The Meaning of the Gayatri Mantra


#1

A mantra is the holy name of God. According to Hinduism any person who chants the holy name of God or Goddess is bound to develop a pure mind in the course of time. The power of chanting a mantra is accepted by many religious leaders too. There is a strong belief that a man who chants the name of God or mantra can see God too.

The word ‘mantra’ can be derived as ‘mananaat traayate iti mantrah’. ‘Manana’ means ‘reflecting on something’ and hence the inner meaning goes as ‘reflecting upon which a person is protected from the perils of life such as bondage and attachment’. Hence a mantra though a word in composition should not be underestimated in its power. Although several mantras are composed of a single word, their power is great to bring enormous benefits both in terms of spiritual and material fronts.

Hinduism believes that regular chanting of a mantra regulates the thinking faculty of the mind and makes a person spiritually oriented. The spiritual growth of the chanter increases in the course of time. It is said that a mantra transferred from the mouth of a teacher to the taught has a greater impact on the life of the taught since it carries with it the spiritual experience and the power of the teacher. Hence the chanting of a mantra should be learned directly from a teacher than from holy books. Pronunciation of the syllables of a mantra plays a great part in bringing about the desired results as far as the spiritual growth of the person is concerned.

Two of the most important mantras are the Pranava mantra called the ‘Aum’ and the Gayatri Mantra. Both are effective in bringing about spiritual growth in the life of the chanter. Gayatri mantra helps the chanter to advance towards spiritual realization or God realization. It purifies the mind and brings about brilliance and radiance upon the countenance of the chanter. Gayatri mantra is also known by the name of Savitri mantra. You will find the Gayatri mantra in the Rig Veda. This mantra is considered a very effective mantra by the Hindus. Its efficacy cannot be questioned at all according to the practitioners. This mantra is not just a word in its composition but is a congregation of several words that take the form of a prayer. Hence Gayatri mantra is regarded by many Hindus as a kind of prayer that can bestow prosperity and success on the life of the chanter.

The chanter of course is expected to chant the Gayatri mantra with all devotion and steadfast faith. Any mantra uttered without faith is said to be powerless. Hence faith and steadfast devotion are very important when it comes to the chanting of any mantra for that matter. There is a belief that Gayatri mantra if chanted with devotion and faith has the ability to keep diseases too at bay. In Sanskrit the Gayatri mantra goes as follows:

Aum bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.

The meaning of the Gayatri mantra is as follows: Aum we meditate on the luster of the adorable divine being, who is the receptacle and the savior of the three worlds, namely, the earth, the ether and the heaven called as Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka and Svarloka respectively. May that divine being kindle our intellect so that we may realize the Supreme Brahman or Being.

If this mantra is chanted regularly three times in a day, preferably in the morning, in the afternoon and in the twilight, then it is bound to bestow enormous benefits upon you both physically and mentally. It is believed that Gayatri mantra brings about health benefits as well. The syllables in the mantra are so powerful that regular chanting of these syllables regulates the breathing pattern too. The respiratory and the nervous systems are said to be greatly benefited by the regular chanting of the Gayatri mantra. The Brahmins are supposed to recite the Gayatri mantra on a daily basis after the Yajnopavita or the Sacred Thread ceremony is over. This ceremony is also called as Upanayana. It is one of the important household karmas or duties. Sacred Thread ceremony is performed prior to the marriage ceremony. A person, especially a Brahmin is not supposed to marry before the performance of the Sacred Thread ceremony during which the Gayatri mantra is imparted to him by his father or the teacher.

It is interesting to note that any given mantra is associated with the name of the sage to whom the mantra was revealed first. It also is addressed to a deity. The Gayatri mantra is believed to be addressed to the Sun God, otherwise called as Savita. ‘Suryo Pratyaksha Devata’ goes the religious saying which means ‘The Sun God is the perceivable God’. Every vedic mantra or verse is defined by a meter. So is Gayatri mantra which is composed in the Gayatri meter that comprises of 24 syllables. The name of the meter is ultimately given to the mantra too and hence it is called by the name Gayatri mantra. It is important to note that the Gayatri mantra begins with the mystic syllable ‘aum’. It is believed that ‘aum’ is the basis for all the words that originates from the vocal organ.

The throat is the fundamental unit of the vocal organ. The sound of ‘a’ in ‘aum’ is produced by the throat whereas the sounds ‘u’ and ‘m’ are said to have originated from the lips. Since the universe is filled by words and their meanings, it can be said that the sound ‘aum’ is the representation of the universe as a whole. The syllable ‘aum’ is secular in character and hence can be chanted by people from all walks of life and from all races and communities. In the same way since Gayatri mantra too begins with ‘aum’ it is believed that it bestows lot of benefits on the chanter whoever he or she may be.


#2

Thanks for a good detail. This information would help further:

Why mantas are so precious is easy to understand. Almost as a rule, each prominent mantra is discovered by its author (if known) in a state of samadhi. Hence a mantra has 3-fold power: phonetic vibrations that rejuvenate glands and brain/body cells, the notation and their specific octaves that soothe the emotions and the meaning that is intellectually revealing.

What is critically important though is correct recitation. For example, the Gayatri Mantra is recited thus:

Aum bhur bhu[U]va[/U]h s[B]va[/B]h

tat [B]sa[/B][U]vi[/U]tur va[B]re**[/B]n[U]ya[/U]m bhar[B]g[/B]o [U]de[/U]vas[B]ya[/B] dheemahi

dhi[U]y[/U]o yo [B]na[/B]h pra[U]ch[/U]oda[B]ya**[/B]t.

(where the bold syllable is in higher octave, 2 stars require additional elongated recital in high octave, underline means lower oatave.)

It is not easy for the beginners and they are advised to learn it one-on-one. Most mantras are also recited in 3 modes: aloud, in whisper and in thought.

A premise underlying any mantra is the power of sound. Akaash is the subtlest element of matter and it can only be sensed as sound vibrations. Sometimes we overlook the fact that language we speak is “sound” (hear a foreign language as proof). Since Akaash is the creator of other elements like air, fire, water and earth, in effect it is the creator of all matter. Thus, sound becomes an instrument of creation (by implication, of destruction as well). Mantras acquire power for this reason, and need to be handled with care for the same reason.


#3

Thank you both for your insights and knowledge of the Gayatri Mantra. This has been and still is my favorite of the mantras. A beautiful copy was given to me upon TT graduation by a fellow student (from India and her also a yoga teacher). It resonates beautifully with me and I sing it daily. It is also a favorite of my students. I’m not a very good singer, but for some reason, when I play the CD and sing along, I feel as if I’m in absolute sync with it. Powerful!

What surprised me is that the picture for this article is from the CD that I have by Rattan Mohan Sharma. For those of you wanting a good copy of the Gayatri, this is the best.


#4

Dear Suhas ji:

Phonetics and swaras were nicely given by you.

Mantra (mana + trana) implies the unification of mind (mana) and trana (prana), which is what happens after prolonged practice.

Unification of mind and prana is kundalini awakening, opening the doors for knowledge to reveal itself, after a process of inner self-purification.


#5

Hello,

You Really Well Explained the Meaning of Gyatari Mantra. This is Very Useful to Know the Meaning before use that Mantra in Daily Life… If you Have more Knowledge Can you Please Explain the Meaning of Maha Mrituyanja Mantra.


#6

lotusgirl,
Would you mind sharing which version of the gayatri matra you talked about? Is this something I can download on iTunes?
Thanks.


#7

If you enjoy mantra and sound therapy, consider this. . . "The definition of an isolated system: a system that does not interact with the other systems of its environment in any way. Now I ask: Does an isolated system exist?

An isolated system is based on something that is not found in nature. Curious. Heretofore – all scientific exploration has looked at things as isolated systems. For example, we try to minimize something and look at its small, separate parts. . .the cell, the nervous system, the elements of the periodic table, apples, flowers, tables, etc. but this does not exist in nature – not in any system, not in gravitational pull, not in biological functions, not in mechanical engineering, not in sociological systems, etc. In Tibetan Buddhist teachings this is referred to dependent arising or pratityasamutpada. It is the notion that things only exist as referential systems to cause and effect by other things. Or, nothing exists in a closed-system. The Huayan-Zong school established during the Tang dynasty teaches this point as a primary focus of its spiritual theory. The Upanishads and Vedasspoke of this repeatedly. There are countless other traditions throughout India, Japan, Asia, Korea, China, Australia, Africa, and elsewhere which tell the same story. . ."


#8

Is there any where this can be heard where it is pronounced correctly reading it reminds me of some of the things I have heard sung by swami’s