Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation
For the next stage of our investigation on meditation, we are going to study - and practice! - japa as a means to tame the mind and we shall investigate the Gayatri Mantra.
Today we return to text. Please do reread the previous Gayatri post, just to connect the flow of thought.
Very good. What, then, is the chchhandas of the gayatri chants? The metre is three paadas (lines or sentences) each constituted of eight syllables ('beats'). This is without the vyahRtis - the references to lokas. Thus;
This is the basic. You will at times find that the pranava (OM) is put ahead of 'tat' and the final held together as 'nyam'. Sri Adi Shankara builds arguments in his commentary on Brhadaaranyaka Upanishad for this being a compound word, 'ni' and 'am', grammar rules permitting double-syllable through the joining letter 'y'. Indeed, you will often here the mantra chanted differently in different areas and this will, in part, depend on the chanting tradition which has been passed through 'gotra' - the male ancestral lineage - each family having their own technique; but also in part to do with parampara of Guru-line. The presentation here will be from the parampara direct from Shankara of Shrinigar line. The important thing is to know that regardless of the udatta and anudatta (the rise and fall emphases) according to each tradition, or the pronunciation or addition of pranava, the chchhandas does not change and will always be of the 8-8-8 flow.
The (Savitri) Gaayatrii first appears in the Rig-veda and it is said that the person who 'received' it (the 'seer'/Rshi), was Vishvaamitra. There are those who debate whether the dedication is indeed to the Sun God SavitR, however it is not so difficult to accept, when the reference within the mantra is all about the encompassing light of the soul and the sun is what provides the best of light in each of our days.
Now, perhaps, is the time to give a translation -
Tat: That (God);
Savitur: the Sun, Creator (source of all life);
Bhargo: effulgence (divine light);
Devasya: supreme Lord;
Dhiyo: the intellect;
Yo: May this light;
To put that more eloquently in English; "We meditate upon the auspicious holy light of the Lord Sun; may that heavenly light illumine the thought-flow in our intellect." (There will be a little more exploration of meaning to conclude this particular study, very soon.)
When we add the vyahRtis ahead of the mantra (which ought always to be done) we are inciting the physical (bhur), the mental (buvaH) and the spiritual (svaH) to combine with that inspirational light of Knowledge.
Now, all that remains today is to refer you back to the short practice sound clip which was provided in earlier studies on the mantra. You will of course find many presentations of the mantra in various parts of the ether; but perhaps you will understand that for saadhana and in relation to your studies here at AV-blog, the request is for you to follow as closely as possible what is given here. It is not that others are 'wrong' - but, in the end, 'too many cooks … spoiled broth…' and all that! It is always advisable, if you are comfortable with a lineage of teaching, to stick with that. Consistency is then assured.