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The Genesis of the Gayatri Mantra

The Genesis of the Gayatri Mantra

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् ॥ 

oṃ bhūrbhuvaḥ svaḥ tatsaviturvareṇyama

bhargo devasya dhīmahi dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāta


The Power of the Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri Mantra is one of the four pillars of Sanatana Dharma. 

Found in the Rig Veda, the Gayatri Mantra is considered the seed of all Vedic mantras. On the path of Mantra Yoga, no mantra can be invoked until we first perform the invocation of Vedmata Gayatri, the presiding deity of the Gayatri Mantra.  

The Genesis of the Gayatri Mantra 

After emerging victorious in a gruelling battle, the mighty King Kaushika and his weary army were returning home. Tired and famished, the soldiers trudged through the wilderness, looking for a place to rest. Their food supplies were completely depleted. 

Worried, King Kaushika wondered how he would feed his vast army. Just as he was mulling over this, one of his ministers pointed towards a small hermitage.

“This is the abode of Sage Vashishtha,” the minister said. “Although we may not find enough food to satisfy our hunger, we could at least drink water and rest for a while.”

King Kaushika entered the ashram and prostrated before Sage Vashishtha, said to be as old as the universe itself. His countenance radiated a divine glow, accentuated by his flowing white beard and snow-white matted locks on his wheatish body. He resembled the meeting of twilight and the morning sun. 

“O Sage,” King Kaushika implored, “we have endured a long battle and run out of all our food supplies. We request you to allow us to rest in your hermitage for a while.”

Looking at the fatigued faces of the soldiers, Sage Vashishtha responded compassionately, “Rest here for as long as you desire. I shall arrange meals for all of you.”

King Kaushika chuckled and in a voice tinged with arrogance, he said, “I doubt your ability to feed all of us. My entire army stands before you.”

“O King,”  Vashishtha retorted, “you underestimate the power of penance. As a sage, I have the capacity to provide sustenance to the entire cosmos, save for Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva who are self-sustained. The ones who seek nothing and require nothing from the world can manifest whatever they wish for.”

King Kaushika was not convinced.

“Are you certain, O Sage? I have a vast army and I wouldn’t wish for some of my men to be fed while the rest remain famished. Moreover, I don’t see any of your disciples here. How can you possibly prepare such a grand feast?”

“Leave that to me,” the sage replied calmly. “Why don’t you all proceed to the river and take a cleansing bath? By the time you return, a sumptuous meal shall await you.”

The king was intrigued, yet he complied with the sage’s suggestions. Accompanied by his soldiers, they marched to the nearby river. The recent rainfall had rendered the river water slightly turbid. But the bone-tired men immersed themselves in the water and took a bath.

“Clean water is scarce. I wonder how the sage will provide us with water to drink, let alone food?” the King thought to himself.

Upon their return, they were served plates brimming with delicious food and glasses filled with crystal-clear spring water. King Kaushika and his men were left wonderstruck. 

“Eat to your heart’s content,” the sage said with a warm smile. “There is no dearth of anything in these sacred grounds.”

Bewildered, King Kaushika couldn’t help but contemplate the extraordinary occurrence. How could a lone sage single-handedly provide meals for his entire army? It was an unimaginable feat, utterly incredible.

Curiosity gnawed at him and he was compelled to enquire. “How did you accomplish this feat, O Sage?”

Smiling, Sage Vashishtha responded, “I possess a female calf, Nandini, gifted to me by Indra himself. Nandini is the offspring of the wish-fulfilling Kamdhenu. She also possesses the power to grant wishes.”

At once, the desire to possess Nandini emerged in Kaushika’s heart. Envisioning the possibilities, he saw how he could effortlessly feed his entire army, conquer vast territories and become an unparalleled ruler with the calf by his side.  

“So, how does this work? Can this calf fill my coffers with gold?” Kaushika asked.

“She can grant anything you need in the present moment,” replied the sage. He knew where this was going but he kept his calm. “Anything that you may require in the future, she cannot, because that goes against the fabric of Nature. For Nature never hoards; Nature exists in the present, progressing from one moment to another. So Nandini only provides whatever you require now.”

But the desire to possess Nandini continued to consume Kaushika’s thoughts, overshadowing a fundamental principle of Sanatana Dharma –  the tradition of respecting one’s elders.

Caught in the maddening flame of ambition, he asserted, “As your king, I demand you relinquish the calf to me.”

Vashishtha declined firmly. “This can’t be done. She has come here by Grace and she is treated like a mother. Besides, you are a king; you will use her solely for your material gains. I, however, have used her boons for the welfare of others: to feed hungry people.”

Unimpressed by Vashishtha’s reasoning, Kaushika’s desire for possession eclipsed his judgement. “I am your king, and you reside within my kingdom. I provide you with support and sustenance. Therefore, I demand that you surrender the calf to me,” he persisted, signalling his chief minister to take action.

Vashishtha maintained his composure, silently disapproving of the unfolding conflict. “I am sorry, but I cannot comply. Nandini is under my care and protection. She is Mother Divine to us.”

Mocking Vashishtha’s claim of protection, Kaushika confidently retorted, “How will you defend yourself? Look at my formidable army! They possess the strength of an ocean and could overpower you in an instant.”

As the conflict escalated, Kaushika’s men untied Nandini from her post. 

Vashishtha stood there calmly, looking on. He whispered a mantra, performing a kriya called Stambhan in Tantra. Stambhan is the method of making anything stop.

With a wave of his hand, he froze Kaushika’s entire army in place. The soldiers stood immobilised, their bodies burdened by an overwhelming heaviness, their minds clouded by profound despair. Driven to the brink of self-destruction, they pleaded for release, and Kaushika implored Vashishtha for forgiveness. 

Relenting, the sage released Kaushika’s men from their immobilised state. Nandini was returned to Vashishtha who warned the king to drop his desire for the wish-fulfilling cow. Having no other choice, the king and his army accepted defeat and slunk away. 

Returning to his palace, the fire of vengeance smouldered within Kaushika’s heart. “I, Kaushika, was humiliated and forced to beg for forgiveness before my own men. I, who should have been victorious as a powerful king, was defeated by an unarmed sage. This is not befitting of my status. I must acquire the power possessed by this sage. Instead of conquering territories, I shall devote my life to tapas, to ascetic practices,” he resolved.

With unwavering determination, Kaushika sat in penance for a thousand years, praying to Lord Shiva. He was blessed with many weapons, Astras – arms that he could dislodge like divine shafts, arrows, sonic missiles – and Shastras – arms he could carry with himself like an impenetrable shield, an unbreakable sword, and many others.

Consumed by his desire for revenge and intoxicated by his newfound powers, Kaushika set forth towards Vashishtha’s hermitage. He challenged the sage once more and unleashed his weapons.

But Sage Vashishtha met his attacks with unwavering calmness and used his staff, the Brahma Danda, to absorb the energy of each attack directed at him.

When Kaushika’s arsenal was depleted, Vashishtha merely tilted his staff, releasing a colossal orb of energy that swiftly vanquished the defeated king.

“You are my guest,” Vashishtha said. “So, I shall harm you no further. Leave now and seek a more meaningful purpose for your life. Do not ask for Nandini again.”

Enraged and frustrated, Kaushika seethed with anger. Determined to redeem himself, he once again sat down for penance. This time, he meditated on Lord Brahma, gaining more boons than ever before. 

He confronted Vashishtha once more but the outcome was the same. The humbled king was forced to acknowledge his own inadequacy and accept that he could never surpass Vashishtha’s might.

In this state of defeated surrender, a revelation dawned upon him as Vashishtha shared a profound secret.

“It is not the power I possess, O King,” the sage enlightened him. “It is not my might. It is the essence of who I am. Your worth is not defined by what you possess or what you can accomplish but by the depth of your being. While you have pursued penance to acquire external abilities, you have forgotten to tap into your own inner divinity.

“You possess Siddhis, supernatural powers, to merely serve your personal agenda. You have not discovered your true source of strength, and thus, despite possessing countless weapons, you shall never match up to me. For my power does not lie within this staff,” he declared, casting it aside, “but rather, in the very core of my being.”

Moved by these profound words, Kaushika resolved to abandon his quest for weapons. Instead, he now aspired to attain the same elevated state of consciousness, a superconsciousness akin to Vashishtha’s, a sage revered by Lord Indra and the cosmic forces themselves.

Kaushika immersed himself in arduous penance that lasted thousands of years.

With his inner eye, he saw the one mantra that had the power to pull anyone out of any adversity, the congregation of divine sounds which could help one realise one’s wildest dreams. 

The only mantra he ever invoked since leaving Vashishtha’s ashram – The Gayatri Mantra.

Today we know King Kaushika as Sage Vishwamitra, a Brahma Rishi – the most exalted state for Rishis. He was the Drashta of the Gayatri Mantra.

The story has been adapted from ‘The Hidden Power of Gayatri Mantra’ by Om Swami.

Benefits of Chanting the Gayatri Mantra Daily: 

As long as you are in this body made up of the five elements, you can benefit from this mantra in much the same manner as Vishwamitra and numerous other sages did. In fact, the good news is that since the mantra has already been invoked, you don’t have to put in the same effort.

This could be why even though most people chanting the Gayatri Mantra Japa do so as a mere good morning prayer, the effectiveness is the same. The mantra is one of the most common daily prayers across households in the country and is a catalyst to awaken the light of divine knowledge within.

May we abide in the Supreme Energy, that is eternal, transcendental, radiant, perfect, divine.

May such divine grace always guide us on the path of righteousness. 

O Divine mother, may your pure divine light illuminate all realms (physical, mental and spiritual) of our being. 

Please expel any darkness from our hearts and bestow upon us the true knowledge.

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