Saturday, May 1, 2004

Khushwant SinghTHIS ABOVE ALL
Meditating upon the Gayatri Mantra

by Khushwant Singh

LAST month I raised the question why the Gayatri Mantra was regarded as the most potent of all mantras. Prof V.N. Datta has sent me excerpts from The Autobiography of Maharishi Devendra Nath Tagore, which throws light on how two staunch Brahmo Samajis, the Maharishi and his son Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, looked upon the mantra:

"As soon as I saw the efficacy of the Gayatri Mantra for Brahman worship, as taught by Ram Mohan Roy, it sank deep in me. With constant repetition of its meaning, I meditated on it. Though I did not succeed in helping others by propounding the Gayatri Mantra, in my case it did much good. I continued to worship Him daily through the Gayatri Mantra. The deep significance of the Gayatri became clear to me. Gradually the spirit of Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat filled my heart. I established a certain connection with him. Formerly, I had deemed it a privilege to salute Him from a distance. Now I realised that he was not far from me. When not knowing him, I was wandering aimlessly, sad and despondent. He gradually opened my inner eye, the eye of wisdom. All this time I did not know that he was leading me by the hand. Now I walked under his guidance. Then I prayed to him to inspire me with righteousness, to guard me with moral strength, to give me patience, courage, fortitude and contentment. What profits beyond all expectations had I not gained by adopting the Gayatri Mantra?

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He couldíve been Betaaj Badshah
April 17, 2004
The potent Gayatri Mantra
April 10, 2004
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Relative appeal of beauty and films
March 20, 2004
Khayyam was a rationalist
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Of scarecrows and political satire
February 28, 2004
The importance of punctuating thought
February 21, 2004
Ghalib knew his worth
February 14, 2004
In the sunset of their lives
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Chennai, the city of achievers
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Pakistanis are like us only
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Farid was the first to use Punjabi in poetry
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Sahirís tortured soul
January 10, 2004
The colourful story of dull dictionary
January 03, 2004
Guru Gobind Singh did not want to separate God from God
December 27, 2003
The art of doing nothing
December 20, 2003
Mantoís description of the mayhem of 1947
December 13, 2003

"I had seen him face to face, had heard his voice of command and had become his constant companion. Even as He, dwelling in the sky, guides the stars and planets, so does He dwelling within my heart inspire all my righteous feelings and guides my soul. When I did some good in secret, he openly rewarded me. I saw His benign countenance, and my heart was purified. I felt that ever enshrined within my heart. He taught me wisdom like a guru and prompted me to do good. I exclaimed. Thou art Father too and Mother; thou art the Guru and bestower of all wisdom."

In punishment as in reward, I discerned his love alone. Nurtured by his love, falling to rise again, I have come thus far.

And this is what his son Rabindranath had to say on the subject:

"Aum, Bhur Bhuvah Svah, the Viyahritis shall have to be concerted. The three planes of Bhur Bhuvah Svah that constitute the whole universe shall have to be brought into focus. In other words, it must be established in mind that I belong to no particular country but am a dweller of the whole universe. In this way, those who are Aryans, find themselves established in the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars at least once a day, and thus renew their unbreakable ties with the manifest universe.

" Tat Savitur Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi: We meditate on the adorable and ever pure effulgence of the resplendent Vivifier of the universe. But by what formula can he maintain his link with this boundless power that manifests itself?

"The formula is: Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat

"There is no doubt that God may stimulate our mental faculties and direct us to do noble deeds. By what power do we see the light of the sun? The rays that the sunsheds on us make us see the light. Similarly, the Vivifier of the universe directs our intellect to know ourselves and the universe.

"Thus, we come to know God as the Director of our intellect. Knowing this secret we find ourselves closer to the universe and nearer to God, and by His grace we find our hearts free from all the evils likely to beset it."

Professor Datta also quotes Italian Indologist Professor Marta Vanucci: "In very ancient times, the best way was through metrical poetry, more easily memorised than prose and liable to be crystalised as mantras. It seems to me that under this perspective, the Gayatri is undoubtedly the synthetic expression of the knowledge acquired by the ancient sages of the Vedic Period. The knowledge expressed by the Gayatri Mantra became one of the basic religious beliefs of Vedic Man which has survived the test of time.

"It is illogical to test the validity of ancient knowledge with XX century methods and techniques. Statements should be assessed in the context of the level of culture and language of the time when they were expressed.

One of the greatest, if not the greatest of the achievements of the Vedic Age Manís knowledge or science, is synthesised in the Gayatri. This is what the sages saw (hence the term Ved, akin to Latin vedere, to see). They scrutinised the entire universe with the method of observation and logical deduction as far as the human sense organs permitted, in holistic manner. They correctly realised that we are part of an infinitely large system, the cosmos, in which all the parts, both material and living, are inter-dependent and inter-related."

So far so good. But how does the repetition of any mantra, however potent, open doors to wisdom? At best, it is a method of self-hypnosis which many construe as peace of mind.


The idler

Everytime a new literary journal comes into the market, I say a short prayer for its survival. It takes a lot of money, advertisement support and readership before it can become viable. I had the same reaction when I read the first issue of The Idler edited by Ajay Singh Yadav and published in Bhopal. Besides starting the serialisation of his own novel Tibet: The Lost Treaty, he has put together a good essay on Pachmarhi, and short stories and poems. However, I doubt if he will be able to sustain it for too long unless he is flush with money or has a wealthy patron. A short poem by Sanjay Singh on the prevailing mental state of the nation deserves to be quoted:

India software

Sandeep JoshiSycophancy is a practice in which

Modern-day India is patently rich.

Servility is the surest way;

Itís better than the finest resume.

Boot-licking gets you to the top,

Whether youíre a clerk or a cop.

Sycophancy is a practice in which

Modern-day India is patently rich.

(Khushwant Singh is on vacation. There will be no column for the next two weeks.)