God in the Age of Kali
Effulgent Light of the Radiant Sun
Hindus regarded the meditative utterance (japa) of the Gayatri mantra as an essential and integral part of their daily life; that is, when the performance of the Sandhyavandanam was carried out religiously and rigorously. While it may be difficult for everyone to follow the path of self-realization, the great Hindu sages advised and offered us a device to acknowledge and face God daily, and the chanting of the Gayatri mantra is considered the most effective way of doing that for those living the mundane life. The Gayatri mantra is mentioned in all four Vedas, as well as in Tantra texts. It is considered to be of such power and importance that Taimni says, ". . . the great importance of this mantra should leave no doubt in the mind of the reader that it is capable of unfolding our spiritual faculties in a remarkable manner provided it is used properly" (p. 8).
The chanting of the Gayatri mantra is said to dispel ignorance and darkness and let one see the spiritual Sun. It enables one to realize the oneness of life. Consisting of three parts - praise (Om, the mystic word composed of the three sounds: aa, u, mm), meditation (tat savitur varenyam, bhargo devasya dheemahi—the lustrous, splendorous, radiant, glorious God Savita), and prayer (dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat—who may stimulate our prayers)—the mantra is said to enable the awakening of the Divine and the strengthening of the human intellect, which then can perceive unity in diversity. The knowing of this universal truth takes place at three levels: the intellectual, the intuitional, and the Real. There are three parts to the Gayatri mantra, with the first one said to prepare the mind of the person reciting the mantra. The second part stimulates in the aspirant an intense desire to come in contact with Savita, the presiding deity of our solar system, and the third part is meant to create the attitude of self-surrender, which is essential for the reception of divine grace.
These days there are many who have heard of the Gayatri mantra, and there are all kinds of recordings, including the Indian cinematic renderings by artistes who seem to know little of the power and grace of the mantra. A traditional rendering of the mantra can be found here.
In closing, it is best that those interested in learning the Gayatri mantra do so from a traditional teacher. There is a science to chanting mantras, and there is a history of people misusing these mantras for their own, selfish and short-term ends. Taimni cautions us by saying that the "application of any science for personal and especially for evil purposes is always attended with dangers of various kinds and, as a safeguard, it is necessary to employ many devices which can guard the aspirant against those dangers" (p. 34).
The one, true goal of Mantra Yoga is the unfolding of our spiritual and real self. Mantra Yoga enables us to understand that this material universe, which seems solid and real, " . . . are not what they seem but are merely the result of the interplay of different kinds of energies and consciousness" (p. 35). Here then is the beautiful and transcendent Gayatri mantra, and its meaning translated by one of modern India's great philosophers, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan:
Om bhur bhuvah suvah
Tat savitr varen(i)yam
Bhargo devasya dheemahi
Dhiyoh yo nah prachodayaat
"We meditate on the effulgent glory of the divine Light; may he inspire our understanding."
Ramesh Rao, Professor and Chair, DN3 Program, Columbus State University, Columbus, GA, is the author of two books on Indian politics and society and has written numerous op-eds for newspapers and magazines in India, the U.S., and the U.K. Ramesh served as Human Rights Coordinator and Executive Council member at the Hindu American Foundation between 2004-2013. He spent the first twenty-eight years of his life in India where he worked as a bank officer, a school teacher, and a copy editor. He received his MS in Mass Communication from the University of Southern Mississippi, and his PhD in Communication from Michigan State University. He taught at Truman State University in Kirksville, MO, and Longwood University in Farmville, VA, before he joined Columbus State University. He lives with wife Sujaya, and son Sudhanva in Columbus, GA.