Since our childhood we have heard it at home, in temples, in functions, in pujas and now even in ring tones. Many of us chant it every day and once a year there is a specific day when we chant it 1008 times. We are introduced to it at the time of our sacred thread ceremony and maybe they explain the meaning then – but most of us don’t recollect what it means.
I recently read a book by Sri M – Jewel in the Lotus – Deeper aspects of Hinduism, an excellent read that had a chapter devoted to explaining the Gayatri Mantra. It was simple, easy to understand and I wanted to share this with a larger audience. I am summarising key parts from that chapter here – but I would urge you to read the book for deeper insights.
Aum Bhur Bhuvah Suvah
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonah Prajodayat
The Gayatri Mantra is one of the most ancient mantras of this country. It is said that whoever sings (or chants) it is protected. It deals with the relationship between man & universe as well as the Reality between both – it is concerned with the process of Self Realisation.
A hymn from the Rigveda – it is addressed to Savita – the Sun, but its tutelary deity is Gayatri. Gayatri is the female counterpart of the Trinity or more appropriately their consorts – Saraswati, Lakshmi & Kali representing learning, wealth and protection. They are individually prayed to for worldly personal boons while Gayatri is invoked to give us the “buddhi” to understand our true nature, knowing which we have everything. The divine light of Savita helps us free ourselves from bondage so that the power of Gayatri envelops us. The Gayatri Mantra is unique – its the only mantra which is a combination of a prayer and a mantra – it combines the inherent power of the sound of a mantra with the power of the prayer.
Gayatri Mantra & The Power of Discrimination
Caught up in our everyday life we need clear and sharp perception to comprehend the deeper significance of our mundane facts and problems. Intellect or reason is often not enough to provide clarity, man suffers from lack of discrimination. The power of Discrimination according to Vedanta is only possible when a faculty higher than intellect is used. That faculty is “Buddhi” – which can be loosely defined as intuition tempered with intellect. And Gayatri is the mode to reach this source of discrimination or “Viveka“
What is Gayatri
Gayatri is a particular form of Sanskrit Shloka written in what is known as a gayatri meter. The Gayatri meter consists of 24 syllables (aksharas) evenly distributed in three padas (feet). There are other mantras using the gayatri metre but the Gayatri Mantra by virtue of its universal appeal has appropriated for itself the name of the meter, so that any mention of this meter evokes the words of the mantra. Each foot of the Gayatri represents the Rig, Yajur and Sama Vedas – so its said in the Scriptures that the Gayatri Mantra is the mother of all the Vedas.
Rough literal interpretation
“We contemplate upon the Originator or Source of everything, that adorable effulgent Divinity, and pray that our intelligence may be illuminated and stimulated, so that we would be enabled to understand the Absolute Truth“
There is one word in this mantra which sets it apart from all other mantras. It is the word “dheemahi“. It means either ” We meditate upon” or ” May we meditate upon” – whatever meaning we select – an assertion or a prayer – the important aspect is the plural form of the word. And this has great significance. The plural implies that the prayer is for the benefit for all though the aspirant is seeking the development of spiritual consciousness. It is this transcendence over a desire for narrow personal benefit that imbues the Gayatri Mantra with its great power.
Simple and powerful , chanting it ten times a day does not take even a few minutes and if it helps you in getting the rare power to illuminate your intelligence and develop your power of perception and discrimination , enhance your clarity – then its worth a try , there is nothing to lose but a lot to gain. So try doing it every day after your morning bath , facing the sun from your balcony or garden and get charged with positive energy