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). [AV-blog; this part of the chapter is strongly edited for brevity and to ensure completion of the chapter today.]
Thousands of years after the Vedas, we have the suutras, whose authors recommended more and more items to be incorporated in daily worship. Following the suutras came the aagamas; their authors had their own contributions to make to the general form of our daily worship. Aagamas mainly describe the ritualistic regulations and rules in worshipping Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti. Each aagama claimed the Gaayatrii as its own; and they declared that Gaayatrii is presided over by one or other of the three according to the name of the Lord of that aagama.
The Shaaktas gave the idea that Gaayatrii is the infinite goddess and made her a feminine deity - Gaayatrii Devii - who soon became the Mother of the Vedas and even today it is very freely believed by Brahmins that if they have chanted Gaayatrii, they have chanted the Vedas.
Very many interesting but irrational, though quite effective, beliefs have arisen about the Gaayatrii mantra and its efficacy. **For anyone frightened in the dark, the mantra chanting is immediately advised to combat the nervousness. If anyone had some such fright resulting in illness, then some Brahmin priests would be called to the bedside for congregational japa of the Gaayatrii to aid the patient… these beliefs only prove that the very name of the mantra is fully justified. Gaayatrii, you see, itself means "that mantra which protects the chanter".
It is also believed in India, that on starting any important or great work, if a man detects some bad omen he must immediately sit down and chant the mantra eleven times. If, on starting again, he meets with a new set of bad omens, he is to sit and chant sixteen times. This will remove the negative effects… so it is said.
In India, a Hindu boy is initiated into the Gaayatrii very early in his life. This is done under the family social ritual called the Upanaayanam. In the Vedic literature, we find mention of the Gaayatrii diikshaa - the latter being a term meaning a discipline which one must undergo in order that one may become fit for taking part in any Vedic ritual. The word Upanaayanam means 'bringing nearer'. It is interesting to note that there are definite prescriptions ordering the age at which the boys are initiated. Manu smriti gives the age as five for a Brahmin, six for a Kshatriya and eight for a Vaishya - and three are maximum ages correspondingly given.
The vedic declarations glorify this and insist that life after Gaayatrii diikshaa is almost a second birth; the first birth was from the womb, and now the birth is of the spirit. Thus, those who undergo this ritual are said to be द्विज /dvija - twice-born.
[We learned earlier of the three lines of the Gaayatri, plus the invocationary phrases.] The full Gaayatrii has, in fact, a fourth line, given in the Chandogya, Brhadaaranyaka and Brahma suutra. This line has been always preserved as very sacred and is only given to full-time seekers and sannyaasis. It is not so much a line for chanting as 'experiencing' of the effects of the first three lines - a drawing into the chanter of the truth of the words which preceeded.
In ancient days, women used to chant Gaayatrii as freely as men (it is stated in Manu smriti). In the ancient days, women also had Upanaayanam. Indeed, they learned Vedas and taught Vedas… [it is subsequent works as stated above, which began to oust women from the spiritual practices.] In fact, spiritual unfoldment through mantra upaasana is foud more readily in women than in men - perhaps due to less fierce contact with the world. [This was part of Gurudev's purpose - to return women to full spiritual practice!]
The mantra, as it stands, obviously invokes the Lord Sun and pleads Him to illumine the intellect of the seeker. The sunlight cannot, as such, do this of course! In our inner life the Sun represents the light-giver, the illuminator of all experiences, the Aatman. This Pure Consciousness in us, the inner centre of our personality, around which the matter envelopments function, is being invoked to shine more and more in our intellect.
If the Sun were not there, life would not have been possible. Without Aatman, the matter envelopment becomes dead, inert. We appeal to this inner 'sun of life' to illumine the intellect. The infinite light of wisdom, the Supreme Self, is never contaminated in its eternal effulgence. It is ever the same. Its intensity cannot increase or decrease. Therefore, all that the devotee means is 'Ma my intellect be steady without agitation; may it be clean without the dirt of passions, may the light of Consciousness come to shine forth a brilliant beam of radiance through my intellect. Thus may my perception of the world be clearer, my discrimination subtler, my judgements correct and quick and may comprehension of situations and beings be precise and wise.'
**Gurudev had a footnote entered 'Personally I do not subscribe to these beliefs - they are reported here that those who are suffering from such afflictions can find a consolation and true remedy by japa of Gaayatrii.'
Next week a post on chanting of the Gaayatrii Mantra. There is one final chapter of Kindle Life thereafter - 'At War With Mind'.