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17 August, 2016

Gayatri Mantra

Srauta Gayatri

Om bhurbhuvah svah tat-savitur-varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi |dhiyo yo nah pracodayat.||

Smarta Gayatri

"yo devah savitasmakam dhiyo dharmadi gocharah |
prerayet tasya yat bhargah tat varenyam upasamahe" ||

Japa vidhih

       The first point to be noted is that gayatri is pancavasana, having five stops.  The first stop is after omkara, the second stop is after bhurbhuvah suvah vyahrith, the third stop is after tatsaviturvarenyam, the fourth stop after bhargo devasya dhimahi and the final stop dhiyo yo nah pracodayat.  Many people pronounce wrongly with a long "I", dhiyo yo nah is wrong pronunciation.  The 'i' should be short.  It is dhiyo yo nah pracodayat.

      The second point, it should have only 23 letters and not 24 letters.  Therefore, tatsaviturvarenyam should be chanted and not tatsaviturvareniyam.  If ni yam  are separated, it is gayatri chandah and ni and yam are combined nyam - it is nichrd gayatrichandah.  Ekasara vihina tu nichard gayatrichandamuchyate.  This nichrd gayatri is used for pranayama arghyam danam and japa.  The other gayatri with 24 letters is supposed to be used for homa, etc.,


      The third point with regard to japa is being pointed out.  Japa is supposed to be of three types -
1. Ucca Japah [2] Manda japah [3] Manasam japah

[1]  Ucca japah is a chanting, which is loud and audible to the people around.  Sometimes it is audible and often times it is disturbing to others, if they are engaged in some other vyavahara.  

[2]  Manda or upamsu japah is chanting with the lip movement and which is audible only to the chanting person.  It is not audible to the people around, like a murmur, murmuring chant with the lip and the tongue movement.  

[3]  Manasam japah where lip movement, tongue movement and even throat movement is not there. It is purely and totally mental chanting.

       Of these three, which one is to be adopted?  All the three can be adopted but there is a gradation. The gradation is described in this manner -

"uttamam manasam japyam, upamsu madyama smrtah |adhamam vacikam prahuh sarva mantresu vai dvijah" ||

"The best is mental japa, mediocre is murmuring, the lowest is said to be loud japa, and this is applicable to all forms of chanting."

        It is not for Gayatri mantra alone, sarva mantresu vai dvijah, it is applicable to all chanting.  Of the three, mental chanting has got the greatest value.  In terms of punya - if loud chanting has got one unit of punya, upamsu japa, murmuring has got ten unis and manasam japa hundred times the benefit.  Of course manasa japa is difficult, because you cannot be that mechanical in manasa japa, whereas in vacika japa mouth can go on chanting and mind can go on worrying.

       Some people hold on to the 'poonoal/yajnopavittam' (the sacred thread) and do all vyavahara! Gayatri will be on but other thoughts like 'Who has come?'  'What does he want?'  'What is the phone call?'  'What is the message?'  Recently I read somewhere that one should not hold on to sacred thread while chanting. We are supposed to use the hand for counting.   This is an incidental point. We can become mechanical in the chanting if it is louder; whereas if it is mental one has to involve oneself.  Therefore, it is going to be difficult and hence the punyam is more.  What is more difficult will give more punyam and what is less difficult will give less punyam.  But if a person is not able to do manasa japa, the only way out is to start with ucha japah and gradually come to manda japah and gradually proceed to manasa japah.  This is ideal for most of the people.

       During the japa one cannot think of the deity (visualize) not only with respect of gayatri, it is with respect to any japa.  The imagination of the deity is only before the mantra chanting during invocation.  If during japa one (visualizes) imagines the deity, either the japa will become mechanical or imagination will become impossible.  Therefore, deity visualization is only before the japa and later the concentration is only on the mantra.

Concentration on the mantra

      The concentration on the mantra is twofold - either the mantra can be sabda pradhana or the mantra can be artha pradhana.  In sabda pradhana japah, I don't think of the meaning I just visualize the sound.  Bhurbhuvassuvah tat saviturvarenyam - the sabda alone I visualize.  The sabda itself sacred and it is capable of giving the phalam.  In fact, it is japa it is sabda pradhana only.  The meaning can be visualized before the beginning of the japa or after the japa but not during japa.  The artha pradhana japa is - I see the meaning of the mantra and I don't give that importance to the sabda.  So in gayatri also, when it is used as a daily ritual it is sabda pradhana, the sound portion only.  

The meaning of  Gayatri mantra

       When we chant the gayatri, we are adding two portions, the pranava and the vyahrti.  Om is called pranava manatra which is not a part of gayatri.  Bhurbhuvah suvah is vyahrti mantra which is also not a part of gayatri  They are appended.  Then what is actual gayatri?   The three lines - tatsavitruvarenyam, bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah pracodayat.  We will see the meaning part by part.

The first part is Pranava Omkara

      Omkara  is a very much glorified in the scriptures and it is said that irrespective of the meaning of the omkara, the very sound 'Om' is a purifying mantra.

omkarsca atha sabdasca dvavetau brahmanah pura |kantam bhitva viniryatau tasmat mangalikau ubhau ||
      It is said that Brahmaji initiated this creation after uttering the two words 'om' and 'atha', therefore they are mangalam because of the sound and whatever be the meaning.

       Omkara is supposed to be the best name of the Lord.  Lord has got so many names but the best name of the Lord is supposed to be 'Om'.  It is said in the Gita 'om tatsaditi nirdesah brahmanastrividha smrtah' [17.23],    Om tat and sat  -- these three are the names of Brahma or the Lord.  Because of this alone Omkara is known by the name pranavah.  Pranavah means a name which is ideal for the Lord.  'prakarsena nuyate brahma abhidhiyate anena iti pranavah 'om' - by which word Brahman is well understood and that name is called 'pranavam'.  Why Omkara is the ideal name?  Many reasons can be given but we will point out two reasons.

      One is Omkarah is ekasharam.  It is one syllable word and Lord is also one - 'Omkarah ekah brahma ekam'.  Omkarah is aksarah, syllable and Brahman is aksaram, the imperishable one.  In addition to this there are philosophical significances which we find in Mandukya Upanisad.  Omkara is he ideal name for the Lord and therefore by uttering this we remember the Lord.  

       The word Omkara is derived from the root 'av raksane' 'avati raksati iti om.'  The one who protests is called 'om'.  It is applicable to the mantra and also to the Lord.  'padam api raksati padarthah isvarah api raksati'.

The Second part is Vyahrti mantra

       Vyahrti mantra is also supposed to be auspicious irrespective of its meaning and because of the sound it is supposed to be very sacred.  By the very uccaranam, the sound purifies and that is why it is called vyahritih.  There are different definitions given for vyarti.  

1.  Bhurbhuvastatha purvam svayameva svyambhuva vyahrta jnana dehena tena vyahrtayah smrta
      These three mantras have been uttered by Brahmaji Himself.  
      Brahma vyahrta iti vyahritih
      It has been uttered in the beginning itself therefore it is auspicious like Omkara.

2.  'visesena asmantat harati papani iti vyahrtih'  papan apaharati that which removes all the papa when it is uttered.  It is a purifier so it is uttered before beginning the rituals.

Meaning wise bhu bhuvah and suvah represent the three lokas which are the manifestations of the Lord.   The simple meaning is - I remember 'om' the Lord who manifests in the form of the three lokas.

  'trolika rupena paridrsyamanam omkara abhidheyamisvaram smarami'.

       This is the meaning of om bhur buvah suvah.

       From Vedanta  standpoint om-kara represents the nirguna turiyam,  bhur bhvah suvah represent the saguna visva taijasa prajna.  Therefore, om bhur bhuvah suvah represent catuspad brahma.  

       I remmber the nirguna brahma who alone is manifesting in the form of saguna brahma - saguna visva virat, saguna taijasa hiranyagarbha, saguna prajna isvara that Lord I remember.  This is the philossophical meaning of the pranava and the vyahriti.

The third part is gayatri mantrah

       The samanya artah is explained first for the general public.  Then the visesa vedanta artah is being explained.

samanya arthah

       The samanya arthah is invocation of surya devata.  According to the meaning is "yam mam dhiyam pracodayat savituh devasya tat varenyam bhargah dhimahi".  dhimahi means we meditate upon.  Meditate upon what?  varenyam bhargah means, sacred, auspicious, adorable, srestah bhargah, brilliance, effulgence.  We meditate upon that most effulgent or light of whom?  Devasya savituh, of the Lord Sun, surya devasya tejah dhyayamah; dhimahi dhyayomah.  In What way is it sacred?  nah dhiyah pracodayat - which effulgence alone, which energy alone, which light alone pracodayat means enlivens, energizes, activates, prerayapti - which sunlight that energizes dhiyah, our buddhi, our intellect.  So, the simple running meaning of the gayatri is - we meditate upon the sacred effulgence of Sun God which activates our intellect.  The explanation for this in the Gita [Chapter 15.12]:-

Bhagavan says 'Oh Arjuna.  The light and energy in the Sun belongs to me".

       Therefore, you look upon this sunlight in the early morning as the pratyaksa symbol of the Lord because Lord Krishna says "I am in the Sun as the light", there I can worship the Lord.  How much of the glory is there?

gamavisya ca bhutani dharayamyahamojasa |
pusnami causadhih sarvah somo bhutva rasatmakah ||

       That energy of the Sun alone pervades the whole Earth, nourishes all beings, activate all beings and even plants and animals.  Therefore, we get nourishment from the sunlight.  Even though it nourishes the whole being, here the student is interested in the buddhi alone.  A grahastha is interested in health and money because he has to run the family.  He does not have much time to read, so, not much intellect is required.  Buddhi is primarily used by brahacaris and sanyyasis.  Therefore, brahmacari is interested in buddhi posanam.

'mayi medham mayi prajam mayyagnistejo dadhatu mayi medham mayi prajam
mayindra indriyam dadhatu mayi medham mayi prajam mayi suryo bhrajo 

"May Lord Agni, Lord Indra, Lord Surya, bless me with intelligence, continuity of progeny and radiance born of  Vedic study, prowess and splendor."

       Most of the brahmachari prayers seek medha and prajna.  Gayatri is primarily a prayer or brahmacari, a vedic student.  This world 'brahmachari'  does denote an unmarried person.  Brahmacari means a vedic student and for him memory etc., is required 'yo nah dhivya pracodayat' may the Sun God bless me.  "Bless me" is not explicitly said, it is a mantra or statement, it is indirectly asked for.  This is the samanya arthah of Gayatri.

visesa vedanta arthah

       The visesa vedanta arthah - to understand this, one should have the background understanding of the Upanisadic teaching.  Those who do not have the background can ignore this portion.

       Here dhimahi means meditate upon, nididhyasanam kurmahe.  It is nididhyasanam for a Vedantic student.  'dhimahi' means abhedena dhyayamah.  What do we want to meditate upon?  Bhargah varenyam refers to sachidananta svarupam.  We meditate upon the saccidananda svarupam - tat bhargah varenyam.  Of what?  Savituh devasya - of the Lord, Isvarah, tat padarthah Isvarah.  We meditate upon the saccidananda svarupam of the Lord.

How do arrive at the meaning?  We will analyze one by one.

Here the word savituh literally means that which procreates the universe - suyate iti savita.

Lord Krisna says, 'mayadyksena prakrtih suyate sacaracaram [Gita 9.10] su means to procreate, to give birth to.  'savita' means that which is the creator of the Universe.  This savita is used as the material cause of the Universe.  Mother is the material cause of the baby.  Similarly Isvara is the material cause of the creation.  Savita=upadhanakaranam.

'devasya' means that which is effulgent cetana svarupam, cetanatmakkam, the intelligent principle.  By using the word devasya, the Lord is supposed to be the intelligent cause of the creation also - nimitta karanasya.  

So, the Lord is the material cause of the creation and the intelligent cause of the creation.  Therefore, savituh devasya means abhimna nimitta upadhana karanabhutasya brahmanah  Isvarsya tatpada vacyarthbhtasya mayopaadhikasya.

This is such a short statement but the Sanskrit commentators go crazy with this.  They hae written umpteen numbers of vykhyanams  including Sankaracarya.  

What is the nature of that Isvara?  Upaadhi vinirmukte'pi kim svarupam syat? tat bhargah varenyam. Tat refers to tadeva soumya idamagra asit -- refers to sat svarupam the nature of existence - sattasvrupam.  The word tat has to be taken from tat savituh and join it with tat varenyam bhargah. These three words should be read together 'tat bhargah varenyam'.  So, Brahman or Isvara's svarupam is sattasvrupam.  

Bhargah means that which is light, effulgent capable of removing darkness.  It is derived from the root bhrg dahe - bharjate to burn down, to roast, to fry etc.  This indicates the caitanya svarupam because caitanyam alone devara andhakaram nasayati, andhakaram bharjate, samsaram bharjate.  We have both the meanings now.  That which is effulgent and that which destroys ignorance through vritti, vrittyarudham tat.  By way of removing darkness, ignorance, it removes samsara also.  Thus bhargah stands for the awareness, caitanyam, cit svarupam.

The third words is varenyam.  Literally varenyam means that which is worth choosing by all - varaniyam varana yogyam.  What is that, which is chosen by all?  Can you say money?  Position? On Vedantic analysis we say, in and through everything everybody chooses one thing anandah and purnatvam, fulfilment.  Thus, there is only one purusartha, varaniyam purusartha, there is only one and that is anandah.  Therefore, varenyam means ananda svarupam.

tat means sat svarupam, bhargah means cit svarupam, varenyam means ananda svarupam.  

To whom does the three svarupams belong?  savituh devasya abhinna nimitta upadhana karanatmaka tatpada abhidheyasya Isvarsya etat svarupam dhimahi abhedena dhyayamah.  

What type of svarupam is it?  The third part yah - caitanyam, that all pervading saccidananda svarupam which is the cause of the creation behind the intellect also.  As what?  Saksi rupah yah, ksetrajna rupah yah, anupravishtha rupah yah (anupravesa sruti - tat srstva tadevanupravisat).

       There is also grammatical beauty here - starting with neuter gender word - Brahman, the mantra lands in a masculine gender word - atma.  Yah is masculine which refers to atma, tat is neuter which refers to Brahman.  That Brahman, which is saccidananda svarupam and is the jagat karanam, that Brahman since as atma by illumining the buddhi.  so, the yah, which caitanya svarupam, nah dhiyah, our intellect, or to be precise buddhi vrittih - (dhiyah, dhiyau, dhiyah - dvitiya bahuvacanam), all our thoughts pracodayat, illumine satta sphurti prahanena, by giving both satta and sphurti.

       According to this interpretation, tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi  indicates brahma caitanyam, dhiyo yo nah pracodayat indicate atma caitanyam, all our thoughts pracodayat, illumine satta sphurti pradhanena by giving both satta and sphurti.

       According to this interpretation, tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasyadhimahi indicates brahma caitanyam, dhoyo yo na pracodayat indicate atma caitanyam, dhimahi indicates abheda dhyanam.  

       We meditate upon the atma caitanyam which is nothing but brahma caitanyam - prajnanam brahma.  This idea is contained in the famous Tattirya mantra sa yascayam puruse yascavaditye sa ekah"

"sa yascayam puruse' is dhiyo yo nah pracodayat yascavaditye is tat savittur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi sa ekah is abhedena dhyayamah.

      This is the Gayatri mantra from Vedantic stand point.

       If a person chants Gayatri before the study of Vedanta it becomes upasanam.  But the very same Gayatri after the study of the Vedanta becomes nididhyasanam - aham brahma asmi dhyanam. Gayatri visesa arthah sampatah  with this.  

The meaning of smarta Gayatri.

"yo devah savitasmakam dhiyo dharmadi gocharah |
prerayet tasya yat bhargah tat varenyam upasamahe"  ||

This is the smarta Gayatri which is the same as the well known srauta Gayatri.  The only difference is - the Vedic Gayatri has got three lines "tat savittur varenyam, bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah pracodayat".

Om bhur bhuvassuvah is chanted in the beginning and that is not part of Gayatri, it is merely an introduction.  The real vedic Gayatri has only three lines.  smarta Gayatri has got four lines.  The meanings are the same.  The effectiveness is also the same.  Smarta Gayatri means non-vedic Gayatri.

What is the meaning?

       Savita devah asmakam dhiyah prerayet|  Savitah devah means the Sun God.  When we say Sun God, we refer to the Lord Sun alone who is invoked in the Surya Mandala.  Savita devahprerayet - activate, direct.  What does He activate?  asmakam dhiyah - our intellect.  The Sun God, activates, enlivens, energizes all our intellect.

What type of intellect?

       dharmadi gocarah - Which intellect deals with varieties of knolwedge, light, dharma, Gocarah, visayah means a discipline of knowledge, any subject.  Like what?  Dharmajnanam, satya jnanam, etc., there are varieties of  knowledge and buddhi deals with varieties of knowledge. That  buddhi, the Sun activates.

What is the intention of the statement dharmadi gocarah?

       The mind can also deal with sattic knowledge, sattva vrittayah.  The mind can entertain rajo vrttayah, rajasic knowledge also; the mind can entertain tamasic vrittis also.  Generally sattvic vrittis are less, rajasic and tamasic are more.  Here we say that the Sun God changes the proportion.  dharmadi gocarah dhiyah prerayet means - make the thoughts more and more sattvic.  The adharma vrittis, rajasic vrittis and tamasic vrittis  will reduce.  Daivi sampat  will increase.  So, who does what?  Sun God energizes the mind and makes it sattvic.

      Tasya bhargah varenyam asti - tasya, of the Sun God, bhargah means effulgent, radiance, brilliance or light, prakasah.  Tasya bhargah means suryasya bhargah, surya prakasah.  That surya prakasah is varenyam, holy, sacred.  The light of the Sun God is the holiest and sacred which is capable of making me holy.

Tat upsamahe - I meditate upon that holy sunlight.

       If you combine all the the sentences the meaning will be - "We meditate upon the sacred effulgence of that Sun God who activates our intellect which has got knowledge of dharma etc., a simple translation is  dharmic buddhi - dharmadi gocarah dhiyah (dhiyah is dvitiya bahuvacanam, dharmadi gocarah is adjective to dhiyah strilingam dvitiya bahuvacanam) object of prerayet.

       Savita dharmadi gocarah prerayet.  "We meditate upon the sacred effulgence of that Sun God who activates our dharmic buddhi.

       The smarta Gayatri is a holy Gayatri.  The greatest advantage is that you do not require any sacred thread, there is no differentiation of male or female or young or old or Hindu or Christian, or Islam or devah or asura.  It is janata Gayatri, Universal Gayatri, left and right you can initiate every one.  Even children can be initiated.  Choose an auspicious day, ask them to take bath, let them go to a temple, you can tie a yellow coloured thread in the right wrist, the father or mother or any elder can initiate the child and the child can regularly chant this, a minimum of 11 times and any number of times.  

Source:  Excerpts from Talk delivered by Swami Parmarthananda at Chennai 
and translated by Swamini Svatmabodhananda.