(one of many on-line articles by David Frawley on Mantra)
The Vedas as Mantra Yoga
The Vedas are mantric teachings. They consist of various mantric chants or hymns cognized by different seers or Rishis from the Cosmic Mind. They set forth Dharma or natural law, which is mantra in manifestation. As such the Vedas are impersonal and eternal, just as cosmic law cannot vary. This same mantric knowledge gives rise to different sciences (vidyas) according to the angle of vision with which we approach it. Ayurveda, Vedic Astrology, Yoga, and Vedanta all arise from it and represent different ways of looking through it.
The Vedic language is based upon an earlier more primordial language of seed (bija) mantras. These are single syllable sounds or roots like OM that have multiple meanings and indications depending upon their intonation and the intention with which they are used. Out of the bija or root language arises the language of the Vedic texts, which is already differentiated, though not fully, into nouns and verbs. These bijas are explained more in Tantra, which in its true sense (apart from current popular distortions) is also a science of the Divine Word.
To introduce the reader to the Vedic mantric approach we will introduce a few important bija mantras and then the main Vedic chant, the Gayatri mantra, of twenty four syllables. This will also help the reader understand the vision behind the American Institute of Vedic Studies, why it takes the name Vedic studies, and why it combines various Vedic disciplines. It is all a manifestation of the mantra. It is that mantric knowledge that we are directing our students toward, not to any mere book learning, nor reliance on the word of another. That inner mantra of the heart which comprehends all is the goal of our work.
Five Main Bija Mantras
OM is the most important of all mantras. All mantras generally begin and often also end with OM. However, there is much confusion about OM. OM is the mantra of assent. It means yes and affirms and energizes whatever we say after it. That is why all mantras begin with OM. OM is also the mantra of ascent and causes our energy to rise upward into the infinite. OM is expansive and increases the fire, air and ether elements, particularly ether. It also gives strength, protection and grace. It connects us with the guidance power of the inner Guru.
The Four Great Goddess Mantras
There are four great Goddess mantras that govern the prime forms of energy as magnetic force, electrical force, heat, and delight. This is a Tantric teaching that reflects the Vedic Word and the four main Vedic deities.
HRIM (pronounced Hreem) is the prime mantra of the Great Goddess and ruler of the worlds and holds all her creative and healing powers. HRIM governs over the cosmic magnetic energy and the power of the soul and causal body. It awakens us at a soul or heart level, connecting us to Divine forces of love and attraction. HRIM is the mantra of the Divine Maya that destroys the worldly maya. It has a solar quality to it but more of a dawn-like effect. It is charming and alluring, yet purifying . Through it we can control the illusion power of our own minds.
In Vedic terms HRIM is a mantra of the Sun, particularly in terms of illumination. It increases our aspiration and receptivity to Divine light, wisdom and truth. It opens the lotus of the heart to the inner Sun of consciousness. It is a mantra of the region of heaven or the consciousness space in which all the worlds exist.
KRIM (pronounced Kreem) is the great mantra of Kali, the Goddess of energy and transformation. It governs over prana as lightning or electrical energy. KRIM grants all spiritual faculties and powers — from the arousing of kundalini to opening the third eye. It has a special power relative to the lower chakras, which it can both stimulate and transform. It helps awaken and purify the subtle body. As a mantra of work and transformation KRIM is the mantra of Kriya Yoga, the Yoga of practice. It is the main mantra of the Yoga Shakti. As it is a strong mantra it should be used with care.
KRIM is a mantra of Indra, the supreme deity of the Vedas, the Divine as the cosmic lord and enlightenment force. KRIM is the thunderbolt or vajra that destroys the serpent of the ignorance and releases the light of absolute truth. It represents the force of the atmosphere (Atmic sphere) and carries the supreme life force.
HUM (pronounced Hoom) is a mantra of the inner fire or thermogenic force. It both calls the divine down into us and offers our soul upward to the Divine for transformation in the sacred fire of awareness. It is a Shiva mantra but also a mantra of Chandi, the fierce form of Kali. It is used to destroy negativity and creates great passion and vitality. As a powerful mantra it should also be used carefully. Yet it can be used in a more gentle manner to invoke divine grace and protection. Through it we can offer ourselves or our afflictions into the Divine for purification and transformation.
HUM is a Vedic mantra of Agni or fire. It is the mantra used to make offerings into the sacred fire. It also is used to call or invoke the fire and to make it flame up more brilliantly. It represents the soul hidden the body, the Divine immanent in the world. It governs the earth and the material sphere in general.
SHRIM (pronounced Shreem) is a mantra of love, devotion and beauty, relating to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Beauty and divine grace. Yet SHRIM works at a deeper level than merely to give us the good things of life, including health. It takes us to the heart and gives faith and steadiness to our emotional nature. SHRIM allows us to surrender to, take refuge in, or be immersed in whatever we offer the mantra to. It is the mantra of beauty and delight and has a pleasing lunar quality. It also relates to the head and can be used to flood the senses with divine beauty and delight. It promotes health and aids in fertility and rejuvenation.
In Vedic terms SHRIM is a Soma mantra. It gives love, joy, bliss, beauty and delight. It has the light of the Moon and governs the mind and the realm between the atmosphere and heaven. It purifies and integrates the various aspects of our nature and renders them into ambrosia.
These four mantras can be used together with OM:
OM HRIM KRIM HUM SHRIM!
This brings about an integral development of body, mind and soul in harmony with the Divine or inner Self.
The Gayatri Mantra, the Essence of the Vedas
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.