Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 3.62.10: Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri mantra is one of the most famous, chanted by millions of people every day and heralded for many reasons. But what makes it so significant? Two explanations are its Vedic origins and the meaning of the mantra itself — 

That greatest Savitri is the light of the shining one we meditate on which illuminates our intellect.

The mantra, which is ‘tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat’, first appears in Rig Veda (3.62.10). When it is chanted, it is preceded by Om and the mahavyahriti: bhur bhuvah svah. They symbolise the three regions earth, atmosphere and heaven while Om is their source, beyond them. Similarly, the Chandogya Upanishad says about Gayatri as the personification of the mantra,

Gayatri is all this, whatever exists. Speech is the Gayatri: speech sings (gai) and protects (trai) all this that exists. [1]

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The Mind and its Death

(K3.31 – K.32) Everything that we perceive, we perceive through the senses; everything that we ‘know’, we know through the mind. Consciousness functions through the mind – the concept known as chidAbhAsa, explained in Appendix 3. When the mind is inactive – for example, in deep sleep or under anesthetic – we are conscious of nothing. It is the mind that effectively imposes duality on the non-dual. We see the forms and, by naming them, it is as if we create separate things where there is really only brahman. Once this apparent duality is imposed, all of the negative emotions of desire, fear, attachment, anger and the rest follow. It is the mistaking of the really non-dual as dual that brings into existence all of our problems, which Advaita summarizes as saMsAra.

Having recognized that it is the mind that is the effective source of our problems, it is only natural to conclude that, by somehow ‘getting rid of’ the mind, we will solve those problems. This is the concept called manonAsha, which found favor with Ramana Maharshi in particular, who is claimed to have stated that this should be the aim of the seeker. (manas refers to mind in general; nAsha means loss, destruction, annihilation, death.) Once we have ‘destroyed the mind’, it is said, there will be no more duality.

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