Gayatri-The Highest Meditation ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

Book Review

By Sadguru Sant Keshavadas (1978)

Motilal Bandarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd., Delhi;

Price Rs.95.00; 148 pages

Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita says, “Among the chanted mantras or poetic metres, I am the Gayatri mantra” (Bhagavad-Gita 10:35). Such is the status given to this mantra, which is believed to be the sound incarnation of the Brahman.

However, only a few good books explain the Gayatri-mantra in English, and Sadguru Sant Keshavadas’s book on the subject is perhaps the simplest yet comprehensive commentary. The Sadguru (1934-1997), was born in Bhadragiri, near Bangalore and went on to establish the organization ‘Temple of Cosmic Religion’, in his attempt to unite the essence of all the religions into a ‘Vishwa Dharma’.

During the Brahmopadesam (also known as the Upanayana-samskara; an initiation given to young boys to study the Vedas) the Gayatri-mantra is taught to the boy by a guru or his father after which he is treated as a twice born or a Dwija.

The book borrows an excerpt from the book Sadhana by Sri Swami Sivananda, describing the philosophy of the Gayatri. It says that: “Of all mantras, the supreme and the most potent power is the great, glorious Gayatri-mantra. It is the support of every seeker after Truth who believes in its efficacy, power and glory, be he of any caste, creed, clime, or sect. …. The Tejas of the brahmachari (celibate) lies in his Gayatrijapa. The support and prosperity of the Grihastha (householder); strength and solace of the Vanaprastha (recluse) is again the Gayatri.”

The book is in two parts. Part One describes the various forms of Yoga highlighting the importance of Mantra Yoga. The repetition of the sacred sounds in the mantra forms japa, which according to the Agni Purana, destroys all sins and liberates souls from the birth and death cycle. The significance of environment for japa, the use of a rosary and the sixteen steps of worship in Mantra Yoga are described in a lucid manner. An entire chapter describes ‘Om’, the Primal Sound or the Shabda-Brahman. Explanations from the Taittiriya Upanishad and Mandukya Upanishad have been culled out for the reader to understand the power and importance of ‘Om’.

Part Two describes the meditation on Gayatri or Sandhya Vandana (meditation at dawn and dusk everyday) in all its details. For a reader, an interesting part is the origin of the Gayatri Mantra, which is believed to have been revealed to the king Viswamitra when he attained the status of Brahmarishi (a sage of cosmic consciousness). Special emphasis is given to pranayama, one of the kriyas of Gayatri meditation. The rest of the book describes water rites, sitting postures, location, time and pronunciation of the sacred sounds.

Prof. T. K. Venkateswaran, Department of Religious Studies, University of Detroit, in his introduction to this book gives a fitting tribute to the late Sant Keshavadas and also adds that if the Gayatri Mantra is meditated upon, it will illumine the intellect and produce the highest bliss, creativity and success in the world.

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