Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Gayatri Mantra

Om Bhur Bhuvaha Swaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayat

The Gayatri Mantra is probably my favourite of the Sanskrit Mantras I know. My favourite translation of this is "Let us meditate upon the light of that adorable Sun, May it awaken our spritual perception on the three planes - physical, vital and mental", and one of the most beautiful versions I have ever heard is chanted by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati.

The Gayatri Mantra is known as the essence of all mantras (and there are many many many mantras). It is thought to tap into the sounds of the universe. Eastern mystical philosophy believes there to be seven plains of light above us and seven spheres of darkness below us (as above so below). The vibrations of the Gayatri Mantra allow the body to tune into these seven plains of light opening the chakras and allowing freedom and health to the physical body.

Whether or not you hold with this philosophy there is no denying the Gayatri Mantra is powerful. If you have ever been lucky enough to sit in a room full of people chanting this you will know how incredible it can feel. I used to teach yoga to a group of older ladies and a few of their husbands. When I first talked about chanting to them they looked at me as though I'd asked them to go out and murder their first born. Within three weeks even the men were chanting with gusto and asking me to make a CD so they could chant along at home, such is the power of the Gayatri Mantra. I advised them to get Swami Niranjanananda's CD. I chant on the flat side and with a definite hint of a Lancashire accent - nobody wants to hear that!

There is a bizarre little story behind the mantra that Thomas Ashley-Ferrand tells perfectly in this book. I will paraphrase for now but highly recommend his version.

The god Brahma was planning a fire ritual and the celestial priests advised him of a very small time window in which the ceremony could be performed when the planets would be perfectly aligned so Brahma headed off for the sacred site leaving his wife, Saraswati (the empowerer of all things musical), to follow him on. As the time for the ritual drew close Saraswati had not turned up so Brahma asked the priests to find him a stand-in wife.

A reluctant yet beautiful milkmaid named Gayatri was soon brought to the sacred site and a hasty wedding ceremony performed between her and Brahma.

At that moment Saraswati arrived dressed in ceremonial attire. When she saw that Brahma had taken another wife she was hurt and humiliated. Angrily as the planets began to settle into alignment Saraswati cursed Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva for the parts they played in her humiliation. But Gayatri she greeted as a friend and the two women merged as one creating scripture and writing and, of course, the Vedic Mantra attributed to Gayatri through which Supreme Truth can be found.

Enjoy the Gayatri Mantra, whether in class or just listening at home. There are a few lovely versions on YouTube (good old YouTube).


rand(om) bites said...

Beautiful, and thank you for such a great post!

Anonymous said...

I'm heading to YouTube right now ....

Excellent post - thank you :o)

Flo said...

We end each session of our Yoga Teacher Traning singing the Gayatri Mantra. It is engrained in me :) it is beautiful