Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!
We are now undertaking basic technical discourse on Vedanta. The text forming the basis of these posts is 'Kindle Life'. Please do reread previous posts using the labels 'Workings-days' or 'Kindle Life'.
Ch. 28 गायत्री मन्त्र /gaayatrii maantra (cont'd). Today we enter an exploration of the great Gaayatrii Mantra. For now, concentrate on assimilating the best understanding you can. At the end of the exploration (and therefore this chapter of KL), we will do a full practice of pronunciation and metre.
|(c) ॐ YAM-yum|
A great many of you will have heard this mantra at some point or other. It holds an equivalent place in the canon of sanatana dharma as the Lord's Prayer of the New Testament. Within sanatana dharma, there is a concept that this great prayer was uttered by the Creator - which many in the current age are inclined to disparage as exaggerated and over imaginative. However, it is also a fact that even Western scholars, the greater sceptics in this regard perhaps, by virtue of not having any emotional tie to this idea, have themselves declared the Gaayatrii Mantra as one of the oldest available hymns. Throughout all the twists and turns of history in sanatana dharma, the strong oral tradition of Sanskrit has preserved the teachings and this mantra, in particular, continues to wield compelling vibration in the heart. It is not simply a belief, but an actual observation, that by repetition of the Gaayaatri (with correct understanding of meaning), the ordinary, negative tendencies in a human mind can be erased to a large extent. This, of course, could be said of any dedicated prayer, given full focus and redirecting the mind from its distractions.
This mantra is never chanted for the purpose of material gains, physical or otherwise. Its invocation concludes with an appeal to the Pure Consciousness to illumine our heart even more. It is a prayer to the higher Self within us to drop its veil so that we may enter the Purest Wisdom.
Gaayatrii mantra is also called as Shavitrii mantra, which is in relation to the sun. The term comes from the earliest Vedic literature and it is there that we find the metre which is set in this first hymn of this type - there are to be found, subsequently, many other gaayatrii to various aspects of the divine. This, though, is THE Gaayatrii and considered the most important of all these prayers.
What exactly is the Gaayatrii metre, then? It is generally constituted of three paadas (lines), each containing eight syllables. This does not include the precursory chanting. Therefore the three lines of the Gaayatrii are -
Om tat-savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhiimahi
Dhiyo yo-naH prachodayaat.
Strictly speaking, the omkara ( ॐ ) as also a precursor and not an actual part of the chant; it has been placed, however, to ensure the eight-syllables required. Traditionally, the last syllable '-nyam' of the first paada, is likely to have been clearly pronounced as 'ni' then 'am'. However this usage may have been dropped, as all mantras of any variety within Samskritam are preceded with omkara and, therefore, the syllable measure is satisfied.
Gaayatrii mantra is from the Rig-veda and is found in third mandala (book), in the sixtieth suutra (chapter - actually 'thread') and is the tenth mantra there. Mantra is the term used for all prayers and hymns in Sanskrit literature and refers to very specific rhythmic structure with potential for deep effects upon the chanter. The 'seer' (Rshi) of the mantra is the saint, Vishvaamitra, who is attributed with all the mantras of the third mandala of the Rig-veda. This Gaayatrii is also found in both the Shukla (white) and Krshna (black) Yajur-vedas.
The mantra is dedicated to Sri SavitR - generally accepted to be representative of the Sun. This makes sense, given that the Sun is responsible for life; it gives all illumination to the world and this prayer is for illumination, albeit beyond anything the physical Sun could actually provide. A translation of this mantra would be, "We meditate upon the auspicious light of Lord Sun; may that heavenly light illumine our thought-flow in our intellect." You will find many variations of this interpretation but all saying essentially the same thing… by opening our heart/mind to the teachings which bring the light of knowledge, we ourselves will become enlightened.
Next week, we shall learn a little more about the application of the prayer in the tradition.