The Vedas or Wisdoms are considered the backbone of at least a portion of Indian Spirituality (the other being Tantra). It is said that the Vedas can be summed up in Gayatri Mantra and the Mantra can be summed up in the mystic syllable OM or AUM. Indeed, Gayatri seems to elaborate on the meaning of OM, both conceptually and in the vibratory sense. Both OM and Gayatri reveal what Vedic mysticism is all about. It's all about divine embodiment and identification.
The mantra goes like this:
t a t savit u r v a reNiyam
bh a rgo dev a sya dhImahi
dh i yo y o naH pracod a yAt
The above is the original version reconstructed by scholars from several American Universities concentrated on a site rune by the
The scripting here doesn't support the sanskrit transliterated format, so I've placed the accents in underlined and bold context, and extended vowels in capital. The capital N is retroflex, meaning it is pronounced with the tongue curled to the roof of the mouth. The compound consonants like dh and bh are difficult to pronounce sounds. The english transliterations do not do them justice. They are not two sounds but one. Bh is like a v with a gutteral voiced h on top, not a b with an exhale. Dh is similar but with a delta or heavy th sound. The final capital H is simply a stop, where the previous vowel is cut off as if with a knife. Single vowels are very brief, just barely pronounced, while o and e are compound double vowels the first sounding as aa with the mouth in the shape for U and the second as aa with the mouth in the shape for EE (as in feet). As the reader can see, getting a handle on pronunciation is not easy, whereas even this doesn't mean much without the right accenting.
The older translation goes like this:
May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar the God:
So May he stimulate our prayers.
Today, however, the Internet surfer can find several sites dedicated to interpreting and analyzing this mantra, many of which seem to take religious liberties in their analysis. Here is something more literal from the sanskrit dictionary.
That, which is much coveted (invaluable) and like the sun
may we embody the wisdom of that radiant divinity
May that inspire our minds.
The word dhiyo is translated as "intellect", but the eastern and western concepts differ. Intellect here goes way beyond thinking and intellectualizing. It refers to anything the mind can do, including perception, the expression of desire and intention and the way we organize reality and conceive our identity. One of the myths around the seer-poet who composed Gayatri (Vishva-Mitra: the avatar of Mitra) was that he could create who Universes or reality systems using this Mantra. It is also said that he ended up cursing the mantra so it wouldn't work for anyone else, at least to the extent it worked for him. What this "curse" involves I am not certain, but I have my suspicions. There are indeed traditions pertaining to reversing the curse using mantras pronounced backwards, but I believe part of it is a subtle distortion in the way the mantra has been interpreted over the ages.
Apparently, however, the mantra creates matrices of perception among other things. To understand what this means and not to confuse it with the modern version of "virtual reality" we need to consider the meaning of the sun in mystic terms. The sun, unlike transcendent divinity is a centered presence. In the west it is represented by a circle with a center, and also parallels our notions of self. In Yetziratic Qabbalah (as per the Sepher Yetzirah) the center of the "tree" is represented by the moon, whereas the sun is attributed to the west or everything that we have become as opposed to the void of what we can become. In India the moon represents psyche and the sun represents everything else, all our bodies, energies and everything that surrounds our sense of self. Mantras of the sun are used to heal the body and mantras of the moon pertain to the psyche. The sun is considered a vehicle of divinity, and rides its own vehicle at one with it. In Gayatri, however, the sun is a metaphore as the indescribable state the seer-poet desires is like the sun in its radiance, centeredness and potency. The mantra is essentially both a prayer and a meditation, as popular as the Lords Prayer is to Christians, but with an underlying universal potency that has become mythic, but which few experience outside of a limited context.
Even that context, however, is impressive. Extensive toning of Gayatri has resulted in transcended states in many people, and is often used for magic applications such as healing, increasing intelligence and prosperity. You can easily google the word and find many interesting factoids about it, as it is probably the only vedic mantra outside of Mahamrityunjaya (a healing mantra of Shiva), that is considered acceptable to convey in detail. I think, therefore, it would be more useful to readers for me to express my own experience here. One thing I need to say is that for a mantra to be anything other than an affirmation or a set of words, foreign or not, it needs to be "charged". Actually, this is a misnomer. The mantra is not charged. The practitioner is tuned like a guitare toward the vibration of the mantra through prolonged practice. It is an interesting situation because mantras are practically living vibrations. Indian traditions affirm that a true mantra is what it represents. I'm a skeptic, probably more than most, and there are a few things in occultism I found that truly impress me. Mantras are one of them. The problem is it's not easy to sit and repeat a mantra the necessary one hundred thousand times (at least) to get some kind of response from it outside of profound relaxation. I spent years with getting no tangible results and focusing on them on and off, usually when I was working, driving or doing something otherwise boring. My pronunciation was off and so was my rhythm. Notice the accents in the posted Gayatri. They do make a difference.
The point is that if you do pronounce it right from the onset, your constitution is still not prepared to channel the energies so the effects are similiar as if you don't pronounce it right. Since the effects are weak at best, and since it seems Indians are almost conspirationally focused on glossing over the more profound properties of mantras and presenting them innaccurately to the greater public, they seem to most western occultists to be nothing more than a culture specific type chant or prayer. This is far from the truth. Even so, there are not many people willing to sit and repeat the 24 or more syllables (given the added on portions usually accomanying the mantra), for the minimum of 100000 times, a number that can easily double or triple depending on who is practicing. Add to this that the mantra works under a certain meditative mind-set that requires one to be an advanced meditator to even start with it, if they hope to make it anything mroe than a foreign version of the Lord's Prayer. Why do Vedic mantras work? It may have to do with the fact that they were all composed under Soma inebriation. Basically imagine taking a hallucinogen coctail and vibrating your voice so that your body transfers the vibrations and meditating at the same time. It is said the seer-poets saw the mantras they chanted, even before verbalizing them. They had visions and found words that generated vibrations that held the visions in place. Then they found the words could call up these visions.
When they "came down" they realized the mantras would only work if they repeated them often. The vedic myths are pretty clear on this. The seers were given the mantras, but unless they did "penance" or sit down and spend a lot of time focusing on vibrating the mantras, the gods would not bestow their powers to them. Over time, soma was abandoned. They say it was one crisis or another that caused this, but I think people eventually learned that it is not the drugs but the work that makes a mantra potent, and that with such work you can gain altered states equivalent or beyond the soma or any other drug experience. Not to mention soma is a specific combination of fungi fermented in a specific and complex manner that was highly ritualized and kept secret. It is not difficult for the knowledge to be lost if one generation does not manage to communicate it to the next. In view of all of this, Vedic mantras represent doorways to transcendent states. If the doorways were one-way, they would be nothing more than a way of getting high without drugs. I suspect this is indeed what occultism is for a lot of people, but if I believed that I would rather choose an easier and less legal way, if getting high was that important to me. in truth, mantras are two-way streets. You can get high, but you can also bring the high to your ground, the mountain to Mohammed and in and over your body right down to the very physical.
Of course, can doesn't necessarily imply will .
Gayatri, in any case, addresses the crux of that potential. There are stories about Vishvamitra. He wasn't a very nice person, not before he became a seer and not after. He fought with other seers (especially his old teacher Vashishtha who was more benign in nature) who he saw as rivals, and I think he was a military man or noble in his pre-seer occupation. He did become enlightened, but that still didn't make him necessarily a Christ-like or Buddha-like figure. On the other hand, he composed Gayatri, one verse in a much longer prayer, to cut to the chase. He wanted power, and had attained the wisdom over time to understand what power was all about, and that ultimately it fuses with Gnosis (not the chaote interpretation of the word). Note, of course, that my interpretations may touch a sour chord for those to whom this tradition is sacred and inviolate, so sorry in advance.
As for Vishvamitra, his name is no coincidence. Interestingly, it is popularly translated as "friend of Mitra", but the Sanskrit dictionary is pretty clear that vishva means whole, embodiment, all and universal. He very likely had attained attributes of the god Mitra who was known to drive the solar chariot. The name probably came from his ability to direct these solar or sun-like powers. In the end he didn't want anyone else to claim such abilities so he cursed his own mantra, and he wasn't the only seer to do so. Apparently Indian traditions are full of stories where the use of mantras created a lot of destruction. Many seers were under the patronage of rulers, and were obligated to fight in their many conflicts. At the same time, Vedic society was considered to be peaceful, which makes sense on the surface given that occult warfare is not necessarily visible. Conflicts were usually with outside cultures, and most of the disasters that allegedly toppled the civilization came from natural causes such as rivers drying up, earthquakes and plagues. Ultimately, these weakened the culture so invaders inundated the area. Some say these invaders were the vedic aryans, but history is vague here.
In terms of Gayatri, the mantra begins with OM, which is a vibration (when toned correctly) that sends energy to the ventricals of the brain, an area known as the "cave of the bee". When this vibration is combined with meditation on the nature of consciousness it eventually leads to embodied identity merger with that nature and all that implies. It is placed in front of most mantras to tone the foundation harmonic that can leads to the vibration of the mantra activating. Many use it exclusively, although it is said you need to pronounce it over a million times for real effects. The point here is that simply reading about these traditions cannot lead to understanding because the truth is evasive, and I think presented to be evasive. Confirmation comes through practice, but the degree of dedication makes it impractical for most westerners. However, even a little practice combined with cross referencing the many hints from several sources in this culture can lead to a certain picture emerging.