Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Gratefully Walking the Talk
May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May I offer my life to all beings everywhere.
As we turn our hearts to gratitude this season. we acknowledge the incredible abumdance and blessings in our lives. Spiritual seekers might naturally ask. “How can l give back?” This mantra offers us a path.
Lokah means “location, place, realm, all universes existing now.” Samastah comes from the Sanskrit word same and means “all beings sharing that same location.” Sukhino is from sukha, or “happiness”. Bhav means ‘divine mood or state of unified existence? Antu translates to “may it be so”, as in, “I promise to do that.”
Lokah samastah is a common mantra in yoga classes around the world. We all have a sense of what it means in the abstract, theoretical sense. Its a bit harder to put the mantra into practice by examining and observing how we treat others, not just in the theoretical, abstract sense, but in real terms. On the one hand. we feel incredibly privileged to practice yoga. On the other hand, we know at some gut level that our practice must ripple out externally to have long-lasting meaning, to carry through.
Ruth Lauer-Manenti, a friend and fellow Jivamukti yoga teacher tells this story in her book An Offering of Leaves. A few years ago her cat got very sick, spent two months in the hospital, and died. The vet bill amounted to what she earns in a year and she didn’t know how she would pay. The bills started coming, and she set them aside in a pile. A month passed, until one day she opened all the bills. Several of the bills were identicaL but the seoond to last showed that a significant portion had been paid, and the last bill showed no balance due. She asked her husband, “Did you pay the bill at the animal hospital?” He hadn’t, so they figured out that a kind benefactor must have paid. She was so touched, she started to cry.
Ruth says she sees herself as a person who gives, because she’s always dedicated herself to charities and other causes. Like most of us, she sees herself in many ways throughout her life both giving and not giving. We see ourselves do everything that we do, and it leaves an imprint, a samskara. Then that imprint is projected out into the world. If we see ourselves as people who give, then we will live in a world where we see others in the same way. That’s how we create our world.
The aim of yoga is to purify our hearts to get to a point where kindness toward others comes naturally and easily. I once heard a yogi say that its important to walk the talk. We chant the mantras, and also challenge ourselves to take on their meaning. How can my life contribute in real terms?