The Gayatri Mantra was one of the first mantras I used daily for many years, and I know many others who consider it the master of all mantras as it relates to Divine Mother and peace and enlightenment for all who practice it.
I’m not sure why I’ve gotten out of this daily chant, but we had the opportunity to practice 2 different versions of it today for our sacred chanting meetup and it was wonderful to feel that reconnection to sacred source.
The Gayatri Mantra has been used for nearly 4000 years give or a take a few hundred years here and there.
And we also explored the story behind the creation of the Gayatri Mantra.
My short version is the story of a warrior king who meets a sacred man who had an abundance cow. Yes, an abundance cow. When the sacred man asked the warrior king if he would like a meal for warrior king and his staff, the king was amazed to see a fabulous meal set up. When the warrior king found that it was the abundance cow who had made the meal, he immediately asked to have it.
The wise man said that he couldn’t have the cow as it had been gifted to him, and continued to refuse the warrior kings offers to replace it with enough cows to feed the whole village.
The infuriated the warrior king eventually realised that this outburst of anger and desire was not an appropriate attitude. He went off to meditate for hundreds of years and finally Lord Shiva appears to him and gifts him the Gayatri Mantra to relieve the suffering of man and discover eternal bliss.
The long version is available here. (It is really quite a long story.)
As the Gayatri became popular in modern times we find some broader interpretations. So let’s have a look at it. First, all the words together and then a word by word translation.
The Gayatri Mantra
Om Bhur Bhuvah Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Diimahi
Word by Word Translations
Om, or Aum, is regarded as the primal sound of the Universe and points to the Oneness of all.
Bhur – embodiment of vital spiritual energy, earth
Bhuvah – destroyer of suffering
Suvaha (svaha) – embodiment of happiness
Tat – that, in this way
Savitur – Savitri, spiritual sun, the One Light, all pervading Consciousness
Varenyam – worthy of worship, venerable, adorable, worthy of being sought
Bhargo – radiance. Effulgence, splendour, light which bestows understanding, destroyer of sins
Devasya – Divine, of the Deity
Dimahi – we meditate upon; or, may we meditate on, reflect on, be devoted to; or, may imbibe
Dhiyo – prayer, intellect, noble thoughts, intuition, understanding of Reality (buddhis)
Yo – who; he who; the one who
Nah – our; of us
Prachodayaat – may he energize, direct, inspire, guide, unfold; or, he who energizes, directs, inspires, guides unfolds
Modern Translations of the Gayatri Mantra
Here’s a more modern translation style by Donna Farhi:
“Everything on earth, in between and above
Is arising from one effulgent source.
If my thoughts, words and deeds reflected this complete understanding of unity,
I would be the peace I am seeking in this moment.”
Or the light-hearted interpretation of Richard Miller:
“Everything is light, this is light , that is light, we are all light, light light light….”
How to Chant the Gayatri Mantra
Here are a few ways of chanting the Gayatri Mantra.
We discussed this a lot during the chanting session and Rachel came up with the idea to find 108 different ways to chant the Gayatri Mantra. We did 2 different versions, a more prayer-style and a more modern Deva Premal version.
There is no wrong answer on how you chant it, you may want to chant/sing along with a few different styles and see which one resonates most with you.
One thing is clear, it’s been a sacred mantra for nearly four thousand years for a reason as many have found comfort and peace while chanting it. So pick the version you like best and get your mantra on.
Here are 2 versions. Which one do you enjoy most?
Traditional chant style https://www.youtube.com/live/X1IPpV4UYZs?feature=share
Why Chant 108 times?
We also discussed why 108 is the sacred number of times to repeat a mantra. And the number of beads on a mala.
The first that came up in the conversation was that it related to the 108 deities in Hindu.
Google suggests that it’s related to sacred numbers of 9 & 12, as 9 * 12 = 108. It could also be because the number 1 stands for God, the Universe or your own highest truth, 0 represents emptiness and humility in spiritual practice and 8 represents infinity and timelessness.
Yet another theory suggests that the number is based on the fact that the Sanskrit alphabet has 54 letters and each letter has both a masculine and feminine energy, so 54 * 2 = 108.
There are even more theories as to why the mantras are chanted 108 times, what version do you prefer?
Mudras for the Gayatri Mantra
We also talked about the mudras also known as seals for the Gayatri Mantra but didn’t practice them. In doing some research online, it seems there are 24 mudras, 1 for each word of the gayatri mantra.
The mudras are quite detailed and using a video was the only way I could begin to understand the sequence and flow. I’m going to being practicing the mudras, here’s one of the clearest videos I found to help you do them as well.
I hope you found these tips helpful to find the style and rhythm you prefer and II encourage you to just start practicing.