How To Chant the Gayatri Mantra
If you want to experience profound changes in your life and enjoy true benefits of the Gayatri mantra sadhana, you need to learn how to chant Gayatri mantra correctly.
When chanting Gayatri mantras , it actually matters how you chant it, and what kind of tone and intonation you use. With hundreds of recordings and downloads on internet, many people are not aware of this important fact.
Listening to any new age type of Gayatri mantra chanting may certainly please your ears, as well as your mind. However, if you want to experience the most profound effects of this wonderful mantra and prayer, you need to chant it in a traditional way, passed on to us by the Brahmin community.
Most of the well-regarded Indian yogi teachers, including Srila Prabhubada (or of those of the lineage of Krishnamacharya (a grand-father of all of current yoga teachers) praise chanting the Gayatri Mantra. For example Sirvatsa Ramaswami includes the chant as part of the pranayama practice ritual, whereas Pattabhi Jois or B.K.S. Iyengar recommend it as part of the daily japa (mantra chanting) practice to help with concentration.
“Gayatri is the Mother of the Vedas and the destroyer of sins. There is nothing more purifying on the earth, as well as in the heaven than the Gayatri. The Japa of Gayatri brings the same fruit as the recitation of all the four Vedas together.”
How To Chant the Gayatri Mantra – Basic Rules
Here are a few facts to keep in mind when learning how to chant the Gayatri mantra correctly:
- Sit in a comfortable seating position (padmasa, ardha parmasana, siddhásana, sukhasana etc.) on a mat, supporting your erected spine with a meditation pillow. If you need to change the position during the chanting, you can do that. You can also interrupt the japa practice in case of call of nature. Just make sure you wash your hands and your face before returning to Gayatri mantra chanting.
- Wear clean clothes and ideally have a bath before the practice.
- Traditionally, the Gayatri mantra is chanted on three occasions – in the morning (two hours before sunrise), at midday and in the evening (one hour after sunset). Nowadays, for many people such schedule does not seem to be a realistic option. Therefore choose one time that fits you most and stick with it during the whole Gayatri mantra practice. If you practice in the morning, face the East, if you opt for evening chant, you should face the West.
- Choose a fixed time during the day. Just like with every other type of practice (asanas, meditation etc.), it is much easier for our mind to fine-tune its vibrations, when knowing what is coming up during the day. The mind simply finds comfort in knowing that every morning or evening it’s time for Gayatri mantra chanting.
- Start with the practice of one round of 108 repetitions (it takes between 18-25 minutes per round depending on how vigorous your chanting is. Gradually, you can increase the rounds of chanting up to four. Four rounds are typically maximum of what a Westerner is able to achieve without intense traditional Indian yoga sadhana.
- The traditional Hindu yogis’advice is to chant the mantra 36 times three times per day, rather than 108 times one time. It is however up to your best judgement, which will certainly be based on your schedule. Both ways of chanting bring profound effects.
- The period of 40 days has been widely recognized as an adequate period for chanting the Gayatri mantra. Choose a number of repetitions of Gayatri mantra per day, and do that for the period of 40 days.
- You may want to get a japa mala (prayer beads), having 108 beads. Mala is often used during the chanting of the mantra in general, and it may help focus easier on the correct number of repetitions. Use rosary of tulsi or sandalwood beads.
- There is freedom in discipline; choosing to do a regular practice frees your mind from wondering what and whether any practice will be done that day.
- Do not chant the mantra mechanically. It is important to understand the meaning of the Gayatri mantra and chant it with as much feeling and awareness as possible. This is the most important part of your mental preparation – chant the Gayatri mantra with firm faith and devotion, and you will experience full advantage of the Gayatri mantra practice.
- If your mind wonders too much, you can choose an anchor (a beautiful portray of the Gayatri Goddess) to help you fix it and meditate on it.
- According to the ancient texts, the food also plays an important role in harmonizing our bodies and minds with the practice. As such, the food during the Gayatri mantra sadhana (that is during the 40 days of practice) should have a sattvic character. In a food pyramid these foods are referred to as lacto-vegetarian. Choose healthy, simple, easily digestible foods, such as vegetables, seeds, dried beans, cereals, dairy products, dried fruits, nuts, bread (avoid chilli and spices).
The Hindu yogis devoted considerable about of time to mantra yoga. As such, the traditional way of chanting Gayatri mantra is homehow strict. For a regular Western yogi, who has bills to pay and cannot devote all his day to yoga practice, the above described schedule will do.
Chanting the Gayatri Mantra In Different Ways
If you don’t have the option of chanting the Gayatri mantra aloud, or you are ill, you can listen to it, chant it mentally or simply think of it. Listening to a good recording of the Gayatri mantra chant of 108 repetitions is equivalent to one round of a mala. There is power and potency in all these approaches – simply choose the practice you are most comfortable with.
The classic Hindu texts contain numerous referrals to ancient sages and yogis among Brahmins who were able to acquire a noticeable level of siddhi (psychic powers) by chanting the Gayatri mantra for extended periods of time. It is said that these powers may come with practice of 125,000 repetitions, which is equivalent to 1250 rounds of the Gayatri mantra chant.
To acquire this amount of repetitions, you’d need to chant the Gayatri mantra for 2 hours daily for approximately 6 months.This extended practice is called a purascharna, and it has tremendous effects on stabilizing your mind in preparation for higher mental techniques (such as meditation and higher chakra practice).
Although it does take quite a commitment to do this practice every day for such a long period, it is well worth the effort.
The Power of 108 Repetitions
According to ancient texts there are numerous options in terms of how to chant the Gayatri mantra – however, it is always 108 times or totals of 108 (1,008, 10,008, etc.). But why?
Does 108 have any special numerological significance?
Seemingly it does. For centuries, the number 108 has had relevance in yoga and dharma related spiritual practices, such as Hinduism or Buddhism. There are many explanations that provide significance to the number 108. Here are a few:
- There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, Shiva and Shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.
- On the Shri Yantra (one of the most important yantras), there are there are 108 points that define the yantra as well as the human body. Each of the 54 marmas (intersections where three lines intersect) comprises both shiva and shakti qualities. 54 times 2 equals 108.
- It is believed that there are a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra (anahata) into our body.
- According to the vedic astrology, there are 12 constellations – namshas and 9 arc segments – chandrakalas (chandra is moon, and kalas are the divisions within a whole). 9 times 12 equals 108.
- It is believed that Atman, the mirror of Brahman in a human soul goes through 108 stages on its journey.
- There are 108 forms of dance in the Indian tradition of Bharatanatyam.
- There are 108 Upanishads according to the Muktikopanishad.
There is energy around you that is present everywhere in everything. By chanting the Gayatri mantra you recognize that you are capable of channeling these energies to unite with them and gain pure intelligence.
These energies will always be around you; therefore you should attempt to make best use of them. That is not to gain personal advantage, but stimulate your spiritual and personal growth and create a meaningful life.