If you have a unicode font installed in your browser you’ll be able to see the mantra with diacritics here: Oṃ śānti śānti śānti. Without diacritics it’s Om shanti shanti shanti.
Sometimes it’s chanted as “Om shanti om” or simply as “om shanti.”
Below I explain the meaning of both “Om” and “shanti.”
Like many mantras, this one begins with “Om”. Om has no meaning, and its origins are lost in the mists of time. Om is considered to be the primeval sound, the sound of the universe, the sound from which all other sounds are formed.
In the Brahminical tradition, from where Buddhism undoubtedly obtained mantra practice, Om is not just the universal sound, but the sound of the universe itself. For example in the (non-Buddhist) Mandukya Upanishad, it is said:
Om! — This syllable is this whole world.
Its further explanation is: —
The past, the present, the future — everything is just the word Om.
And whatever else that transcends threefold time — that, too, is just the word Om.
Om is therefore a sound symbolizing reality. It represents everything in the universe, past, present, and future. It even represents everything that is outside of those three times. It therefore represents both the mundane world of time in which the mind normally functions, and the world as perceived by the mind that is awakened and that experiences the world timelessly. It represents both enlightenment and non-enlightenment.
- Four kinds of peace and how to experience them
- The deep practice of just being peace
- Peace is right here, right now
- This one small shift can help you be more at peace
You could regard Om as being the equivalent of white light, in which all of the colors of the rainbow can be found.
One Sanskrit-English dictionary says the following:
“A word of solemn affirmation and respectful assent , sometimes translated by ‘yes, verily, so be it’ (and in this sense compared with Amen); it is placed at the commencement of most Hindu works, and as a sacred exclamation may be uttered at the beginning and end of a reading of the Vedas or previously to any prayer; it is also regarded as a particle of auspicious salutation [Hail!];
Om appears first in the Upanishads as a mystic monosyllable, and is there set forth as the object of profound religious meditation, the highest spiritual efficacy being attributed not only to the whole word but also to the three sounds A, U, M, of which it consists.”
It’s worth bearing in mind that Sanskrit was the language not only of later Buddhism, but of the Hindu and pre-Hindu Vedic traditions as well. In Buddhist texts, as far as I’m aware, Oṃ is never seen as being comprised of A-U-M. Jayarava has an excellent, if (for the casual reader) rather detailed, article on this on his blog.
Shanti (Pali: Santi) simply means “peace”. It’s a beautiful meaning and also a very beautiful sound. The shanti is repeated three times, as are many chants in Buddhism. In Buddhism as well as in Hinduism the threefold Shanti is generally interpreted as meaning the Threefold Peace in body, speech, and mind (i.e. peace in the entirety of one’s being).
Hindu teachings typically end with the words Om shanti shanti shanti as an invocation of peace, and the mantra is also used to conclude some Buddhist devotional ceremonies.
Wildmind has created a YouTube video of the mantra. If you like the mantra, please give the video a thumbs-up after listening.
Or click below to listen to an MP3 version:
- o is pronounced like o in ore
- The ṃ in Oṃ serves to nasalize the preceding “o”, so that it sounds like the vowel in the French word bon
- ā is pronounced as a in father
- i in speech is pronounced like i in mill, but in chanting is pronounced like ee in bee
Peace in Buddhist practice
Simply knowing that the word “shanti” means “peace” doesn’t get us very far. We need to learn how to cultivate peace in our lives. Meditation — especially mindfulness meditation and lovingkindness meditation — is a simple tool for helping us find peace.
In Buddhist practice śānti, or peace, primarily means inner rather than outer peace. Through practice it’s possible to cultivate a still mind even in surroundings that are anything but tranquil.
It’s definitely helpful to have peaceful surroundings for the development of meditative states of mind, but if one cultivates a mind that is completely nonreactive then it’s possible to peacefully accept the presence of noise and bustle around us.
In the long-term, however, some external quiet is well-nigh indispensable for the arising of deep mental tranquility, and so meditators frequently seek out quiet places for their practice.
To say that inner peace is what’s important doesn’t mean of course that we can be internally peaceful and yet caught up in all kinds of arguments and fights. It simply means that it’s not possible for us to be in harmony with others unless we’ve learned to develop harmony within our own minds.
Śānti, or inner peace, arises when the mind has let go of both grasping and aversion. For this reason the Buddhist path of practice is known in Pali as “santimagga” (Sanskrit: śāntimarga) or The Path of Peace, as expressed in the famous Dhammapada verse, “Santimaggam eva br?haya” — Cultivate this very Path of Peace.
- “May all beings dwell in peace” (a guided meditation)
- My happiness does not depend on this: old teaching, new words
- Finding peace in every moment
- Being at peace with the pain of others
Peace as the goal of practice
“Santi” is commonly used in the Pali texts as a synonym for Nirvana, the goal of Buddhist practice. Meditation and other Buddhist practices can therefore be thought of as the “Path to Peace.” Nirvana is the ultimate in inner peace, and literally means the complete extinction of inner turmoil.
Peace and lovingkindness
Shanti and metta (lovingkindness), or lovingkindness, are closely associated. In another verse from the Dhammapada, the Buddha says:
Mettāvihārā yo bhikkhu
Adhigacche padaṃ santaṃ
The monk who dwells in loving-kindness,
who trusts in the Buddha’s Teaching,
attains to that state of peace,
the blissful fading away of conditioned mental states.
Lovingkindness helps us to still the mind by letting go of conflict. As I’m sure we’re all aware, our hostile or defensive reactions to others are a major source of inner turmoil, and the cultivation of lovingkindness helps us to be more compassionate and less reactive. The “blissful fading away of conditioned things” refers to the mind becoming purified of the delusion, aversion, and grasping tendencies that distort our view of the world and prevent us from experiencing true happiness.
Peace is the essence of the spiritual life
In yet another Dhammapada verse, the Buddha says that it’s by practicing peace, rather than by adopting the clothing, trappings, or lifestyle associated with “being religious” that one lives a truly spiritual life:
Alaṅkato ce’pi samaṃ careyya
Santo danto niyato brahmacārī
Sabbesu bhūtesu nidhāya daṇḍaṃ
So brāhmaṇo so samaṇo sa bhikkhu.
Though well-dressed [i.e. not wearing the rags of a religious practitioner],
If he should live in peace, with restraint and self-control, living with pure ethics,
Laying aside violence towards all living beings,
He indeed is a holy one, a renunciate, a member of the spiritual community.
Taking peace into the world.
Living ethically is also both an expression of a peaceful state of being and a path to peace. In Buddhist ethical practice, this means abstaining from actions that cause harm to oneself or others. In other words, in Buddhist practice we cultivate inner peace but also take peace into the world by practicing lovingkindness and compassion, and by living ethically.
The bare minimum is trying to avoid causing physical harm through direct physical actions or through encouraging others to cause harm (the reason that I, and many other Buddhists, are vegetarians). This is the basis of the First Precept of Buddhism, which can also be expressed as practicing lovingkindness.
All the other Buddhist ethical precepts — not taking that which is not freely given; avoiding sexual misconduct; avoiding misleading speech; and avoiding intoxication — are ways of living out the first precept.
These Buddhist precepts are a key component of the Śāntimarga, or “Path of Peace.”
I don’t know if this will help you with converting your files to mp3 because they’re in the RAM format, but I know that the program Audacity is great for converting some formats to mp3. Audacity is a free, easy-to-use audio editing program that can be found here: https://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Hope that helps! (I’m not a spammer, nor do i work for Audacity.) :)
I enjoyed your site!
Good suggestion. Actually I have that program already. And our mantras should be available in MP3 format, but the MP3 player plugin is currently broken and the developer hasn’t yet fixed it. At some point soon I’ll get this all sorted out.
my interest in the mindful way of seeking peace within as well as sharing with others around me is a new path for me. I am intrigued. I think this is useful in creating a peaceful way of being. … I am grateful. thank you for sharing. Om..
ialwayas look this program on astha channel i liked this program very much ,it has changed my lifestyle,thinking pattern.
i am given to sense that ‘Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti’ is a deeply profound mantra which calls on the deep Heart, and which all would do well to invoke and intend
I dont what it means..but I feel a sense of calmness and tranquility inside me when I listen to this mantra..very peaceful
very good..so mind reaxing
I’ve been receiving daily meditations for quite sometime but I’m not receiving them anymore. I’m wondering if I mistakenly unsubscribed from them I would love to receive then again if possible
If you mean the daily emails from Feedblitz, you can sign up again by going here: https://www.wildmind.org/list-submit
I saw the movie Om shanti om, and i knew it meant something religious, but i wasn’t sure what exactly. I’m also developing a liking for hindu art, and found the website while scouring for images.
I’m introducing meditation to my 17 y/o who struggles with his gifts and puberty. This is helping us both deal with our communication and respect for each other. Allowing a person to find themselves is the best way for them to deal with themselves. For those who are on a quest for peace in this chaotic world, if there is no understanding, allow peace and not judgment during the journey…may you all find peace…thank you.
Hi, I’m very interested in mantra yoga and have recently decided to chant Om shanti shanti shanti for 30 days. I have been taught that every mantra has a specific raga (ragini or melody) for it. I am trying to figure out what the proper raga/melody for this mantra is. The mp3 file you posted sounds nice. Is it chanted with the proper melody?
I’m afraid I’ve never heard of their being specific ragas for Buddhist mantras. I’d imagine it’s something that applies in Hindu practice.
hi i wanted to just say that i recently got the Sanskrit word shanti , tattooed on my wrist in small writing , i really respect the Buddhist beliefs so i hope i have not offended anyone … i chose the word as it is supporting , reminding me what to work towards and helps comfort me by reminding me that we all poses the power within us to achieve peace . Not a lot of people understand the significance of this word but i find it beautiful . To finally obtain peace within ones self is the complete acceptance of ones being. Which is an amazing power we all have , just need to be on the right path to get there , good luck everyone .
I can’t imagine anyone taking offense at that. It would be rather ironic if they did.
Do you have a photograph online anywhere?
Thanks! It looks beautiful. We’re actually going to be having a piece in our blog soon (I hope) about Buddhist tattoos.
thanks .. that sounds awesome hope to read it soon :)
I felt very peaceful listening to the chant. nice site!
I “heard” (because I am not sure if I am really hearing) the word “Shanti….. Shanti” in my ear while I was travelling home. A lady was whispering it. I felt that energy, it was so strong even though that lady was whispering. I have no idea what it means.
Now I understand.
I hope we all find shanti
hi…thank you for the explanation… I was just browsing to find the meaning of Shanti.
I’m Catholic,..and I’m chanting ‘Om Shanti’ before/after I meditate.
I do yoga while saying the prayer ‘Our Lord’ in my heart.
When we know the meaning…It’s universal.
Religion is a foundation, but I can add with whatever that makes me feel closer to God and make me a better person. I’m sure Jesus don’t mind :) So does Buddha.
Namaste. Peace be with us.
I’m becoming interested in Buddhism and have been reading up on it from time to time for several years. The only thing I have not found is where if any is the starting point. I’ve learned about many practices, but I have not known which to start with to start this journey. Any help would be appreciated.
It sounds like you’ve already started, at least with the searching. Please don’t undervalue having got to that point. As far as practice goes, you can’t do better than starting with the Mindfulness of Breathing practice, followed closely by Lovingkindness practice. The two are complimentary meditations.
If what you’re interested in is the starting point of regarding yourself as a Buddhist, traditionally this is known as Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha). This is something that you can do for and by yourself, simply by reciting the words “To the Buddha for Refuge I Go, To the Dharma for Refuge I Go, To the Sangha for Refuge I Go.” Actually, this is more of a verbal acknowledgement to yourself, since Going for Refuge fundamentally is an act of the heart, rather than an act of speech. It can be more meaningful to do this in the presence of others, since there’s something powerful about having our Going for Refuge witnessed by others. And that brings me to another thing, which is that becoming a member of a practice community is an important and significant step. Of course this means being able to find a Sangha that you’re relatively comfortable practicing with. Depending on where you live, that can be tricky. There aren’t always that many options…
No matter how many times you participate in your kirtan yoga class, this last prayer practice is the one that sends energy through one’s entire being. We can imagine a world that would pray this simple prayer for peace. Put this page on your favorites, and pray it every day. Be mindful of your own personal intention for peace, and it will come to you. Offer your own devotion to non violence. Namaste.
gud to see the word shanti or peace in hindus l…….well Jesus was the prince of peace…. n more ovr prophet muhammad use to greet evr1 using peace be apon u….so all religion unit people…so all my frnds live in….peace….
I have been replacing my minduflness meditation (counting the breath) with using a mala and chanting Om shanti, shanti, shanti. I find it feels better/easier and is more quieting of the mind. Would you say this is’ok’? Is there a right or wrong way or am I ok doing what feels right?
Would appreciate your help.
That sounds good. In the long run mindfulness of the breathing has more benefits, but in the short-term using a mantra can be a very quick way of calming the mind. We’re so used to thinking that it’s helpful to have a form of meditation that actually uses thinking.
I do 20-30 mins every morning at 5.30 and then try and sit for 10 mins or so (as long as children will allow) in the evenings.
Do you think better then, mindfulness of breathing /metta b every morning – i.e. 1 on 1 off in rotation. And then saving the om shanti chanting for the evening sessions?
appreciate your help and advice
Hi, i’ve enjoyed these comments and the article above very much. I came to this site looking for the meaning of Om Shanti Om as it is a message on a person’s page of a meditation app I use. It is lovely to make connections with other meditators through this app and find out new things about pali and sanskrit words that I have heard and used at various times but never really understood fully the richness and depth of the meanings they hold.
I really like this website. found a nice article by Jack Kornfield on it and he was quoting Ajahn Sumedho. Such ‘venerable’ teachers! I such add your page to my favourite meditation websites and will be only too happy to share my knowledge of this site with other friends through twitter and email etc..
Blessings to you all
Om mani padme hum (is that the correct transliteration?)
I was born into Christianity and I am a Christian. However, I believe God is God and each of the many cultures on this planet all pray to a higher being, a divine spirit and I don’t believe there is any one superior culture that practices a superior religion. I do not think as humans we are superior beings as well and someday our very existence in this world may be in jeopardy no matter our religious faith. If there weren’t so much prejudice in this world, and if people could learn to step outside of the box, out of their comfort zones, they would overcome their fears, which is what prejudice boils down to… fear of others because they live differently and have different beliefs than yours. There are cultures and people living under the influence of bad leaders whose views and perceptions of what is right and wrong are distorted, toxic and poisonousness.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti (Body, Mind & Spirit), Peace to all
In the name of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost……
I love it!
Bodhipakasa, Thank you for your well written and informative article. The mantra is wonderful, the moment I pressed the play button vibration surged through my body; chills, and happiness all at once.
I enjoy the conversation here .. one can connect deeply even through cyber space.
Ommmshanti all. sending love, and power from Yosemite Ca. Jo P.S. will hit the play a few more times now!
You’re welcome, Jo.
If shanti means peace,then its ok by me.But if its the name of a gods or goddess,am out.
It means peace, Vickie.
The beauty of Shanti Mantra is that it can be recited on any occasion, sad or joyous; anywhere, anytime.
I love the word and the sound shanti. My daughter gona bear the name shanti despite the fact that we are christians.OM SHANTII
Thank you for the mantra! Namaste ~
I felt taken over by peace when I stated to listen to the first recording, it had an effect not just hearing something. Thankyou very much. I like the second recording also
Thank you for sharing this beautiful mantra. I am going to use it in my daily practice!
“It therefore represents both the mundane world of time in which the mind normally functions, and the world as perceived by the mind that is awakened and that experiences the world timelessly. It represents both enlightenment and non-enlightenment.”
It is a sort a confrontation of the view on the world? Like the materialistic world and the spiritual one? I understand it like that.
It’s more of a non-dualistic perspective, I think. Om represents absolutely everything: the spiritual view of how things really are (for example where there is no possibility of “owning,” because nothing can be owned and there is no one to do any owning, and also the materialistic dream that we live in which relies upon the illusion of ownership.
Thank you for your explanation. It’s interesting _/I\_