|Date:20 Jun 1977||Occasion:Upanayanam||Place:Brindavan|
The Universal Prayer
Om Bhoorbhuvaha Swaha
Thath Savithur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayath
The Gayathri is the universal prayer enshrined in the vedas, the most ancient scriptures of man. It is addressed to the Immanent and Transcendent Divine which has been given the name 'Savitha', meaning 'that from which all this is born'. The Gayathri may be considered as having three parts --(i) praise, (ii) meditation, (iii) prayer. First the Divine is praised, then it is meditated upon in reverence, and finally an appeal is made to the Divine to awaken and strengthen the intellect, the discriminating faculty of man.
The Gayathri is considered as the essence of the Vedas. Veda means knowledge, and this prayer fosters and sharpens the knowledge-yielding faculty. As a matter of fact, the four core-declarations enshrined in the four Vedas are implied in this Gayathri mantra (chant).
The Gayathri is usually repeated at dawn, noon, and dusk. But since God is beyond time, it is a result of our limitations that we talk of dawn and dusk. When we move away from the sun, it is dusk; when we move into the light of the sun, it is dawn. So you need not be bound by the three points of time to recite the prayer. It can be repeated always and everywhere, only one must ensure that the mind is pure. I would advise you young people to recite the Gayathri when you take your bath. Do not sing cheap and defiling film songs; recite the Gayathri. When you bathe, the body is being cleansed; let your mind and intellect also be cleansed. Make it a point to repeat it when you bathe as well as before every meal, when you wake from sleep, and when you go to bed. And also repeat 'santhi' thrice at the end, for that repetition will give santhi or peace to three entities in you -- body, mind and soul.
Every human being has four birthdays. The first is when he emerges from his mother's womb and, being neither holy nor unholy, craves only for food and shelter; the second is when he begins his spiritual study to lead him from darkness to light; the third is when he has gained wisdom, having mastered the disciplines propounded by the sages for achieving self-realization; the fourth and last is when he realizes his true identity and merges with Brahman.
The sacred thread (yajnopavitham) is a symbol of purity, which is necessary if you wish to participate in the ritual of living. Life is a continuous series of sacrifices of the lower for the sake of the higher, of the tiny in favor of the vast. Upanayana, the word which has been given to this ceremony of initiation, means the conferment of another eye. Your two eyes cannot reveal to you the magnificence and the majesty of the realm of the spirit. They are focused towards the objective world and its transient attractions. So the Gayathri mantra has been given to you as a third eye to reveal to you that inner vision by which you may realize Brahman.
Gayathri is a treasure you must guard throughout your lives. If you have not caught the sounds of the mantra correctly now, learn it from your parents or from your family priest. Perhaps they may not know the Gayathri themselves, or they might have forgotten it through culpable neglect. Then I would ask them to learn it from you.
Never give up the Gayathri; you may give up or ignore any other mantra, but you should recite the Gayathri at least a few times a day. It will protect you from harm wherever you are travelling, working, or at home. Westerners have investigated the vibrations produced by this mantra and have found that when it is recited with the correct accent as laid down in the Vedas, the atmosphere around becomes visibly illumined. So the effulgence of Brahma will descend on you and illumine your intellect and light your path when this mantra is chanted. Gayathri is the mother, the force that animates all life. So do not neglect it.
Elders and priests, the custodians of this mantra, have given it the go-by. But you, as inheritors and guardians of the great culture of this country, have a great responsibility in preserving it and demonstrating its efficacy and worth.