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).
There are many parts of daily life which can be ordered according to shruti, (truly, Sanskrit literature is the most comprehensive manual for living you could ever find!), but of course daily worship, called सन्ध्या कर्म /sandhyaa karma, is given most attention. One of the prayers which are prescribed and not to be missed, is the repetition of the Great Gaayatrii Mantra.
|the body is purified by water|
the mind is purified by truth
knowledge, practice and spirit are
purified by intellect and knowledge.
Historically, it was used to keep the mind 'tidy' after the ravages of daily living and the random unawareness of sleep. One of the great scriptures, the मनुस्मृति /ManusmRti, says "...in the early dawn by doing this japa standing, one ends all sins committed during the night and by doing the japa in the evening while sitting, one ends one's sins committed during the day." Sin, here, means the agitations created in our mental life by our own negative actions and the tendency to repeat the same. Such 'habits' leave impressions on the mind and these become sealed as vaasanas - the internal tendencies carried from life to life.
After that period in history, the importance of Gaayatrii grew somewhat and came to hold the importance it currently has; 'importance' in the sense that it was raised on a pedestal and some ritualistic behaviours grew around it - this is a thing which happens in many spiritual matters; they are brought down, given material importance instead, without there really being any supporting evidence in the scriptures that this is required. It demonstrates that mankind requires a level of ritual in order to feel that s/he is performing worship - making worship a separate thing from daily living. This fall into materialistic spirituality was also when other things got twisted and misconstrued; such as the social divisions. In this case, there came about an idea that the Gaayatrii was not to be chanted without the जनौ /janau (holy thread worn on the body of the Brahmins… ie that only this strata of society were permitted to chant it). This is also when the Pranava (OM) and the व्याहृताः /vyaahRtis (other sacred tones/words) were added to the chanting. Thus we find ॐ भूर् भुवः स्वः /OM bhuur, bhuvaH svaH, giving a fourth paada to the mantra. Sometimes, also, an additional OM is added before the mantra proper. This was, as explained last week, in order to permit the eight syllables, if the end syllable is held as one and not split inti 'ni' and 'am'.
There are two sandhyaas in a day. The word means the blending of and night, therefore, dawn and dusk. In the ancient literature we do not find any importance given to midday worship. The Rsis appear only to insist upon morning and evening prayer. The concept of midday worship, then, may well have been adopted from practices observed by the Islamic faith, which encroached quite early in Indian history. In terms of the morning and evening, it is generally advised that the most 'auspicious' times (those times when the body mind and intellect are most likely to reap the best benefit) is between 4:30 and 5 am (which is referred to as /Brahma-muhuurta) and later, between 6 and 7 pm. ManusmRti is, again, very helpful in its direction.
"After getting up from bed, after answering the calls of nature, purifying yourself competely, disallowing the mind to wander hither and tither, sincerely perform the morning japa standing on your feet and repeating the mantra very slowly. Perform this morning worship till the sun rises above the horizon and for the evening worship, do the japa till the stars emerge." (ManuS. 2/101)
In those early days, this sandhyaa karma was not as elaborate as it has tended to become since the days of सूत्राः आगमाः /suutras and aagamas (commentaries and doctrines = man's interpretations and assumptions). The original instruction was to chant the mantra at dawn standing in water and facing the sun, holding water in the folded palms and at then end of each recitation, that water is to be offered to the Lord - ie allowed to run from the hands. As this happens, the sadhaka utters /asaavaadityo Brahma (this sun is Brahman) and makes a circular stepping motion around his or herself as reverence to the Lord Sun/Brahman, who is nothing but the Self within us. Generally, the Gaayatrii is chanted a minimum of ten times; however, according to one's faith, convenience and devotion, it may be chanted any number of times - a classic and auspicious number is the 108 of a sacred mala. If you find that you have time space for only one Gaayatrii practice in a day, then make it the morning.
The mind and the body are the sources of our activity in the world; mind and body have likes, dislikes, emotions, lusts, cravings and so on. They bring out from us a host of animal instincts which can conquer and destroy the spiritual essence within us - the Brahman, the Sun within us. The essential brillinace of the human intellect becomes clouded by this onslaught… the Gaayatrii japa pours oil on these stormy waters and acts as a filter, permitting the intellect to understand it can rise above all the nonsense.
SELF focus, not self focus is the purpose of this practice.
Some more on the history and background to this mantra next week, after which there will be instruction in practice.