The Inner Meaning of Gayatri

Posted on in On Our Radar by Shivani Saraswati

Divine Attitude for
a Divine Life


What if the next time we felt anger, or jealousy, or despair, we reached into our hearts and called out for love and wisdom?

The yoga tradition is based on the Sanskrit idea of Sanatana Dharma—the “Eternal Ideal of Perfection,” which refers to universal truths of love and harmony and our divine capacity to express these ideals in our own, unique ways. The Gayatri mantra, considered the root mantra of Sanatana Dharma, is a powerful Sanskrit mantra used in meditation practices and yogic ceremonies. It’s a heartfelt prayer for wisdom that expresses the shift from selfishness and negativity to selfless love and giving. It reads:

Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ tat savitur vareṇyaṃ bhargo devasya dhīmahi dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt

Om the Infinite Beyond Conception, the gross body, subtle body, and causal body;
we meditate on that Light of Wisdom that is the Supreme Wealth of the Gods.
May it grant to us increase in our meditations.

Now imagine this: You’re standing barefoot on the earth facing the rising sun with hands in prayer. Opening your heart, you feel the sun’s gentle rays warm your soul, illuminate your mind, and lift you out of darkness. And with chin slightly raised, you smile. That is the feeling of the Gayatri mantra.

As a goddess in the Hindu pantheon, Gayatri represents an attitude toward life—a beautiful way of being—and her rich symbology sheds light on how we as spiritual seekers can cultivate greater love and wisdom in our lives. Swami Satyananda Saraswati translates Gayatri as the “Song of Wisdom” (gaya) of the “Three” (tri). He explains that Gayatri is actually the combined essence of three Hindu goddesses who embody the most fundamental energies of nature: Maha Saraswati (creation), Maha Lakshmi (preservation, or being), and Maha Kali (transformation). These three goddesses constantly shape our outer and inner worlds, and by delving into their stories and teachings, we learn what it takes to truly move from the darkness of egotism to the light of wisdom.

As creative energy, Maha Saraswati is associated with art and music, as well as learning, knowledge, and wisdom. In Sanskrit scripture she is the slayer of two very nasty demons—shumbha and nishumbha, or “self-conceit” and “self-deprecation.” To me, Maha Saraswati represents self-knowledge and acceptance. When we allow ourselves to feel divinity within, we have less need to judge and compare ourselves and others. We begin to view one another as equals, through eyes of compassion. We build connections based on truth, kindness, and respect, and we learn to be strong and to uphold boundaries as necessary.

With Saraswati’s blessings, we find power and harmony in our true nature. We tune in and turn on, which gives creativity energy more room to express Herself through us, whether that’s by working on a business project, sitting down to meditate, or writing an article on Saraswati. As we engage in positive activities harmonious with our goals, talents, and nature, we become more energized and inspired to go deeper and to share our love with the world. Major positive feedback cycle!

Maha Lakshmi is the energy of pure being, beyond the fetters of thought, negativity, and ego. She is balance, harmony, and beauty, and is often described as the Goddess of Wealth. In Sanskrit, lakshya means “the goal.” Lakshmi represents our goals and aspirations, including the ultimate goal of spiritual liberation—the true wealth of existence.

Maha Kali is the energy of transformation. She is the Remover of Darkness and She Who Is Beyond Time. Sanskrit scripture praises her as the slayer of madhu (too much) and kaitabha (too little) and the destroyer of raktabija (the seed of desire). Devotional art depicts Kali with a protruding red tongue, often dripping with blood, a garland of skulls, and a skirt of human arms. This gory imagery is really about Kali taking away our darkness—our egotism, fear, selfishness, anger, misguided passion, self-doubt . . . the list goes on.

As we go through life’s ups and downs we have two choices: we can sink back under the weight and wallow, attempting to find what little joy we can wherever we can, or we can listen, learn, and grow. We can transform. We can become softer, kinder, more humble, more compassionate, stronger, and wiser. That is Kali’s gift.

Each of these three goddesses represents the goal and the path. Saraswati is creativity and knowledge. Lakshmi is peace, harmony, and true wealth. Kali is transformation and the path of wisdom. Creativity and knowledge create the space for peace and harmony in our minds. Peace and harmony allow us to approach life with positivity and introspection, paving the way for transformation and greater wisdom. When we have greater wisdom, creative energy flows, creating harmony in our outer and inner worlds, leading us to deeper transformation.

So where does one goddess begin and another end? They all flow together into one beautiful Song of Wisdom: Gayatri. It’s a way of life and a way of being that has the power to take us deeper and deeper until we reach the ultimate goal.

And until that day when we realize our eternal, Divine nature, even baby steps create unimaginable positive change in our lives. When we invite wisdom into our lives through prayer, meditation, yoga, and loving service, we get peace and energy. We learn to surf life’s waves with our own special sparkle and to dance to the universal rhythm with peace in our minds and love in our hearts. We find the Light of Wisdom warming us from the inside out, and we begin to radiate that light to everyone we meet.

Who could ask for more?

Shivani Saraswati is a spiritual seeker and writer who studies yoga under her gurus, Shree Maa and Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

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