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.
For a further insight as to the meaning and intent of the Gayatri Mantra, we find a story in the Taittiriiya aarranyaka about the arghya - the water offering to the sun; in an island called Arunam ('of the dawn'), a tribe of devils called Mana-dehas live. These devils each morning, in hoards, conquer space and reash almost near the sun, threatening to destry Him. Then the water thrown by the gaayatrii japists becomes like lighting in its strength and the devils get struck by that, retreating into their island home. This happens every morning.
Such a story seems like a fairytale to our modern thinking. However, as with all good fairytales, analogies are to be drawn. Mind (mana) and body (deha) are the sources of our activities and they, with their likes and dislikes, emotions and appetites, passions and cravings, bring out from us a host of passionate animal instincts which try to conquer and destroy the spiritual essence within us… the Brahman, the Sun in us. The essential brilliance of the human intellect thus gets clouded by the approaching instincts. It is the Gaayatrii-japa which helps to keep them at bay!
There was a time when only this mantra was chanted in the morning. As the history progressed and more authors came along, the addition of suutras and aagamas were added to morning ritual in order to honour various devatas, not least being the triputi, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Each of these also had gayatri mantras. What is more, there came a time when it was put forward that The Gayatri, the great prayer, was actually to the goddess, Mother of Vedas, and there is a belief among some that the chanting of this Gayatri means they have, to all intents and purposes, chanted the whole of the Vedas.
As happens in society, over the years many interesting, if somewhat irrational, beliefs have arisen in regard to the mantra and its efficacy. Indeed, what is said about this or that mantra is often a claim close the medicinal. For example, if scared of the dark, chant the Gayatri to bring inner light to conquer the fright. If one is on the bed sick, others chanting around one will bring a blanket of health; if one is embarking on a new venture, chant eleven times - if an obstacle met, chant another sixteen times… such things as this are not unsurprising as the very meaning of 'gayatri' is "protects him who chants it".
Many and varied are the claims made. It is this which has caused mantras to be considered as 'spells'. However, one must not be disparaging; whilst the direct claims such as these may be filled with creative delusion, the simple and proven fact is that japa of the gayatri brings a sense of calm and focus and that has to be a good thing. In calm and focused balance we find that we cope better and handle situations more dextrously and in general life is better. The specific claims may be a bit daft, but the essence of purpose and place for the mantra is deeply significant and to be embraced fully.