Hindu Scriptures: Part I - Gayatri | Part II-Other Scriptures

Thoughts on Hindu Scriptures
Part I - Gayatri

(Excerpts from an article appearing in the April 1992 issue of the Indian Magazine "Prabuddha Bharata"1-Author:Mr. P.V.Narayanaswamy)

The chanting of Gayathri occupies a place of great importance in the Hindu tradition. This article unveils a deeper significance of the Holy Mantra.

"It is indeed a lamentable fact that in this Kali yuga, the finer values of life and the endearing ideals of religion are conspicuous by their absence. It is not for nothing that our ancient Rishis predicted that Dharma or righteousness will be at its lowest ebb. In that context, a thought or two on the some of the highly metaphysical truths propounded by them would be highly rewarding. The chanting of Gayatri Mantra is one such.

The English version of the Gayatri Mantra is as follows:

"Om Bhor Bhuva Suva That Saviturvarenyam Bhargo Dhevasya Dheemahi Dhiyoyona Prayojayad"

The literal meaning of the hymn is:

"Let us meditate on the glory of that Divine Being who has created the three worlds. May He direct our intelligence."

Now the interpretation of some of the constituents of this mantra:

Om: The syllable Om according to the Katha Upanishad, is "that word which all Vedas speak of, that which all treatises on austerities proclaim, That for which seekers tread the path of liberation-That I will tell you briefly. It is Om". Om represents the higher and lower aspects of Brahman. It has infinite capacity to bless. It is a substantial prop for meditation. Om is pronounced with three sound parts. A-U-M and represents the generalised symbol of all sounds. It is the symbol of the personal God in His aspect as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer and also His impersonal Reality. The concept of mentally linking Om with Bonstitutes the sheet anchor of the seekers attitude.

Bhor Bhuva Svaha: The Vyahritis Bhor, Bhu, Bhva and Svaha stand for Agni, the essence of Rig Veda, Vayu of Yajur Veda and Aditya of Sama Veda. Agni purifies, Vayu marks the seat of vitality and perception and and aditya helps for menatal, as distinct from physical, illuminafor the Sun. Our work-a -day world starts with the dawn, when the Sun comes up, giving life and energy and sustaining creation. The Sun is also called "Ravi" which means one who showers His rays not merely physical but also divine, beckoning us to reach Brahman, the supreme Reality through Him. The Sun among all heavenly bodies is symbolic of everything resplendent and brilliant. Much more splendours is the spiritual light behind the Sun, which is the real object of our adoration and worship, attracting us to link our own consciousness to that spiritual glory. The Yajnavalkya Samhita (part of Vedas) unambiguously asserts that the inner spark of our consciousness and divine glory behind the material Sun are one and the same. This identity should be sought to established and experienced when one utters "Savita".

Bhargo: The term means light which symbolises knowledge. The same Sun light is reflected in the pure waters of the upper Ganges and also in the filthy water flowing in a gutter. It does not however, cause an iota of change in the Sun. In like manner, the degree of divine consciousness varies from man to man. The Gayatri enables one to worship God in all beings and things with equal minded vision. It underscores the dictum, if a saint has a past, a sinner has a future.

Dheemahi: The term means either an assertion- "We meditate"- or a prayer, "May we meditate".

Dhi: The Sanskrit root "Dhi" means intelligence as distinct from knowledge. Knowledge has to be illumined with a pure light of intelligence to enable one to experience the highest truth. The basic Sine equa non for receiving such a light of Buddhi is firstly an unshakeable faith, secondly, indefatigable self effort and last but not least, the grace of "Guru/God".

Prachodayad: The Sanskrit term means to unfold or to awaken, used in the subjunctive mood implying-"May He unfold or May He awaken our intellect".

The seeker thus assumes a spirit of submission and supplication for divine grace, the attitude of unity he wants to experience by piercing through the Sun to get at the hidden Reality behind.

In sum, Gayatri means the "gayanat trayate iti", i.e., it protects one who chants it.

1. The journal is devoted to comparative religions in its widest forms, Universal religion, harmony of religions, philosophy, arts, science and culture. For further details, please contact Swamy. Bodha Sarananda, Manager. Advaita Ashrama, 5- Delhi Entally Road, Calcutta 700 014.

Continue on to Part II//Back to Main Page