CHAPTER 8 – Gayatri Mantra
The next three words of the first line—Bhur, Bhuvar and Suvaha—are, in a way, further explanation of the symbolic content of Aum. However, there is a slight difference; where pranava is directed towards the Ishvara as Indivisible Consciousness, the vyahritis point to the deities that rule the physical, astral and mental planes of our ordinary life. These deities are Agni, Vayu, and Aditya and the three vyahritis are the bija, seed mantras of the respective divinities.
There is a further affinity between the pranava and the vyahritis. According to the Chandogya Upanishad, Prajapati meditated on the threefold knowledge (the three Vedas) and, from the result of the meditation, extracted its essence, namely Bhuh from the Rig, Bhuvah from the Yajur and Suvah from the Sama Veda. When he further brooded on these vyahritis, the syllable Aum was the result.
Coming to the mantra proper, it ought to be pointed out—and this is very important—that the Gayatri is translated in as many ways as there are scholars with their individual views. Many reasons can be given for such diversion of views. Leaving alone the incompetence of some of the interpreters, we may arrive at one reason for the variants; the extremely rich and complex nature of the Sanskrit language. Often, the same word or expression has different meanings in different contexts. Or, it can have several cognate meanings in the same context. Closely allied to this, is the highly inflected nature of the knowledge which determines its syntax. A strict adherence to grammatical analysis will yield an apparent meaning but not the right one.
The only correct interpretation depends on the apprehension of the subtle context which is beyond the rational linguistic deciphering. In short, any true meaning that can be arrived at can only be through the buddhi, which faculty the mantra is aiming at developing in the aspirant. Such a situation may appear like a petitio principi, an argument in circles. Yet, therein lies the mantra’s power-the power to draw the aspirant closer and closer to the contemplation of the words of the mantra.