IN MY OPINION
The power behind the sacred Gayatri Mantra and the significance of initiation from a true teacher
BY DR. MADAS ARJUN RAO
IN SANSKRIT THE MEANING of the word mantra is interpreted as, “That which inspires the mind.” The Gayatri Mantra reads as follows: Om bhur bhuvah suvah. Tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi. dhiyo yo nah pracodayat.
This mantra is an exemplary Vedic hymn, praising and glorifying God as a manifestation of the solar spirit (Savitur), who, as the source of life, light and warmth, came to be regarded as the Lord of cosmic creation and the life force within it. Hindu ritual is incomplete without the recital of the Gayatri Mantra. It has an indispensable role in all rites and rituals of Hindu society.
However, in order to derive the greatest results from the mantra, an aspirant must receive it from an enlightened guru. Received from such a guru, the mantra is charged with the power of his enlightened state of awareness and pure consciousness. The Gayatri Mantra then possesses tremendous potential to lead the aspirant on to deeper spiritual levels by guiding and inspiring his mind towards the attainment of life’s greatest aim.
The Sanskrit meaning of guru is derived from the root words gu, meaning “darkness,” and ru meaning “dispeller of.” Hence, the guru is the dispeller of darkness. Here, darkness is ignorance. One who dispels the ignorance of his disciple is a guru. There is yet another meaning in the word. The syllable ru also stands for “light.” Thus, the guru leads one from the darkness of ignorance to the light of wisdom.
In the real sense, the guru is an awakener of the soul of his disciple, showing him the way to Self Realization. He does not merely share his knowledge, but imparts to the disciple his very being and his spiritual illumination with it. His main task is to provide a glimpse of reality, awakening his disciple’s consciousness and understanding of the real purpose of life.
The purpose of life is to realize the Absolute. In order to know the Truth, the mind must be prepared and purified. Hence, as a purificatory process, the primary task of the guru shall be to make the vision of his disciple brighter—removing the dust of ignorance from his eyes and cleaning the mirror of his mind. This slow process is essential for living a life of clarity. This can only be achieved through sustained meditation, effectively creating a life of clarity and awareness.
However, these days finding a real guru—a satguru—is an extremely difficult task. Some pseudo spiritual gurus commercialize this sacred service for personal gains. They exploit and make a mockery of distressed and gullible people, who innocently approach them for spiritual guidance. Our scriptures speak well of this. In the Kularnava Tantra, we find the following passage:
Many are the gurus who are perfectly proficient in the Vedas and Shastras; but rare is the guru who has attained the supreme truth. Many are the gurus on earth who give what is other than the Self; but rare is the guru who brings to light the Atman. Many are the gurus who rob the disciple of his wealth; but rare is the guru who removes the disciple’s afflictions. He is the guru by whose very contact there flows the supreme bliss; the intelligent man shall choose such a one as the guru and no other.
An enlightened guru imparts his own illumination, awakening the cosmic, kundalini energy of his disciple. Once it is awakened, all major obstacles on his path are dissolved. It is, however, important for the disciple to put in his own efforts and toil to achieve the best results from what he has acquired from his enlightened guru.
DR. RAO, 76, is a retired United Nations Administrative Officer and spends much of his time reading and writing religious articles.