Saturday, August 18, 2012
The significance of Gayatri Mantra
August 02, 2012
Adi Shankaracharyaji, after having given all the knowledge he had to give he 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? Raise your hands.
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 that may 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.
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.
Q: Was Prophet Muhammad a Nirguna Upasaka (follower of the formless)? If yes, then why was Vigraha Aradhana (idol worship) introduced?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Everybody should progress from Saguna Upasana to Nirguna Upasana, i.e., the worship of the Divine as a form to the worship of the Divine as formless.
The Kaaba stone is also worshipped, isn’t it? That is just like Saguna Upasana. They have to circumambulate the Kaaba stone seven times. And all of them do it. They go and kiss it. All this is nothing but worship of the Divine as a form only. It is like a place of Shiva.
It is in our Puranas, isn’t it? Of the three steps taken by Lord Vishnu during his Vamana Avataara (incarnation), the first step was kept on Gaya. If you go to Gaya, you will find a place where you can see one foot imprint. There is an idol there.
The second step was kept at Mecca. That was a place of worship much before the Nabi (Prophet Muhammad). It was a place of special pilgrimage much before the birth of Prophet Muhammad. There were many idols there and so Muhammad felt that why should there be so many idols there, let there just be one. And he kept only that one stone there for worship. That is a very ancient place of worship.
That is why whether Saguna Upasana or Nirguna Upasana, Lord Krishna says, ‘Kleśo 'dhikataras teshām avyaktāsakta-cetasām avyaktā hi gatir dukham dehavadbhir avāpyate’ (Chapter 12 Verse 5).
People who are body conscious, for them, going directly to the un-manifest brings a lot of sorrow and a lot of trouble in their lives and this is true, we have seen it. If you see Judaism, they underwent so much trouble, so much suffering.
He is not saying this path is wrong or bad. The path of the un-manifest is there but the way is very gruesome, it is a very tedious road and it brings a lot of pain to the walkers on that path. We have seen this happening to the Jews in the world. And it has happened to the Muslims. In the Muslim religion this is happening from the very inception. But if you see Christians on the other hand, though there was trouble but not as much.
Buddhists, Jains, Tao , Shinto, all these paths were smooth sailing and there was not so much suffering that people had to face as in the time of Muhammad.
In Prophet Muhammad’s time, he himself had to face so much difficulty. Same is with the Prophet of Judaism. Their whole life, their paths were filled with sorrow, filled with hardship, filled with struggle and fight all the way through. And to some extent even the Sikhs had to go through this. Sikhs also worshipped the Avyakta – the unseen and the un-manifest.
So you need to have both. If you want happiness in life, then practice worshipping the manifest form of God (Saguna Upasana). And if you want mukti (liberation) then you must worship and meditate upon the formless un-manifest aspect of God (Nirguna Upasana).
You must honour both Nirguna (formless) and Saguna (manifest form) aspects of the Divine. This practice is worth following.
In the Vedic stream of thought, it is said that one must perform Poojas and other rituals for relieving oneself of suffering and misery. And for attaining happiness, one must meditate upon the formless aspect of the Divine. So in this world as well as the next, we must practice both Shreya (that which is righteous and beneficial) and Preyah (that which is pleasing to oneself) and meditate.