THE GAYATRI MANTRA:THE MANTRA OF MANTRA
The gayatri mantra is the most popular Vedic hymn. It is tenth mantra in the 62nd sutra of the third mandal in Rig Veda. Gayatri Chhand is a poetic metre consisting of 24 syllables (letters), three lines of eight syllables each. Any hymn composed in this meter is called gayatri. The meter though originally contained in Rig-Veda is also found in other Vedas.(cf. Yajurveda-22/9, 30/2,36/3;Samveda 1462). The Gayatri Mantra has four feet: The first foot consists of the earth, sky and Heaven, the second foot, the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Sama Veda and the third foot, prana, apana and vyana. The fourth foot consists of the Sun, the solar being. The Gayatri Mantra was first revealed to the Rishi Vishwamitra who was the very embodiment of all tapas and cosmo-ascetic forces and his mantras are endowed withthe power of light, energy,life, and transformation.
Most important and sacred duty of man is to remember God for all the bounties he has bestowed on all beings. Vedic prayers are hymns and are known as mantras. Apart from being a prayer-mantra the Gayatri Mantra is a beej mantra or seed syllable, derived from ancient primeval sounds.
All Vedic prayers have emerged from Om, which is synonymous with Brahma, and have ‘Om’ as prefix. ‘‘Om is a primeval sound. Exhaustive exposition of this mystic word has been given in the Mandukya Upanishad. ‘‘The word Om is this, that was in the past and all that would be in future. that which is beyond all this is also AUM’’. Om represents all physical and astral bodies, both manifested and unmanifested, from the external-most physical to the internal-most spiritual on four cosmic planes’’.
The mantra ,originally conceived is the worship of lord hari, of aditya or the sun and also pure nirguna worship of brahma, the all-creating principle. Japa or chanting of this mantra with concentration and understanding, bestows inexplicable inner peace, calm of mind and solace from triple affliction.It destroys the birth and death cycle and all the sins. Japa of this Mantra has the potential to unite the soul with the Supreme Being. it has miraculous powers which can infuse us with courage and strength to whether any storm and brave any adversity in life.
Lord krishna says in the bhagavad gita, ‘‘amongst the Mantras I am Gayatri’’. As Savitri or Sun Mantra, it is addressed to the divine power in the sun. The svetasvatara upanishad says, ‘‘the one affluent divinity is hidden in all beings. He is all- pervading and is the inner-self of all creatures. He presides over all actions and all beings reside in him. He is the inner-witness. He endows all with consciousness and He is Nirguna or free from the three Gunas’’.
However, the Rig Veda has defined this Mantra from a different angle. ‘‘The illumined sages like surayah constantly see that infinite all-pervading supreme reality vishnu without any obstruction as though their vast intuitive eye or vision was spread over the spiritual sky’’.
Gayatri is a spiritual Power which protects one who chants it, and blesses him with brilliant light of the highest spiritual illumination. Japa of the gayatri mantra ushers in the realisation of the divinity of the self.
Meaning of Gayatri
The word gayatri is drived from gaya, that which is sung, given in praise, and trayate that which preserves/protects/ gives deliverance/grants liberation. The word gaya also stands for vital energies. Thus, gayatri connotes a prayer of praise that awakens the vital energies in man and grants liberation. The mantra is said to have been revealed to sage Vishwamitra. The Vedic name of this Mantra is Savitri, as the hymn is addressed to Savitur (the sun) and that the word gayatri is nowhere mentioned in the body of the mantra.
Savitur stands for bright, luminous, sun like illumining inner power that leads to self-realization. Thus, through Savitur the prayer is addressed to the Light of lights which resides in the inner most sheath of golden hue (hiranmaye pare ko`se virajam brahma nishkalam, tachubhram jyotisam jyotih -tad yadatma- vido viduh – Mundak-II-2-9).
The mantra has three aspects: praise, meditation, and prayer. The mantra hails the bestower of happiness, knowledge and light. It contemplates upon the glory of the lord who is the remover of darkness, of ignorance, pains, and of sorrows. It finally prays to the lord of light, the most adorable One,to shine forth its resplendent light and stimulate our intellect, illuminate our inner self and dispel our ignorance.
The first line of the Gayatri Mantra (Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah) is an invocation.
AUM , the Supreme name of God.
BHUR BHUVAH SWAH. The three words collectively are known as the “Mahavyahriti”. They express the nature of God, and highlight His inherent qualities.
Word to Word Meaning
The word to word meaning of the Gayatri Mantra is as follows: Tat=That;
Savitur=Bright, effulgent,luminous like sun;
Varenyam=The choicest, the most adorable One, worthy to be worshipped and sought, the most venerable Being;
Bhargo= Destroyer of sins and afflictions, or gloried radiance, effulgence, splendour (that Light which bestows and sharpens intelligence);
Devasya= Of the shining divinity ;
Dheemahi=Meditate upon,on Whom we fix our whole attention;
Dheeyo=Intellect, intuition, power of inseeing,understanding of reality ;
Yo=He who,or the one who;
Na=Our, of us;
Prachodayat =May inspire, stimulate, sharpen, energise, direct, guide, reveal, unfold His Divine and Glorious Light.
Thus the literal meaning of the Mantra is: ” We meditate upon (dheemahi) the splendour or the glory (bhargo) of the most adorable or acceptable One (varenyam) Supreme-Divine- Being (devasya) from which Savitur (the centre of light) is born, Who (yo) may stimulate or sharpen (prachdayat) our (na) intellect or illumine our inner self (dheeyo)”
A basic enunciation of the mantra can be given as under:
Oh God, the Lord Protector,the Self-emanating Effulgence, the basis of all life, Who is self-existent Light of Light, Whose contact frees the soul from all sorrows and afflictions, Whose power all-creating pervades and sustains all beings and things, Who is the Energizer-Supreme of the whole Universe, the Giver of life and happiness, Who is worthy of acceptance and worship, the most excellent Sovereign Divine Being , Who is Pure and the Purifier of all, let us adore and embrace that very God,so that He may direct our mental faculties in the right direction and guide us out of the mazes of the world into the tranquility and peace of God Himself, the source-supreme of all Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss.
The Four Parts of the Gayatri Mantra
Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah
The Supreme name of God. AUM is the naad Brahman (primeval sound) emanating from the Creator Supreme at the time of creation.
BHUR BHUVAH SWAH
These three words Bhur, Bhuvah Suvah collectively are known as the “Mahavyahriti”. They express the nature of God, and demonstrate his inherent qualities.
They represent the earth (matter), atmosphere and the space as symbols of gross, subtle and casual or sat, chit, annanda (truth, beauty bliss ). In the context of human body, from feet to the navel center is bhur (the earth), from navel to throat centre is bhuva (the atmosphere), and from above the throat to mind (braham randhra) is svaha (the space).
Enveloped by aakaas (the space),Rishis have envisioned seven realms (lokas) of existence viz:
(1) bhu=earth, the physical realm, the realm of being or food (matter);
(2 )bhuvah=atmosphere, the vital plane, the realm of becoming or prana (breath);
(3) suvah= space or heaven, the mental plane, the realm of light or illumination;
(4) maha=cosmic mind, the realm of dharma;
(5) janah=bliss, the realm of creation and creativity;
(6) tapah=force or penance, the realm of consciousness;and (7) satyam=truth, the realm of absolute reality.
The word Bhur implies God is self-existent and independent of all. He is eternal and unchanging. He is without beginning and without end, the word Bhur can also mean the Earth as mother, on which we are born and who sustains all.
Bhur also means God is the provider and protector of all, by His divine will we all are blessed with all means to maintain us through our lives.
Bhur also signifies Prana, or life (literally, breath).It implies God is the life giver. He is the One Who maintains us throughout our lives. God alone has the power to take away our life, when He so chooses. He is the only permanent enduring entity, all others are subject to His Will.
Bhuvah describes the absolute Consciousness of God, the Power all-controlling That govern the Universe.
Also, the word Bhuvah denotes God’s greatness – greater than the sky and space, indeed everything in the celestial and temporal world. God is boundless and unlimited.
Bhuvah also points to God’s role as the remover of all pain and sufferings (Apaana), what man is heir to and what surrounds him. We can be freed from that pain and hardship by God Who Himself is devoid of any pain. It is our own ignorance that makes us susceptible to the effects of Maya, or illusion, which is the root cause of all affliction and pain. Only true devotion to God frees us from the clutches of Maya, and thus rids us of all
pain and sorrow.
The word Swah indicates God is omnipresent and pervades the entire Universe.Without Form Himself, He is able to manifest Himself in in the entire creation.He sustains the Universe created by Him, and thus ensures its smooth and proper running and functioning.
Also, Swah symbolizes God’s bliss.He is above all pain, suffering and troubles. While happiness as experienced by humans is temporary and a transient state of mental satisfaction, which soon dissolves back into the mire of worldly afflictions, God alone experiences true bliss, permanent and unaffected by worldly woes. True happiness falls to the lot of those who establish oneness with that Supreme Divinity.
TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
Literally, this word(TAT) means”that”. Sri Krishna uses it to imply the selfless nature of Yajna or charity being used as r worship, in the form of action, implying that all action should be preformed without regard to its fruits, but simply out of devotion and sense of duty, or Dharma.
Tat then is used here in the Mantra to indicate that the praise being offered to God in the prayer is purely directed towards Him, without any thought of personal gain from that praise.
Savita, from which Savitur is derived, is another name of God, this being the reason that the Gayatri Mantra is often known as the Savitri Mantra. The implication of Savita is of God’s status as the fountain, the source of all things. It is through His Divine Grace that the Universe exists.So this word sums up the Mahavyahriti, by describing God’s ability to create the Universe and sustain it, as well as, at the right time, bring about its dissolution.
Savita is also indicative of God’s gift to mankind in the form of power, or shakti, of savita which acts as an impetus in humans to do something or to constantly search and strive for something to do, what is commonly called the “creative urge” in man.
It is through this shakti that mankind has created art, and literature, and also made scientific advances .
Savita also gives creatures the ability of procreation. Hence, Savita can be thought of as denoting Father (or Mother) also.
Finally, it is the discerning power of Savita that enables mankind to distinguish right from wrong, and virtue from vice. Thus, Savita imparts to us a certain self-guiding ability to uplift ourselves and help ourselves to be our highest selves.
Varenyam signifies our acceptance of God as the Highest reality, and it is to Him that we dedicate our efforts rather than to material worldly pursuits.
Varenyam can also be interpreted to mean as the one
who is the most eligible or fit to be our Leader and our Guide. We surrender ourselves to Him out of sheer devotion regardless of anything else. We place no conditions on this acceptance.
BHARGO DEVASYA DHIMAHI
These three words are a further description of the attributes and qualities of God. They indicate His functional and instrumental qualities, and through those qualities, His relationship to us.
Bhargo connotes the light (devasya) of the divine being, dheemahi on whom we should meditate as the available form of light onto light of suns, to discover the formless Creator (God).
Bhargo also refers to That Glorious Light embodied in God’s love and power. It signifies His complete purity and by virtue of His power to purify, and to destroy all sins and afflictions. By realizing His Divine Form and experience of unity and oneness with Him, we can cleanse ourselves of all stains of sin and be made pure by His Grace. This way we can regain our lost divinity, our soul’s lost radiance and luster. By removing the veil of Maya, we can cleanse our soul, and realize our true Divine self.
The word Deva, from which this word is derived, means “quality” or “attribute”, and can denote another word for “Guna”. Thus, the various forms of God are given this name, as each of those forms points to a specific quality and function (for example, Brahma has the quality of Creation, Shiva the quality of dissolution, Kamadeva has the quality of carnal love, etc.). Deva is thus anyone who is considered to possess a special quality or guna.
Deva can also be taken as describing the fundamental unity of God, describing in one word all the functions, roles and different attributes of God, and thus symbolizing his absolutely essential nature ,that is, without God, nothing can exist. He is all-creating Power.
Means to meditate and fix our mind on God. Meditation on God implies that we concentrate, and direct our mental energies towards the cherished object of all human quest, that is,
communion with God.
Prayer is primarily aimed at:
praising and glorifying God;
thanksgiving to God;
asking forgiveness from God;
or asking a boon from God.
Having offered praise to God on His greatness, thanking Him for His generosity in Creation and maintaining all the created forms and asking forgiveness for our impurity and sins, which we have realized can and must be cleansed through our communion with God, we now proceed to beseech His guidance to show us the way. Since our soul is the Light of Life within us, of course inherently pure, being itself Divine in nature, through these four words we ask God to help us to refine and sharpen our intellect, and guide it towards what is right.
Sanskrit word stands for “intellect”. It is by use of this intellect that we are able to cultivate all other qualities (power, wealth, success in life, physical fitness, personal and collective wellbeing etc. Thus, intellect is the key to all else in life. We ask God to invest us with the highest intellect, and show us the way to use that intellect in the best possible manner both for personal and collective wellbeing and prosperity.
Material prosperity has little meaning for the person who is truly devoted to God. Pain and suffering can touch him not, since he is imbued with God’s own Divine Bliss. Thus, ones intellect must remain focussed on communing with and serving God.
Means “Who” or “That”.
Yo points to the fact that we direct these prayers, but to God alone. Only God is worthy of the highest adoration andworship. God alone is perfect and free from all taints. It is That all-loving God, the Light all-pervading, to Whom we offer these prayers.
Nah signifies the selflessness of the request, that is, we offer this prayer not simply for ourselves, but for the whole mankind. We wish for the wellbeing of the whole human family, true to the Hindu ideal of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – “The whole world is one big family”. Thus, our prayer embraces not only ourselves, but one and all inhabiting the universe.
The word Prachodayat rounds off the whole mantra. Here we invoke God for His Guidance, and Inspiration. We beseech Him to show us His Divine and Glorious Light (cf. BHARGO).We ask Him to remove the darkness of Maya from our paths ,to let us see the way .We crave that He guide us through the mazes of this world, to the haven of tranquility and peace, where dwells God Himself, the root of all Happiness, and the source of true Bliss.
Significance of the mantra
The Gayatri Mantra invokes the Sun, which in turn invokes the Self, the Atman, the Light of Life within. The Atman is the illuminator of reason, intelligence, perceptions, emotions, thoughts and purposes, just as the Sun is the illuminator of the entire world.
The Gayatri Mantra is an appeal by the seeker to the divine Sun inhering within everyone’s being to emerge out of the cloud of sensate desires and shine forth its resplendent light. The greatness of the Gayatri Mantra lies in its power of prayer and mantric power. It offers a guide to the unfoldment of the spiritual potentialities as well as man’s ultimate transformation.
The Gayatri mantra occupies a hallowed place in ancient Indian culture. Its importance is quite evident in branches like Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda and Vedic Astrology. In Yoga, it helps awaken the Kundalini force. In Vedanta, it grants the light of Self-knowledge and knowledge of the solar Self. In Ayurveda, it enlivens the power of the cosmic prana whose source is the sun. In Jyotir Vigian (Vedic astrology), it provides knowledge of the movements of all the heavenly bodies ruled by the sun.
Thus the Gayatri Mantra ,the mother of all the mantras, is a boon to the sincere seeker and it confers upon him the Light of the Infinite, the Bliss of the Eternal and the Life Divine of the Immortals.