The Gâyatrî Mantra is the most revered mantra in Hinduism. It consists of the prefix om bhur bhuvah svah, a formula frequently appearing in the Yajurveda, and the verse 3.62.10 of the Rig Veda. Gayatri is the name of the 24-syllable meter of this verse (excluding the prefix), and also the name of the goddess considered the personification of the mantra.
The Gâyatrî Mantra
ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व: तत्सवितुर्वरेन्यं । भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि, धीयो यो न: प्रचोदयात् ।।
AUM BHOOR BHUWAH SWAHA
TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASAYA DHEEMAHI
DHIYO YO NAHA PRACHODAYAT
Its meaning is that "May the Almighty God illuminate our intellect to lead us along the righteous path". The mantra is also a prayer to the "giver of light and life" - the sun (savitur).
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
Word for Word Meaning of the Gayatri Mantra
Aum = Brahma ;
bhoor = embodiment of vital spiritual energy(pran) ;
bhuwah = destroyer of sufferings ;
swaha = embodiment of happiness ;
tat = that ;
savitur = bright like sun ;
varenyam = best choicest ;
bhargo = destroyer of sins ;
devasya = divine ;
dheemahi = may imbibe ;
dhiyo = intellect ;
yo = who ;
naha = our ;
prachodayat = may inspire!
The Maha Mantra
Gayatri mantra is sometimes called 'Maha mantra' i.e. 'Great Mantra' or 'Great Shlok'. It is the most important and popular 'mantra', so much that people have personified it as goddess 'Gayatri'.
Origin, benefits and chanting of the Gayatri Mantra
The Vedas are widely considered to be the source of all true knowledge, the word "Veda" itself meaning "Knowledge". Gayatri Devi also gave to mankind the "Gayatri Mantra", also known as the "Guru Mantra" or the "Savitri Mantra". It is one of the oldest mantras, and generally thought of as being amongst the highest and most powerful mantras of all. This mantra is therefore often referred to as "the Mother of the Vedas". It appears in Yajur Veda - Chapter 36, Mantra (Verse) 3.
Rishis selected the words of the Gayatri Mantra and arranged them so that they not only convey meaning but also create specific power of righteous wisdom through their utterance. The ideal times for chanting the mantra are three times a day - at dawn, mid-day, and at dusk. These times are known as the three sandhyas - morning, mid-day and evening. The maximum benefit of chanting the mantra is said to be obtained by chanting it 108 times. However, one may chant it for 3, 9, or 18 times when pressed for time. The syllables of the mantra are said to positively affect all the chakras or energy centres in the human body - hence, proper pronunciation and enunciation are very important.
Chanting of Gayatri Mantra removes all obstacles in our path to increased wisdom and spiritual growth and development. The teachings and powers incorporated in the Gayatri Mantra fulfill this purpose. Righteous wisdom starts emerging soon after Jap(recitation) of the Gayatri Mantra is performed.
References to the Gayatri Mantra in Scriptures
The Upanishads (secret texts) of Hinduism contain several references to the Gayatri Mantra.
Qualities of Gayatri
Chandogya Upanishad 3.12.1,2,5…
- 1. This entire creation is Gayatri. And the Gayatri is speech - for speech sings (gayati) and protects (trayati) this entire creation. Gayatri indeed is all this, whatever being exists. Speech indeed is Gayatri; for speech indeed sings and removes fear of all this that exists.
- 2. That which is this Gayatri, even that is this earth; for on this earth are all the beings established and they do not transcend it.
- 5. This well-known Gayatri is four-footed and sixfold.
Origin of Bhur Bhuvah Svah
Chandogya Upanishad 4.17.1-6 …
- 1. Prajapati (the progenitor of the worlds) brooded on the three worlds. From them he extracted their essences; fire from the earth, air from the sky and the sun from heaven.
- 2. He further brooded on these three deities. From them he extracted their essences: the Riks (Rg-veda) from fire, the Yajus-mantras (Yajur-veda) from air, and the Saman (Sama-veda) from the sun.
- 3. He brooded on the three Vedas. From them he extracted their existences; Bhuh from the Riks, Bhuvah from the Yajus-mantras and Svah from the Samans.
- 4-6. Therefore if the sacrifice is rendered defective on account of the Riks (or Yajus or Samans), then with the Mantra ‘Bhuh Svaha’ (or 'Bhuvah Svaha' or 'Svah Svaha'), the Brahman priest should offer an oblation in the fire. Thus verily, through the essence of the Riks (or Yajus or Samans), through the virility of the Riks (or Yajus or Samans), he makes good the injury of the sacrifice in respect of the Riks (or Yajus or Samans).
Gayatri as the Protector
Brahadaranyaka Upanisad 5.14.4 …
The Gayatri Mantra is based on truth. For truth is based on strength. Strength is breath, and is based on breath. So, Gayatri protects (tra) the wealth (gaya) (the breath!) of those who speak it with earnestness and devotion. When one recites Gayatri on behalf of someone, it protects that person's breath too!
Four 'foots' of the Gayatri
Brahadaranyaka Upanisad 5.14.5 …
This verse talks about the unbounded wealth contained within the four 'foots' of the Gayatri Mantra.
- The first foot (aum bhur bhuvah svaha) is said to be equivalent to the wealth contained in the three worlds put together.
- The second foot (tat savitur varenyam) is said to be equivalent to the wealth contained in the three main vedas.
- If one were to receive a gift extending as far as there are living beings, that would equal the third foot (bhargo devasaya dheemahi).
- The fourth foot (dheeyo yo nah prachodyaat) is based on the glory of the sun, whose power and wealth remains unequaled and unrivaled. Hence, there is no amount of wealth that can equal the fourth foot of the Gayatri!
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."
Mantra or Prayer?
The Gayatri Mantra occupies a unique place in that it has both the power of mantra and of prarthana (prayer). It is important then in considering the Gayatri Mantra to distinguish the difference between these two deceptively similar words.
A mantra may be articulate or inarticulate, or a combination of them, as with AUM. It has an inherent power, known as "Mantra shakti", which has a positive influence not due to any philosophical meaning behind the mantra, but simply due to its utterance alone (of course, "utterance" may or may not be vocal or heard - it can be silent, expressed only in the mind, or at the deepest level, heard only by the soul itself). As explained, a pure mantra may or may not have any actual meaning or philosophical significance, its power being intrinsic to the mantra itself, and not instrumental to any meaning.
A prarthana on the other hand does have a philosophical meaning behind it, and it is generally through this meaning that the prarthana has its power. Since the mantra is devoid of any kind of actual meaning, it cannot be conceptualised or visualised. This makes its understanding extremely difficult to the normal human mind, thus rendering its correct enunciation almost impossible to the untrained person. A prarthana however, having a meaning that can be comprehended through purely intellectual means, is far easier to be understood, since rational thought, unlike spiritual meditation, is much more in the reach of the ordinary person. Thus, the method of prarthana is generally the form of worship used today.
The Gayatri, or Guru, Mantra possesses both the power of mantra and the power of prarthana, and thus has both an intrinsic power (ie "mantra shakti"), through its mere utterance alone, and also an instrumental power (ie "prarthana shakti"), which is derived from the exposition and understanding of its meaning and philosophical significance. The repeated and correct chanting of the Gayatri Mantra, with proper understanding of its meaning, is believed to be of the greatest good to the individual.
The Great Utterance
The first part of the gayatri mantra, om bhur bhuvah svah, which we mentioned at the beginning as not part of the mantra, is called vyahriti or the “great utterance.” This mantra is repeated not only in conjunction with the gayatri mantra, but also separately during havans or fire ceremonies. The word om is a auspicious sound made at the beginning of many prayers. The expression bhur bhuvah and svah is technical, but a simple way to think of it is as a “call to creation,” that the light of the sun (the light of God) shines on the earth (bhur), in the sky (bhuvah), and in space (svah), and therefore the implication is, “let that light also shine on me.”
The technical explanation vyahriti has to do with subtle practices of meditational yoga. This earth is simply one of many planes of existence. In fact, above this earth are six higher planes, heavens as it were. Including this earth, there are seven planes up (heavens) and seven planes down, or hells below this earth. The earth is in the middle. If you have ever heard the expression, “he is in seventh heaven” you should understand that this is a reference to the Hindu idea of heavens. The seventh heaven is the highest heaven. The first three of these planes starting with the earth are called bhur, bhuvah and svah. The utterance bhur bhuvah svah, therefore, refers to the first three subtle planes of existence that may be reached in meditation by a yogi.
Further reading on the Subject
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