May all beings be happy and free… We can all play our part in making the days better both for ourselves and others. By Victoria Jackson
Sometime during my childhood, I became aware of people using the phrase “have a nice day” as a sign-off to end a conversation. I remember my dad hating it. He can be a little bit snooty about anything American and perhaps to him, this phrase smacked of an all-American attitude – more sunny, carefree and extrovert than his English upbringing was comfortable with.
I often now find myself wishing people to “have a good day”. ‘Good’ rather ‘nice’ is a subtle but significant difference, I think. Somehow niceness seems depressingly bland or about superficial pleasures only. I would wish my fellow beings much more than this! Their day might be really difficult but it could still be good in some way. Actually, I would wish them to be touched by some profound sense of the richness of life and the various experiences we have – but that might not be ‘nice’. The experiences that leave the deepest impression on us aren’t always obviously ‘nice’.
Recently I found myself chatting with someone at work while we made coffee. As I left the kitchen I wished them a good day as I ordinarily would and then I found that in my head the thought continued: “…and if it’s hard to notice that it’s a good day and it feels like it’s all falling apart or you’re just bored by the everyday routines, then come by my office and talk to me about it, in case I can help or if sharing with another human being makes it better somehow”.
Okay, I didn’t actually say this out loud to my colleague – I’m not that much of a weirdo! But the thought stayed with me and reminded me of chanting loka samasta sukhino bhavantu in class. The simple translation “may all beings be happy and free” is often expanded with the Jivamukti school interpretation: “may all beings be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all”. It’s a bit of a mouthful in English (the Sanskrit is so much neater!) but I love this meaning, the mantra calling to us all to get involved. It feels both a joy and a responsibility to chant this and really mean it. I’m now hearing it not as a vague wish that has nothing to do with me personally, but as an imperative to act appropriately to support the happiness of others. Now I have a heartfelt desire: bhavantu… “may they be…”
Of course, I don’t know what I’ll end up doing about it. But if you want to stop by for a coffee and a chat about how your day is going, maybe that’s a start!
With gratitude to my teacher who first taught me this chant and continues to help me explore the depths of its meanings.
Victoria Jackson lives and teaches in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance Professionals as a vinyasa yoga teacher. Read more of Victoria’s OM Lite columns.
Save 25% by subscribing to OM Yoga & Lifestyle.