I thought it meant Om peace, peace, peace and that was it. I thought the phrase was a persistent request emphasized by repetition.
Then I asked, "why do we say peace three times?"
According to Richard Freeman each shanti is referring to a different kind of suffering (klesha in sanskrit). By saying peace three times, we bring our awareness and attention to each of the sources of suffering. Awareness and attention is the first step to liberation.
1. The first suffering comes from me or I. You know the self-inflicted stuff like dread, worry, and bad habits.
2. The second suffering comes from others. Suffering caused by mosquitoes, friends, and relatives to name a few.
3. The thirds suffering comes from “the Gods”. This suffering is incomprehensible; it has no cause and makes no sense. If we were to look at our ecosystem, the third suffering results from things like weather, earthquakes, fires, and famine. Suffering from the Gods is a suffering we collectively share.
Yoga philosophy says suffering is inevitable but our practice can show us a way out.
The next time you chant Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, remember to visualize the I, the other, and the Gods as you utter each word.
Doing this refines your practice; it adds specificity and focus. This clarity will help you to live a life filled with peace, peace, and peace.