In the science of mantra, daily practice is essential. The mantra given by the guru should be practised as much as possible. Yet, to awaken the potential of the mantra, to bring the shakti of the mantra to life, the mantra has to be practised a certain number of times.
The mantra Om Namah Shivaya has five syllables plus Om. To awaken it, practise it 500,000 times in fifteen days. This is called one anushthana, or mantra sadhana.
Gayatri mantra, on the other hand, has twenty-four syllables and needs to be practised 2.4 million times. This is a complete cycle. If you complete this cycle, then you will attain one siddhi, or perfection. The mantra awakens and becomes alive. But, this is very difficult, occupying half one’s lifespan. Therefore, other provisions have been made. The mantra can be practised in smaller cycles, such as 125,000 times. These cycles are necessary to explode the power of the mantra.
When one practises the mantra for five to ten minutes, it offers relaxation through intensification of the alpha waves in the brain, but intensification of alpha is not the discovery of spiritual potential. One has to go beyond this into a waveless state, a state where there are neither gamma, beta, alpha, theta nor delta waves. The mind has to go beyond the waves, the waveless and the void. It has to become zero. For a moment, the mind has to completely stop.
During Navaratri, many householders engage themselves in Gayatri mantra anushthana. Navaratri is a period of nine nights with a tenth day that is considered the day of victory, accomplishment, when light conquers darkness. Navaratri is celebrated twice a year.
During these days, householders retire from their usual activities. One member of the family practises the mantra from morning until evening with only a few breaks here and there. They do not take grain or meat, only fruit, milk, and a little boiled vegetable. Some eat only once a day, others twice.
The sadhaka does not sleep on a mattress, but on a grass mat on the floor for nine nights. They do not eat with the women of the household. They do not shave. Then, on the tenth day, they simply come out.
These practices are repeated every year, not by the same family member, but by different members. For if everybody were to practise at the same time, there would be no one left to manage the household.
In this way, once a year, you too may retire into seclusion, practise mantra from dawn until dusk, or late at night, with a little break here and there for food. This practice constitutes one cycle of Gayatri mantra anushthana.
In Christianity there is a similar practice called Novena which, however, is more of a ritual and less of a sadhana.
In the Indian culture there are only three things: one is the Bhagavad Gita, the second is Ganga and the third is Gayatri. If you take these away, this culture does not exist. Ganga is external as well as internal. The external Ganga is the river Ganga, and the inner Ganga is sushumna which flows between the earth and heaven. Bhagavad Gita and Gayatri are the philosophy.
Some believe that Gayatri is directed towards the sun, but ultimately it has been found that this mantra is directed towards the inner brilliance, the inner sun. The inner brilliance must shine and one’s consciousness must be enlightened, but how does this happen?
There are two Gayatri mantras which can be used for two different practices. One version of Gayatri is used for mantra sadhana, while the other is used for pranayama. The Gayatri for mantra or japa yoga is:
Om bhu bhuvah suvah
Bhargo devasya dheemahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat
The Gayatri mantra intended for pranayama is:
Om bhu, om bhuvaha, om suvaha, om mahaha,
Om janaha, om tapaha, om satyam
Bhargo devasya dheemahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat
The second Gayatri represents one inhalation and, thus, the vitality of a yoga student. One inhalation should span the duration of the mental recitation of this Gayatri. Then, while the breath is being retained during the practice, the mantra should be repeated twice. Again, during exhalation, the mantra should be repeated twice. This is elementary pranayama to the ratio of 1:2:2. The ratio of the more advanced pranayama is 1:6:4.
Om is a bija, seed mantra, the universal mantra. This mantra is very powerful. Sometimes the aspirant is not qualified or prepared. When he practises the mantra Om, he comes suddenly face to face with certain experiences, because the effect of Om is very rapid. This should not happen, especially when the aspirant is not prepared or qualified. Therefore, the Gayatri mantra was revealed to the wise men so that the people who are less prepared can practise Gayatri in place of Om and thereby, avoid drastic or rapid results. For this reason, Gayatri is not considered to be just a formula or combination of words. Gayatri is in fact the developed state of the mantra Om. Gayatri represents the cosmic total of the original prana. All throughout the Vedas and Upanishads it is said that “Om is nada and Gayatri is prana.”
Thus, from Om, Gayatri is created, and this Gayatri manifests itself in two stages. In the first stage, the mantra only mentions three states of individual self: bhur, bhuvah, suvah which represent, respectively, the waking, sleeping, and dreaming states of the individual self.
Yet, in Gayatri’s second stage of manifestation, the mantra mentions, not three, but seven lokas, or planes of existence: bhur, bhuvah, suvaha, mahah, janah, tapah, satyam. Satyam means absolute and represents sahasrara chakra. Tapaha represents ajna chakra, and moving down until bhur represents mooladhara chakra. These seven planes thus represent the seven realms or dimensions of individual consciousness of which one becomes aware when the sun in the inner mind rises. They begin from the gross and terminate with the most subtle, indicating that the individual self can go on ascending from the lowest possible rung of manifestation to the highest – the seventh state of satyam.
There is a beautiful poem written by Sri Aurobindo called Savitri. Savitri and Gayatri are synonymous names. In the morning there is absolute darkness, only the stars are shining. After some time, the light is felt shooting forth through the horizon. This is the indication of the coming of the light. As it happens in the external horizon, so it happens in the inner horizon. Internally there is also darkness. From time to time you see some visions, they are like the stars, and when the sun comes up, when the morning dawns, then traces of light are experienced within the horizons of the mind. That upspring of light is called Savitri, when the sun comes out. Gayatri represents both the external self which illuminates the whole world, and the inner self which illumines the planes of one’s existence or consciousness.
The external sun only illumines the external gross world, but when jnana, wisdom, rises and dawns, when the inner enlightenment takes place, not only the physical body, the mind, and the astral body, but all planes of existence become perceptible and you can experience them.
It does not matter who you are, a saint, debauchee, criminal, scavenger, butcher, or prostitute. Whatever you are, live life in any way you can, but always remember that the aim of life is self-realization and strive for it all the time.
—5 January 1981, Ganga Darshan, Munger, India