Gayatri Mantra, Answers to QuestionsAugust 16, 2012 3 Comments
Gayatri Mantra - questions and answers
Q – Can women also chant the Gayatri Mantra?
M - First of all, I must tell you, the question is worded wrong.
You should not ask ‘also’ chant the Gayatri Mantra. Of course, women are entitled to chant the Gayatri Mantra. I think in olden days; in the vedic times, great rishis like Gargi for example, would have chanted the Gayatri Mantra. Again, if you look into the Ramayana – Valmiki Ramayana, you will find in a place when Lakshmana comes to see Sita, his sister-in-law and meets Rama coming out of the house and tells him that he would like to see her. Rama says “Lakshmana don’t you know that this is time for Sandhya Vandana. Let your sister-in-law be engaged in Sandhya Vandana“. What does that mean?
Sandhya Vandana includes the Gayatri. You cannot have Sandhya Vandana without the Gayatri. So my understanding is this and I think that the great Swami Dayananda Saraswati who founded the Arya Samaj will concur with me, that the Gayatri is a beautiful mantra, which can be chanted by anyone, irrespective of sex and I would add caste or creed and I am also of the firm belief that caste originally was based on one’s aptitude and not by birth.
Of course when the parents have certain aptitude and/or the ancestors have a certain aptitude, it is quite likely, that the generations which come after them will have some of the aptitudes, quite possible. But, if they don’,t they are not qualified to be included in that group.
So I think, the theory, that only brahmins should chant the Gayatri, was based on the brahminical attitudes or the brahminical characters or attributes of a person and not just because one is born a brahmin.
Even Manu goes to the extent of saying, that a person who is born a brahmana and does not practice the qualities of a brahmin, should be called a brahmin vandu and not even a brahmin and also since the Gayatri was written in Sanskrit and except for a certain guru, most people did not know Sanskrit, it probably became a kind of exclusive mantra, used by those who knew the language.
It gradually became right by succession. The other day a lady asked me - why is it that women are not allowed to chant the Gayatri? – I said, the meaning of the mantra is – the last sentences – it’s a prayer for stimulating your intelligence, if all the women’s intelligence is stimulated, who would cook in the kitchen? It’s a joke, but it sort of points out, its possible, why women were not allowed to chant it.
However, I would say that it’s a mantra which should be chanted by everyone irrespective of sex, caste or creed provided they follow the ground rules of doing good to others, not causing harm to others and so on, because a mantra can build up power and power should also go with responsibility.
Q – Should the Gayatri Mantra be chanted at dawn, dusk or mid day? Which are the 3 sandhyas or can it be chanted at any time?
M – Well, the Gayatri – it’s good to chant any mantra. Not only the Gayatri but any mantra at these 3 times because during the three sandhyas, the naadis or the pathways through which the prana acts in the human body are in a very sensitive and impressionable state. So any mantra chanted during such a time, has a great influence on the pranic energies.
But, that does not mean that Gayatri should not be or can’t be chanted at other times. I think you can chant them even during other times provided as I said earlier the place is clean, you are clean.
Q – Will the Gayatri Mantra be more effective if given by the guru to the disciple?
M – Not only the Gayatri Mantra, any mantra becomes more effective, if given by the right guru to the right disciple. I’ll explain - the right guru – by right guru I mean, a person who himself or herself has practiced the mantra and attained perfection in that mantra or has an experience of what comes out of chanting the mantra – that particular mantra for a long period of time. If such a teacher gives the mantra to a student. When I say the right student – I mean one who, with humility wants to understand sincererly how to chant it, then it becomes more effective.
Not only that, when a guru gives a mantra to a disciple, again – right guru to right disciple – it’s not just the sound of the mantra that is given, but the energy of the teacher who has experienced the fullfilment of the mantra, is also passed onto the disciple or to the student to some extent.
Q Since the Gayatri Mantra is dedicated to the sun, is it proper to chant it at night time?
M – It’s true that the Gayatri Mantra is dedicated to the sun, but there are two suns here. One – it is the physical sun that you see outside, which appears during the day and disappears during the night. So the mantra - when it is addressed to the visible sun is chanted when it is visible to us.
Now the visible sun, is only a manifestation of the inner sun or the sun which is the spark of the divine or that Supreme Brahman or the Supreme sun and that Supreme Brahman and the spark of that Supreme Brahman which resides in us – that sun does not set either during the day or during the night. It stays, forever shining forth and illumining the human heart.
Therefore, since the mantra is addressed to both that sun and this sun, it can also be chanted at night. Moreover, it’s a universal mantra – what is night for us, is day in some other part of the world. It’s only that we cannot see the Sun. The sun has not gone anywhere, its right there – it has moved to the other side - like they have day and we have night - we have day and they
have night in some other part of the world. So you can chant the mantra at any time.
Q – Is it necessary to chant the mantra aloud or can it be chanted in the mind?
M – Mantras basically, and that includes the Gayatri Mantra, apart from the meaning, have a certain sound effect. So when you chant the mantra aloud, the vibrations of the mantra – not only help us, they also help people who are around, whether they believe in it or they don’t. It has nothing to do with this belief or that belief – it’s to do with the vibrations of the mantra. While if you chant it silently, it has an effect on your own self. Even if you chant silently – it has an effect on your own self . Gradually, your ownself is so purified that you begin to help others, but that is indirect.
Directly chanting the mantra audibly can help and affect people and other living beings who are around us.
As far as, meditation is concerned, chanting which is called japa, is divided into two kinds – actually 3 kinds – One is the loud japa or the loud chanting and then there is the chanting where only the lip moves and then there is the chanting in the mind.
The student or the aspirant or the practitioner starts first with loud chanting and when the mantra has been properly memorised and chanted perfectly, exactly, then for the purpose of meditation where the effect is to be felt in the inner psyche, in one’s inner being – he sits down quietly and chants it by only moving his lips – after a while, he graduates to chanting silently in his mind.
Now chanting in the mind affects the prana, makes the prana run in the proper naadi, co-ordinates the prana which is dissipated otherwise – brings it together in one place and helps by settling down the thought processes. Further, when this kind of chanting becomes a habit, when one can always chant or let’s put it this way, when the mind continues to chant, even when you are engaged in other activities, whether going in the bus, sitting in the car, deep inside, the mantra is going on and on and on.
And the next step is even when you are asleep, deep down the mantra is being chanted and in the dream you wake up and see that – not wake up - I mean there is some kind of dream in which dream you wake up – not back to waking state, but you wake up and see that you are chanting the mantra in there.
Now that kind of automatic japa, which is continuous 24 hour japa, that goes on and on nonstop, is known as ajapa japa – japa without japa; when this takes place in the student or practitioner or the yogi who has attained all the sidhi or power or capacities associated with the mantra.
Q – Can we chant the mantra if we are not aware of the meaning ? Is it harmful to chant the mantra in an improper way or to mispronounce the words while chanting it ?
M – We can chant the mantra, even if we are not aware of the meaning, but it is good always to understand the meaning of the mantra before chanting for the simple reason that there are good mantras and bad mantras and wrong mantras. When I say wrong mantras , it means mantras that are not meant for the purpose which you want to chant for.
So it’s good to understand the mantra first and then chant it. But even if you don’t understand the mantra, if someone in whom you have complete confidence; lets say your guru gives you the mantra, says don’t worry about the meaning, chant it..then you chant it with full confidence, for it’s the right mantra for you, even if you don’t know the meaning. But then it is good to know the meaning.
Now the 2nd part of the question is that even if you don’t know the meaning, if you chant the mantra properly as taught to you, using the right pronunciation, making the right sound, chanting for the correct time that is given to you. Then the effect of the mantra is as much as when you chant knowing the meaning of the mantra – as I said earlier, the sound of the mantra, the words of the mantra especially the Beejakshra Mantra like Hrim, Klim etc have an effect even without understanding what they are. In fact some of the sounds of beejakshara mantras have no specific meaning except that they represent certain deities which are manifestations of infinite energy brought down to finite sound forms.
And this takes us to the next part of the question, which is, suppose we chanted in the wrong way, suppose we chanted with the wrong
pronunciation or we chant wrong words instead of the right word. For instance if instead of reem you chant kareem, what happens? Is it harmful? Will it create problems for us? Well! yes and no. If you chant a mantra not knowing the meaning and, therefore, committing mistakes in the pronunciation or you know the meaning but you pronounced wrongly.
The most important thing is what is your mind’s attitude? Are you fully concentrating on the mantra? Is your entire attention on the chanting of the mantra and how long have you chanted? Have you persistently and repeatedly chanted it?
Now if the answer to all this is yes, then it does not matter. Probably there will not be any bad effect. But when you chant Beejakshara Mantras for instance, which have the sounds like ‘hoom’ ’reem’, ‘bhum’ and so on – some of these beejaksharas are meant for bringing about a certain negative reactions, various purposes; for instance, if you are fighting against any enemy – enemy can be internal AND external. Internal enemies are fear, anger and so on, which often attack or try to conquer the practitioner.
For such purposes certain Beejakshara Mantras are given, which add sounds which are meant to be like weapons to cut through the negative assaulting emotions. Not knowing the effects of this mantra, if you keep chanting it under different circumstances, it’s quite possible they may have an adverse reaction on others and maybe on yourself. So it is good to check up with a person who knows, before chanting the mantra. Which is why, it is said that you should not be chanting mantras by reading it in books, but go to a qualified teacher, question the teacher, find out which is best for you and then begin the chanting.
But, as far as the Gayatri Mantra is concerned, there is no such problem because there is are no beejakshras in it. Apart from the pranava – ‘OM’ and OM is a universal mantra which can be chanted by anyone provided there is a certain sincerety, humility and desire to do good. So don’t let that put you off from chanting the Gayatri. As far as the Gayatri is concerned, it should be taught from childhood and chanted throughout till one is incapable of chanting in old age. By then the Gayatri would have entered your heart and the ajapa japa – the endless japa will go on and it is recorded in the ancient scriptures that the man or the woman – the human being who leaves the body while chanting the Gayatri enters the higher spheres of existence which are much more evolved than this Bhuloka or the world in which we live. So as Dayananda Saraswati said chant the Gayatri, it can only do you good.
- The Gayathri Mantra – Part 1
- The Gayatri Mantra
- The Guru questions & answers – Part I
- The Gayathri Mantra – Part 4