The Ultimate Vedic Prayer – Gayatri Mantra
What is a Gayatri mantra, It is a jewel among the treasures that is handed down from generation to generation. To be initiated into this sacred mantra is a great privilege. The sound or even the thought of the Gayatri’s verse sets grace in action. Those who are called by her are initiated into her power by the Master.
The Gayatri Mantra is first recorded in the Rig Veda (iii, 62, 10) which was written in Sanskrit about 2500 to 3500 years ago, and by some reports, the mantra may have been chanted for many generations before that. Gayatri Mantra is a highly revered mantra in Hinduism, second only to the mantra Om. Since all the other three Vedas contain much material rearranged from the Rig Veda, the Gayatri mantra is found in all the four Vedas. The deva invoked in this mantra is Savitr, and hence the mantra is also called Savitri.
Gayatri Devi the Goddess
Originally the personification of the mantra, the goddess Gāyatrī is considered the veda mata, the mother of all Vedas and the consort of the God Brahma and also the personification of the all-pervading Parabrahman, the ultimate unchanging reality that lies behind all phenomena. Gayatri Veda Mata is seen by many Hindus to be not just a Goddess, but a portrayal of Brahman himself, in the feminine form. Essentially, the Goddess is seen to combine all the phenomenal attributes of Brahman, including Past, Present and Future as well as the three realms of existence. Goddess Gāyatrī is also worshiped as the Hindu Trimurti combined as one. In Hinduism, there is only one creation who can withstand the brilliance of Aditya and that is Gāyatrī. Some also consider her to be the mother of all Gods and the culmination of Lakshmi, Parvati and Sarasvati.
Gāyatrī is typically portrayed as seated on a red lotus, signifying wealth. She appears in either of these forms:
* Having five heads with the ten eyes looking in the eight directions plus the earth and sky, and ten arms holding all the weapons of Vishnu, symbolizing all her reincarnations.
* Accompanied by a white swan, holding a book to portray knowledge in one hand and a cure in the other, as the goddess of Education.
Tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasva dhimahi.
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat
‘Gayatri Mantra’, the ultimate Vedic prayer to awaken the intellectual powers of a person, first found its reference in the ‘Vedas’ believed to be the storehouse of all Divine Knowledge and the most ancient scriptures known to mankind. The universal prayer is addressed to the Sun God, addressed as ‘Savitha’ as the Life-Giver on Earth. Goddess Gayatri or Annapurna is believed to be the Mother-God that animates all Life. Considered to be the essence of the Vedas, Gayatri Mantra fosters and hones the knowledge-yielding faculty of a person. The four ‘mahavakyas’ or ultimate sentences of Gayatri Mantra, is a sacred mantra that demonstrates the unity that underlies multiplicity and manifoldness in creation.
The essence of the Mantra can be stated as follows – ‘Oh God! Thou art the Giver of Life, Remover of pain and sorrow, The Bestower of happiness, Oh! Creator of the Universe, May we receive thy supreme sin-destroying light, May Thou guide our intellect in the right direction.’
The individual words and characters of the Mantra have a meaning of their own than can be defined as follows:
|Om:||The primeval sound that represents Brahma,|
|Bhur:||The physical world that embodies the vital spiritual energy or ‘Pran’,|
|Bhuvah:||The mental world and destroyer of all sufferings,|
|Swaha:||The celestial and spiritual world that embodies appiness,|
|Tat:||That or God, referring to transcendental Paramatma (Ultimate Spirit),|
|Savithur:||The Bright Sun or the Creator and Preserver of World,|
|Varenyam:||Best or most adorable,|
|Bhargo:||Destroyer of all sins,|
|Devasya:||Divine Deity or Supreme Lord,|
|Dheemahi:||We meditate upon and take in,|
|Prachodayath:||Inspire or Enlighten.|
Thus, the Gayatri Mantra can be translated as follows:
We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who has created the Universe;
Who is worthy of Worship;
Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light;
Who is the remover of all Sin and Ignorance;
May He enlighten our Intellect.
Thus, we can say that Gayatri Mantra basically consists of three parts:
2. Meditation, and
While chanting the mantra, we first praise the God or the Divine Power, meditate upon it in all reverence and then finally pray or make an appeal to the God awaken and strengthen the intellectual powers of a person. The Mantra is said to be the embodiment of all deities and is certainly not associated with any particular religion or sect, time, place or person. While Om, Bhuh, Bhuvah, Swaha, Thath, Savithur, Varenyam, Bhargo and Devasya are said to be its nine colors or praise of the Divine, Dheemahi is related to meditation and Dhiyo, Yo, Nah and Prachodayaath are said to be the parts of the prayer aspects of the mantra.
‘Gayatri’ is not actually the Goddess, which sounds surprising but she is held in equal reverence because she is the mother of the Vedas or Divine Knowledge. The other two forms of Gayatri are Savitri and Saraswathi and these three are said to be present in everyone, in which – Gayatri is said to be the one to control the senses of a person, Savitri controls the Prana or the Life Force of a person and Saraswathi controls Speech of a person. Thus, the three together represent the purity in thought, word, and deed. In the same order, Gayatri is said to enhance one’s intelligence and intuition by recitation of the mantra, Savitri is said to protect the life forces and Saraswati is said to guard one’s speech.
The deity Gayatri is said to be ‘Panchamukhi’ (having five faces). These five faces are actually the five senses guarded by her or alternatively, five ‘pranas’ of life forces protected by her as Savitri. The concept of Savitri being the deity to control life forces stems from the legend that Savitri was the devoted wife who was so pure and loved her husband so much that she succeeded in bringing her husband back to life by forcing Yama, the God of Death, to return his ‘Prana’ or Life Force. It is said that Gayatri Mantra acts as a third eye of a person that opens up a whole new world of spiritual realization and attaining Brahma.
It is said to have power to protect one from any possible harm. Even the science-minded Westerners have found that the correct recitation of Gayatri Mantra in the right accent as described in the Vedas produce certain vibrations that make the surrounding atmosphere visibly illumined, which is described as the ‘Brahmaprakasha’ or Effulgence of the Divine by more staunch believers. As prescribed by the Vedas, Gayatri mantra must be chanted at least three times a day during morning while taking bath, noon before eating lunch and evening at the time of sunset to cancel out all the sins that one may have done all through the day unknowingly. However, it is best to recite Gayatri period during the ‘Satwik’ or ‘pure and serene’ period during the day from 4 am to 8 am and 4 pm to 8 pm. The Gayatri Mantra should be recited while meditating upon the fact that everything is within oneself and thus, we should keep and develop confidence in the Self.
The Use of Mantra
Sri Aurobindo, in Hymns to the Mystic Fire, wrote:
“We have to invoke the gods by the inner sacrifice, and by the word call them unto us – that is the specific power of the Mantra, – to offer to them the gifts of the sacrifice and by that giving secure their gifts, so that by this process we may build the way of our ascent to the goal… We give what we are and what we have in order that the riches of the Divine Truth and Light may descend into our life.”
In his book Sâdhanâ, Srî Swâmi Shivânanda wrote:
“Of all the mantras, the supreme and the most potent power of powers is the great, glorious Gâyatrî Mantra.
It is the support of every seeker after Truth who believes in its efficacy, power and glory, be he of any caste, creed, clime or sect. It is only one’s faith and purity of heart that really count. Indeed, Gâyatrî is an impregnable spiritual armor, a veritable fortress, that guards and protects its votary, that transforms him into the divine, and blesses him with the brilliant light of the highest spiritual illumination.
… It is universally applicable, for it is nothing but an earnest prayer for Light, addressed to the Supreme Almighty Spirit.
… This single mantra, repeated sincerely and with clear conscience, brings the supreme good.”