A Hindu Prayer for Everyone: Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah

A Hindu Prayer for Everyone: Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah September 24, 2015

The sad news about Swami Dayananda Saraswati – a Hindu leader whose loss will be mourned by millions around the world – came around the time I sat down to write about the Global Goals initiative at One. I was invited to join a circle of faith leaders at Patheos to champion the goals through the practices and teachings of my faith, Hinduism, with a Prayer for Everyone. I felt like it was a sign: Swamiji (“ji” is an honorific appended to a name or title, to convey respect) is well-known for his teachings on Vedanta and Hindu dharma. I had been re-reading his teachings on helplessness and seeking help, which explain the power of prayer:

The basis for any form of prayer is the acknowledgement of our helplessness and then seeking help. Prayer is born naturally when I realize my helplessness and recognize the source of all power, all knowledge. If both of these are acknowledged, prayer is very natural. If everything is in order I need not pray. All prayers have their fulfillment in keeping everything in order….When I need help, [in a situation when another person cannot help me], I have to go to the source from where such help is possible. That source is the Lord whom I can invoke through prayer.

I had been feeling rather down about Detroit’s water problems, given the lack of visibility to the problems of the city’s marginalized populations. Current headlines are mostly from faith groups, even though the UN had talked about the water shutoffs being a human rights issue nearly a year ago.  And I wondered how many of my neighbors in the suburbs are either unaware or undisturbed by our region’s inequities.  But Swami ji’s words reminded me that helplessness can be replaced by humility before the Divine, and also gave me purpose, with the invitation to champion the goals: “Our efforts can gain a direction. We can pray.”

A Hindu prayer can come in many languages and be addressed to many forms of the Divine, or not addressed to a deity at all. One of the key aspects of Hindu prayers is that they end with an invocation of shanti or peace – said not once, but three times, referring to the adhyatmika, adhibhautika and adidaivika, or peace in the context of the individual, the surroundings and spiritual plane. But it is the prayer that is said at the end of satsang, or congregational prayers at my local temple, which I wrote about for one.org in the context of World Malaria Day, that I find most relevant when praying for these Global Goals:

Sarve bhavantu sukhinah;
Sarve santu niramayah;
Sarve bhadraani pasyantu;
Maa kaschit duhkhabhaag bhavet,
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
May all be happy;
May all be without disease;
May all enjoy prosperity;
May none suffer any misery.
Om Peace Peace Peace.


This simple verse from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad – something that has been chanted for more than two thousand years, echoes the hope of the Global Goals. On September 25th 2015, 193 world leaders will commit to 17 Global Goals to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years.

End extreme poverty. Fight inequality & injustice. Fix climate change.

Global Goals
Global Goals

The Global Goals for sustainable development could get these things done. In all countries. For all people. Offer your #PrayerforEveryone and Tell Everyone about the world you hope to see in 2030. Pray and also put your faith in action: Commit to knowing more about these Global Goals: as Swamiji said, “You cannot manage a situation unless you know exactly what is happening.” Share what you learn, and celebrate that the whole world is one family: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (a common Sanskrit expression Hindus use). And with the many Prayers for Everyone, may we also have Peace for Everyone.

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