Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Gayatri Mantra: A Paraphrase

Strictly speaking "Gaytri mantra" refers to a class of mantras in Vedic metre having three Padas of 8 syllables each, but this particular mantra is the best known so it is called The Gayatri Mantra. Also strictly speaking, therefore, this mantra consists of just three lines, but it is universally preceded by "The Great Utterance" making four lines in all.


ॐ भूर भुवः स्वः ।
तत् सवितुर्वरेण्यं ।
भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि ।
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् ॥

The Great Utterance

Om ( ॐ ) ( औम् औँ )

Whole books have been written about this word/syllable/symbol, and the entire Mundakopanisad Upanisad is devoted to its explanation and importance in Hindu (or vedic) thought. It has been referred to as "the name of God, the sound of the Universe, the primordial sound," and it is also known as the Seed Mantra because it contains the seed for all other mantras within itself. When taken letter by letter, A-U-M represents the divine energy (Shakti) united in its three elementary aspects: Bhrahma Shakti (creation), Vishnu Shakti (preservation) and Shiva Shakti (liberation). Aum corresponds to the crown chakra

Looking at the symbol itself, start with the dot in the upper right. What is that? Well, that is "That!" The dot stands for Ultimate Reality, the Essence of All, The Ground of Being. It also represents a state of consciousness in which all comes to rest, all is silent. It is the state of bliss, the state to which we aspire, the aim of all spiritual activity. Immediately below the dot is a semi-circle that represents illusion, distractions, selfishness, sin. It is such illusion that prevents us from reaching the state of bliss.

The lower curve on the left represents the philosophical notion of Truth, or objective experience, what we can smell, taste, touch, hear, and see. This is the Physical Dimension of experience. The top curve under the illusion semi-circle (also at left) represents the philosophical notion of Beauty, or subjective experience, what we experience on the inside. This is the Spiritual Dimension of experience. To the right of these intersecting curves is a more tortuous curve representing the philosophical notion of Goodness. This is sometimes called the inter-subjective experience. It may also be called the Emotional (or mental) Dimension of experience. Each curve has two ends, outer and inner. Taken together we choose to call these Mystery. Since Mystery is the source of all creation, the life force of procreative energy, and the creative spark within each of us, we further use the term Fountain of Mystery.

These three curves also represent three aspects of prayer. The top curve signifies Praise, the lower curve, Petition, and the right, Meditation. In terms of sensuality, these curves could also indicate pleasure, desire, and awareness respectively.

bhur भूर   bhuvah भुवः   svah स्वः

These three words in the Great Utterance must be considered together. They represent three dimensions of experience in much the same way as the three curves of the Om symbol.

bhur भूर bhuvah भुवः svah स्वः
cominggoingbalance of life


Om. In truth, goodness, and beauty

Praise Line

tat ( तत् s.1)

This is a name for the divine, with emphasis on Ultimate Reality, Mystery. Literally it means "that One." We may think of this word as referring to the dot in the Om symbol.

savitur ( सवितुर् s.2-4)

This is a name for the divine, with emphasis on "source" or "creation." The literal meaning is "sunlight." Savitur is the creative source of the universe, the procreative source of evolutionary advance (the life-force), and it is the source of the creative spark in each of us. Because it is an ongoing continuous source, we call it the Fountain of Mystery. The Praise Line itself is represented by the upper curve in the symbol, but Savitar (the Fountain of Mystery) is represented by all three curves taken together.

varenyam ( वरेण्यं s.5-8)

This word means "worthy of adoration, praise, or worship". The literal meaning may be "desirable" or "excellent," "the best".

The Fountain of Mystery invites our praise.

Meditation Line

bhargo ( भर्गो s.1-2)

Literally means "radiant light", but also means "purifying radiance" or "pure light." It is also translated "destroyer of sins." This illumination evaporates the thick fog of illusion, trivializes distractions into disappearance, and purifies us of sin.

devasya ( देवस्य s.3-5)

This is another name for the divine, with emphasis on qualities or attributes of the divine. Thus it refers to the multi-faceted nature of our experience of Mystery. Weaving these facets or threads together is Tantra.

dhimahi ( धीमहि s.6-8)

This is a verb meaning to meditate or to focus the mind. Here it means to focus on Mystery or some aspect of Mystery. Tantric meditations weave together the many facets of Mystery. They also use Mantra to reveal Tattva.

Purify us through these Tantric meditations.

Petition Line

dhiyo ( धियो s.1-2)

"The intellect" or the "mind," thoughts.

yo ( यो s.3)

This is a pronoun, most likely referring back to Mystery as its antecedent.

nah ( नः s.4)

This word is an enclitic personal pronoun meaning "our" and possibly emphasizing our oneness.

Also, note that( योनी ) is yoni – "our source."

prachodayat ( प्रचोदयात् s.5-8)

Literally "let it push" or "let it inspire," this word can also mean "to enlighten".

And inspire our minds (to know) that we are One.

Fall Festival Translation

Om — In truth, goodness, and beauty
The Fountain of Mystery invites our praise.
Purify us through these Tantric meditations
And inspire our minds that we are One.

Extended Paraphrase

When there was nothing,
Mystery said, "AUM."
By this, Mystery became manifest;
Then there was something rather than nothing.

The vibration of "A·U·M" represents the divine energy of Mystery
In creation, in preservation, and in liberation,
As described by the divine attributes of
Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
And that was 'That' ( तत् ).

'That' One,
Or the Fountain of Mystery,
Is the Creative Source of everything:
Mystery is the source of the created Universe.
Mystery is the procreative source of Life.
Mystery is the source of our own creativity.

The Fountain of Mystery, this Source of All,
Invites our praise and worship.
Therefore, this is our petition:
Purify our thoughts and rid us of distractions;
Inspire us through these meditations;
Enlighten us to the reality that in Mystery we are One.

Tantra — Tattva and Mantra

तत्त्व tattva त ्त् essence (thatness)
तन्त्र tantra न्त् woven, continuum
मन्त्र mantra न्त् prayer or hymn