The Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri is the most sacred of all Vaidik mantras. In it the Veda lies embodied as in its seed. It runs: Om bhur-bhuvah-svah: tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat, Om. “Let us contemplate the wondrous spirit of the Divine Creator (Savitr) of the earthly, atmospheric, and celestial spheres. May He direct our minds, that is ‘towards’ the attainment of dharma, artha, kama, and moksa, Om.”

The Gayatri-Vyakarana of Yogi Yajnavalkya thus explains the following words: Tat, that.(1) The word yat (which) is understood.(2) Savituh is the possessive case of Savitr derived from the root su, “to bring forth,” Savitr is, therefore, the Bringer forth of all that exists. The Sun (Surya) is the cause of all that exists, and of the state in which they exist. Bringing forth and creating all things, it is called Savitr.

The Bhavisya-Purana says Surya is the visible Devata. He is the Eye of the world and the Maker of the day. There is no other Devata eternal like unto Him. This universe has emanated from and will be again absorbed into, Him. Time is of and in Him. The planets, the Vasus, Rudras, Vayu, Agni, and the rest are but parts of Him. By Bhargah is meant the Aditya-devata, dwelling in the region of the Sun (surya-rnandala) in all His might and glory. He is to the Sun what our spirit (atma) is to our body. Though He is in the region of the sun in the outer or material sphere He also dwells in our inner selves. He is the light of the light in the solar circle, and is the light of the lives of all beings. As He is in the outer ether, so also is He in the ethereal region of the heart. In the outer ether He is Surya, and in the inner ether He is the wonderful Light which is the Smokeless Fire.

In short, that Being whom the sadhaka realizes in the region of his heart is the Aditya in the heavenly firmament. The two are one. The word is derived in two ways:

  1. from the root bhrij, “ripen, mature, destroy, reveal, shine.” In this derivation Surya is He who matures and transforms all things. He Himself shines and reveals all things by His light. And it is He who at the final Dissolution (pralaya) will in His image of destructive Fire (kalagni), destroy all things.
  2. From bha = dividing all things into different classes; ro = color; for He produces the color of all created objects; ga, constantly going and returning.

The sun divides all-things, produces the different colours of all things, and is constantly going and returning. As the Brahmanasarvasva says:

“The Bhargah is the Atma of all that exists, whether moving or motionless, in three lokas (Bhur-bhuvah-svah), There is nothing which exists apart from it.”

Devasya is the genitive of Deva, agreeing with Savituh. Deva is the radiant and playful (lilamaya) one. Surya, is in constant play with creation (srsti), existence (sthiti), and destruction (pralaya), and by His radiance pleases all. (Lila, as applied to the Brahman, is the equivalent of maya.) Varenyam = varaniya, or adorable. He should be meditated upon and adored that we may be relieved of the misery of birth and death. Those who fear rebirth, who desire freedom from death and liberation and who strive to escape the three kinds of pain (tapa-traya), which are adhyatmika, adhidaivika, and adhibhautika, meditate upon and adore the Bharga, who dwelling in the region of the Sun, is Himself the three regions called Bhur-loka, Bhuvar-loka, and Svar-loka. Dhimahi = dhyayerna, from the root dhyai. We meditate upon, or let us meditate upon.

Pracodayat = may He direct. The Gayatri does not so expressly state, but it is understood that such direction is along the catur-varga, or four-fold path, which is dharma, artha, kama, and moksa (piety, wealth, desire and its fulfilment, and liberation, vide post). The Bhargah is ever directing our inner faculties (buddhi-vrtti) along these paths.

The above is the Vaidik Gayatri, which, according to the Vaidik system, none but the twice-born may utter. To the Sudra, whether man or woman, and to women of all other castes it is forbidden. The Tantra which has Gayatri-Mantra of its own, shows no such exclusiveness; Mahanirvana-Tantra, Chapter III, verses 109-111, gives the Brahma-gayatri for worshippers of the Brahman: “Paramesvaraya vidmahe; para-tattvaya dhimahi; tan no Brahma pracodayat” (May we know the supreme Lord, Let us contemplate the Supreme essence. And may that Brahman direct us).(3)

1. Tat is apparently here treated as in the objective case agreeing, with varenyam, etc., but others holding that the vyahrti (Bhur-bhuvahsvah) form part of and should be linked with, the rest of the Gayatri treat tat as part of a genitive compound connected with the previous vyahrti, in which case it is tesam.
2. It may, however, be said that yat is there in Yo nah.
3. “The Great Liberation”.