The Guest Blog: Saha nāvavatu
(Invocation before the Kaṭha and Taittrīya Upaniṣads)
Saha nāvavatu Saha nau bhunaktu Saha vīryaṁkaravāvahai Tejasvi nāvadhītam astu Mā vidviṣāvahai Om śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
May we both be protected; May we both be nourished. May we work together with vigor; May our study together be brilliant. May there be no discord between us. Om, peace, peace, peace.
This is a beautiful invocation I learned from Jo Brill, with whom I have been studying Sanskrit grammar for five years. When she teaches, she always begins with Om, then Saha nāvavatu. I now chant this with students in my evening classes and my Sanskrit study group. It invokes a beautiful and clear intention between teacher and students for the time we are about to spend together, and sets a unified tone in the room: we have all arrived, we are all together, with the purpose to nourish and study ourselves.
In yoga, self-study is called svādhyāya. There are multiple ways to think of svādhyāya. One important aspect is self-practice, which is a disciplined practice that requires you to guide and teach yourself. It might include repeating something you have learned in class to consolidate your understanding of it, or working toward personal goals. You can respect your relationship with yourself as your own teacher by remembering the same intention of Saha nāvavatu to infuse your study with vigor and brilliance, and to not create dis-ease with yourself. Having a knowledgeable teacher is invaluable, and studying with this person is not to be underestimated. One of the difficulties of self-practice, however, is why we may sometimes go to class: because it is easier to be told what to do than to direct ourselves. How can you discipline yourself to do your practice with kindness so you maintain a harmonious relationship with yourself?
Another component of svādhyāya is scriptural study by oneself. Prem Sadasivananda recently shared in a lecture that this can be thought of as satsang with a teacher not present, that teacher being the author of the text. Your study of yogic texts, if this is of interest to you, can likewise be carried by the same intention that your yoga practice sustain your inner brilliance and harmony with your teachers, without and within.
The above translation can be found in Leslie Freyberg's "Sacred Chants" book.
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