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Shree Raam - Gayatri Dhaam
Kharesar Dhaam, Kanpur, UP, India

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My Pilgrimage to Gayatri Mantra-1
By Dr Manohar Abhay [Feb 12, 2006]

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The death of my mother is one of the most shocking experiences I have ever had. Only three days back, I had come back to Mumbai after staying with her for about a fortnight. Though weak and feeble, due to age, she was responding to the treatment and her condition was stable. The news of her sad demise left me totally still. Heavily shivering and perspiring, I was crying like an infant. Even at the cremation ground, I was inconsolable amidst hundreds of friends and relatives who had gathered to console us. Suddenly, I was reminded of the Mantra which I have been chanting over the years. My recitation of the Mantra was uninterrupted. I don't know how long it continued, but it gave me miraculous strength to bear the grief. As if I was treading in tranquility. My thirst started subsiding, in spite of the fact that it was hot summer and I had not taken a single drop of water for more than twenty-four hours.

My Exposure

I was exposed to Gayatri Mantra at the age of 12. It is said to be the mother of Vedas. The Manu Smriti equates it with the Mouth of God (see MS 2/81). The other day, when I was chanting the Mantra, I was reminded of the story of Ushasti Chakrayana given in Chhaandogyopnishad. The essence of the story is that one should know the meaning of the Mantras before the chanting for invoking deities. (taam Cheda vidvaanudgaasyasi murdha te vipatisyatii -Chhaandogya IV-i.10). This took me to a pleasant sojourn to get an insight into the meaning of the Mantra.

Gayatri in the Vedas

The Gayatri Mantra is one of the most popular Vaidik hymns. It is a poetic meter (Rig-Ved, the tenth Mantra in the 62nd Sutra of the third Mandal). The meter consists of 24 syllables (letters), three lines of eight syllables each. Any hymn composed in this meter is called Gayatri. The meter is also found in other Vedas though originally contained in Rig-Veda. (see Yajur Veda - 22-9, 30-2, 36-3; Saam Veda 1462)

Meaning of Gayatri

The word Gayatri is derived from Gaayantam-traayate (Gaayat+tra +ka +yangip); Gaya that which is sung, given in praise, Trayate (root trai ) that which preserves/ protects/ gives deliverance/grants liberation. The Gayatri, therefore, means that which is adoration or praise of that which protects/ preserves/ grants liberation. Here -that- stands for the Mantra or the song. The word Gaya also stands for vital energies. Thus, Gaayatree may be deemed as a prayer of praise that awakens the vital energies and grants liberation. The Mantra is said to have been composed and developed by sage Vishwamitra. Its Vaidik name is Savitri, as the hymn is addressed to Savitur (the sun). Nowhere the word Gayatri is mentioned in the body of the Mantra. Savitur stands for bright, luminous, Sun like inner power of spiritual light or the one that brings to self-realization. Thus, through Savitur the prayer is addressed to the light of lights which exists in the inner most sheath of golden hue without stain and without parts (hiranmaye pare ko se virajam brahma niShkalam, tachubhram jyotisam jyotih -tad yadatma- vido viduh - Mundak-II-2-9).

Three Dimensions

The Mantra has three dimensions: praise, meditation, and prayer. The praise is of the bestower of happiness, the embodiment of knowledge and light. The meditation is of the glory of the lord who is the remover of darkness, of ignorance, pains, and of sorrows. The prayer finally is to the lord of light, the most adorable, worthy of our solicitation and respect, to reflect light so that our intellect is sharpened and all our ignorance is destroyed.

Original Mantra

The Mantra originally contained in Rig-Veda, having 24 syllables, reads as:
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhurgo Devasya Dheemahi
Dheeyo Yo Na Prachodayat

Word to Word Meaning

The word to word meaning of the original mantra is as follows:
Savitur=Bright, luminous like sun;
Varenyam=Best, choicest, the excellent one, most adorable, fit to be worshipped, worthy of being sought, venerable;
Bhargo= Destroyer of sins, or glory, radiance, effulgence, splendor (that light w hich bestows intelligence);
Devasya= Of the deity or divine ;
Dheemahi=Meditate upon;
Dheeyo=Intellect, noble thoughts, intuition, understanding of reality;
Yo=He who, the one who;
Na=Our, of us;
Prachodayat=May inspire, stimulate, sharpen, direct, guide, unfold or he who energizes.

The literal meaning of the Mantra is: 
"We meditate upon (dheemahi) 
the splendor or the glory (bhargo) 
of the most adorable (varenyam) 
Supreme-Divine- Being (devasya) 
from which Savitur (the center of light) is born. 
Who (yo) 
may stimulate or sharpen (prachodayat) 
our (na) 
intellect (dheeyo)"

Use of Pre-fix

Before each offering in sacrifice (yaj~na) or before commencing any spiritual ceremony, as part of invocation, all Mantras are chanted with the pre-fix: Aum Bhur Bhuvaha Svah, as per practice described in Yajur Veda. Therefore, the Savitri or the Gayatri Mantra, as it is popularly known, is also chanted with the pre-fix of seven syllables of Aum, Bhur, Bhuvah, Svah . Here AUM is the Naad Brahman (primeval sound) emanating from the Supreme at the time of creation. The remaining three words of Bhur, Bhuvah Suvah represent the earth (matter), atmosphere and the space as symbols of gross, subtle and casual or Sat, Chit Aananda (truth, beauty and bliss ). In the context of human body, these represent the three important parts of the 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 Randh) is Svaha (the space). Enveloped by Aakaash (the space), there are 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 illumination; (4) Maha=cosmic mind, the realm of dharma; (5) janah=bliss, the realm of creation; (6) Tapah=force, the realm of consciousness; (7) Satyam=truth, the realm of absolute reality.

Meaning With the Use of Pre-Fix

With the pre-fix of four words, the Mantra is comprised of four parts (1) Aum, Bhur Bhuvah, Suvah, (2) Tat Savitur Veranyam, (3) Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi, (4) Dheeyo Yo Nah Prachodayat. By chanting the first part, one contemplates, to invoke certain powers, on the glory of the light that illumines the three worlds namely; earth, atmosphere and space or the gross, subtle and casual or the three realms of waking, dreaming, and sleep or the three part s of the body (from feet to navel, navel to throat, throat to mind). This prepares the ground for effective functioning of the second, third and the fourth part o f the mantra. This is also an invocation to pay reverence to the planes of our existence (the planes of our ordinary life- the physical, astral and mental) and to invite their presiding deities to support and help us.

These three parts are in praise of the glory, the splendor that flows from the light. It is an invocation to Savitur (the centre of light) for granting more light. Indirectly, it is the Supreme-Conscious- Being within the cosmic sun or light of lights, the creator of all forces, which is praised here. Taking together all the four important parts of the Mantra, its meaning reads as follows:

We meditate (Dheemahi) on the spiritual effulgence or glory (Bhargo) of that adorable supreme divine reality (Varenyam Devasya), the source or projector (Savitur) of the three phenomenal realms of the gross (Bhur), the subtle or the psychical (Bhuvah) and the potential or casual (Svah). May that (tat) Supreme-Divine-Being stimulate (Prachdayat) our (Na) intellect (Dheeo).

Expanded Form of AUM

The Gayatri Mantra is considered as an expanded form of AUM - the syllable used in the beginning and at the end of the Mantra gives it a reinforcing effect. This syllable, says Kathopanishad, is indeed Brahman; indeed the highest; (III-1-3). It is the best support. He who knows this support becomes great in the world of Brahma (III-1-4) As stated earlier, AUM is the eternal sound emanated at the time of creation. It is composed of three syllables viz: A U M. The mind has three important states: waking, dreaming, and sleeping. The word A, U, M represents all the three states: A=waking, U=dreaming, M=sleeping. The last syllable M, when pronounced, is followed by a deep silence and that is the fourth state of mind known as Turiya. By chanting AUM the mind transcends from three states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping to the fourth state of Turiya and experiences silence. When the mind goes deep into the depths of this silence, it hears the cosmic sound of AUM. This emanates from the Prana (vital vibration) which fills the universe. The scientists call this eternal sound as "Big-Bang".

Tracing its scientific basis Dr Trucit Vora says: The sound produced due to the fast moving earth, planets and galaxies is tremendous. Our galaxy called Milky Way or Aakaash-Gangaa contains approximately 100,000 millions of stars, each star is like our sun having its own planet system. We know that the moon moves round the earth and the earth moves round the sun along with the moon. All planets move around the sun, each of the above bodies, revolves round at its axis as well. Our sun along with its family takes one round of the galactic center in 250 million years. All galaxies, including ours, are moving away at a terrific velocity of 20,000 miles per second.

We observe that an ordinary fan makes noise when it moves with a speed of 900 RPM (rotation per minute). What a great noise therefore, would be created when the galaxies move with a speed of 20,000 miles per second? The sound produced due to the fast-moving earth, planets and galaxies is AUM, Dr Vora endorses.

He also observes that the infinite mass of galaxies, moving with a velocity of 20,000 miles per second, generates a kinetic energy = 1/2 mv2 and this is balancing the total energy consumption of the cosmos. Thus, the syllable AUM also represents energy and it is called Pranavah which means the body (Vapu) or store house of energy (Praan). Recitation of Gayatri Mantra attracts only PRAAN and in the largest amount, one atom of Praan is capable of holding 4845 tons of weight.

According to Professor Alishagrgy, Prana travels 4,000 to 80,000 billion miles per second. Thus, by chanting AUM along with the Mantra, both in the beginning and at the end, we invoke the energy to energies our intellect. In her new book on Gayatri Mantra, Saadhvi Shanti Mayi says that all energy and rejuvenating centers are activated by the sound of the Gayatri Mantra. It stimulates and facilitates insightfulness and awakening to the Truth within all. She further says that the mantra works in a multitude of ways, which align the energies, magnetic currents, biochemistry and brain wave patterns on a very subtle level.

Our energy centers, levels and rhythms are activated by the measure of breaths that are drawn in through the nostrils and released during recitation of the Gayatri Mantra, (even during silent repetition). This balances electro-magnetic rhythm and energy currents in the body with Praan. During recitation, all elements of the mantra are in use. The breath, voice, meditation and intention efficiently and effortless sly function (like the sun shines). It all works together. It also happens when the syllable AUM is chanted, whether loudly or silently. In fact, the syllable AUM represents that Power which (1) is omniscient; (2) rules over the entire universe; (3) protects one from the evils of life; and, (4) destroys ignorance and gives enlightenment.

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