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Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Tantric Method of Practising Gayatri Mantra

Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah, Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi, Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat

ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व: तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं । भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि, धीयो यो न: प्रचोदयात् ।।

To further clarify this tantric form of mantra practice let us return to the gayatri mantra, one of the most famous mantras in the Vedas. This mantra has a maternal quality. It guides us in the right direction and warns us at a subtle level when we are about to make a mistake. And if mistakes have already been made, the gayatri mantra lovingly corrects them. The mantra is: Om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur vareniyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.

In the ordinary course of meditation on gayatri all you have to do is sit with your head, neck, and trunk in a straight line, relax your body, breathe gently and smoothly, and bring your attention to the center suggested by your teacher (such as the navel, heart, or eyebrow center) and remember the mantra.The tantric method is much more elaborate.The most comprehensive method consists of completing auxiliary practices known as sandhyopasana, the twilight meditation,before doing japa (repetition) of the gayatri mantra.A shorter version consists of invoking the guru lineage, purifying the atmosphere and your seat with special mantras, and drawin an imaginary wall of fire around you to protect yourself from external influences.

Prana Pratistha :

Prana pratistha means "invoking the deity and imbuing one's heart with that energy." While placing the palms over the heart, the aspirant meditates on the personified form of the deity at the heart center while reciting the following mantra:

Om am hrim krom yam ram lam vam sham sham sam ham
hamsah so ham mama hridaye bhagavati gayatri ihaivagatya
sukham chiram tishthatu svaha. Om om om pratistha.

Kara Nyasa and Anga Nyasa :

This is followed by the simple version of nyasa. Before you begin, it is important to know that "Om bhur bhuvah svah" is not part of the original gayatri mantra. This particular segment is called vyahriti (the covering) and always accompanies the mantra. Excluding this covering, the gayatri mantra consists of twenty-four syllables. To synchronize the mantra with the body, it is split into six parts, each containing four syllables:

1. tatsavituh
2. vareniyam
3. bhargo deva
4. syadhimahi
5. dhiyo yo nah
6. prachodayat

These six parts of the mantra are synchronized with the thumbs, index fingers, middle fingers, ring fingers, little fingers,and the palms. During the practice you repeat one segment of the mantra enveloped by Om bhur bhuvah svah while concentrating on the corresponding limb or organ. Here is how it is done:

1. Om bhur bhuvah svah tatsavituh
Om bhur bhuvah svah angusthabhyam namah (thumbs)

2. Om bhur bhuvah svah vareniyam
Om bhur bhuvah svah tarjanibhyam svaha (index fingers)

3. Om bhur bhuvah svah bhargo deva
Om bhur bhuvah svah madhyamabhyam vashat (middle fingers)

4. Om bhur bhuvah svah syadhimahi
Om bhur bhuvah svah anamikabhyam hum (ring fingers)

5. Om bhur bhuvah svah dhiyo yo nah 

Om bhur bhuvah svah kanisthikabhyam vaushat (little fingers)

6. Om bhur bhuvah svah prachodayat
Om bhur bhuva svah karatala pristhabhyam phat (palms)

This is immediately followed by anga nyasa

1. Om bhur bhuva svah tatsavituh
Om bhur bhuva svah hridaya namah (heart)

2. Om bhur bhuva svah vareniyam
Om bhur bhuva svah shirase svaha (head)

3. Om bhur bhuva svah bhargo deva
Om bhur bhuva svah shikhayai vashat (crown of the head)

4. Om bhur bhuva svah syadhimahi
Om bhur bhuva svah kavachaya hum (chest and shoulders)

5. Om bhur bhuva svah dhiyo yo nah
Om bhur bhuva svah netratrayaya vaushat (eyes)

6. Om bhur bhuva svah prachodayat
Om bhur bhuva svah astrya phat (the space pervaded by the pranic body)

Vyapaka Nyasa :

The final step is to synchronize the energy of the mantra with the entire body. Vyapaka nyasa is this process. It lets the power of mantra pervade the entire body, thereby creating perfect harmony between mantra and practitioner. This practice is done by meditating on the personified form of Gayatri,the deity of the mantra, in the space occupied by the body, or by meditating on fire in the place of the body while repeating the entire gayatri mantra: Om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur vareniyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat. If the meditation is intense you feel as though the mantra is vibrating simultaneously from every limb and organ of the body of the Goddess. If you are meditating on fire during the vyapaka nyasa, synchronize the sound of the mantra with the movement of the flames. Thus you feel that your whole body (which has been replaced either by the deity or by the fire) is filled with the power of mantra.


After you have done vyapaka nyasa, you begin to recite the entire mantra (mantra japa). In tantric practice this is very methodical - you must do a certain amount of japa (the repetition of a mantra) every day. The complementary practices just described are used only for the gayatri mantra - other mantras have their own complementary practices. 

Once you have become familiar with the mantra and its complementary practices, the teacher designs a definite course of practice for you: a purascharana (purascharana means "taking the first step"), which involves doing a specific amount of japa in a defined period of time. The shortest purascharana of the gayatri mantra, for example, requires 125,000 repetitions in 125 days. To do this you must use mala beads, a "necklace" consisting of 108 beads which you hold in one hand and use as a counter: one bead for each repetition of the mantra. When you complete one round, you have done 108 repetitions, but only 100 are counted; the remaining eight are automatically dedicated to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.

The standard course of japa for a purascharana is 2.4 million repetitions. If you do 100 malas a day it takes eight months to complete that purascharana; if you do 50 malas a day it takes sixteen months; 25 malas, 32 months. If you undertake the standard course and are doing 100 or 50 malas a day you must stay in one place, preferably one that is free from worldly distractions. (The scriptures consider a shrine, a hilltop, a monastery, or an ashram of an accomplished yogi most conducive to mantra sadhana.) You must also follow strict dietary observances throughout the practice and take care not to associate with people who distract you from your spiritual focus.

Not everyone can adhere to the restrictions necessary to a gayatri purascharana at the rate of 100 or 50 malas of gayatri per day, but even so it is best to complete the practice as quickly as possible. If you are doing only 25 malas a day you do not have to stay in one place for the 32 months it will take to complete the purascharana, but you will need to preserve your energy in thought, speech, and action. You must refrain rom psychoactive drugs, alcohol, and meat, and practice brahmacharya (celibacy) if possible, or at least stay within the confines of marital life. Austerities that help you preserve your energy and allow your internal fire to glow are called tapas.Practically speaking, tapas means "discipline." The more disciplined you are, the more intense your practice.

During the purascharana, each time you sit to do your japa you must begin with the complementary practices. Suppose that you have to get up in the middle of the practice for some reason. When you resume you must do the complementary practices again, because unless you synchronize the forces of mantra with the energies of your body and mind the japa will remain dry and mechanical. It is through the oneness between you and the mantra shakti, a oneness established through the complementary practices, that you find joy in doing japa.Without this experience your practice will be a chore. This attitude invites boredom, which in turn undermines your determination, making it unlikely that you will complete the purascharana.

After the course of japa is completed the teacher may prescribe a fire offering of certain grains, herbs, and clarified butter. It is usually made one-tenth as many times as the mantra has been repeated. In other words if you have done 125,000 repetitions of the gayatri mantra you make 12,500 offerings into the fire, and with each offering you repeat the mantra, adding "svaha" at the end just as you are about to offer the oblation into the fire. In many traditions, however, the fire offering is substituted by meditation on the navel center, in which you visualize fire at that center and repeat the gayatri mantra followed by "svaha."


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