Gayatri Mantra

Here are some interpretations of the meaning and significance of the GAYATRI

Rishis selected the words of various Mantras and arranged them so that they not only convey meaning but also create specific power through their utterance. Gayatri Mantra inspires wisdom. Its meaning is that "May the Almighty God illuminate our intellect to lead us along the righteous path". All the problems of a person are solved if he/she is endowed with the gift of righteous wisdom. Once endowed with far-sighted wisdom, a man is neither entangled in calamity nor does he tread the wrong path. A wise man finds solution to all outstanding problems. Only those persons who do not think correctly find difficulty and take wrong steps due to foolishness. Chanting of Gayatri Mantra removes this deficiency. The teachings and powers incorporated in the Gayatri Mantra fulfill this purpose. Righteous wisdom starts emerging soon after Jap(recitation) of this Mantra is performed.

Extracted from "The Great Science and Philosophy of Gayatri" by Shree Ram Sharma Acharya, Shanti Kunj, Hardwaar, Uttar Pradesh, India.

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.' [ 20-6-1977]

Gayatri is Annapurna, the Mother, the sustaining Force that animates all life. So do not neglect it.[ 20-6-1977]

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. [20-6-1977]

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. [17-3-1983]

 

The Gayatri Mantra - here is an excellent introduction written in English by a Muslim.

I have yet to see such a detailed exposition on the Gayatri in the Internet. Here is a taste of what is available on this page

Gyatr Mantra

this page last updated on March 28, 2005

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.


Introduction:

The Gyatr 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.

The word Gyatr (mw352) is a combination of Sanskrit words, although there is some disagreement in various texts about the exact derivation.

One suggestion is that the word Gyatr is made from these two words:
   - 
gyanath (mw352)  what is sung, giving of praise
   - 
tryate ( mw457, root trai)  preserves, protects, gives deliverance, grants liberation

Another viewpoint suggests that the roots are:
    -  gaya (mw348)   vital energies
    - 
tryate ( mw457, root trai)   preserves, protects, gives deliverance, grants liberation 

The word Mantra (mw785) means instrument of thought, sacred text, or a prayer of praise.

So, the two words "Gyatr Mantra" might be translated as: a prayer of praise that awakens the vital energies and gives liberation.

And indeed, this is such a prayer.
 

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 Sdhan, Sr Swmi Shivnanda wrote:

"Of all the mantras, the supreme and the most potent power of powers is the great, glorious Gyatr 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, Gyatr 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."

The Invocation:

Chanting of the Gyatr Mantra is often prefaced with either a short invocation or a long invocation and is often followed with a closing.

The following are examples of two common invocations. In either of the  invocations, we begin the recitation of the Gyatr Mantra with an invocation using the sacred symbol Om to acknowledge and pay homage to the One who is beyond name and form.

- Short Invocation:

This invocation is acknowledging and joyously celebrating that Om is bhr, Om  is bhuvas, Om is suvaha... Om is everything.

The terms bhr, bhuvas, suvaha (mah vyhritis) are invocations to honor the planes of our existence and to call to our aid the presiding deities of the three planes in which we live our ordinary life: the physical, astral and mental planes.

The three lokas (bhr, bhuvas, suvaha) are the bja (seed) mantrams of the devats called Agni, Vyu and ditya who are being invoked to assist in our transformation. (See Chandogya Upanishad (IV, xvii, 1-3) and (II, xxiii, 3)).

Then Prajpati reflected on the three lokas and from this reflection was born OM. As veins pervade all leaves, so Om pervades all sound. Verily all this is Om! Verily all this is Om!

                                        Chandogya Upanishad (II, xxiii, 3)

The short preamble is simply these four words: 

om
bhr
bhuvas
suvaha

click here to hear Sai Baba chant the Gayatri with short invocation.

The Sanskrit character that is transliterated as bh is a very earthy sound that virtually explodes from the diaphragm. Listen carefully to the Sai Baba recording. To learn to make this sound, try saying "who" while sharply pulling in the abdominal muscles and forcing the diaphragm upward.... then add the "b" sound and do the same with bhr (pronounced "bhoor").

(Please see the notes below regarding spelling and pronunciation of Sanskrit words)

Body of the Gyatr Mantra:

The body of the Gyatr Mantra is written as:

     

The transliterated text is:

om tat savitur vareNyaM

bhargo devasya dhmahi

dhiyo yo nah prachodayt

 
Swmi Shivnanda's translation of the Gyatr Mantra is:

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.

A succinct and delightful translation by S. Krishnamurthy is:

We meditate upon the radiant Divine Light
of that adorable Sun of Spiritual Consciousness;
May it awaken our intuitional consciousness.


Here's a simple word-by-word translation:

Om - Om (Brahman, the One, the Godhead, Supreme Deity)

tat - that (referring to Savitri, Paramatma, God)

savitur - (mw1190) -  Savitri, the Spiritual Sun (that from which all is born), the One Light, the all-pervading Consciousness

O nourishing Sun, solitary traveler, controller, source of life for all creatures, spread your light and subdue your dazzling splendor so that I may see your blessed Self. Even that very Self am I!

                                        Isa Upanishad (16)

vareNyaM - most excellent, adorable, fit to be worshipped, venerable, worthy of being sought

bhargo - (mw748) - radiance, effulgence, splendor (the light that bestows understanding)

devasya - divine, of the deity

dhmahi -  we meditate upon... or may we meditate upon

dhiyo - prayer, noble thoughts, intuition, understanding of Reality (buddhis)

yo - he who, the one who

nah - our, of us

prachodayt - may he energize, direct, inspire, guide, unfold... or he who energizes, directs, inspires, guides, unfolds

(Please see the notes below regarding spelling and pronunciation of Sanskrit words, as well as the grammatical ambiguity of dhmahi and prachodayt.))


Short Closing:

bhr bhuvas suvar om

This simple closing phrase is magnificent, and is a powerful meditation all by itself, a joyous and humbling panoramic sweep from the initial earthy, lower chakra "bh" sound gradually becoming ever finer, transcending all the worlds, and culminating in the nameless, formless essence.


Long Closing:

Om po jyotih rasomritam brahma
bhr bhuvas suvar om

This beautiful closing pays tribute to the myriad forms of the One. A simple translation is:

Om, the Water, the Light, the very Essence in which we exist, the Absolute, the physical world, the astral realm, the mental realm, all are Om.

 

Om:

As you may have noticed, the preamble begins with Om, the first line of the Gyatr Mantra begins with Om and the closing ends with Om.

Om is in everything and everything is in Om. Indeed, the mantric repetition of this one syllable, Om, is of immeasurable value. It is often said that Om is the greatest of all mantras.

Swm Gambhrnanda suggests meditating in this manner:

I am Brahman, as signified by Om and as conditioned by my in which the sattva quality preponderates.

For clarification, here are quotes from various Upanishads describing the nature of Om:

I will give you the Word all the scriptures glorify and which all spiritual disciplines express, to attain which aspirants lead of a life of sense-restrain and selflessness. It is Om. This symbol of Brahman is the highest. Realizing it, one finds complete fulfillment of all one's longings. It is of the greatest support to all seekers.

                                               Katha Unpanishad (I, ii, 15-17)

Take the great bow of the sacred scriptures, place on it the arrow of devotion; then draw the bowstring of meditation, and aim at the target, the Lord of Love. Om is the bow, the soul is the arrow, and Brahman is called its target. Now draw the bowstring of meditation and hitting the target, be One with It.

                                        Mundaka Upanishad (II, ii, 3-4)

Fire is not seen until one firestick rubs across another, though the fire is still there, hidden. So does Brahman remain hidden until being revealed by the mantram Om. Let your body be the lower firestick and the mantram Om be the upper. Rub them against each other in meditation and realize Brahman.

                                        Shvetashvatara Upanishad (1, 13-14)
 

Daily spiritual practice:

The beautiful rhythmic patterns, soothing ancient sounds and powerful intent make the Gyatr Mantra a magnificent part of daily spiritual practice.

The Gyatr Mantra combines the effects of mantric sound with the effects of a deep and profound prayer, resulting in a combination which is exceedingly potent.

As with all spiritual practices, this is a vehicle for intent. The stronger and greater the intent, the stronger and greater the results.

Spiritual progress does not succeed merely by means of  intellectual reasoning or theoretical arguments, but rather by direct experience. If you would like a deeper understanding of the Gyatr Mantra, it is well and good that you should begin with an intellectual understanding of the words and the intent, but that is only a preliminary step leading to your own direct experience of That Which is beyond words.