The Tree of knowledge
The Significance of Gayatri Mantra
If the intellect is fine, everything will be fine. But when intellect is lacking, everything is lost. You may have made a lot of money for your children, but if your child lacks discrimination, what is the point? But if there is wisdom even if your child does not have money he will make money. This is the mark of an intelligent person; that the intellect should remain sharp – and this is the Gayatri mantra. Gayatri is considered to be the mother of the Vedas. This is considered the highest mantra, the highest prayer. Such prayers are rare and unique in the world.
Adi Shankaracharyaji, after having given all the knowledge he had to give, says one last thing, ‘O Shiva! You are me and I am You – Shivoham! ’ (Shivoham – I am Shiva).
Atmatvam – The Atman (Soul) is Shiva, and Girijimatih – Our buddhi (intellect) is the manifestation of Mother Divine (Devi). And intellect is of three types: Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasik; which means that the intellect can be predominantly ruled by Satoguna, Rajoguna or Tamoguna. So in essence – ‘I am Shiva and my intellect is Sati (Mother Divine) Herself’. And life depends on how our intellect (mati) is. If the intellect is Tamasik then it becomes Kali (a violent form of the Mother Divine) and takes hold over Shiva (here, the soul) and works towards destroying everything. If the intellect is Sattvik then it takes the form of Saraswati (the form of the Mother Divine associated with knowledge and wisdom); and if the intellect is Rajasik then it is Lakshmi (the form of the Mother Divine associated with wealth and prosperity). So, as is the intellect so are the actions (Jaisa mati vaisa gati). As the nature of our intellect, so are our actions.
Gayatri means to go beyond; to transcend the three gunas.
That is why we pray (through the chant of the Gayatri) –
Let this intellect be guided and inspired by something which is beyond the intellect – the Divinity.
You must have seen that there are some people who have a lot of negative feelings. They find fault in everything, and try to prove everything as faulty or incorrect. Even if someone is doing very good work, there also they will find some fault or the other. Such an intellect is destructive in nature – Tamasik intellect. A Rajasik intellect is one that wants – I want this and I want that as well, and so one engages oneself and others into activities to acquire this and that. A Sattvik intellect is one that is blissful, happy, contented, and intuitive; an intellect that is supportive of others, helpful to others, joyful, aware and knowledgeable.
So, Gayatri (the primordial aspect of the Mother Goddess) means to go beyond, to transcend these three gunas (Tamasik, Rajasik and Sattvik). That is why we pray (through the chant of the Gayatri) – Let this intellect be guided and inspired by something which is beyond the intellect – the Divinity. So we first relieve ourselves of Tamoguna, by engaging in the activities of Rajoguna, and then we relieve ourselves from Rajoguna driven activities and move up towards Satoguna. And then we go beyond even Satoguna to realize the bliss and peace of the supreme Consciousness – this is Gayatri. That is why Gayatri is said to be the power that can destroy and overcome all sins and sorrows, and the chanting of which helps us overcome adversity, that is Gayatri.
See, this is like a vicious circle. First we move (in a circle) from Tamoguna to Rajoguna, and then from Rajoguna to Satoguna. When we strive to hold on to the Satoguna, we come into Rajoguna. And if we strive more in Rajoguna, we again fall back into Tamoguna. So we climb up only to go down once again, and this keeps happening. The root cause of this is Aham (Ego), which is in the subtle form like that of an atom. So, to inspire and channel this subtle ego of ours we have the Gayatri Mantra. That is the speciality of the Gayatri mantra – Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat. It means, ‘Inspire and direct my intellect towards righteousness.’ By that we pray that may our intellect be freed from sins, criticism, and other negativity. That is why we have the japa (chanting) of the Gayatri mantra.
‘Brahmatejo’ – may we be illumined and become radiant like the Brahman.
So what is the best prayer? May this intellect of ours be inspired and guided to move on the path of righteousness! And we pray that this happens for everyone – ‘Nah’, which mean may everyone’s intellect be guided and inspired this way. If one person’s intellect goes in the wrong direction, and if you happen to be with that person, then his negative vibrations come to you too. How many people have had this experience? If you sit day and night with someone who keeps speaking negative things, then your mind also becomes anxious and restless with that negativity. And then, as a result of that, you do not experience joy and happiness. That is why we pray so that our intellect be inspired and directed to move away from all negativity. Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi means, May all our sins be burnt and destroyed.
And so we pray to that Divine Power and Supreme Consciousness which is present everywhere to dispel and destroy all our sins, and guide and inspire our intellect on the path of righteousness. This is so beautiful, isn’t it? We must pray every day that only good things come to our intellect. It is like how we sing the song ‘Sabko sanmati de Bhagwaan’ – that is, we pray to God to give everyone a righteous intellect. So, may God’s divine radiance shine within us! This is what we should pray for. Whatever we think and pray for, that starts to happen.
Q: Guruji, in the earlier days it was a big thing to initiate someone into Gayatri Mantra. Today, you’ll find it playing everywhere.
Guruji: ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ when it is sung in the satsang like music then it has different value. But when it is initiated as a mantra for you which is sacred, then you keep it a secret. So that is the attitude with it today. Secret and sacred went together in India from time immemorial. Anything that is kept secret is considered a sacred thing, contrary to the occident. In the West, anything that you need to be ashamed of was always kept secret. In India, you will always keep your weaknesses out in the open. Anything you feel sorry for, you will keep it open in front of your parents, or Guru or your friend. Untruth was never kept a secret but was kept open. So secret is always something that is sacred and respecting the secrecy is considered a very big virtue. In the west sacred was never kept a secret. Anything you need to be ashamed of in your life was always kept secret. If you are keeping a secret, that means you are hiding something, you are away from truth. But here in India, you are close to the truth when you keep something secret.
These are two very different attitudes towards secrecy. In the West, secrecy is deceitful, treacherous, untruth, cunning and dishonest. These are the attributes that are conjoined with secrecy. In India, anything that is secret is reverent, holy, personal, intimate, uplifting, and is connecting to the infinity, to the divinity. These are the attributes joined to secrecy here. That is why mantras are given as a secret. When Gayatri Mantra is given, they take a blanket and cover the parent’s, the child’s and the teacher’s head and then the child will be given the mantra secretly in his right ear. And the mantra is: Let the infinity, let the divinity dawn in my mind and my intellect. This is how the mantras are given in a very secret manner. In those days especially Gayatri Mantra was not given to people for one reason: because it is very powerful. People would think, it is a very powerful thing and if everybody becomes powerful then the ruling kings would become weak.
Also, they tried to avoid giving it to women. It was a male-dominated society and men were scared that if women practiced the Gayatri mantra they would attain enlightenment. Women tend to attain perfection sooner. Out of fear men took away the technique of mantra chanting from women. But nowadays, women are awakened and aware. Mantras can be chanted by everyone. Some thousands of years back this ‘males only’ tradition started in India, previous to that it was not there. Men and women had equal rights. Sometime along the way, the priests, kings and ministers, in collusion, decided that only men should chant mantras. That is now a thing of the past.
Q: Guruji, Gayatri mantra is to be chanted mentally whereas other mantras like ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ should be chanted aloud. What is the science behind chanting aloud or doing it mentally?
Guruji: When you sing aloud, it creates more energy all around, so singing has its own type of energy; mentally chanting it has its own energy. But main thing is the ‘bhaava’, the feeling behind it.
Source: Extracts from wisdomfromsrisriravishankar.blogspot.com.
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