One of the more unlikely phenomena to surface in popular music culture at the very end of the last century was the sudden vogue for chanting. It started with a sudden explosion of sales for recordings of Gregorian chant. This led to the Classical divisions of record labels to scour their catalogues for such titles and rush them out with typically mystical-themed cover art. Eventually A&R departments began seeking out other forms of chanting to release or record anew, quickly turning to the monastery choirs of Tibetan monks and then to the chanting of various Hindu sects. Into the fray stepped George Harrison, a devotee of Krishna since the 1960’s who produced Ravi Shankar Chants of India wherein Shankar acted as composer and arranger.
Here’s a recording of “Gaayatri” which some folks might have encountered in their researches:
And here’s 40 minutes of the “Gaayatri Mantra” being chanted.
Here’s an analysis of the components and functioning of this mantra, posted at http://www.swamij.com/gayatri.htm.
AUM/OM: Absolute reality. That which encompasses the three states of waking, dreaming, deep sleep, represented by AUM, the three levels of gross, subtle, causal, the three levels of conscious, unconscious, subconscious, and the three universal processes of coming, being, and going. Absolute silence beyond the three levels is the silence after AUM.
Bhur: Physical realm or plane; earth.
Bhuva: The subtle or astral plane.
Svah: The higher, celestial plane.
Tat: That, the essential essence.
Savitur: Bright, luminous, sun-like, inner power of spiritual light, which brings one to Self-realization.
Varenyam: Finest, best, choicest, fit to be sought.
Bhargo: Destroyer of obstacles. Effulgence
Devasya: Divine, resplendent, shining
Dhimahi: We meditate.
Dhiyo: Our being of intelligence, intellect, understanding, mind/heart
Yo: Who, which
Prachodayat: May enlighten, direct, inspire, guide, impel.
40 day practice
The period of 40 days has been widely recognized as an auspicious period both in the East and the West since ancient times. A traditional way to do an extended mantra practice is to choose a number of repetitions per day, and to do that for 40 days. The mind likes to have a beginning and end to a practice, a sense of completion, such as comes with a 40 day (or longer) practice.
Fixed time per practice session: Mind finds comfort in knowing that it will do the practice of one round of 108 repetitions (or some other number of rounds), and that each round will take a predictable amount of time (18 minutes per round of 108 repetitions).
Same number of rounds: Mind also likes the predictability of doing a certain number of rounds done per day. Mind may resist at times, but once it gets started in the practice, mind likes the habit.
Specific number of days: Mind also likes the plan of knowing how many days or months a practice will take to complete. This can be very beneficial in stabilizing a noisy mind, which is a common complaint.
Listening to this online Gayatri mantra recording of 108 repetitions (18 minutes) is equivalent to one round of a mala. A mala is a set of counting beads with 108 beads. Only 100 are counted, with the other 8 considered an offering to the divine, however you personally hold that. You might choose to do 1, 2, 3, or 4 rounds of 108 mantras per day, counting with a set of mala beads.
Or, you can use the Gayatri Mantra CD instead of the mala beads, as the CD has 4 tracks of 108 repetitions each. You might choose to do 1, 2, 3, or 4 tracks of 108 mantras per day. You might also want to alternate between doing some with the recording and some without, counting instead with a set of mala beads.
It has been said that there is freedom in discipline; choosing to do a regular practice frees the mind from wondering what practice will be done that day. It is also important not to do the mantra practice with rote repetition, but rather, with feeling and awareness.
By running your own experiment for 40 days, you can decide for yourself whether or not the practice is beneficial