The History and Significance of the Gayatri Mantra (Excerpts from the CD)
The Gayatri Mantra has been chronicled in the Rig Veda, which was written in Sanskrit about 2500 to 3500 years ago, and the mantra may have been chanted for many centuries before that.
For ages, this beautiful prayer has seemed mysterious to the Western mind and was out of reach even for most Hindus. It was a well guarded secret, withheld from women and from those outside the Hindu Brahmin community.
Today, it is chanted, meditated to, and sung around the world with reverence and love. It is often compared to The Lord’s Prayer in significance and impact.
The beautiful and soothing ancient sounds, the flowing rhythmic patterns, and the powerful intent make the Gayatri Mantra a wonderful part of one’s daily spiritual practice. Because it is an earnest and heartfelt appeal to the Supreme Being for enlightenment, it can be universally applied. It really doesn’t matter what your religion, your color or your ethnicity is – what matters is your intent, and your authenticity, and your willingness to be moved.
The ancient Hindu scriptures describe how the sage Vishwamitra was given the Gayatri mantra by the Supreme Being as a reward for his many years of deep penance and meditation. This was to be a gift for all humanity.
It is said that this sacred prayer spirals through the entire universe from the heart of the chanter, appealing for peace and divine wisdom for all.
The Gayatri Mantra inspires wisdom in us. In very basic but beautiful language, it says "May the divine light of the Supreme Being illuminate our intellect, to lead us along a path of righteousness".
The Vedas say:
To chant the Gayatri Mantra
purifies the chanter.
To listen to the Gayatri Mantra
purifies the listener.
But the mantra does more, as I found out. It opens up your heart. And how well we know, when both our minds and our hearts open, we open ourselves up for new possibilities.
For many devout Hindus, the Gayatri is seen as a Divine awakening of the individual mind and the individual soul – Atman -- and within it, a way to Union with the collective consciousness - Brahman. Understanding and simply loving the essence of the Gayatri Mantra is considered by many to be one of the most powerful ways to touching God.
One interpretation is that the word Gayatri is derived from the words:
- gaya, meaning “vital energies” and
- trâyate, meaning “preserves, protects, gives deliverance, grants liberation”.
So, the two words "Gayatri Mantra" might be translated as “a prayer of praise that awakens the vital energies and gives liberation and deliverance from ignorance”.
The shorter form of the Gayatri is practiced far more commonly:
“OM BUHR, BHUVA, SWAHA
OM TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASYA DHEEMAHI
DHIYO YONAHA PRACHODAYAT”
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 Sin and Ignorance;
May He open our hearts and enlighten our Intellect.
The longer version is more profound.
“OM BHUR, OM BHUVAHA, OM SWAHA, OM MAHAHA, OM JANAHA, OM TAPAHA, OM SATYAM
OM TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASYA DHEEMAHI
DHIYO YONAHA PRACHODAYAT”
According to the Vedas, there are seven realms or spheres or planes of existence, each more spiritually advanced than the previous one. It is written that through spiritual awareness and development, we can progressively move through these realms and ultimately merge with the Supreme Being. Many Buddhist teachings have also referred to these seven realms.
By chanting this mantra, Divine spiritual light and power is infused in each of our seven chakras and connects them to these seven great spiritual realms of existence.
Benefits to chanting the Gayatri (Excerpts from the CD and grateful acknowledgements to Pandit Shri Ram Sharma Acharya)
The sages of ancient times selected the words of the Gayatri carefully and arranged them so that they not only convey meaning but also create very specific vibrations and powers of righteous wisdom through their utterance. Hindu Vedic scriptures describe how many of these sages accumulated tremendous spiritual powers through years of deep meditation and the chanting of the Gayatri – these spiritual powers are called Siddhi.
It is said that these Gayatri Sadhaka (spiritual seeker) begin to feel the presence of divine power in the inner self which induces immense strength and peace of mind.
According to the late Pandit Shri Ram Sharma Acharya, "The rishis and sages of the Vedic Age had experienced and experimented on the enormous extrasensory energy pools – the chakras, upachakras, granthis, koshas, matakas, upayatikas and nadis, hidden in the subtle cores in the endocrine glands, nerve bundles and ganglions. It is said that the activation of these rekindles rare virtuous talents and supernormal potential.
Scientists, meta-physicists, spiritual practitioners and others are studying and rediscovering these ancient approaches towards self-realization.
The secret of the supernatural impact of Gayatri Mantra in the physical domains of life lies in the unique configuration of the specific syllables of the mantra. The cyclic enunciation of this mantra stimulates the subliminal power centers in the subtle body. The pressure on tongue, lips, vocal cord, palate and the connecting regions in the brain generated by continuous enunciation of the twenty-four special syllables of the Gayatri Mantra creates a resonance (or a vibration) in the nerves and the ‘threads’ of the subtle body. The musical flow thus induced titillates the extrasensory energy centers. The latter begin to stimulate and a sublime magnetic force arouses in the Sadhaka that attracts the vital currents of Gayatri Shakti immanent in the infinite domains. This magnetic charge induced by the continuous repetition of the Gayatri Mantra ‘attunes’ the seeker’s mind to link with these supernatural power-currents."
It is significant that the prolonged repetition of the Gayatri has a cumulative effect on our bodies and our minds. Our minds are sharper, our immune system is stronger, and our hearts are open. When our energy centers, including our main Chakras, are activated by the vibrations of the Gayatri mantra, this has a positive and healing effect on our life force energy – on our Prana.
The Gayatri can be listened to, chanted, or even thought. There is power and potency in all three approaches. Choose the approach that you are most comfortable with.
The Meaning of the Gayatri Mantra (Text of Track 5)
If you intend to chant the Gayatri mantra, it is quite important that you chant it with the correct pronunciation and with the deepest integrity of intent. This of course, means that one needs to know the meaning of the words behind the mantra. The Sanskrit words of the Gayatri carry tremendous power when chanted correctly and with the purest of hearts.
Om Bhur Bhuva Swaha (Om Bhoor Bhoova Swa-Ha)
Om Tat Savitur Varenyam (Om Tat Sa-Vidoor Va-rain-yam)
Bhargo Devasya Deemahi (Bhaargo They-Vas-Ya Dee-Mahi)
Deeyo Yo Naha, Prachodayaat (Thee-Yo Yo-Na-Ha, Pra-Cho-Da-Yaat)
OM is considered the primeval sound from which all sounds emerge.
OM is Brahma and a metaphor for Source Energy or the Supreme Being.
Om Bhur Bhuva Swaha is actually a preamble to the main mantra and means that we invoke in our prayer and meditation the One who is our inspirer, our creator and who is the abode of supreme Joy. It also means, we invoke the earthly, physical world, the world of our mind, and the world of our soul.
Tat Savitur Varenyam……Tat meaning THAT, again denoting the Supreme Being. Savitur meaning the radiating source of life with the brightness of the Sun; and Varenyam, meaning that most adorable, most desirable.
Bhargo Devasya Deemahi……Bhargo meaning luster and splendor, Devasya meaning Divine or Supreme and Deemahi meaning “We meditate upon”.
Deeyo Yo Naha, Prachodayaat……Deeyo meaning our understanding of reality, our intellect, our intention. Yo meaning He Who, and Naha meaning Our. Finally, Prachodayaat, meaning May he Inspire, Guide.
Put together, we could say:
“We meditate on that most adorable, desirable and enchanting luster and brilliance of our Supreme Being, our Source Energy, our Collective Consciousness….who is our creator, inspirer and source of eternal Joy. May this warm and loving Light inspire and guide our mind and open our hearts.”
Isn’t that awe inspiring?
Now that you are armed with your own unique inner wisdom of what the Gayatri mantra means for you, and an understanding of the Sanskrit words, perhaps you may wish to write your own personal interpretation of this wonderful prayer.
My blessings and well-wishes as you do so.