CHAPTER 8 – Gayatri Mantra
A rough literal interpretation, as different from translation of the mantra is as follows: “We contemplate upon the Originator or Source of everything, that adorable, effulgent Divinity, and pray that our intelligence may be illumined and stimulated, so that we would be enabled to understand the Absolute Truth.”
There is one crucial word in this mantra which sets it apart from all other mantras. It is the word dheemahi. It means either ‘We meditate upon’ or ‘May we meditate upon’. Whatever meaning we select–an assertion or prayer–the important aspect is the plural form of the word. And this has great significance. Since it is a mantra to be chanted, generally as a personal mantra, why should it have the plural subject? The plural implies that the prayer is for the benefit of all, though the aspirant is seeking the development of spiritual consciousness. The ‘we’ underlines the same latent Universal Consciousness in all. It is this transcendence over a desire for narrow personal benefit that imbues the Gayatri Mantra with its great power.
As with all mantras, Gayatri also has its tutelary deity, though it is addressed to Savita, the sun. And that deity is Gayatri who is the female counterpart of the trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, or more appropriately, their consorts Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali representing learning, wealth, and protection. They are prayed to for personal worldly boons, while Gayatri is invoked to give us the buddhi to understand our true nature, knowing which, we have everything. It is our identification with our individual selves that flings us into bondage. But the divine light of Savita helps us to free ourselves from our bondage, so that the power of Gayatri envelops us.
Above all, the Gayatri Mantra is unique in another way. It is the only mantra which is the combination of a prayer and a mantra–it combines the inherent power of the sound of a mantra (which sometimes has no meaning for the chanter) with the power of the prayer.