Usually I know the mantra I want, I might refresh my memory by looking in a book or thinking about a recording I know. But recently a mantra found its way to me! (Well, sort of). I'm speaking about the Gayatri mantra. This is an ancient mantra that is so so beautiful. I found myself very moved by it, drifting into a transcendent feeling of grace. The first word I used to describe it was 'Cosmic'. The strange thing is that I felt this on hearing it, before I knew what the words actually meant.
The mantra was playing quietly in the background of a yoga session. I was immediately enchanted by the beauty of it. I didn't think to ask what it was. Next day, a freind mentioned a mantra that she was really loving and it turned out to be the same one!! Over the next few days I just kept coming across it – hearing it everywhere. It was calling to me. Soon I began listening and chanting along... I found I wanted to chant it several times a day!! I was hooked!! And all this without even finding out what it meant!
It turns out that the Gayatri mantra has a deep and powerful meaning. Like all the ancent mantras its meaning is layered and open to interpretation. I guess you would need to chant it for a long time to fully understand it.
The mantra came from the Rig Veda, an ancient Vedic text. It is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, where it is described as a poem of the Divine. On one level the mantra is an ecstatic salutation to the Sun deity Savitur – giving praise and thanks for his light. In ancient times people worshipped the Sun because it was (and still is) the source of all life on Earth. Its energy powers our planet. The mantra speaks of our place in the cosmos – the endless, timeless dance of planets and galaxies. But the mantra is broader than the literal meaning – it is describing the Divine light of the creator, the formless, nameless 'One', of which we are all part. It humbly asks for illumination and 'right thinking' of the intellect (or ego) to connect and align with that light. It is a devotion, meditation and prayer of gratitude all in one.
According to Douglas Brooks, a professor of religion at the University of Rochester, the Gayatri mantra is truly sacred. "The sensibility it evokes is more important than the literal meaning. It's an offering, a way to open to grace, to inspire oneself to connect to the ancient vision of India," he says. "Its effect is to inspire modern yogis to participate in the most ancient aspiration of illumination that connects modern yoga to the Vedic tradition." I couldn't agree with him more.
I experienced this mantra in my heart before I knew its literal meaning. This is a powerful, sacred mantra and I am blessed to be able to hear it and to chant it. I feel that this is a great mantra to chant when you wish to be of service and need guidance as to the best path to take. Align yourself with the highest power and you can't go wrong! There are many versions of the tune. It is worth noting that often the mantra is mispronounced by Westerners. I found a very helpful video on Youtube by Jorma Pohjola that explains it and how to chant it correctly.
May this beautiful mantra fill you with light and love and blessings.
For more information about mantra meditation, check out my little mantra book.