INDIA. The current ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns have brought special significance to the chanting of the Gayatri Mantra. The sense of uncertainty that the pandemic has brought around the world has made mantra healing imperative.
The Gayatri mantra
The Gayatri Mantra is a Vedic mantra being practiced by sages for several thousands of years in India. The sun is revered in sacred folklore of the Roman, Turkish, Greek, Japanese, and several other traditions in addition to Hindu mythology.
The divine attributes of this celestial body may be considered a mystic belief, but the science of its physical existence that enriches human life is binding. Situated in the center of the solar system, and regarded as the key source of energy for life on Earth, the radiant sun is the only being [god] that can be seen. Therefore, fidelity to the sun (Savitri) is believed to be vital. Gratitude is offered predominantly by chanting the Gayatri Mantra. Sanskrit mantras are sacred incantations, mystic syllables, used peculiarly to benefit the embodied soul and bring solace and bliss to the grief of mankind.
Om (AUM) bhur bhuvah Swah,Tat-saviturvarenyam, bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah prachodayat
Meaning of the Gayatri mantra
Om or Aum, a primordial sound that reverberates since the inception of this universe believed to be independent of people’s beliefs. Bhur-Bhuvah Suvah denotes the physical, mental, and spiritual realm that can be perceived beyond physical boundaries. Tat-Savitur-Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi adores Savitur (the sun god) as the creator of all beings and provider of effulgence and enlightenment. Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodyat is a prayer and praise to the Lord, seeking tranquility and spiritual bliss. The Gayatri Chhandha (poetic meter) recitations grant boons upon mankind.
The Gayatri Mantra is a Nitya karma (daily practice), an all-encompassing mantra. Obstacles in a person’s path get removed, granting boons of wisdom, spiritual growth, and development. Daily recitations protect a person from harm, making his intellect shine and improving the power of speech.
The story behind the Gayatri mantra
Vedantic religion encompasses four Yugas (epochs or eras)- Satya, Treta, Dwapar, Kali Yuga. The story that occurred in the Treta Yuga and is about how Vishwamitra, a King of the Kushya dynasty became a Brahma-Rishi and spelled out the Gayatri Mantra.
Vishwamita, along with his soldiers, visited a forest where a powerful sage Vasistha lived with his disciples. He had a small hermitage and a cow. He had achieved the position of a Bramha-Rishi. He had become invincible by supreme Lord Brahma’s blessings.
Upon seeing Vishwamitra and his troops, Vasistha greeted them and offered food and a place to rest.
Vasistha had a divine cow, a kamadhenu (wish-fulfilling cow) a gift from Indra (King of the gods) in the cowshed. Vasistha whispered some words into its ear. Vishwamitra was surprised as he saw a lot of food available to this king and his soldiers. The king and his soldiers had the food offered by Vasistha and rested for a while.
Vishwamitra was fascinated and wanted the cow in his kingdom. But the sage refused to part with the cow. The king waged a battle with the great sage. Vasistha merely raised his Yoga Danda (meditation stick) and the entire army of the king died. The king then realized the supreme authority of the Sage Vasitha and his invincibility.
King Vishwamitra had to accept defeat and return to his kingdom. He surrendered his kingdom and renounced material life. He wandered into the jungle and meditated. He desired to become a Brahma-Rishi.
Vishwamitra spent several years in the pursuit of his goal and faced many obstacles. He was supposed to conquer the six horrendous emotions: love, anger, greed, infatuation, elation, hatred, all of which are believed to bring the downfall of humans.
His meditation was interrupted by a seducing Apsara Menaka (heavenly nymph). Somehow, after several years, Vishwamitra overcame his desires and Lord Brahma proclaimed him a Maha-Rishi. But Vishwamitra desired to be an invincible Brahma-Rishi. Lord Brahma said, “When you are blessed by Sage Vasistha, you’ll be a Brahma-Rishi.” Left with no choice, he returned to sage Vasistha in his hermitage.
Sage Vashita was having a conversation with his wife, Arundhati in his hermitage. He said, “I am guiding Vishwamitra secretly to progress in his enlightenment.” When Vishwamitra realized this truth, he was ashamed of himself and his anger towards the great sage Vasistha vanished. Vishwamitra began to hit his head against a wall. Vashistha rushed out to stop him.
Vishwamitra fell to the ground. And as his head touched the feet of sage Vasistha, He felt a divine current flowing through his body. Vishwamitra achieved spontaneous meditation and self-realization. He received the divine syllables of the Gayatri Mantra in his head and began reciting the auspicious mantra and its mystical sounds.
Sage Vasistha then blessed him with the title of a Brahma-Rishi, as he’d conquered all impurities and was one with the absolute Lord Brahma. The sage conferred the title of Brahma-Rishi upon Vishwamitra. Hence, the Gayatri Mantra has been given to posterity by Sage Vishwamitra (friend of the universe).