Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Beginner's Chant

Hari OM

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'.

 गायत्री मन्त्र /gaayatrii maantra Chanting practice.

Something to be aware of in chanting is that there are certain variances to be found according to the lineage assigned 'authority' over certain parts of the Vedas. There are a few items which do not vary (or at least, ought not to!) and the Maha-Gayaatri is one such. There are differences, however, to be found between traditional Vedic chant and the use of the mantra as a form of bhajan (hymn), in which case the words are sung, rather than chanted, with a more melodic rhythm and often with instrumentation added. There are a plethora of these to be found on the 'tubular device' and these can be very pleasant to use for groups, where there can then be raised an element of praise and joy.  By all means use this link as recommendation for the sung version. The words are kept true and the traditional bhajan tune is kept pure.  There are many 'new age' versions out there, but they are not recommended for meditational and devotional practice as they have a tendency to 'lose the point'. As you have been learning here, the Gaayatri is as foundational a prayer as The Lord's Prayer of the Christian faith and ought to be respected as such, given full focus and heart.

OM requires little explanation for sound, all are capable of it!

BHUUR - the BH letter is a softened 'bee' and slightly aspirated, almost to the sound of the p in pour. The U is the longer held sound, exactly as in pour.

BHUVAH - the BH, as above. The aspiration created the visarga (: /H) letter which would normally be pronounced with 'huh' if at end, in this case is very much softened when followed by another consonant, as is the case with the next word to it; thus the is rather a breathy 'hhh' leading into…

SUVAH - where the : does take on the 'huh' ending. Note that the 'u' is almost lost in chanting giving more of 'sv' sound.

TAT - remember that in Sanskrit, the transliteration of 'a' actually sounds closer to  'uh' in sound - not quite 'tut' but very close!

SAVITUH - pretty much as it looks, but the single transliteration 'u' is shorter and softer than the 'uu' - however, the visarga (:/H) of the standalone word converts to 'r' due to /sandhi (grammar connection).
VARENYAM - as seen

BHARGAH - BH  you are now familiar. Again sandhi results in alteration, the AH becoming 'o'. The 'o' in Sanskrit is a definite 'oh' sound and not at all flattened or 'ow-d'!

DEVASYA - the 'e' of Sanskrit is the 'eh' sound as in gate.

DHIIMAHI - the DH like the BH is an aspirated and slightly softened d - coming almost to the 'th' at end of breathe. In this word we also find an example of the long and short form 'ee' sound, the long being as in heel, the short being closer to that of hill.

DHIYAH - note the short form 'ee' and again the sandhi transformation at end into 'o'.

YAH NAH - two words here, by yo is self explanatory for sound and is again sandhi at work. However, now we come to another of the peculiarities of Sanskrit and the visarga (:/H).. For at the end of NAH is not a simple aspiration 'huh', neither does it transform to 'o'...because it is followed by a 'p' sound and it is recognised that the flow gives a natural tendency to slur the 'huh' and thus it is now formally given the 'uff' sound - thus it would be 'yo nuff'…

PRACHODAYAAT - pretty much as you see it - though again, the last letter, being a consonant, is given individual pronunciation 'tuh'.

Next stage in Vedic chanting is to understand that there are certain established meters/rhythms, called छन्दः /chandaH.. That visarga (:/H) ending sounding as an 'ess'.  The tradition is purely verbal and for very long years only certain lineages were permitted the knowledge of the chandas of Gaayatri. In time, though, a notation arose which allowed novices to follow the text appropriately - akin to written music in the West; we can learn by ear from our teachers, but to be able to read the music for ourselves is a great delight!

The Sanskrit mark for raising the pitch is a single stroke above the vowel of each consonant**, so will look like this…

The up notation is called as उदातत /udaatta, the down notation is अनुदात्त/anudaatta and the sliding scale with the double notation is known as स्वरित/svarita. In the transliteration, given in properly printed books, the marks are the same. For use here there was some difficulty working the diacritics, so some adaptation is made...

OM bhuur bhuvaH suvāH
Tat sāvitur varënyam bhargō devasyā
Dhiimahi  dhiyo  yo  nāH prachodayäät.

...where all daata are emboldened and instead, underscore and overscore are used and in place of the " above for svarita, umlaut has instead been used. This is given only to emphasise the importance of the marks and will make a deal more sense when you listen to the recording.

**this is not as strange as you may think.  In English 'b' is not just 'b', it is 'be', with the implied vowel, as is 'ce', 'de' and so forth. 

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