तत् - सवितुः – वरेण्यं tat - savituH – vareNyaM :
That – of the Originator – Most excellent;
भर्गो - देवस्य – धीमहि bhargo - devasya – dhImahi
Light – of God – Let us meditate;
धियो - यो - नः - प्रचोदयात्॥ dhiyo - yo - naH - pracodayAt ..
Intellects – He who – Our – May prompt
The word savituH in the first line, which indicates 'Origin' or 'Birth', suggests Creation and makes it characteristic of the 'sat' or the 'satya' facet. This line is a glorification of the Absolute. A glorification of a deity simply praises the Lord as Lord, does not ask for anything and does not do anything in the wake of that praise. The first line of the GAyatrI does simply this. The second line asks us to meditate as if it is the be-all and end-all of life. Yes, because the meditation itself gives the bliss, immanent in the Absolute Reality. Meditation on the Absolute is communion with or worship of, the Divine. It is therefore the worship aspect of the mantra. It corresponds to the Ananda (or the ananta, infinite) aspect of the Absolute; because the very meditation of the Absolute is Bliss. Bliss is not something that you attain after you have achieved something as a reward from the Lord. To think of Him is Bliss! The use of the words dhiyah and pracodayAt in the third line show that this line is indicative of the cit facet of Reality and is also the Prayer aspect of the mantra imbedded in the GAyatrI. It is the cit (Knowledge, jnAnaM) facet of the sat-cid-Ananda form or the satyam-jnAnaM-anantam definition of Brahman. It is significant that in this line it is the intellect that asks for the prompting of the Absolute and that is why this line is the cit facet.
A deeper inquiry into the meaning of the mantra will take us into the analysis of the state of sleep and our memory of it. In fact, the sat-cid-Ananda form is our true nature, though we don't know it. The advaita Vedanta has this to say on sat-cid-Ananda. When a man wakes from deep sleep it is natural for him to exclaim: I slept happily. Who is this ‘I’ that slept happily? It is not the mind, because it was not active at the time when the ‘I’ was sleeping. It is not the one that recalls the happiness of the sleep, because it did not experience the happiness. Only the experiencer can recall the experience. The experiencer is the ‘I’. Actually, the experiencer is the lower ‘I’, the false ‘I’. The real ‘I’, i.e., the higher ‘I’, simply watches the experience of the lower ‘I’. The real ‘I’ is the Immutable Reality. It does not go through any change or experience. But it always ‘watches’. It is the ‘sAkshhi’. It is the sat-cidAnanda Reality. The lower ‘I’ goes and ‘touches’ it, as it were, during deep sleep and this is an everyday experience for the lower ‘I’. That is why it is able to say ‘I slept happily’, after every awakening from deep sleep. Here there are three assertions made, all rolled into one. The word ‘happily’ indicates there is an Ananda (pleasure, happiness, joy) which was experienced during sleep; it is actually a recall of the association with the Ananda of the real ‘I’. The word ‘I’ indicates the continuity of existence between the state of sleep and the state of waking. The word ‘slept’ indicates an awareness or the knowledge ( = cit) of sleep, the awareness belonging to the witness to the sleep, namely, the real ‘I’.
In dreamless sleep were we conscious or not? We feel we were not conscious. But that is a feeling we have after waking from sleep. We do not do so in sleep itself. That in us which now feels that in sleep we were not conscious is our mind. It was not present in our sleep and so it is natural for it to be ignorant of the consciousness there was in sleep. Not having experienced sleep, it is unable to remember what it was like and makes mistakes about it. The state of deep sleep is beyond the mind. Consciousness was present then as consciousness. It is because of that consciousness we are able to say that we were not aware of anything then. In a dark room we are not able to see anything but still we have the awareness that we are not able to see anything; for this awareness no external light is necessary. But, every day when we go to sleep we come back with the memory of a happy sleep, because we have gone and touched that true nature of us without our own volition.
Thus, the three lines together, of the GAyatrI, incorporate, in a sense, the three-fold universal practice of all Religion, namely, Glorification of the super-natural, Worship of the Supra-mental and Prayer to The All-mighty. The three lines represent the three different types of propitiation. GAyatrI is spoken of in the Veda itself as the ‘mother of all Mantras’ -- chandasAm mAtaH -- as we saw a little while earlier. The essence of the Upanishads is that Divinity is everywhere, it is that Divinity that energises us into thought and action and it is only with the help of that eternal omnipresent Divinity that we may ever hope to have a discerning intellect with which we may see the effervescence of the Godhead that is inherent in the visible universe including ourselves – all this is built into this GAyatrI mantra of three quarters.
ओजोऽसि सहोऽसि बलमसि भ्राजोऽसि देवानां धाम नामाऽसि विश्वमसि विश्वायुः सर्वमसि सर्वायुः अभिभूरों गायत्रीं आवाहयामि (M.N.U.: Anuvaka 35)
ojo.asi saho.asi balamasi bhrAjo.asi devAnAM dhAma nAmA.asi vishvamasi vishvAyuH sarvamasi sarvAyuH abhibhUroM gAyatrIM AvAhayAmi ).
You are the essence of strength. You are patience or the subduing power. You are physical capacity. You are splendour; You are the Abode of Gods and their name. You are the insentient universe; You are the full span of Life of all. You are every living thing as well as the life span of all. You are the vanquisher of all that is hostile to us. Aum. I am (thus) invoking the GaayatrI.
GAyatrI is the Mantra of mantras; It is the essence of the Vedas. Therefore prefixed by the Pranayama, it becomes an essential part of every religious ritual. The PrANAyAma consists of Pranava (AUM), vyAhritis (bhUH, bhuvaH, suvaH, mahaH, janaH. tapaH, satyaM ) GAyatrI and GAyatrIshiras – headline of GayatrI - (Apo jyotIraso amRRitaM brahma bhUrbhuvasuvaH). According to Manu this composite formula is to be mentally repeated clearly and attentively thrice while the breath is retained within. The seven vyAhritis denote the seven worlds created by BrahmA. Pranava is added to each of them because each vyAhriti independently also stands for the Supreme. You cannot separate Brahman from the material world because Brahman is both the material and the efficient cause (upAdAna kAraNa + nimitta kAraNa). Then the GAyatrI mantra follows also headed by Pranava. This again shows that the GAyatrI mantra indicates the Supreme. This is succeeded by GAyatrIshiras bracketed by Pranava in the beginning and the end.
The GAyatrI mantra itself has three components, which are:
1. the PraNava, namely, OM;
2. the expansion of PraNava as three vyAhritis, bhUH (representing the earthly world of the humans), bhuvaH (representing the region of the ancestral souls, called pitR’s) and suvah (representing the resident-world of the devas, like Indra, Varuna, Yama, etc.); and, finally,
3. the three pAdas (lines or quarters) of the mantra itself.
When a person performs the prANAyAma and concentrates his thought on this mantra, the latent spiritual tendencies in the depth of his being are awakened and he becomes fit for communion with the Supreme Reality and eventually he realises the spiritual goal. The very word GAyatrI means that it protects those who chant it (gAyantaM trAyate). Protecting here is for the sake of the Ultimate. Once the path to the Ultimate is protected, everything else is protected, not only of those who chant it but of the very neighbourhood, of the environment, of the world in which they live. Those who have had the privilege of being initiated into the mantra of the GAyatrI have the added responsibility of not allowing it to decay with them. Mantras have to be protected by repeated chanting, and meditation on their meaning and significance. The japa and dhyaana on what GAyatrI stands for has been the cultural heritage of Sanatana Dharma. Inspite of the fact that this responsibility has been allocated to only a small fraction of the total population, the power of the mantra is so great that it has been protecting the entire civilisation for mankind.
Can the Finite reach the Infinite? Vedanta says it can. The Infinite which is sat-cidAnanda can be reached by the finite human being if proper efforts are made by him. To reach the Infinite is the goal (Moksha) of all beings. Once the finite reaches the Infinite, there is no coming back to the finite state. In other words, there is no more birth and death. This reaching has to be achieved through a proper discipline of the mind. That which IS, by its very nature, is beyond time. Thinking by the mind by its very nature involves a sequence of points in time. Therefore, thinking is finite; awareness sparked by this thinking is only of finite objects. It means therefore that in order to contact the infinite, one must go beyond the thought process. That which is, has then to be taken hold of only by the non-action of the thinking function. The mind must be emptied of all its contents in order that its true nature – awareness – may be revealed. At present it is always entangled with some thought so that awareness by itself is lost in that thought. The self disappears in that ego-thought and the outer ‘I’ mistakes the object for the subject – irrespective of whether the object be the world outside or the thought inside. Thus, the mind is the villain within oneself. The most villainous part of the mind is however, the ego. This is the source of all problems. In every one of our actions and thoughts, we have to watch this ego. And fight it to minimise its influence and carry on this internal struggle endlessly. This is the Way. The vast majority of people may think of another way. They may think in a variety of other ways.
There is another angle through which one can perceive the greatness of the GAyatrI mantra. Said in simple terms, GAyatrI prays for a total clarity in the processes of the intellect and of the reservoir of intuition. This clarity is necessary not only to comprehend the nuances of the Supreme Existence, but also in the forest of activities (secular or otherwise) of one’s life. In fact it is the experience of those who have researched into the psychology of learning, that incessant chanting of the GayatrI improves one’s intellectual capabilities. Clarity in understanding does not come from external gadgets. It comes from the depths of one’s intuition. Most of man’s inventions have originated from such intuition.
History has shown us again and again that the mass mind is very amenable to suggestion and regimentation. Mass mind can be influenced by appeals to lower instincts, narrow prejudices and baser instincts. It is this mass mind that has made religion a formal affair, a matter of routine and elaborate paraphernalia. Instead of experience it is blinded by dogmatic belief. Instead of aspiring for spirituality it is blinded by scholastic learning. It mistakes scholastic learning for spirituality; charitable work for Love. We make enormous socio-economic efforts to improve our material uplift. All that effort makes us only more and more outward- looking and superficial. We are thus cut off from the only source of strength, peace and wisdom which exists in every one of us. These limitations and illusions of the mind have to be cast off. Only in the innermost depths of our consciousness can we realise the whole Truth in all its Perfection, Immanence and Transcendence. The real life of man begins only when he transcends all his animal attributes and capacities, desires, emotions, concrete thoughts and physical needs and starts living in this (his own) higher level of being. न अन्यः पन्था अयनाय विद्यते (na anyaH panthA ayanAya vidyate). There is no other Way, declare the scriptures. Constant chanting of the GAyatrI, in the manner of a disciplined japa and continuous meditation on its meaning will clear the way for us by consuming the accumulated dirt in our minds. This cleansing of the mind will result in a crystal-clear mind, which means there is no mind at all; for there is no thought, by the Grace of God, Only the Infinite Self is all there is. This is the way the Finite may reach the Infinite and then there exists only the Infinite; never the Finite.