A Mantra is a grouping of sound vibrations which have an effect on the mental and psychic consciousness. Although traditionally given by a Guru, in the absence of a Guru, the practitioner may choose his mantra. An important criterion for mantra selection is that it must appeal to the mind fully when spoken verbally.
Mantra chanting creates powerful vibrations which are said to be directed to the right "chakras" to attract divine forces. This process is said to mysteriously heal the spiritual, physical & psychological body. It is important that when the mantra is chanted, the words and their rhythm must be enjoyed and one must surrender oneself to this experience.
The power lies not in the meaning of the word but through the vibratory effects of the sound that they produced when spoken verbally or mentally.
In fact, a Mantra should not be confused with religion. Just because a mantra refers to a Hindu God, it does not mean that it cannot be said by a Christian. Also, a Mantra should not be translated as this has the effect of altering the sound vibrations wherein lies the strength of the Mantra.
Repetition of a Mantra forms the basis of Mantra Meditation. Mantras for spiritual evolution should be practiced for a fixed amount of time each day. Repeating a mantra too much may not be right for sensitive or psychic people as it may affect them adversely.
Generally, if you repeat a mantra for about 10 minutes every day, then, within a few days you will know whether the vibrations feel right for you.
This great mantra consists of three parts. The first is the chants to the seven worlds. The second is the mantra proper of twenty-four syllables. The third is a summary of the mantra's energies. The following is a brief explanation of the mantra as presented in the Mahanarayana Upanishad.
The Head of the Gayatri
OM Bhuh!- the physical realm or earth, realm of being or food
OM Bhuvah!- the vital plane or atmosphere, realm of becoming or breath
OM Suvah!- the mental plane, space or heaven, realm of illumination
OM Mahah!- the sphere of cosmic mind, realm of Dharma
OM Janah! - the realm of creation or bliss
OM Tapah!- the realm of consciousness-force
OM Satyam!- the realm of absolute truth
The Body of the Mantra
Tat - That
Savitur - Of Savitar, the solar Creator
Varenyam - Supreme
Bhargo - Effulgence
Devasya - Of the God
Dhimahi - We meditate
Dhiyo - Intelligences, minds
Yo - Who
Nah - Our
Prachodayat - May direct
"We meditate upon the supreme effulgence of the Divine Solar Creator that he may direct our minds."
The Tail of the Gayatri
Apo - the Cosmic Waters
Jyoti - the Cosmic Light
Rasomritam - the Immortal Essence
Brahma - the Absolute
Bhur - the physical
Bhuvas - the atmospheric
Suvar - the realm of space
OM - the four higher realms
"OM, the waters, the light, the immortal essence, Brahman, earth, atmosphere, heaven, OM."
The Gayatri mantra (Rig Veda III.62.10) is perhaps the greatest Vedic mantric chant. It was first cognized by the Rishi Vishwamitra, who himself is a form of the Sun that is the friend (Mitra) of all (Vishwa). Rishi Vishwamitra is the embodiment of tapas or ascetic force and his mantra carries that power of light, energy and transformation. Through it one can be born again (dwija) or twice born in truth, in the heavenly stream of Divine wisdom.
The mantra is chanted at sunrise, noon and sunset. At dawn it is called Gayatri, the youthful form of the Goddess, consort of Lord Brahma, the creator. It is called Savitri, the mature form, at noon, the consort of Lord Shiva. It is called Sarasvati, the elderly form, at sunset, the consort of Lord Vishnu.
The Supreme Self, Paramatman, or Savitar, is the conscious being within the cosmic sun or Light of lights. The mantra is his creative force, the Divine Word. Savitar is the master of all transformations and the director of all higher evolution. He is the Self of Brahman, the pure being of the Absolute
Harnessing the Power of the Inner Sun
This mantra releases the supreme solar power, the power of the inner sun of Self-realization and cosmic creation. Those wishing to bring about a new creation or new dawn for humanity of this Dark Age should chant this mantra. Those wishing to transcend this world of Samsara can also use the mantra as a stairway to the infinite. This mantra also grants intelligence, creative vision and healing powers.
Used with the chants to the seven worlds it unfolds all the secrets of the universe outwardly and inwardly.
The Gayatri mantra is central to Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda and Vedic astrology. For Yoga it sets in motion the Divine will toward transformation, stimulating the Kundalini force. For Vedanta it grants Self-knowledge, knowledge of the solar Self. For Ayurveda it gives the power of the cosmic prana that is born of the sun. For Jyotish it gives knowledge of the movements of the heavenly bodies ruled by the cosmic sun.
Note: the exact pronunciation and intonation of the mantra requires personal instruction. This mantra is not something to be merely toyed with but requires entering into the stream of transmission of Vedic knowledge