use it to learn this mantra in your own time –> Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Opening mantra Audio file/ mp3.