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Gayatri Mantra Detailed Word by Word Meaning


The Gayatri Mantra consists of twenty-four syllables - three lines of eight syllables each. The first line (Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah) is considered an invocation, and is not technically a part of the original Gayatri Mantra as it appears in the Upanishads. Gayatri is also referred to as a Vedic poetic meter of 24 syllables or any hymn composed in this meter. Hence, there exists a whole family of Gayatri Mantras, which serve as meditative aids to pray for the blessings of a particular personal God.

Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah, Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi, Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat
ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व: तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं । भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि, धीयो यो न: प्रचोदयात् ।।
A basic translation can be given as...

Oh God, the Protector, the basis of all life, Who is self-existent, Who is free from all pains and Whose contact frees the soul from all troubles, Who pervades the Universe and sustains all, the Creator and Energizer of the whole Universe, the Giver of happiness, Who is worthy of acceptance, the most excellent, Who is Pure and the Purifier of all, let us embrace that very God, so that He may direct our mental faculties in the right direction.

The Four Parts of the Gayatri Mantra
Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah (ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व:)
1. AUM (ॐ), the Supreme name of God. A full explanation of this has been given in a related article.

BHUR BHUVAH SWAH. These three words collectively are known as the "Mahavyahriti". They express the nature of God, and demonstrate his inherent qualities.

2. BHUR (भूर्)
Firstly, the word Bhur implies existence. God is self-existent and independent of all. He is eternal and unchanging. Without beginning and without end, God exists as a continuous, permanent, constant entity. Secondly, the word Bhur can also mean the Earth, on which we are born and sustained. God is the provider of all, and it is through His divine will that we our blessed with all that we require to maintain us through our lives. Finally, Bhur signifies Prana, or life (literally, breath). God is That which gives life to all. Whilst He is independent of all, all are dependent on Him. It is God who has given us life, God who maintains us throughout our lives, and God alone who has the ability to take away our life, when He so chooses. The only permanent entity, all others are subject to His own will
3. BHUVAH (भुव:)
Bhuvah describes the absolute Consciousness of God. God is self-Conscious as well as being Conscious of all else, and thus is able to control and govern the Universe. Also, the word Bhuvah relates to God's relationship with the celestial world. It denotes God's greatness - greater than the sky and space, He is boundless and unlimited. Finally, Bhuvah is also indicative of God's role as the remover of all pain and sufferings (Apaana). We see pain and sorrow all around us. However, through supplication to God, we can be freed from that pain and hardship. God Himself is devoid of any pain. Though He is Conscious of all, and is thus aware of pain, it does not affect Him. It is our own ignorance that makes us susceptible to the effects of Maya, or illusion, which causes us to feel pain. Through true devotion to God, we can be freed from the clutches of Maya, and thus be rid of pain and sorrow.
4. SWAH (स्व:)
Swah indicates the all-pervading nature of God. He is omnipresent and pervades the entire multi-formed Universe. Without Form Himself, He is able to manifest Himself through the medium of the physical world, and is thus present in each and every physical entity. In this way, God is able to interact with the Universe created by Him, and thus sustain and control it, ensuring its smooth and proper running and function.
Also, Swah symbolizes God's bliss. All but God experience pain, suffering and sorrow. Devoid of all such things, God alone is able to experience supreme bliss. Happiness as experienced by humans is temporary, a transient state of mental satisfaction, which soon dissolves back into the mire of worldly troubles. Perfect, and without any form of deficiency, God alone experiences true bliss, permanent and unaffected by worldly pains and woes. One who realizes God is able to join in this bliss, and thus God is able to impart true happiness to those who establish oneness with that Supreme Divinity.

The Mahavyahriti can be summed up by comparison to the word AUM itself, and through this comparison to the tripartite structure, can be compared to the essential nature of God, which differentiates Him from the other two entities recognized in that structure (namely, matter and soul), in the same way as the comparison between the three parts of the word Satchidananda, another name also used to describe God...
•BHUR Prana Earth Sat Existence
•BHUVAH Apana Sky Chit Consciousness
•SWAH Vyana Heaven Ananda Bliss

TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM (तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं)
5. TAT (तत् s.1)
Literally, this word means "that", being used in Sanskrit to denote the third person. It is also mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita by Sri Krishna Himself, where He implies the selfless nature of the word. Being used in the third person, the word has implicit in it an idea of selflessness. Sri Krishna uses it to imply the selfless nature of charity (charity, or a gift, being used as an analogy for worship, in the form of action, implying that action should be preformed without regard to its fruits, but simply out of devotion and sense of duty, or Dharma). Tat then is used here in the Gayatri Mantra to indicate that the worshipper is referring to [that] God, and that the praise being offered to God in the prayer is purely directed towards Him, without thought of gaining any personal benefit from that praise.
6. SA-VI-TUR (सवितुर् s.2-4)
Savita, from which Savitur is derived, is another name of God, this being the reason that the Gayatri Mantra is often known as the Savitri Mantra. The implication of Savita is of God's status as the fountain, the source of all things. It is through His Divine Grace that the Universe exists, and so this word sums up the Mahavyahriti, by describing God's ability to create the Universe and sustain it, as well as, at the right time, bring about its dissolution.
Savita is also indicative of God's gift to mankind. Humans also have, in limited amount, the power, or shakti, of Savita. This shakti acts as an impetus in humans, and brings about the requirement for them to do something. They cannot sit idle, and are constantly searching for something to do. This is what is commonly known as the "creative urge". It is through this shakti that mankind has created art, and it is through this shakti also that scientific advances are made. The gift of Savita also gives creatures the ability of procreation. Hence, Savita can be thought of as meaning Father (or Mother) also.

Finally, it is the power of Savita that enables mankind to distinguish right from wrong, and vice from virtue. Through this ability, we are able to in some part direct our own selves, and thus, Savita imparts to us a certain self-guiding ability. Thus, by using this word in the mantra, we demonstrate that we are making efforts ourselves also, since God will not help us unless we are willing to help ourselves.

7. VA-RE-NY-AM (वरेण्यं s.5-8)
Varenyam signifies our acceptance of God, and can be translated as meaning "Who is worthy". Ever ready to obtain all the material riches of the world, more often than not, they are a disappointment once they have been achieved. God however is the one who, once realized and achieved, has the ability to truly satisfy. We therefore accept Him as the Highest reality, and it is to Him that we dedicate our efforts.
Varenyam can also be interpreted as signifying one who is eligible. We have chosen Him to be our Leader and our Guide. We place our all into His hands, and accept Him regardless of anything else. We place no conditions on this acceptance, as it is all out of sheer devotion


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