Ashtanga Mantra

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Ashtanga yoga has a bad reputation for being too physically demanding and an injurious practice. People often come to their first class and never return. People do get serious injuries. This doesn’t sit well with me, I think something is really wrong here. I suppose there is always reasons why people lose the path, people and teachers. But others seem to receive a great benefit from it. So, I thought it would be a good idea to translate the ‘instruction manual’ , the opening mantra. As far as I know the opening mantra is seldom chanted at the beginning of class. The direct English (or other language) translation is even more rare and not easy to understand. And a meaningful English translation is nearly impossible to find. I don’t know that my translation below is exactly correct, that can always be argued. But it is correct for me.

The first and most important Yama is Ahimsa, non-harming. When ‘yoga’ causes harm or teachings do not have pure intention I become very suspicious. And it turns out that I was correct. Anyone can practice Ashtanga with great benefit, there is a practice for everyone.  The mantra tells us this. I have to thank Melanie Cooper for the various information she has made available. I am not sure if it is on her website.

These instructions, the mantra, can be used for any practice. I post it here so others may get some benefit from it.

The first line is Sanskrit to the literal English words, I didn’t do that translation. The second line in purple is the meaning as I understand it.


Line 1: 

Vande Gurunam Caranaravinde—I bow to the lotus feet of the gurus

My practice teaches me what I need to know. (Pranama)


Line 2:

Sandarsita Svatma Sukhava Bodhe—the awakening happiness of one’s own Self revealed.

Clear a place inside me where I see things as they are.


Line 3:

Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane—‘Beyond better, acting like the jungle physician.’

My practice will cure me physically and mentally.


Line 4:

Samsara Halahala Mohasantyai—pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara

My practice is a mirror helping me to realize my true self.


Line 5:

Abahu Purusakaram—taking the form of a man to the shoulders, (and a divine serpent).

I offer my practice to the truth. (The truth is pure or wholesome intention or the joy of practicing with this intention)


Line 6: 

Sankhacakrasi Dharinam—holding a conch a discus and a sword.

I am prepared to listen to what my practice is trying to tell me.  (conch)

Fully present, no concern for time.  (discuss)

Cut through the confusion of my mind to find clarity and peace. (sword)


Line 7:

Sahasra Sirasam Svetam—one thousand heads white.

There are many different paths but only one destination.


Line 8:

Pranamami Patanjalim—I salute/bow to Patanjali.

I surrender to the practice the gift of yoga knowledge.


Edit February 22, 2016: Completed line 5

scottcraft, afriske and Hildegard like this

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Thank you for this! I practice Ashtanga every so often but it will be useful to think about next time I do and when I do my other practices as well.

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I have completed line 5 above. I had left line 5 blank before because I did not have an interpretation for this line. When translating Sanskrit to other languages we get words but the meaning is often lost or doesn't seem to make any sense at all. I had some help at times with this interpretation from Sanskrit experts. I mostly didn't ask them for answers. I compared my meaning to theirs. Have to be really careful who you listen to. I hope others find some benefit from this.

yogafire likes this

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