By-Two Kaapi in an oilfield

The weblog of Abhilash Ravishankar, India.

Here I blog about my personal experiences [posting rarely]

At my tumblelog Intoxicated by possibility I blog about my opinions/likes/dislikes [posting heavily]

Stop the blabbering

Being born in a religious Brahmin family in Karnataka, I too was threaded with the sacred thread around 7 years ago. And being the not-religious-but-spiritual guy I have always been, I did not do the SandyaVandana for more than 3 years, because of one sole reason - I didnt understand what it is ? Maybe, the mistake lies in me for not putting in enough efforts to pursue its meaning. Nevertheless, at all religious functions held/or attended by my family I am witness to 4 purohits(priests) chanting mantras around a fire. I am always excited at this sight, because it invokes in me a feeling of spirituality - a feeling of going closer to the Gods. But then I sit back and think about the mindless balbbering of mantras and slokas by the priests - Do they really understand what they are chanting ?

A continuous flow of Sanskrit mantras from a priest and 8 out of 10 times I am sure he does not know the true meaning of what he is chanting. Some cousin of mine at a young age chants dozens of mantras which I have only heard of, but never listened to. He is adored by most in our family because he knows so many mantras at such a young age. One fine day I asked him what is the meaning of the Gayatri Mantra - the most sacred mantra in Hinduism, which essentially every brahmin is supposed to learn during the threading ceremony. And he said with a indiffernt grin - "Who knows ?!". Later I told this to my parents while making my case on this issue. What is the use if one doesn not understand what he/she is saying ? Worthless. A pointless waste of time. My parents argued that chanting the Almighty's name without consciousness too is divine. Yeah...right. Then, what is the point in having 4 vedas, so many vedantas, 2 great epics, millions of slokas.

I believe in one thing - the true meaning of the Gayatri Mantra - which I believe is truly a univeral mantra. I especially admire its ending -

Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

which translated means - "Enlighten our minds". I have come across hundreds of mantras which end with a 'Bless me', 'Protect me', 'Enlighten me' - and only one mantra - The Gayatri Mantra which says 'Enlightnen us'.

I read this on Orkut

Gayatri mantra is not to be chanted a 108 times, or a 1008 times. What one should really do is chant it once, and absorb the meaning of the mantra, and meditate upon the meaning. The real effect of Gayatri can be achieved if, and only if, one meditates on the meaning of Gayatri. One has to understand its meaning, and one has to feel from the heart what one is saying. And go into meditation. Repeating like a parrot serves no purpose. What happens when we chant it many times, is that the entire process becomes mechanical. The only way to not make it mechanical is not chant it that many number of times. Because, if one's heart has to get involved in the meaning of the Gayatri the first time you utter it, it is important that you do not recite it again, as the successive recitation diverts one's mind to the process of uttering the mantra rather than getting absorbed into it. Uttering it again and again endows tremendous powers, and intelligence, but cannot give spiritual progress. It may give only to an extent, but meditation will give more.

I shall be forwarding this to many of my family members. I hope people bring an end to this blabbering, and instead concentrate on the meaning and absorb it.


  1. Aravind said...
    Good post!
    The exact same reason coz of which I stopped chanting the 'divine' mantras. I've asked that question too. To one person who knows myriad mantras. And the reply I got was - "Mantras are positive verses, and chanting them enriches your mind, fills it with positive thought."
    Though this is kind of whimsical, I guess it has some weight in it. But, if all you are wanting to do is building a positive mindset, you could do it in a more comprehensible manner, your own mantras!
    For example, take the song Pal Pal from Swades.(There's some thing that always pulls us towards the film, eh?)

    jag me.n sabse uttam hai maryaada purushottam hai
    sabse shaktishaalii hai phir bhi rakhte sayyam hai
    raam hii to karuna me.n hai shaantii me.n raam hai
    raam hii hai ekta me.n pragati me.n raam hai
    raam bas bhakto.n nahii.n shatru kii bhii chi.ntan me.n hai
    dekh tajke paap raavan raam tere man me.n hai
    raam tere man me.n hai raam mere man me.n hai
    raam to ghar-ghar me.n hai raam har aa.ngan me.n hai
    man se raavan jo nikaale ram uske man me.n hai

    However, I believe that the essence of the mantras also lies in their euphony. Don't you agree? Listen to some mantra when your mind is lost, and you are pacified in a way. I'm not saying that this is true for the mantras which I hear only. For a muslim, it may be the prayer at a nearby mosque, or the church gongs or carols for the christians. You have been influenced by these in such a way that these appease you.
    I believe that though you should know what you are chanting, you shouldn't totally give up the ancient mantras just because you don't know the exact meaning. Don't you believe in your ancestors, to think something unacceptable to you is coming out of your mouth without your knowledge when you are chanting them? Some things have changed with time, I agree. But, the mantras are supposed to be depictive. When you say Ram is a great personality, and call him God, it is his characters you are worshipping, and not the person himself. I believe that our ancestors who wrote the verses were sane enough to highlight all good qualities, and contrast them with bad qualities of demons. These however, would never change.
    So, it's no problem if you don't chant the mantras. But, get an insight of what it means, an overview. You don't exactly need to know what every word means if you are chanting.
    Abhilash Ravishankar said...
    Righto, mate!
    An overview of what we are chanting is absolutely fine, but then it is also imperative on the chanter to know the exact meanings of a lot of specific words and mantras which he might repeat 'n' times during the whole course of the chant.

    A simple example would be the Gayatri Mantra. How many understand the meaning of
    Bhuh , bhuvah, suvah, mahah
    During a standard Hindu Brahmin ritual, I presume these are repeated on a an average atleast half a dozen times. Apart from all this when people are calle upon to chant the Gayatri Mantram 108 times or whatever, the person repeats the words 108 times and suring that course he is more involved in keeping a count of the number of times done rather than sinking the mantra into himself.

    I agree, though, that an overview of most other mantras are fine, and you are also right that the euphony is what transcends the soul into peace. And probably that is the sole reason I listen to the Rudra in pure Vedic rendering style whenever I am down.
    Aravind said...
    For someone who chooses to take up chanting verses as a profession, I agree that he's supposed to be pedantic. He's got to know every bit of what makes him satisfied.
    For those who are just seeking peace of mind or building positivity into themselves, its fine to get the overview.
    Abhilash Ravishankar said...

    Satisfaction is the minimum one must expect to gain. To hit the toll, one must absorb the meaning.


    Hey, I didnt know, you are still alive in the blogosphere. Cool. Read your blog. Cool. Keep posting
    Abhilash Ravishankar said...

    All our administrators in the Govt are also expected to pass an exam called the IAS or KAS (in Karnataka) where they also are expectd to learn about ethics blah blah blah. But, both me and you are witnesses to the rampant corruption in our society. 60% of the candidates pass through IAS/KAS because they know some godfather in the cicil services board, or they cleared the exam even if they scored 35-40% because they belong to the 'highly-discriminated-against' SC/ST or backward classes. So, what on earth, was an exam for? To hell with such pointless exams.

    I dont believe that an exam is an authentication of knowledge. And that too those conducted by Govt babus.

    And, about me going and asking somebody, well, I did try asking that to a couple of purohits who carefully avoided it saying that I should learn other mantras first before I try to understand what I want to know !!

    Balls to pseudo-secularism! and Balls to preaching religion to kids!
    For Heaven's sake, lets teach them spirituality, lets teach them a universal religion. Kids have a penchant for fanaticism (Hello Harry Potter!) and religion will be an attractive avenue. So, lets keep them from thinking that Jesus/Mohd./Ram is the only 'true' god.

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