“Mananaat Traananaat chaiva Mantramiti abhideeyate”, so goes the definition of “Mantra” in Sanskrit. That is, a Mantra is supposed to be internalized by our Mind, often co-terminus with meditation on the Devatha or God/Goddess who is to be realized by the Mantra that is chanted. It may be observed that it is not merely a chore or work for our lips and tongue to do the chanting/Japam. When chanted with sincerity, devotion, soulfulness and surrender to the Devatha and more importantly to the Rishi who is the “author” of this Mantra, it is supposed to protect us from obstacles. These could be obstacles in the world we see, or in the unseen world, that prevent us from realizing the eternal Truths embodied by the Mantra.
Any Mantra has its roots in the Vedas, and is usually the outcome of significant penance or Tapas by the Great Maharishi’s of Bharata. A Mantra has a specific number of syllables and is to be chanted with the swara that it is meant to be chanted with. A Mantra also has an associated Chandas, or the “Metre” (poetic) with which it is to be chanted. Some of the popular Metres are Anushtup, Devi Gayathri, Trishtup, etc. Mantras are by design, meant to be powerful. They confer the person who is chanting it, all good that is endowed in that Mantra. It is also deemed as a means to not only realizing the Devatha for that Mantra, but also the Supreme Brahman. The latter of the fruits of chanting a Mantra, is purely by the Grace of the Guru who initiates us in the Mantra, and the eternal Grace of the Lord. It is worth noting that every Mantra begins with Pranava, which we know, is nothing but the Swaroopam of the Supreme Lord. Thus, a Mantra can also be an end in itself, apart from making us realize the Supreme. Some of the popular Mantras are the Shiva panchakshari Mantra, the Ashtakshara Mantra of Sriman Narayana, the Sudarshana Mantra, and the Gayathri Mantra.
Brahmarishi Vishwamitra is credited with the Gayathri Mantra. The Devatha for this Mantra is Gayathri Maata Herself, as well as the Supreme Brahman visualized through Savitr Devata (the Sun God). The Metre for this Mantra is Gayathri itself. It is popular folklore that Vishwamitra got his name which means “Friend of the Universe”, purely by giving this Mantra to all of us.
This Mantra is Universal in appeal and uplifts all sincere Saadhakas. This Mantra is found in the Rig-Veda, and has 24 syllables. These are nothing but the 24 Tattvas (which we have seen in the preceding article on Pranava). Thus, when a sadhaka chants this Mantra with meditation on the Savitr Devatha and Gayathri Devatha, it confers a state of mind ripe enough to see the Brahman and His manifestations in the 24 tattvas. Some Mantras also have a “prayer” component embedded. This Gayathri Mantra, also pleads to the Lord to open up our Intellect (Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat), while also promising that we meditate on the Brilliant Effulgence of the Lord (bhargo devasya dhimahi).
Any Mantra requires lot of preparation prior to chanting. All the acts done in Sandhyavandana constitute the purifications required for our body, mind, and our individual self- Jiva, to be prepared to meditate on the Supreme, and receive His Blessings through the chanting. Just as dust accumulates on any object left in the open, so does Kalmasha or sin covers our mind and soul. According to Rishi sampradayam, this happens more prominently during three times in a day – day break, mid day, and dusk. Hence it is ordained on all those interested in attaining Brahma Jnanam, to chant this most important Mantra, three times a day.
As with anything else, quality of chanting is given paramount importance over quantity.
May Gayathri Maata confer on us a state of mind and intellect pure enough to see the Lord within us.
Sarvam Sri Krishnarpanam…
N. R. Srinivasa Raghavan PhD (firstname.lastname@example.org)