ओं शन्नो देवीरभिष्टये
आपो भवन्तु पीतये
शंयोरभि स्रवन्तु नः
OM shanno deviirabhistaye
aapo bhavantu piitaye
shañyorabhi sravantu naha
O God! O Illuminator of All! Grace us with the fulfillment of our proper end. May we drink the life-giving waters. May they always flow to us in peace.
Achamana begins with praising God as the Illuminator of All. In this, we thank Him not only for the wonderful gift of light which makes it possible for us to see the objects of this manifold universe, but also for the even more wondrous gift of intelligence, the ‘light of the soul’, by means of which we comprehend our existence. Without this light, our lives would be bereft of meaning. We therefore thank God for this most wonderful gift by acknowledging His Infinite Beneficence in bestowing it upon us.
The proper end of man is the realization of the four Purusharthas, namely:
- Righteousness (Dharma)
- Wealth (Artha)
- Pleasure (Kaama)
- Salvation (Moksha)
The attainment of these four virtues constitutes the purpose of our existence on this earth. Yet, these virtues can only be had through the knowledge of God’s Omnipresence. This is the prerequisite for true virtue, and once we have thoroughly integrated this knowledge into our personality, virtue will flow to us unhindered.
Therefore, when we pray that God may grace us with the fulfillment of our proper end, we are ultimately praying for a more perfect knowledge of His Omnipresence. And, in fact, this is the true purpose of the entire process of Sandhya leading up to Upaasanaa: to make one acutely aware the all-pervading and ubiquitous presence of God.
After reciting the Achamana mantra, the devotee sips water from his right hand three times. Sipping water serves three primary functions in the performance of Achamana.
The first is to cool the throat and clear it of any physical impurities such as dust or phlegm. This helps prepare the vocal mechanism for the work of reciting the Sandhya mantras clearly.
The second function is to awaken the vital powers of the human organism, driving away lethargy and drowsiness. This is important as the mantras must be recited with vitality to ensure that the vibratory energy they represent is properly manifested.
The third function is to remind us of our dependence upon the Grace of God for our survival. Without water, which is His Gift to us, we would surely perish and thus be unable to attain our proper end in life. We are here reminded of this fact, and this helps to put us in the proper state of mind conducive to successful meditation.
Therefore, the act of sipping water serves to initiate the preparatory work of uniting and harmonizing the physical, vital and mental aspects of man as undertaken through Sandhya, preparing him for the supremely spiritual experience of Upaasanaa.