Today’s topic is the Gayatri Mantra. I am sure most of you would have heard of the Gayatri Mantra. It is the most important mantra from the Rig Veda; so much so that the particular meter in which the mantra is chanted is known as the Gayatri meter. You will find it in the Rig Veda and the Brahma Rishi to whom the mantra was revealed is none other than the great Vishwamitra.
The first line of the mantra goes like this:
Om bhur bhuvah svah
Om as you know is the pranava, it’s that which gives life to the mantra, that which gives prana–pranava. The meaning of Om–actually there are many meanings for Om–apart from the effect of its sound on one’s own system and also on the world that surrounds us is as follows.
Om is made of the syllables ‘aa‘,’oo‘ and ‘im‘, ‘m‘.
‘Aa‘ stands for creation because it is the simplest word that even a child can pronounce, it’s the simplest sound. ‘aa‘–it’s the beginning of creation or ‘Brahma’. ‘Oo’ is the middle sound, coming from the middle of the tongue, which represents the preservation of that which is created, ‘Vishnu’.
And, ‘im‘, the ‘m‘, the end sound, represents Maheshwara, the destroyer. I would say the regenerator instead of destroyer because you cannot make anything new until the old is gone. ‘M‘ also represents destruction because when you chant ‘m’ in Om, the mouth is closed. If you have to make a new sound, you have to start once again.
“The Om represents the whole creation, the whole universe, the cosmos, the human being, the connection between a human and the universe, the connection between the individual and the Supreme all-pervading being.”
So, here is the whole cycle of creation, preservation and destruction. God–Generating, operating and destroying if you were to think that way! The cycle is Om, symbolised by Om.
Now, another scripture, an Upanishad that is part of the Vedas–the Mundaka Upanishad–the shortest of the Upanishads, also gives definition of Om, which is a little different.
It says that ‘aa‘ stands for Jagratha Awastha, which means the waking state of consciousness, which is common to all human beings. ‘Oo‘ represents the dream state which is also called Tejasa–Swapna Awastha that is again common to all human beings. And, then ‘m‘ or ‘im‘ represents Sushupti or deep sleep that is again common to all beings.
The Ardh matra accompanying Om, which is the vibration of the sound that is similar to the sound that slowly begins to disappear after you ring a bell. The ringing sound takes quite sometime to disappear. That is called the Ardh matra –that which is a witness of all the three states–waking, dream and deep sleep. The eternal witness that is our true self, which watches the drama and yet is not affected by it.
Therefore, the Om represents the whole creation, the whole universe, the cosmos, the human being, the connection between a human and the universe, the connection between the individual and the Supreme all-pervading being. This is what Om is.