The Mantra and Its Import
32.1. As mentioned earlier; Gayatri is a mantra dedicated to Savitr. It originally occurs as the tenth rik in the sixty-second Sukta of the third mandala of Rig-Veda Samhita (RV: 3.62.10).It is repeated in several other texts. The metrical form, chhandas, of the mantra is Gayatri. In accordance with the characteristic requirement of the Gayatri – chhandas, the mantra is composed of twenty-four letters, akshara or matra (Gayatri chaturvimsatyakshara); arranged in three lines (tripaada); each paada having eight letters (ashta-aksharatmaka-paada).
32.2. The pada-patha (sequential rendering) of the mantra reads: tat- savituh- varenyam – bhargah – devasya – dhimahi – dhiyah – yah – na – prachodayath.
32.3. The anvaya, the order of the words in the mantra to elicit its meaning, is usually thus : (yah) who; (nah) our; (dhiyah) intellect; (prachodayath) inspires; (tat*) that; (devasya) radiant; (savituh) Savitr; (varenyam) most adorable; (bhargah) effulgence; (dhimahi) we meditate upon.
[* The suggestive term tat may refer either to Savitr or to his bhargah (excellence). The extended meaning of the term is Brahman (as in tat tvam asi).]
The literal meaning of the mantra would be: “We contemplate on the most adorable brilliance of Savitr who inspires our intellect”.
There are, of course, countless mystical interpretations of the mantra.
Extended form of Gayatri
33.1. The mantra, as above, revealed to Rishi Visvamitra and appearing in the Rig-Veda Samhita (RV: 3.62.10) is known as Visvamitra-Gayatri. Its extended form begins with the line comprising the Pranava (Om) and three Vyahrti-s (bhu, bhuvah and suvah). Both the forms of Gayatri are recited and contemplated upon during the Sandhya prayers. The extended form is preferred during the performance of Havana-s
33.2. The extended form of Gayatri, thus, has four lines. It is said; Gayatri mantra is four-footed (chatuspaada) when Pranava (Om) accompanies it. However, when Pranava is omitted it is only three-footed (Chatuspaada Gayatri pranavenavena saha; pranavam vina tripaada). This statement is based on the faith that the syllable Om encompasses all the Vyahrti-s; or, rather, the Vyahrti-s are extensions of Pranava Om.
34.1. There is another stream of discussion on the fourth line (Turiya paada) of Gayatri in Brihadaranya Upanishad (5.14.7). The fourth line, it is said, occurs following the traditional three lines of Gayatri mantra of twenty-four syllables. The text says that while the first three lines can be grasped by reason, the fourth line, which is mystical in its import, can be comprehended only through intuition. The Upanishad adores the fourth line as ‘Namaste turiyaaya darshataya padaaya’.
tasyā upasthānam | gāyatry asy ekapadī dvipadī tripadī catuṣpadi | apad asi |
na hi padyase | namas te turīyāya darśatāya padāya parorajase | asāv ado mā prāpad iti ||| BrhUp_5,14.7 ||
34.2. This fourth paada is said to be hidden (darshatasya) or un-manifest (apad); and, is beyond intellect. It represents Savitr as the Purusha, shining as the very core or as the essence of the solar orb (mandala-antargata-purusha), who is the inner-being (antaryamin), the heart of all beings (sarva-jivatma).
34.3. This Turiya paada which reads ‘paro rajas ya tapati’ (the pada-pata of which is: ‘Parah- rajase- asau – adhah – maa – praapta – iti’) is, by itself, considered a maha-mantra. Its Rishi is Vimala; its chhandas is Turiya; its Devata is Paramatma; and, its objective (viniyoga) is liberation (moksha).
Asya sree darshatasya Gayatri-turiya paada-maha- mantrasya; Vimala Rishihi; Turiya chhandaha/Paramatma Devata; Moksha viniyogaha //
Literally, the mantra appears to refer to that un-shadowed effulgence (consciousness) beyond the three gunas (paro rajasa) that illumines (tapati) all existence. There are, of course, numerous other interpretations depending on the inclination of each School.
35.1. The Turiya paada, it is said, explains the preceding three paadas (paada traya) of the Gayatri mantra, in terms of triads’. It says: Hey Gayatri, your first line (eka padi) represents three realms (tri lokya); your second line (dvitiyena paadena) the three streams of knowledge (tri-vidya-rupena); and, your third line (trutiyena paadena) the vital currents (prana).
The Gayatri of three paadas rests (prathisitha) on the fourth paada (turiya paada), which is established in Satya, the Truth. This (Satya) is the real Savitr, for it is the essence (satva) of all beings and material objects – with form (murta) and without form (a-murta) – turīya-padā-aśrayaṃ satyaṃ bale pratiṣṭhitam /.
saiṣā gāyatry etasmiṁs turīye darśate pade parorajasi pratiṣṭhitā, tad vai tat satye pratiṣṭhitam; cakṣur vai satyam, cakṣur hi vai satyam; tasmād yad idānīṁ dvau vivadamānāv eyātām aham adarśam, aham aśurauṣam iti. ya evaṁ brūyāt; aham adarśam iti, tasmā eva śraddadhyāma. tad vai tat satyaṁ bale pratiṣṭhitam; prāṇo vai balam; tat prāṇe pratiṣṭhitam; tasmād āhuḥ: balaṁ satyād ogīya iti. evaṁ veṣā gāyatry adhyātmaṁ. pratiṣṭhitā sā haisā gayāṁs tatre; prāṇā vai gahāḥ; tat prānāṁs tatre; tad yad gayāṁs tatre, tasmād gāyatrī nāma. sa yām evāmūṁ sāvitrīm anvāha, eṣaiva sā. sa yasmā anvāha, tasya prānāṁs trāyate.
Here, the commentators explain that tri lokya refers to three realms (bhu, bhuvah and suvah); tri-vidya to three Vedas (Rig, Yajus and Sama); and the vital currents (prana, apana and vyana). They all rest on Turiya paada which indeed is Satya (Absolute Truth), beyond conditioned – existence.
35.2. It is also said; the eight letters [paro (2), rajas (2), ya (1), pra– tapa –iti (3)] of the subtle and mystical fourth-line (Turiya-paada) of Gayatri in association with Pranava (Om) as the ninth letter (navakshara vai) forms the first half of the Yajna (purvardha vai yajnasya Gayatri – Satapatha Brahmana: 184.108.40.206).
śiro vai yajñasyātithyaṃ navākṣarā vai gāyatryaṣṭau / tāni yānyanvāha praṇavo navamaḥ pūrvārdho vai yajñasya gāyatrī pūrvārdhe eṣa / yajñasya tasmānnavakapālaḥ puroḍāśo bhavati – 3.4.1.
35.3. Thus, the Turiya paada the fourth-line (chaturbhi paadaih) by itself (ekame) is worthy of meditation in silence (upasate), as it represents the Purusha. Turiya, it is said, represents the highest state beyond the three gunas (paro rajas) and beyond the three known states of consciousness (waking, dreaming and deep sleep). Turiya paada is not for chanting; but ,it is for contemplation in silence.
36.1. The mantra starting with words: ‘paro rajase….’ is accorded great significance in the Sri Vidya tradition. It is identified with the beeja Hrim, which is equivalent to Pranava Om. And; it represents pure consciousness, which is not inert (paro rajase), at ‘the end of silence’.
36.2. Further, Tripura-tapini-Upanishad which deals with the basic concepts and symbolisms of Sri Vidya, provides, among other things, the tantric interpretations to Chatush-paada Gayatri, the Gayatri of four lines, composed of thirty-two syllables (Tt.Up : 1.2 to 1.8).
The text compares the Turiya paada the fourth line (paro rajase sāvadom) with the fifteen-lettered Panchadasi mantra of Sri Vidya- pañcadaśākṣaraṃ traipuraṃ . The Panchadasi mantra is implicit or hidden (just as Turiya paada); and, it becomes explicit or manifest when the sixteenth (sodasha) letter Srim is added to it. Srim is Mother-Goddess’s own form.
36.3. The text interprets the Turiya Paada by relating it to the principle of Shiva: the illumination (prakasha); the pure consciousness (Shiva) latent as Paramatman (akshara) in the space of one’s heart (akshare parame vyoman). It is drawn out (vimarsa) when it is associated with the shakthi of Mother –goddess Gayatri.
ityekaṃ parabrahma rūpaṃ sarva bhūtā adhivāsaṃ turīyaṃ / jānīte so’kṣare parame vyoman yadhivasati ।
37.1. There is another interpretation. The commentaries on Sri Lalitha Sahasranama mention that the nama-s 583-585 refer to three types of Vidya-s: Atma Vidya (583); Maha Vidya (584); and, Sri Vidya (585).
ātmavidyā mahāvidyā śrīvidyā kāmasevitā । śrīṣoḍaśākṣarī vidyā trikūṭā kāmakoṭikā ॥ 118॥
In this context; it is said, Turiya Gayatri is also Atma Vidya. And, the Devi manifests in the form of Turiya Gayatri; and, also as the eight-lettered ‘atma-ashtakshara- vidya’ of the Sri Vidya tradition (om- hrim-hamsaha -soham-svaha).
Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri
38.1. Gayatri is a Universal mantra. It is said; each one has to understand and experience it in her/his own way. The aspirants are advised to create her/his own rendering of the essence of the mantra, as each perceives it. Of the mantras of such genre the one that comes to mind quickly is the celebrated Gayatri created by Sri Aurobindo.
38.2. Sri Aurobindo gave his own Gayatri mantra of twenty-four syllables:
Tat savitur varam rūpam jyotiḥ parasya dhīmahi yannaḥ satyena dīpayet
Let us meditate on the most auspicious form of Savitri , on the Light of the Supreme which shall illumine us with the Truth.
38.3. It is said; Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri is addressed to Savitri, daughter of the Sun ‘as Satya (the Truth), the pure consciousness”, “the power of inspired speech which brings the illumination of the supreme Truth’. Savitri is the symbol of dawn, the Truth that comes from the Sun. Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri Mantra meditates upon the auspicious form of the Sun, the Light that illumines us with the Truth.
38.4. The scholar Shri R.Y. Deshpande explains that Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri Mantra is slightly different from the traditional Gayatri Mantra given to us by Rishi Visvamitra, which seeks illumination of our intuition and of our intellect.
In Sri Aurobindo’s mantra, the emphasis is on the auspicious form – varam rupam. It invokes Gayatri in her most auspicious form to come and reside in us, amongst us, within us. This is the difference between the two: – the first invokes a spiritual perception; the second invokes her as a form in us. The coming down of that Grace is the birth of Savitri.
Om and the Vyahrti-s
39.1. Gayatri mantra as given by Rishi Visvamitra is extended by fusing it with a line opening with the Pranava Om followed by the three Vyahrtis (bhu, bhuvah and suvah). Both the forms of Gayatri are recited and contemplated upon during the Sandhya prayers. The extended form is preferred during the performance of havana-s.
The concept of Vyahrtis, it is said, was derived from Taittriya Upanishad; and, it is important by itself.
The Pranava Om always recited at the beginning and the end of the mantra is not just a sound or symbol. It is verily the Bija from which Gayatri emanates. Gayatri which is Savitri adores Pranava as Brahman (Brahma Swaroopam) encompassing all existence.
We shall briefly talk about Pranava and the Vyahrtis.
40.1. Pranava – Om – enjoys unrivalled pre-eminence in the Indian traditions. It is hailed as the Moola-mantra (the root of all mantras), Akshara (The Letter) or Ekakshara (the single syllable). It is the auspicious sound of initiation (diksha).Every recitation, every prayer and every worship-action is preceded by utterance of Om. The study of the Vedas commences with the sound of Om; and, the student says to himself, fondly, ‘with this I shall attain Brahman’ (Taittiriya Upanishad-1.8.1). Om is the most comprehensive universal sound-symbol (udgita). Aitareya Brahmana (2.5.7) explains Om as the unity of three matras: ‘a’, ‘u’ and ‘ma’ (akaara-ukaara-makaara).
ōmiti brahma. ōmitīdaō sarvam. ōmityētad-anukṛtirha sma vā apyōśrāvayētyā-śrāvayanti. ōmiti sāmāni gāyanti. ōōśōmiti śastrāṇi śaōsanti . ōmityadhvaryuḥ pratigaraṅ pratigṛṇāti. ōmiti brahma prasauti. ōmityagni-hōtram-anujānāti. ōmiti brāhmaṇaḥ pravakṣyannāha brahmōpāpnavānīti. brahmaiva-ōpāpnōti৷৷1.8.1৷৷
40.2. Sri Gauda-Paada in his celebrated Karika on Mandukya Upanishad expands on that and avers ‘AUM represents manifest and un-manifest aspects of Brahman’. It is the single syllable that symbolizes and embodies Brahman, the Absolute Reality. It is the Pranava that which pervades all existence; and it is our very life breath. Sri Gauda-Paada explains; Vaisvanara in waking state is A, the first part of AUM. Teijasa in dream state is U, the second part of AUM. And, Prajna in deep sleep is M, the third part of AUM, concluding the sounds of the earlier two parts. The Syllable AUM in its entirety stands for the fourth state – Turiya – one beyond the phenomenal existence, supremely blissful and non-dual. It is the source of all existence. AUM represents Ultimate Reality.AUM is thus verily the Self itself. Meditate on AUM as the Self.
40.3. Taittiriya Aranyaka (10.33) also declares ‘Omkara is indeed the very representation of Brahman’ (Om ityekaksharam Brahma); and the sum and substance of all the Vedas. And, all manifestations and expressions are rooted in Om (tad yatha). All the texts, therefore, advice the aspirants to meditate on Omkara.
Omi tyekÀksaram brahma | agnirdevatÀ brahma ityÀrsam | gÀyatram chandam paramÀtmam sarÂpam | sÀyujyam viniyogam [[10-33-1]
40.4. For the purpose of meditation, Omkara is itself regarded a mantra. Its Rishi is Prajapathi; its chhandas is Gayatri; and its Devata is Paramatma. The purpose of meditation (viniyoga) is liberation (vimukthi – phala – siddhidam).
Om and Gayatri
41.1. As regards the Pranava at the commencement of Gayatri, the two are intimately related. The traditional view is that the Pranava, Vyahrti-s and the Gayatri form an integral unit. Taittiriya Aranyaka (2.11.1-8) confirms that scriptural recitation always begins with the chanting of the syllable Om, followed by the three Vyahrtis and the Gayatri verse (as in RV 3.62.10).
aksare parame vyoman nyasmindeva adhi visve niseduryastanna veda kimaca karisyati ya ittavidusta ime samasata iti trineva prayunkta bhur bhuvas svarityahai tadvai vacas satyam yadeva vacas satyam tatprayunkatha savitrÁm gÀyatram triranvaha paccho’rdh arcarso’navanam savita sriyah prasavita sriyameva pnotyatho prajnatayaiva pratipada chandamsi pratipadyate |[2-11-1-15]|
41.2. Srimad Anandatheertha (Sri Madhwacharya) explains in his Rg-bhasya that the import of the Pranava is expanded in the Vyahrti-s and the meaning of the Vyahrti-s is elaborated in the Gayatri.
41.3. It is said; even if Vyahrti-s are omitted, for some reason, the Pranava should always precede the Gayatri. Pranava is indeed the Bija of Gayatri-mantra. The Gayatri-japa, which is the most important sequence of the Sandhya, should invariably include both the Pranava (Om) and the Vyahrti-s (bhu, bhuvah and suvah) [Pranava vyahrtiyutam gayatrim vai japet tatah].
41.4. Maitrayani Upanishad (prapāṭhaka 6- 2) says: Gayatri with Vyahrtis; and Pranava with Vyahrtis are but two names of Brahman that is light. Worship (upaasita) Brahman using Om (Omithyaksharena), Vyahrtis (vyahrityabhi) and Savitri (Savitra che iti). That (tat) Brahman is one with Om – upāsito Omityeta tad akṣareṇa vyāhṛtibhiḥ sāvitryā ceti .
42.1. The Pranava Om in the first line of Gayatri is followed by three utterances Bhu, Bhuvah and Suvah, which are termed as Vyahrti-s. The term Vyahrti (or Vyahara) literally means well articulated speech or a considered statement. They are also taken as syllables of mystical significance. Vyahriti is also understood as that which sheds light on our knowledge of the universe (Visheshenh Aahritih sarva viraat praahlaanam prakash-karanah vyahriti iti).
42.2. There are several myths associated with the origin of the Vyahrtis. There are also variations in the explanations provided in some Upanishads and their associated texts. For instance:
: – Chandogya Upanishad (2.23.2-3) states that Prajapathi who is the embodiment of Truth meditated upon all existence (lokan abhyatapat). Out of his contemplation arose three Vedas (trayi vidya). From out of the Vedas that he meditated upon, there emerged (sampra savant) these syllables (etani aksharani): bhu, bhuvah and suvah.
As Prajapathi contemplated further (tani abhyatapat), the syllable Om (Omkara samprasravat) emerged from these (vyahtri-s). He then realized that Om permeates every form of speech (omkara sarva vac samtrnna), just as the network of veins (sankuna) is spread over the entire leaf (sarvani parnanai). Prajapathi exclaimed ‘Verily all this is Om! Verily all this is Om! ‘ (Omkara eva idam sarvam; Omkara eva idam sarvam)’.
: – Chandogya Upanishad at another place (4.27.1-3) states: Prajapathi contemplated upon all worlds (lokan abhyatapat); and extracted their essence (rasam pravrhat): fire from the earth (agnim prithivyah); air from the intermediate-space (vayum antariksat); and Aditya (sun) from the space beyond (adityam divah).
As he contemplated on the three deities, he derived from their essence (rasam pravrhat): Rg (Rig-Veda) from Agni (agneh rcah); Yajus from Vayu (vayoh yajumsi); and Sama from Aditya (samani adityat).
Prajapathi further contemplated on the three Vedas (tryim vidyam) and extracted their essence: Bhu from Rig-Veda (bhu iti rgbhyah), Bhuvah from Yajur Veda (bhuvah iti yajurbhyah) and Suvah from Sama Veda (suvah iti samabhyah).
: – Taittiriya Brahmana (2.2.42) offers a different explanation. It mentions that Prajapathi at the end of his meditation uttered Bhu; and the earth come into existence (sa bhur iti vyaharat, sa bhumim asrjata).He then uttered Bhuvah; and this brought forth the mid-region (a bhuvah iti vyaharat, antariksham asrjata).And, finally Prajapathi exclaimed Suvah; and, the upper realm got formed (sasuvah iti vyaharat, sa divam asrjata). Thus the three Vyahrtis (utterances) correspond to these realms (eta vai vyahrtya ime lokah).
: – Maitrayani Upanishad (6.6) expands on that and relates the Vyahrti-s to Purusha, the Cosmic Being. And, it says: at the beginning, the existence was inarticulate. Then, after deep contemplation Prajapathi uttered: Bhu, Bhuvah and Suvah. That threefold utterance formed the gross body of Purusha: Bhu his feet (bhu paadah); Bhuvah is his navel (nabhir bhuvah); and Suvah is his head (suvaritya shiroh). And, Aditya (sun) became his eyes (Aditya chakshu).
43.1. Thus, initially, in these texts, Vyahrti-s are presented as utterances of mystical significance that stand for regions, realms or worlds (lokah) – (eta vai vyahrtaya ime lokah: TB .220.127.116.11). Bhuh is earth; Bhuvah is mid-region; and, Suvah is the upper region. The Taittiriya Upanishad explains the three terms as: bhuh – ayamlokah (this world here in front of us); bhuvah – antariksham (the mid region); and suvah –asau lokah (the world beyond).
44.1. It is explained that in these references Bhu etc do not mean material earth etc. But, they symbolically suggest the principles associated with earth, atmosphere and space beyond. For instance:
:- The first Vyahrti Bhu is explained as that from which objects spring up or take birth or take shape (bhavatah kvipi bhur iti rupam) or that in which all beings reside (bhavanti asyam bhutani).
: – Similarly, the second Vyahrti Bhuvah signifies that principle which maintains all objects and beings (bhavayati sthapayati visvam iti). It is said; Bhuvah symbolizes the mid-region (antariksha) which provides space for existence and maintenance of the first Vyahrti Bhu, the earth (bhavaty asmin jagat). It also illumines the world of earth (prakashayati visvam) . The later text Parasara Smrti mentions that the Vyahrti Bhuvah signifies that which produces, maintains all things till their destruction; and that which again produces them.
: – And, the third Vyahrti Suvah, the upper realm is that which provides light, warmth, coolness and life to the two other lower regions: Bhuvah (mid-region) and Bhu (earth). Suvah signifies that which is truly adorable or sought after in all earnestness (sushtu varaniyatvat suvah); and it is pure knowledge. It also symbolizes the ideal state of bliss, Ananada; the greatest blessing.
45.1. But, in the later texts and commentaries, the Vyahrti-s were interpreted as or identified with almost everything that could be tied into a set – of – three. Following that, the Vyahrti-s came to be associated with a wide-range (almost endless sets) of meanings and interpretations. I have, at the end of this paragraph listed just a few of those, in the appended table.
45.2. The more significant ones are those that attempt to relate each of the three Vyahrti-s to : the Matra-s of the Pranava (A-U-M); three Vedas; Vedic gods – Agni, Vayu and Aditya ; three realms (loka); three vital energies (prana, apana and vyana); three modes of powers or expressions (iccha, kriya and jnana); trinity of Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva; three existential factors as set out in the Samkhya (Pradhana, Purusha and Kaala); three chakras of Yoga (muladhara, vishuddha and sahasrara); and, the three aspects of Brahman (Sat, Chit and Ananada) etc.
|3||Matras of Pranava||a-kaara||u-kaara||m-kaara|
|4||Devatha of the realm||Agni||Vayu||Aditya|
|5||Sources of Energy||Prana||Agni||Surya|
|6||Aspect of Brahman||Sat||Chit||Ananda|
|12||Levels of identity||Buddhi||Manas||Ahamkara|
|16||Worship-fires at home||Garhapathya||Dakshina||Ahavaniya|
Vyahrti-s and Gayatri
46.1. The three Vyahrti-s gain a special significance in their association with the Gayatri mantra. The traditional view is that the Pranava (Om), the Vyahrti-s and the Gayatri mantra are of identical nature. Sri Madhwacharya in his Rg-bhashya states that the Vyahrti- s Bhu, Bhuvah and Suvah denote virtues associated with Brahman, such as: completeness (purna); absolute supremacy (niradhika-sreshthah); and, unique bliss (ananda). He also explains that the import of the Pranava is expanded in the Vyahrti-s; and the meaning of the Vyahrti-s is made clear in Gayatri.
46.2. It is said; the Vyahrti-s bring out the aspects of Brahman that could be meditated upon. The contemplation on Vyahrti-s is also the contemplation on the aspects of Pranava, which leads to release (moksha). Through that, one attains svarajya the state of independence beyond bondage (apnoti svarajyam).
46.3. The other significant association of the Vyahrti-s with the Gayatri is their representation as the three subtle planes of existence (loka); or regions of experience; or as three states or levels of consciousness experienced during meditation on Gayatri.
Fourth Vyahrti – Mahah
47.1. The Vyahrti-s: Bhu, Bhuvah and Suvah are together known as Maha-Vyahrti-s. Because, they are the fundamental realms (loka), universally accepted and integrated into Gayatri mantra. They are also the Vyahrti-s mentioned in the older texts.
47.2. Taittiriya Upanishad (Shiksha valli: 1-7) mentions ‘Bhu, Bhuvah and Suvah are the three Vyahrti-s’ (bhur bhuva suvariti va etaastritayo vyahrutaya). And, says, in addition, that the son of Rishi Mahachamas had the knowledge of the fourth Vyahrti called Mahah (chaturthim mahachamasya pravadayate).This is the adorable loka (maha pujayam), higher than Suvah; the loka of Aditya, the antaryamin who ennobles (mahat) all the worlds. Mahah is Aditya (mahah iti adityah), one who nourishes life everywhere; and one who is adored by those who aspire for liberation.
47.3. Taittiriya Upanishad further states: These are the four Vyahrti-s. And, everything in this existence is fourfold. One who understands, through meditation, the four states in the four planes of existence, knows Brahman (ta yo Veda sa brahma). Everyone loves such a knower. And, the gods bring him offerings (sarvesmai deva balim avahanti). Prachinayogya (descendent of sage Prachinayoga) was initiated into this meditation.
47.4. The passage goes on to describe Mahah: as Chandra who supports all plant-life and celestial bodies (sarvani jyotishee maheeyante); as Brahma who presides over Yajna (brahmanavava sarve Veda maheeyante); and as Anna that nourishes all the vital forces (annena vava sarve prana maheeyante). It declares ‘Mahah is Atman; Mahah is Brahman that pervades everything (maha iti tad brahma)’.
48.1. As said earlier; Bhu, Bhuvah and Suvah are the fundamental (Maha) Vyahrti-s; and Mahah is the fourth one. In addition, three other Vyahrti-s are mentioned : janah, tapah and satyam, bringing the total to seven Vyahrti-s . Janah, tapah and satyam, in the ascending order, are placed above Suvah . These Vyahrti-s, referred to as loka-s, are also understood as the levels of consciousness.
48.2. The concept of loka-s or realms arranged in ascending (urdhva) and descending (adho) order with reference to the position of the earth (Bhu) at the middle (madhya) emanates from the imagery of the structured world (Bhuvana) as envisioned by the ancients. The seven lower (adho) loka-s placed below the earth (Bhuloka) are: atala, vitala, sutala, tala-tala, maha-tala, rasatala and patala the lowest loka. The seven upper (urdhva) loka-s positioned above the earth, in ascending order, are: bhuvarloka, svarloka, maharloka, janaloka, tapoloka and satyaloka the highest loka.
49.1. Symbolically, the Bhu (earth) is deemed to represent the physical (bodily) consciousness, the basic needs; while the below (adho) loka-s represent the lower levels of consciousness.
49.2. As regards the upper realms (urdhva loka), the six upper realms are said to symbolically represent , in that order :
(i) emotions , desire for approval or love;
(ii) intellect , logic and reasoning ;
(iii) subtle energies of spirit ;
(iv) psychic realm, listening and observing in stillness ;
(v) intuition, direct experience of reality of Self;
(vi) unbound , non-dual consciousness.
These levels are , in a similar manner, associated with the chakras, the energy centres or seats of consciousness in human body.
49.3. It is also said, janah represents the realm from which akasha and other elements originate (jana janane; karturyasun); tapah is the realm from which all thoughts arise (tapah alochane) representing knowledge and enlightenment; and satyam is eternal, immutable in space or time. Satyam is the highest bliss and the liberating knowledge.
49.4. And , there is a faith that the desirable objects that aid ones progress arise from these seven lokas or planes, of existence, which the Vyahrti-s represent. The presiding deities of the planes of existence are called upon to guide us to the Truth that liberates.
The seven Vyahrti-s and Om
50.1. Though each of the seven Vyahrti-s represents a distinct loka or a level of consciousness their utterance is always preceded by the Pranava Om, the symbol of supreme reality. The tradition regards each Vyahrti as a mantra in its own right.
: – The Rishis of the seven Vyahrti-s are, in order, Atri, Brighu, Kutsa, Vashista, Gautama, Kashyapa and Angirasa.
: – The Devata-s of the mantras are: Agni Vayu, Arka (Surya, Aditya), Vagisha (Brihaspathi), Varuna, Indra and Visvedevah.
: – And, the metrical forms, the chhandas, of these Vyahrti-s are Gayatri, Ushnik, Anushtup, Brhati, Pankti, Trishtup, and Jagati.
: – As regards the Pranava mantra that precedes each Vyahrti, Brahma is the Rishi, Gayatri is its chhandas, and Paramatma is its Devata. And, moksha, liberation is its viniyoga, the objective (mokshado viniyogah).
50.2. All the Vyahrti-s emanate from Pranava Om. The contemplation on Vyahrti-s is intended to secure (viniyoga) moksha, liberation. The mantra – Om âpo jyotih rasomritam brahma bhûr bhuvas suvar Om – pays tribute to the all- comprehensive nature of Om : “Om, the water, the light, the very essence in which we exist, the Absolute, the physical world, the astral realm, the mental realm, all are indeed Om”.
50.3. Prapancha Sara a tantric text graphically describes the intimate relation between the Pranava and the Vyahrti-s. It explains; the first matra of the Pranava (a–kaara) is the first of the Vyahrti-s (Bhu).The second matra of the Pranava (u-kaara) is the second Vyahrti (Bhuh); and the third matra of the Pranava (ma-kaara) is the third of the Vyahrti-s (Suvah).The Bindu (.) which is the ardha (half)-matra is the Vyahrti Mahah; and the nada the sound of the Pranava is the fifth Vyahrti Janah. The Shakthi or the energy of the Pranava is the sixth Vyahrti Tapah; while the sublime peace (shanthi) of Pranava is the seventh Vyahrti Satyam.
50.4. Another text describes the Vyahrti-s as the limbs of the Cosmic-person (Virat-purusha), where Bhu is his feet; Bhuvah the knees; Suvah the loins; Mahah the navel; Janah the heart; Tapah the throat; and Satya the midpoint of his forehead.
51.1. The seven Vyahrti-s each accompanied by Om are followed by the three lines of the traditional 24-syllable Gayatri mantra; giving rise to the longer version of Gayatri. The mantra concludes with an invocation to the Goddess of light praying to illuminate our path as we progress towards higher consciousness.
51.2. The longer version of Gayatri is usually invoked during Pranayama preceding meditation on Gayatri.
51.3. The Vyahrti-s bring out the aspects of Brahman that are suitable for contemplation: Om is purna, the perfect; Bhu is nitya, the eternal; Bhuh is shristi-karta the creator; Suvah is svatantra, the unbound; Mahah is mahaniya, the adorable; Janah is aja beginning-less; Tapah is jnana-prakasha, the light of knowledge; and Satyam is niyama the true order that prevails in the Universe.
52.1. The mantra acquires different shades of meaning in accordance with the interpretations assigned to each of its terms. Though the Gayatri mantra is generally taken to mean: ‘may that Savitr inspire our intellect’, there is, however, no universally accepted translation of it in English. Each has to delve deep into her/himself, understand it in her/his own way; and realize her/his own Gayatri through reasoning grasped in faith. As sage Uddalaka counsels ‘śraddhatsva somyeti; have faith, my dear’ (Ch. Up. 6.12.2).
52.2. The mantra is said to belong to the Devata Savitr; hence its original name is Savitri. But, the mantra is not directly addressed to Devata Savitr. The Savitr, here, is verily the Purusha, the Brahman, the supreme and absolute spirit settled in the hearts of all beings.
52.3. The discussion on the meaning, significance and symbolisms of the mantra is one thing; the diligent practice of its contemplation is quite another. As Sri Shankara says, the efficacy of the Gayatri is in its meditation –practice (abhyasa) and in the realization of its true nature (tasmad Gayatri evam prakaropasya).
53.2. The Dhyana –slokas and the mantras invoking Gayatri Devata (Gayatri Avahaana), preparatory to reciting (japa) her mantra and meditating upon her form are the principal sources for Gayatri-iconography. Through these verses, recited with great reverence and devotion, the worshipper awakens and enlivens the potent Goddess residing in her/ his heart-cave. In the purity of her/his thought, word and deed, the worshipper visualizes Gayatri Devata in her various auspicious forms, with the aid of verses recited with great earnestness.
54.1. Gayatri is said to manifest her shakthi in three forms, as: Gayatri in the morning (pratah-savana); Savitri in the midday (madyanh savana) and Sarasvathi in the evening (saayam savana) – [Aitareya Brahmana-13.25]. But, it is also said; Gayatri herself represents all three savana-s (Gayatri vai sarvani savanani). Her individual forms are named ‘vyasti’; while her integrated form is ‘samasti’.
54.2. She is the sum or the aggregate (samasti svarupini) of all that is divine (Sarvadevata Svarupini; Sarvamantra Svarupini). As Gayatri in the morning she is Bramha svarupini; as Savitri in the mid-day is Rudra svarupini; and as Sarasvathi in the evening is Vishnu svarupini.
54.3. Mahanirvana Tantra (56-60) provides a slightly different version of her manifestations. And, it asks the Sadhaka :
“In the morning meditate upon Her ( Devi Gayatri) in Her Brahmi form, as a Maiden of ruddy hue, with a pure smile, with two hands, holding a gourd full of holy water, garlanded with crystal beads, clad in the skin of a black antelope, seated on a Swan (56). At midday meditate upon Devi Gayatri in Her Vaishnavi form, of the colour of pure gold, youthful, with full and rising breasts, situated in the Solar disc, with four hands holding the conch-shell, discus, mace, and lotus, seated on Garuda, garlanded with wild-flowers (57-58). In the evening meditate upon Devi Gayatri as Maheshwari of a white colour, clad in white raiment, old and long past her youth, with three eyes, beneficent, propitious, and seated on a Bull, holding in her lotus-like hands a noose, a trident, a lance, and a skull (59-60)
[Mahanirvana Tantra -Translated by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe)-1913].
55.1. The following are some of the verses recited more commonly, adoring Gayatri Devata.
pratar dhyayami gayatrim, ravimandala-madhyagam
rg-vedam uccarayantim raktavarnam kumarikam
akshamalakaram brahmadevatyam hamsavahanam’
In the morning, I meditate upon Gayatri- young and glowing; red in complexion; wearing garland of rosaries; and riding a swan. She is reciting Rig-Veda. Gayatri who is of the form of Brahma is settled in the solar orb.
‘madhyandine tu savitrim ravimandalamadhyagam
yajur-vedam vyaharantim svetam sulakaram sivam
yuvatim rudradevatyam dhyayami vrshavahanam’
At noon she is Savitri. She is auspicious looking young person, well adorned in white garments. She is engaged in Yajur Veda. I meditate upon Savitri of the form of God Rudra, riding a bull and settled in the solar orb.
sayam sarasvatim syamam ravimandalamdhyagam
sama-vedam vyaharantim cakrayudhadharam subham
dhyayami vishnudevatyam vrddham garudavahanam
In the evening, she is Sarasvathi. She is auspicious looking mature person; and is in the form of Vishnu dark in complexion, holding Chakra and riding Garuda. She is reciting Sama Veda. I meditate upon Sarasvathi settled in the solar orb.
Mukta-vidruma – hema-nila-dhavala-chayair mukhair-tryakshnaih,
Yuktam indu-nibadha-ratna-makutam tatvarthavarnatmikam
Gayatrim varadabhayankusa-kasam subhram-kapalam gadam
Sankham chakram atha aravindayugalam hastair vahantim bhaje
I meditate upon the Goddess Gayatri of five faces tinged with shades of pearl, coral, gold, sapphire, and white. Each of her heads is adorned with three eyes and crescent moon upon her diamond studded crown. She is seated on a lotus. She is endowed with ten arms. She holds in her six hands: the goad, the whip, the white skull, the mace, the conch and the discus; as also two lotuses in two other hands. With the other hands she gestures protection (abhaya mudra) and granting blessings (varada mudra).She is the very embodiment of mystic utterances of great philosophical import.
As regards the symbolisms associated with the iconographic features of Gayatri Devata, her five heads are variously interpreted as : five vital energies, pancha prana (prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana ) ; five fundamental elements , pancha tattva (earth, water, air, fire and sky ) ; the five parts of Gayatri mantra – (i) Om ; (ii) Bhu, Bhuvah , Suvah; (iii) tat savitur varenyam; (iv) Bhargo devasya; and, (v) dhimahi.
References and Sources
Rgveda Darshana –vol 3- Gayatri mantra By Prof.SK.Ramachandra Rao
Vaidika Sahitya Charitre By Dr.NS Anantharangachar
Rg Vedic Suktas –Gayatri and others By Swami Amritananda
All pictures are from internet