by Mantra & shlokas on Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 1:31pm
What it is
The Gayatri (Vedic prayer to illuminate the intellect) is the universal prayer enshrined in the Vedas (Divine Knowledge), the most ancient scriptures of man. It is addressed to the Immanent and Transcendent Divine, which has been given the name 'Savitha', meaning 'that from which all this is born.'
Gayatri is Annapurna, the Mother, the sustaining Force that animates all life. So do not neglect it.
The Gayatri is considered as Vedasara --"the essence of the Vedas." Veda means knowledge, and this prayer fosters and sharpens the knowledge-yielding faculty. As a matter of fact, the four mahavakyas or 'core-declarations' enshrined in the four Vedas are implied in this Gayatri mantra.
The Gayatri mantra (Vedic prayer to illuminate the intelligence) is a sacred mantra that demonstrates the unity that underlies manifoldness in creation. It is through the recognition of this unity that we can understand the multiplicity. Clay is one and the same thing, though pots of different shapes and sizes can be made from it. Gold is one, though gold ornaments can be multifarious. The Atma (Divine Self) is one, though the embodied forms in which it resides may be many. Whatever the colour of the cow, the milk is always white.
What it consists of
The Gayatri may be considered as having three parts: (1) praise, (2) meditation, and (3) prayer. First the Divine is praised, then It is meditated upon in reverence, and finally an appeal is made to the Divine to awaken and strengthen the intellect, the discriminating faculty of man.
This mantra is the embodiment of all deities. It is not related to any particular sect, caste, idol, or institution. It is said to embody nine "colours": (1) Om (2) Bhuh (3) Bhuvah (4) Suvah (5) Thath (6) Savithur (powers) (7) Varenyam (8) Bhargah (9) Dhevasya.
"Dheemahi" is related to the meditative aspect. "Dhiyo-yo-nah prachodayaath" relates to the aspect of prayer. The mantra as a whole thus contains three aspects: descriptive, meditational, and prayer.
Triple aspects of Gayatri
Who is Gayatri? Gayatri is not a goddess.Gayatri is the mother of the Vedas (Gayatri Chandhasam matha) Gayatri, however, has three names: Gayatri, Savitri, and Saraswathi. These three are present in everyone. Gayatri represents the senses; it is the master of the senses. Savithri is the master of Prana (Life Force). Many Indians are familiar with the story of Savitri, who brought back to life her dead husband, Sathyavan. Savithri signifies truth. Saraswathi is the presiding deity of speech (vaak). The three represent purity in thought, word, and deed (thrikarana shuddhi). Although Gayatri has three names, all three are in each of us as the senses (Gayatri), the power of speech (Saraswathi), and the life force (Savitri).
When one's intelligence and intuition are developed by recitation of the mantra, the activating deity is Gayatri. When the life-forces are protected, the guardian deity is called Savitri. When one's speech is protected, the deity is called Saraswathi. Because of the protective roles of Savitri, Saraswathi, and Gayatri in relation to life, speech, and the intellect, Gayatri is described as "the embodiment of all goddesses (Sarvadhevathaa-swaruupini)".
Gayatri pervades everywhere. It consists of three deities, Gayatri, Savitri, and Saraswathi. Of these, the first one is master of the sense, the second is the teacher of truth, and the third is the master of speech. Hence it is a Trinity of the senses, the mind, and speech.
The five faces of Gayatri
Gayatri is said to have five faces and hence is called Panchamukhi. Is there anybody in the world with five faces? No. In the Ramayana, Ravana is said to have ten heads. If really he had ten heads, how would he be able to lie in his bed or move about? This is not the inner meaning of this description. He is said to be ten-headed because he was the master of the four Vedas and the six Sastras.
Likewise, Gayatri is described as five-faced. The five faces are as follows.
- Om (the Pranava). The Pranava Principle represents the eight different forms of wealth (ashta-aishvarya).
- Bhur Bhuvas Suvah.
- The third is: Thath-Savithur-varenyam.
- Bhargo Dhevasya dheemahi.
- Dheyo yo hah prachodayaath.
Gayatri represents in these five faces the five pranas (life forces). Gayatri is the protector of the five pranas in man.
"Gayantham thrayathe ithi Gaytri (Because it protects the one who recites it, it is called Gayatri." When Gayatri acts as protector of the life-forces, she is known as Savitri. Savitri is known in the puranic story as the devoted wife who brought back to life her husband, Sathyavan. Savitri is the presiding deity of the five pranas. She protects those who lead a life of Truth.
Gayatri has five faces and is the embodiment of all deities --Sarva devatha Swarupam.
The meaning of the Gayatri
In the Gayatri Mantra, the unity of body, mind and soul is depicted in the first line,"Bhur-Bhuvah-Suvaha." The next line, "Bhargo Dhevasya Dheemahi", means "Throw away the darkness." "Dheeyo yonah Pracho-dhayaath" means "Let the effulgence of the Divine dispel the darkness of ignorance."
Gayatri means 'that which saves, when repeated'! It is the torch of spiritual wisdom (jnana)
This is the prayer addressed to the Sun in the Gayatri mantra
Dheeyo yo nah prachodayaath. (May the Sun illumine our intellects in the same way he sheds his effulgence).In this way, they came to regard the Gayatri mantra as Veda Matha (the Mother of the Vedas).
This Gayatri mantra is not related to any particular time, place, or person. The following indicates that it relates to the three aspect of Time --past, present, and future:
Bhur Bhuva SuvahThe following says that light dispels darkness --without light, darkness will not go.
Tat Savitur Varenyam, Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi, Dheeyo yo nah PrachodayaathThe following signifies that the Sun is the dispeller of darkness.
Bhargo devasyaIn this manner, the ancients believed that there was a supreme power and looked upon it as God.
Stotra (description of the glory), dhyana (meditation), and prarthana (prayer) are all contained in the Gayatri Mantra. When does a prayer become meaningful? It is only when you stabilise your mind and turn it toward God. The basis for this is to meditate, pray, and experience. It is essential to achieve harmony in thought, word, and deed. Gayatri is teaching this great lesson.
The Gayatri mantra has all three elements that figure in the adoration of God: description, meditation, and prayer. The first nine words of the mantra --Om-Bhur-Bhuvas-Suvah-Thath-Savithur-Varenyam-Bhargo-Dhevasya-- represent the attributes of the Divine.
Dheemahi pertains to dhyana (meditation).
Dheyo yo nah Prachodayath is the prayer to the Lord.
The mantra is thus a prayer to God to confer all powers and talents.
What the Gayatri does for you
The Gayatri is considered as Vedasara --"the essence of the Vedas." Veda means knowledge, and this prayer fosters and sharpens the knowledge-yielding faculty. As a matter of fact, the four mahavakyas or 'core-declarations' enshrined in the four Vedas are implied in this Gayathri mantra. So the Gayatri mantra has been given to you as a third eye to reveal to you that inner vision by which you may realise Brahman.
It will protect you from harm wherever you are --traveling, working, or at home. Westerners have investigated the vibrations produced by this mantra and have found that when it is recited with the correct accent as laid down in the Vedas, the atmosphere around becomes visibly illumined. So Brahmaprakasha, the effulgence of the Divine, will descend on you and illumine your intellect and light your path when this mantra is chanted. Also repeat santhi thrice at the end, for that repetition will give santhi or peace to three entities in you --body, mind, and soul.
Gayatri will protect your body, make your intellect shine and improve your power of speech. That is why Gayatri is considered to be very important for this second stage of your life, which you are entering today.[Editor: This discourse was given in connection with Upanayam, the sacred thread ceremony for boys.]
It is essential to recite the Gayatri mantra at least three times during morning, noon, and evening. This will serve to reduce the effects of the wrong acts one does every day. It is like buying goods for cash, instead of getting them on credit. There is no accumulation of karmic (result of action) debt, since each day's karma (action) is atoned for that day itself by reciting the
Brahmaprakasha, the effulgence of the Divine, will descend on you and illumine your intellect and light your path when this mantra is chanted.
Gayatri is the reliever of all diseases (Sarva roga nivaarini Gayatri).
Gayatri wards off all misery (Sarva dhukha parivarini Gayatri).
Gayathri is the fulfiller of all desires (Sarva vancha phalashri Gayatri).
Gayatri is the bestower of all that is beneficial.
If the mantra is chanted, various kinds of powers will emerge in one. Hence the Gayatri mantra should not be treated casually.
The attitude of surrender will grow in us as we recite regularly the Gayatri mantra.
Like sunrise after the night, the Gayatri mantra dispels the darkness of ignorance: Dhiyoyonah prachodayaath. The rays of the Gayatri mantra illumine the mind and intelligence and promote knowledge, wisdom and discrimination.
This Gayatri has the subtle power of removing evil tendencies and implanting virtuous habits
The Gayatri promotes the acquisition of Daivasakthi (God-power).
When you should say the Gayatri (return to top of page)
Never give up the Gayatri; you may give up or ignore any other mantra but you should recite the Gayatri at least a few times a day.
Do not sing cheap and defiling film songs. Instead, recite the Gayatri. When you bathe, the body is being cleansed; let your mind and intellect also be cleansed. Make it a point to repeat it when you bathe as well as before every meal, when you wake from sleep, and when you go to bed. And also repeat santhi thrice at the end, for that repetition will give santhi or peace to three entities in you --body, mind, and soul.
Chant the Gayatri morning, noon, and evening. You do so many things. Why don't you chant this Gayatri? I bless all of you that you may sanctify your life in this way, making it useful and meaningful.
It is essential to recite the Gayatri mantra at least three times during morning, noon, and evening.
Gayatri is a treasure you must guard throughout your lives.
The Gayatri can be recited even when one is taking a bath. It will mean also offering ablutions to the goddess.
At noon, if the Gayatri is recited before taking one's meal, the food will get sanctified and become an offering to the deity.
Supplying the calories for the spirit is as necessary a process for happy living as supplying calories for the body. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, morning worship, noon worship, and evening worship --all six are equally essential. You miss any one of the six at your peril.
The Gayatri mantra has to be recited three times a day: in the morning at sunrise, at noon, and at sunset. These are called "sandhya kalam" --the time of coming together of night and day, of morning and evening, and of day and night.
Time, like man, has three qualities: sathwa, rajas, and thamas (poised or pure or serenity, passion, and inertia). The day is divided into three parts:
- 4am to 8am and 4pm to 8pm have the sathwic (equanimous) quality;
- 8am to 4pm are rajasic (passionate);
- 8pm and 4am are tamasic (inaction).
The eight hours from 8pm to 4am are used mainly for sleep. The eight hours of the day (from 8am to 4pm) are employed by all
beings, including animals and birds, in the discharge of their day to day duties and are regarded as rajasic (active pursuit). When the four sathwic hours of the morning are used for engaging oneself in good actions like worship, virtuous deeds, and keeping good company, one is sure to raise oneself from the human to the Divine level.
It is during the sathwic period (4am to 8am and 4pm to 8pm) that the Gayatri mantra should be recited.
What to think when you are saying the Gayatri
In the practice of the Gayatri mantra, one should realise that everything is within one and thereby develop confidence in the Self.
Admonition to boys receiving upanayam
Dear boys, you have today got the Gayatri, the milk from the four teats called four Vedas of the udder of the Cow that is Godhead; it has in it the sustenance that will make you shine with spiritual health. You must now carefully use it for your good; do not spill it or spoil it; instead, boil it, make curds out of it, churn it and get the butter that is immanent in it. It will become curds by means of your contemplation on the Lord (Bhagavathchinthana); with the churning rod of discipline, collect the butter of ananda (bliss). You were initiated in this holy Presence, remember, the Presence that so many thousands covet; so, you have a special responsibility to fulfil your Brahmacharya (the path of celibacy and learning), that leads to Brahmajnana (knowledge of the Supreme Being).