(Introduction of the book "Sri Gayatri Mantrartha Dipika")
Sri Gayatri Mantrartha Dipika (Illuminations on the Essential Meaning of Gayatri) has been compiled for the pleasure of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the followers of His disciplic succession known as the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya. This publication presents the remarkable madhurya (conjugal) conception of gayatri as revealed by sastra (scripture), sadhus (pure devotees), and acaryas (bona fide spiritual masters). When the contents of this book are examined by the serious readers, all will surely agree that the Gaudiya Vaisnava conception of gayatri is the summit of theistic thought.
In the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya, the gayatri which the guru (bona fide spiritual master) gives to the sadhaka (devotee) at the time of diksa (initiation) is that of the Vedic diksa (upanayana) and also that of the Vaisnava pancaratrika-diksa.
Diksa is defined in the Visnu Yamala as that process by which divine knowledge is given and papa (sins) are destroyed:
divyam jnanam yato dadyat kuryat papasya samksayam
tasmad-dikseti sa prokta desikais tattva-kovdaih
The process by which divine knowedge (divya jnana) is given and sins are destroyed is called diksa by highly learned scholars who are expert in spiritual affairs. (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 2.9, from Visnu Yamala)
The Vedic diksa (upanayana) is instituted by giving the brahma-gayatri. The Vaisnava pancaratrika-diksa is instituted by giving three pancaratrika-mantras (mula-mantras) and three pancaratrika-gayatris.
The brahma-gayatri begins with om, the bija (seed syllable) followed by the maha-vyahrtis (bhuh bhuvah and svah), then follows the gayatri itself, tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat. The use of the word dhimahi (meditation or to invoke the form and activities of the Supreme Lord) is used in all gayatris.
Similarly we find that there are four fundamental characteristics in all pancaratrika-mantras and gayatris: the use of such bijas as aim or klim at the beginning, namatmaka or the presence of nama (the holy name) as the central pivot of the mantra, the words svaha or namah indicating pranama (offering obeisances), and the word dhimahi indicating dhyana (meditation).
According to strict Vedic standards upanayana can only be offered to those who are born in Brahmana families. Unfortunately in Kali-yuga (the present age) there are no Brahmanas by birth - everyone is more or less a sudra (unqualified) by birth. This is stated in Skanda Purana: kalau-sudra-sambhavah. Thus the Vedic system of diksa is inapplicable for Kali-yuga. Therefore the Vaisnava system of pancaratrika-diksa, which has existed since ancient times, and was directly taught by the Supreme Lord, has been introduced. Paramatma Sandarbha, annucheda 18, and Mahabharata both declare:
pancaratrasya krtsnasya vakta tu bhagavan svayam
Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, spoke the Pancaratra literature.
Because the Pancaratra was directly spoken by Krsna Himself it is considered that Pancaratra, (especially the Narada Pancaratra) is supernaturally excellent among all revealed scriptures, sarvesu ca nrpasrestha jnanesvebhesu drsyate. According to authorities pancaratra means that which deals with five (panca) kinds of knowledge (ratra);
ratran ca jnanavacanam jnanam pancavidham smrtam
tenedam pancaratram ca pravadanti manisinah
Panca means five. Ratra means jnana or knowledge. According to authorities there are five kinds of knowledge; 1) vedic, 2) yogic, 3) mayik, 4) mukti, and 5) bhakti, the knowledge by which one attains to the loving devotional service of the Sri Sri Radha Krsna. (Narada Pancaratra 1.2.44 and Gaudiya Kanthahara 2.44)
The Narada Pancaratra specifically deals with the topic of bhakti and therefore it is most important for all devotional aspirants in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya.
jnanam paramatattvam ca janma-mrtyu-jarapaham
tato mrtyunjayah sambhuh samprapa krsnavaktratah
The knowledge contained in Narada Pancaratra puts an end to birth, death, old age and disease - and reveals the Supreme Truth. Krsna also spoke this knowledge to the supremely fortunate Sambu (Lord Siva). (Narada Pancaratra 1.2.25 and Gaudiya Kanthahara 2.46)
drstha sarvam samalokya jnanam samprapya sankarat
jnanartam pancaratram cakara narado munih
Narada Muni, after studying all the scriptures, heard this unparalled knowledge from the lotus mouth of the best of devotees, Lord Siva, who heard it from Krsna. At that time Narada compiled the Pancaratra, which is the essence of nectar. (Narada Pancaratra 1.2.56 and Gaudiya Kanthahara 2.47)
The pancaratrika system requires a sadhaka to undergo the process known as panca-samskara. This panca-samskara consists of panca (five) stages of samskara (purification) mentioned as follows
tapah pundram tatha nama mantro yagas ca pancamah
ami hi panca-samskarah paramaikanti-hetavah
Tapah, pundra, nama, mantra, and yaga; these five items comprise panca-samskara. They are the cause of intense devotion to Lord Hari.
Tapah means performing austerities and professing one's self as a servant of Hari (Visnu/Krsna). Pundra means applying tilaka marks (vertical lines drawn on the body) symbolizing the body as the temple of Hari. Nama means receiving the holy name from the spiritual master and chanting that name according to his direction.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Of the panca-samskaras it is nama which is given the most importance. In all the Vedic literature the holy name of Hari is glorified;
yat-prahvanad yat-smaranad api kvacit
svado 'pi sadyah savanaya kalpate
kutah punas te bhagavan nu darsanat
To say nothing of the spiritual advancement of persons who see the Supreme Person face to face, even a person born in a family of dog-eaters immediately becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him. (Bhag. 3.33.6)
Those who offenselessly chant nama are automatically imbued with all good qualities. One who chants the holy name of Hari (Visnu/Krsna) thus becomes qualified on the strength of the holy name to receive Vedic mantras, the fourth of the panca-samskara. Mantra means mantra-diksa or receiving the brahma-gayatri (upanayana) and the pancaratrika-mantras. After receiving the mantra-diksa the sadhaka is engaged in the worship of Sri Murti under sastric (scriptural) regulations and this is called yaga. These are the five processes for purification called panca-samskara.
If one is interested in practicing the process of temple worship one must positively take shelter of a guru and learn the process from him. Having received the proper mantras from the guru one can worshipSri Murti. In Kali-yuga, the pancaratrika system is mostly recommended for those who want to perform yaga, the worship of Sri Murti.
Srila Rupa Goswami writes:
sruti smrti-puranadi-pancaratra-vidhim vina
aikantiki harer bhaktir utpatayaiva kalpate
Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upanisads, Puranas and Narada-pancaratra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society. (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhuh 1.2.101)
In Kali-yuga there are two systems recommended for worshiping the Supreme Lord, the bhagavata system and pancaratrika system. In the bhagavata system chanting of the holy name (nama) is given preference because in Kali-yuga one can reach the perfection of life simply by hearing, chanting, remembering and worshiping the holy name. Srimad-Bhagavatam confirms in the last sloka:
nama-sankirtanam yasya sarva-papa pranasanam
pranamo duhka-samanas tam namami harim param
Krsna's holy name can relieve us from all undesirable sinfulness, all filthy characteristics, and all miseries. Let us all bow down to Him. Bhag. 12.13.23)
It is further said in this regard in the Garuda Purana:
apavitrah pavitro va sarvastham gato'pi va
yah smaret pundarikaksam sa bahyabhyantarah sucih
Either pure or impure, or having passed through all conditions of material life, if one can remember the lotus-eyed Krsna, he becomes extermally and internally clean.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has taught five essential angas (practices) for the performance of suddha-bhakti (pure devotional service): Sri Murti seva (worship of the Lord in the temple), Sri Bhagavat-katha (hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam), Sri nama-sankirtana (congregational chanting of the holy name), Sri Krsna bhakto (association with pure devotees of Krsna), and Sri Mathura-mandala (living in the district of Mathura). In all these processes chanting of the holy name (sri namasankirtana) is the central point, that is, the bhagavata system. To assist in the purification of the sadhakas and to enable them to worship the Sri Murti in the temple, the followers of the bhagavata system also accept upanayana and the pancaratrika-diksa. Lastly it may be considered that both the upanayana and pancaratrika-diksa are but parts or secondary to the bhagavata system.
Having received the holy name from the guru and having chanted the holy name properly for sometime the sadhaka is then offered mantra-diksa. The first gayatri given by the guru to the sadhaka at the time of mantra-diksa is the upanayana (om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat om). This gayatri is the first in the category of Vedic gayatris and is known as brahma-gayatri. It is also commonly referred to by the sadhaka as brahma-vidya and veda-mata (the source of transcendental knowledge and the mother of the Veda). Indeed brahma-gayatri is the origional sound vibration upon which the Vedic literature is based.
Within the Veda itself gayatri is first written in the Rig Veda (3.62.10) without the maha-vyahrtis as tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat. In the Sukla Yajur Veda (36.3) the gayatri is written with the maha-vyahrtis as bhur bhuva svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat.
In the Candogya Upanisad (Chapter 4.17.1-3) we find the narration wherein Prajapati (Lord Brahma) meditated on the nature of the universe (visva). He thus realized that the three planes of material existance are prithivi (physical), antariksa (mental), and swarga (intellectual). These three planes are thus represented by the maha-vyahrtis bhuh, bhuvah, and svah. The seed of the Rig Veda is bhuh, the seed of the Yajur Veda is bhuvah, and the seed of the Sama Veda is svah. These three bijas (maha-vyahrtis) are said to have been derived from om as three primary colors are contained in a ray of white light. Similarly Prajapati came to the realization that as veins pervade all leaves so om pervades all vak (sound). Therefore the rsis (sages) have concluded that om (the seed) is to be uttered at the beginning and the end of brahma-gayatri. Om, when uttered at the beginning and end of brahma-gayatri, is the Vedic standard by which one should perform gayatri-japa (gayatri-repetition).
When the personified form of brahma-gayatri is manifest she appears with five faces. These five faces correspond with the five principle features of the brahma-gayatri: 1) om (the seed), 2) the maha-vyahrtis (bhuh, bhuvah, svah), 3) tat savitur varenyam (indicating sambandha, relationship), 4) bhargo devasya dhimahi (indicating abhidheya, the process of surrender), and 5) dhiyo yo nah pracodayat (indicating prayojana, the consummation).
The three pancaratrika-mantras given by the guru to the sadhaka are the guru-mantra (aim gurave namah), the gaura-mantra (klim gauraya namah), and the gopal-mantra (klim krsnaya govindaya gopijana-vallabhaya svaha). The three pancaratrika-gayatris given are the guru-gayatri (aim gurudevaya vidmahe krsnanandaya dhimahi tan no guruh pracodayat), the gaura-gayatri (klim caitanyaya vidmahe visvambharaya dhimahi tan no gaurah pracodayat), and the kama-gayatri (klim kamadevaya vidmahe puspabanaya dhimahi tan no anangah pracodayat).
Although in the context of the Puranic setting the pancaratrika system was taught by Lord Visnu only after the demons Madhu and Kaitava had stolen the Vedic mantras from the mind of Brahma, we find in the authoritative book Sri Brahma Samhita that Lord Brahma, at the outset of creation, heard the gopal-mantra pronounced by Divya Saraswati (the divine vibration of the Supreme Personality of Godhead) even before receiving omkara (the Vedic gayatri of threefold form).
Furthermore, it is the opinion of Sripad Jiva Goswami that upon receiving omkara, which had manifest from the divine flute of Sri Krsna, Lord Brahma also meditated on the kama-gayatri (klim kamadevaya vidmahe puspabanaya dhimahi tan no anangah pracodayat), which is the fifth note of the divine flute. Having thus received the status of dvija (twice born), Brahma entered into a state of blissful transcendence. Therefore it must be said that the pancaratrika system of receiving mantras and gayatris (such as gopal-mantra and kama-gayatri) is in no way inferior to that of the Vedic system at any time. Since both systems emanate from the Supreme, both may be taken as eternal.
Having thus received the Vedic diksa and the Vaisnava pancaratrika-diksa, the sadhaka of the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya wears the yajnopavita, the Brahmana thread consisting of nine strings symbolizing the status of his being a dvija (twice born). One who has received this dvija (second birth) can gain admittance into the transcendental world via contemplation and meditation on the gayatri.
The nine threads of yajnopavita symbolize the nine practices of suddha-bhakti (pure devotional service): sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam, pada-sevanam, arcanam, vandanam, dasyam, sakhyam, and atmanivedanam (hearing the glories of the Lord, chanting the glories of the Lord, remembering the Lord, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, worshiping the Sri Murti of the Lord, offering prayers to the Lord, serving the Lord in all respects, becoming the friend of the Lord, and surrendering everything to the Lord respectively).
Similiarly the yajnopavita symbolizes the nine islands of Sri Navadvipa Dhama: Antardvipa, Simantadvipa, Godrumadvipa, Madhyamdvipa, Koladvipa, tudvipa, Jahnudvipa, Modadrumadvipa, and Rudradvipa. These nine islands also correspond to the nine practices of suddha-bhakti.
The yajnopavita also symbolizes the nine stages of developing suddha-bhakti namely sraddha (faith), sadhu-sanga (associating with saints), bhajana-kriya (practicing pure devotional service), anartha-nivrtti (purification of the heart), nistha (being fixed in the Absolute Truth), ruci (sweet taste), asakti (attachment to everything connected to Krsna), bhava (awakening of feelings of love for Krsna), and prema (intense feelings of love for Krsna). These nine stages also correspond to both the nine practices of suddha-bhakti and to the nine islands of Sri Navadvipa Dhama.
In the gayatri we find three bija-mantras, om, aim, and klim. Om denotes sat, invoking the potency of eternality. Aim denotes cit, invoking the potency of knowledge, and klim denotes ananda, invoking the potency of bliss. In the Narada Pancaratra bija-mantras have been explained as primordial sound fragments which have the potency to evoke a particular energy both within and outside a person who utters the bija. This of course presupposes having received the bija from the guru ( bona fide spiritual master).
As in the brahma-gayatri - each of the three pancaratrika-gayatris also have three stages of contemplation - sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana (relationship, the process of surrender, and the consummation). By the use of the syllable vid as in vidmahe, meaning acknowledgement of the Lord, sambandha, the relationship between the Lord and the living entity as master and servant respectively, is established. By the use of the syllable dhi as in dhimahi, meaning worship of the Lord, abhidheya, the process of surrender by which one developes asakti (attachment), and bhava (feelings of intimacy with the Lord) is established. By the use of the word pracodayat meaning to impell one to spontaneously engage in loving devotional service to the Lord, prayojana, the consummation of prema (spontaneous divine love - raga-marg) is established.
The first chapter of this book defines om as nondifferent from the worship of the personal aspects of the Absolute Truth, Sri Sri Radha Krsna. The second and third chapters describe the topmost meaning of the brahma-gayatri according to Srimad-Bhagavatam - the full fledged purport of theism, culminating in Radha-dasyam, the Divine Service of Srimati Radharani. The fourth chapter examines the meaning of guru-mantra and guru-gayatri. The fifth chapter examines the gaura-mantra and the gaura-gayatri. Chapters six, seven, and eight describe the gopal-mantra, kama-bija, and kama-gayatri in relation to the divine sentiments of madhurya-rasa (conjugal love). Thus Sri Gayatri Mantrartha Dipika is completed in eight auspicious chapters.
When studying the schools of Vaisnava thought in India, namely the sampradayas (disciplic successions) of Sri, Brahma, Char Kumar, and Rudra one finds that all these sampradayas chant the brahma-gayatri during the three sandhyas (morning, noon, and evening) of the day, whereas the chanting of the pancaratrika-mantras and gayatris are uttered optionally according to the particular instructions given by the respective guru. Each of the sampradayas has its own particular meditation on the brahma-gayatri in terms of its ultimate goal, or highest ideal. It is here that one can measure to which level in theistic thought a sampradaya has realized .
It is the word savitur in particular upon which the sampradayas establish their philosophical conception of the brahma-gayatri. The question then arises as to who savitur refers. Savitur, according to the rules of Sanskrit grammar, can refer to brahman (effulgence), the sun, fire, our conscious nature as jiva souls and intelligence. Savitur is further identified as Saraswati, Agnidev, Surya, Surya Narayana, Paramatma (the Supersoul), etc. Thus the brahma-gayatri is explained as meditation on the sun or the Sun God by some, and as meditation on the Paramatma, Visnu, Krsna and so forth by others.
The followers of Sankaracarya's school of advaita-vedanta are also among those who chant the brahma-gayatri, their conception being that savitur means brahman, their ultimate goal being to merge their individual identity therein. However, this conception does not find sufficient support in the Vedic system of knowledge.The concept of brahman (sayujya-mukti) as the subject of brahma-gayatri finds support only in the false interpretations and arguments of the followers of Sankaracarya, not in the Vedic pramana (evidence).
In the Visnu-dharmottara Purana, chapter 165, King Vajra asks Markandeya Risi why the brahma-gayatri is chanted in Vaisnava sacrifices if its presiding Deity is the Sun God. Markandeya replies that brahma-gayatri refers to Visnu - he then proceeds to show how each word of brahma-gayatri is related to Visnu. He concludes by saying:
kama-kamo labhet kamam gati-kamas tu sad-gatim
akamas tu tad avapnoti yad visnoh paramam padam
"A person desiring material gain or liberation in the next life can achieve either by chanting gayatri; but the worshiper who is devoid of desires attains the Supreme Abode of Visnu."
In his book Tantrasara Sri Madhvacharya summarizes the above information by describing that there are twenty four syllables in gayatri (ta, tsa, vi, tuh, va, re, ni, yam, bha, rgo, de, va, sya, dhi, ma, hi, dhi, yo, yo, nah, pra, cho, da, yat) and these are called varnas (positioned by divine arrangement). These twenty four varnas have corresponding governing forms of Visnu/Krsna; Kesava, Narayana, Madhava, Govinda, Visnu, Madhusudana, Trivikrama, Vamana, Sridhara, Hrsikesa, Padmanabha, Damodara, Sankarsana, Vasudeva, Pradyumna, Aniruddha, Purusottama, Adhoksaja, Narasimha, Acyuta, Janardana, Upendra, Hari, and Sri Krsna respectively.
In the Visnu-sahasranama, the book containing one thousand names of Visnu, the maha-vyahrtis (bhur, bhuvah, and svah) are also mentioned;
anadir bhur bhuvo-laksmih
Anadir means that Krsna is independent. Bhur is the name of Krsna indicating that He was merciful to Brahma and forgave his offenses (bhuh). Bhuvo-laksmih means that Krsna was the transcendental ornament that decorated the land of Vrajabhumi. (Visnu-sahasranama 114)
Krsna is like a great tree that shades the upper, middle, and lower planetary systems and provides all necessities to all living entities, who are like birds who have taken shelter of that tree (bhur-bhuvah-svas-taru). (Visnu-sahasranama 117)
Similarly in the Rig-veda the words om asya janato nama cid-viviktan mahaste visnu indicate that om is the name of Visnu. Thus we find no real scope for impersonalist meditation within the brahma-gayatri.
In his Tattva Sandarbha, Sripad Jiva Goswami has elaborately explained with references to various Puranas that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the natural commentary on the brahma-gayatri and that brahma-gayatri is exclusively a meditation on the Supreme Personality of the Absolute Truth. He at no time gives credence to the impersonal conception of gayatri.
In Tattva-sandarbha, Anuccheda 22.6, Jiva Goswami makes the following statement which defines meditation on brahma-gayatri as being meditation on the Personality of Godhead, as well as clarifying the relationship of brahma-gayatri with Srimad-Bhagavatam:
yasmad evam bhagavat-paras tasmad eva"yatradhikrtya
gayatrim" iti krta-laksana-sri-bhagavata-
nama granthah sri-bhagavat-paraya
gayatrya bhasya-rupo 'sau
tad uktam "yatradhikrtya gayatrim" ity-adi
Since the book Srimad-Bhagavatam, characterized as 'beginning with the brahma-gayatri-mantra' is dedicated to the Personality of Godhead, it serves as a commentary on brahma-gayatri, which is also dedicated to the Supreme Lord. This same point - that Srimad-Bhagavatam is a commentary on the brahma-gayatri - is made in such statements as 'in which (Srimad-Bhagavatam) brahma-gayatri is introduced as the basis of discussion.'
Jiva Goswami supports this statement with a reference from the Agni Purana 216.3:
taj jyotih paramam brahma bhargas tejo yatah smrtah
That light is called the Supreme Brahman because the word bhargas (in brahma-gayatri) means effulgence.
He then quotes Agni Purana 216.7-8 to show that the "effulgence" means Visnu:
taj jhotir bhagavan visnur jagaj-janmadi-karanam
sivam kecit pathanti sma sakti-rupam vadanti ca
kecit suryam kecid agnim daivatany agni hotrinah
agny-adi-rupo visnur hi vedadau brahma giyate
That effulgence is Visnu, who is the cause of the universal creation, maintenance, and dissolution. Some people say "effulgence" (bhargo) in brahma-gayatri refers instead to Siva, while others say it means sakti. Yet others say it refers to the sun, and still others say it refers to fire. While chanting brahma-gayatri, the brahmanas who perform Vedic fire sacrifices (Agni-hotras) worship various demigods. But it is Visnu who is present in the forms of Agni (fire) and other demigods, and the Vedas praise Him as the Absolute Truth, brahman."
Although there may be differences of opinion between the various branches of scholars, philosophers, and religionists regarding the conception of the brahma-gayatri, there is a final conclusion which can be reached by the proper study of the Vedic literature, the standard by which philosophical controversy is resolved in India.
It is said in India in this regard that "The Vedas advise like a king, the Puranas like a friend, and the Kavya like one's beloved, but the Srimad-Bhagavatam advises like all three." Thus it is understood that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the ultimate pramana and therefore it should be taken as the final word in philosophical subject matters concerning the Absolute Truth.
Skanda Purana confirms as follows:
sataso 'tha sahasrais ca kim anyaih sastra-samgrahaih
na yasya tisthate gehe sastram bhagavatam kalau
katham sa vaisnavo jneyah sastram bhagavatam kalau
grhe na tisthate yasya sa viprah svapacadhamah
yatra yatra bhaved vipra sastram bhagavatam kalau
tatra tatra harir yati tridasaih saha narada
yah pathet prayato nityam slokam bhagavatam mune
astadasa-purananam phalam prapnoti manavah
In Kali-yuga what is the value of collecting hundreds of thousands of other scriptures if one does not keep Srimad-Bhagavatam at home? How can a person be considered a Vaisnava in Kali-yuga if Srimad-Bhagavatam finds no place in his house? Even if he is a learned brahmana, such a person should be considered lower than a dog-eater. O learned Narada Muni, wherever Srimad-Bhagavatam is present in Kali-yuga, the Supreme Lord goes there with the demigods. A person who faithfully recites one verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam every day attains the fruit of reading the eighteen Puranas." (Skanda Purana, Visnu Khanda 16.40, 42, 44, 331)
Quoting the author of the Vedas, Srila Vyasadeva, we find the following statement in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
sarva-vedanta-saram hi sri-bhagavatam isyate
tad-rasamrta-trptasya nanyatra syad ratih kvacit
Srimad-Bhagavatam is indeed the essence of all Vedanta philosophy. He who is satisfied by hearing its nectar-like words takes no interest in any other scripture." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.15)
Vyasadeva's statement about Srimad-Bhagavatam should be taken as most authoritative. Vyasadeva, being the author of the Vedas, the Vedanta Sutra, and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, certainly knows in which of these scriptures the Supreme Essence of Truth can be found.
It is Srimad-Bhagavatam which will help us to understand the purport of brahma-gayatri. Gayatri is the mother of the Vedas and the commentary of such is given in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Brahma-gayatri is the prototype of all Vedic mantras. Thus the brahma-gayatri is a concise statement as to the significance of all the Vedas.
artho 'yam brahma-sutranam bharatartha-vinirnayah
gayatri-bhasya-rupo 'sau vedartha-paribrmhitah
The meaning of the Vedanta Sutra is present in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The full purport of the Mahabharata is also there. The commentary of the brahma-gayatri is also there (Srimad-Bhagavatam), and fully expanded with all Vedic knowledge." (Garuda Purana)
In the brahma-gayatri the word dhimahi, meaning let us meditate, is important. The appearance of this word in any particular verse or mantra has been taken to indicate brahma-gayatri. In Srimad-Bhagavatam the first sloka says: dhamna svena sada nirasta-kuhakam satyam param dhimahi. The brahma-gayatri also says dhimahi. Since the Srimad-Bhagavatam invokes the brahma-gayatri in its opening stanza by the use of the word dhimahi, this signifies that the entire text is an explanation of brahma-gayatri.
This is also confirmed by Sripad Sridhar Swami in his Bhavartha-Dipika commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam. Sripad Sridhar Swami confirms that Srimad-Bhagavatam begins with the brahma-gayatri. He writes:
dhimahiti gayatrya prarambhena ca gayatry-akhya-brahma-vidya-rupam etat puranam iti darsitam
That the brahma-gayatri phrase indicated by the word dhimahi begins this Purana shows that this work has the nature of the brahma-vidya (Vedic knowledge of the Supreme) called brahma-gayatri.
Because Srimad-Bhagavatam describes the purport of brahma-gayatri, the Srimad-Bhagavatam itself is called the fruit of the tree of Vedic knowledge, nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phalam. Indeed, Srimad-Bhagavatam is the fullfledged meaning of the brahma-gayatri.
The word brahma as in brahma-gayatri means brahma-vidya or transcendental knowledge. The word gayatri of the same is derived from joining two Sanskrit words, ganat and trayate. Ganat means musical sound and trayate means to achieve the final stage of enlightenment. Thus brahma-gayatri is said to be that melodious sound which grants us the highest fulfillment in the world of consciousness. The Agni Purana states:
gayaty ukthani sastrani bhargam pranams tathaiva ca
tatah smrteyam gayatri savitri yatra eva ca
prakasini sa savitur vagrupatvat sarasvati
It is called gayatri because it sings about gayaty or illuminates the Vedic mantras, the scriptures, the Supreme Lord, and one's intelligence. It is called savitri because it reveals Savita, the creator. And it is called Sarasvati because it is the essence of speech (Agni Purana 216. 1-2)
Savitri as in savitur of brahma-gayatri means the source of all intelligence. Ultimately, that savitri is Sri Caitanya. This is confirmed by Ramananda Raya in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:
eta tattva mora citte kaile prakasana
brahmake veda yena padaila narayana
antaryami isvarera ei riti haye
bahire na kahe, vastu prakase hrdaye
You (Sri Caitanya) have manifested many transcendental truths in my heart. This is exactly the way Narayana educated Brahma. The Supersoul within everyone's heart speaks not externally but from within. He instructs the devotees in all respects, and that is His way of instruction." (Madhya-lila, Ch.8, Tx.264-5)
A similiar statement is found in Srimad-Bhagavatam wherein Sukadeva Goswami invoked the blessings of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
pracodita yena pura sarasvati
vitanvatajasya satim smrtim hrdi
sva-laksana pradurabhut kilasyatah
sa me rsinam rsabhah prasidatam
May the Lord, who in the beginning of the creation amplified the potent knowledge of Brahma from within his heart and inspired him with full knowledge of creation and His own self, and who appeared to be generated from the mouth of Brahma, be pleased with me." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.4.22)
Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and He appears in Kali-yuga as Sri Caitanya. This is confirmed as follows:
yajanti hi su-medhasah
'In this Age of Kali, those who are intelligent perform the congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appears in this age always describing the glories of Krsna. That incarnation is yellowish in hue and is always associated with His plenary expansions [such as Sri Nityananda Prabhu] and personal expansions [such as Gadadhara], as well as His devotees and associates [such as Svarupa Damodara]. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.5.32)
In Srimad-Bhagavatam the astrologer Garga Muni also confirms Krsna's appearance in Kali-yuga in a yellow (golden) color:
asan varnas trayo hy asya
grhnato 'nu-yugam tanuh
suklo raktas tatha pita
idanim krsnatam gatah
In the past, your son has had bodies of three different colors, according to the age. These colors were white, red and yellow. In this age [Dvapara-yuga] He has accepted a blackish body. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.8.13)
Mahabharata also confirms the Lord's appearance in the Kali-yuga as Sri Caitanya as follows:
sannyasa-krc chamah santo
The Lord [in the incarnation of Gaurasundara] has a golden complexion. Indeed, His entire body, which is very nicely constituted, is like molten gold. Sandalwood pulp is smeared all over His body. He will take the fourth order of spiritual life [sannyasa] and will be very self-controlled. He will be distinguished from mayavadi sannyasis in that He will be fixed in devotional service and will spread the sankirtana movement." (Mahabharata, Visnu-sahasra-nama-stotra)
Because Sri Caitanya is nondifferent from Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as supported above, it is also logical to conclude that Sri Caitanya can also be understood as the original source of the gayatri-mantra. Therefore, brahma-gayatri may be taken as a meditation on Sri Caitanya--krsna caitanyaya vidmahe visvambharaya dhimahi tan no gaurah pracodayat. (This is further explained in chapter five of Sri Gayatri Mantrartha Dipika.)
With regard to gayatri being a melodious sound, the following information is found in Sri Brahma-samhita:
atha venu-ninadasya trayi-murti-mayi gatih
sphuranti pravivesasu mukhabjani svayambhuvah
gayatrim gayatas tasmad adhigatya sarojajah
samskrtas cadi-guruna dvijatam agamat tatah
Then the gayatri of threefold form that is the form of omkara (om/a-u-m), mother of the Vedas, emanated as the beautiful harmonious sequence of the Song of the Divine Flute of Sri Krsna. Entering the ears of Brahma, that melodious sound was swiftly manifest within his mouth as the gayatri. Thus Brahma, who was born of the lotus flower, received gayatri as it emanated from the Divine Flute-Song of Sri Krsna, and so he was initiated by the Supreme Lord, the original guru, and elevated to the status of twice-born (dvija)."
Not only is the brahma-gayatri considered a melodious sound but it must be considered the most charming and beautiful sound, due to its Divine Origin in the Flute of Sri Krsna. (A complete reproduction of the narration of the origin of gayatri, as found in Sri Brahma-samhita with illuminating purports by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, has been presented in chapter six of Sri Gayatri Mantrartha Dipika.)
From the Divine Flute-Song of Sri Krsna, the sound known throughout the Vedas as omkara first manifest, and then, as its sequel, the gayatri manifests. Those who have received initiation (mantra-diksa) in the bona fide disciplic succession of spiritual masters stemming from Brahma, the adi-guru (original guru) in this universe, can very easily achieve success in self-realization by chanting the gayatri-mantra. Without proper initiation however, the mantra will not be effective. This is confirmed by Padma Purana as follows:
mantras te nisphala matah
Unless you are initiated by a bona fide spiritual master in the disciplic succession, the mantra that you might have received is without any effect.
It appeared to Brahma in the stage of his mature realization after meditation on the kama-gayatri, that he is the eternal maidservant of Krsna.
trayya prabuddho `tha vidhir vijnata-tattva-sagarah
tustava vedasarena stotrenanena kesavam
Becoming enlightened by meditating on the gayatri-mantra, Brahma realized that he is the eternal maidservant of Krsna. Although the profound mysteries of servitorship as a maidservant were not necessarily revealed to him, he became well aquainted with the Ocean of Truth. Then he worshiped the Supreme Lord Krsna with this hymn." (Brahma-samhita 5.28)
laksavrtesu surabhir abhipalayantam
govindam adi purusam tam aham bhajami
I worship Govinda, the Primeval Lord, the first progenitor who is tending the cows, yielding all desires, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of desire-fulfilling-trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of laksmis or gopis." (Brahma-samhita 5.29)
Such realizations of Brahma and the pure cognition therein must surely be the highest ideal of achievement among the bona fide students who chant the sacred gayatri-mantras.
Lord Brahma is the original guru in this universe. The direct disciple of Brahma was Narada Muni. Srila Vyasadeva (the compiler of the Veda) was the direct disciple of Narada, and Madhvacharya was the direct disciple of Vyasa. From the disciplic succession of Madhvacharya, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted Sri Iswara Puri as his spiritual master. Because Sri Caitanya accepted initiation in the Brahma Madhva sampradaya that sampradaya has become most glorious. From Him (Sri Chaitanya) the disciplic succession is known as the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya and its teachings are being spread throughout the whole world.
The Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya, alone, derives the ultimate conception of brahma-gayatri in complete alliance with Srimad-Bhagavatam. Moreover it must be said that the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya's form of meditation on the brahma-gayatri is topmost - "gayatri-muralista-kirtana-dhanam radhapadam dhimahi." "The brahma-gayatri which has sprung from the flute song of Sri Krsna only sings the glories of Srimati Radharani." (A purport to this verse will be given in greater detail in chapters two and three of Sri Gayatri Mantrartha Dipika.)
The eternal abode of the Supreme Lord is called Vaikuntha. The highest planet in that spiritual sky (Vaikuntha) is called Goloka, wherein the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna eternally enjoys His transcendental pastimes with His eternal associates. Among the eternal associates of the Lord the gopis are the most exhalted, and among the gopis Srimati Radharani is the best. It has been mentioned in the narration of the Skanda Purana that out of many thousands of gopis, 16,000 are prominent. Out of these, 108 are important, and out of 108, eight are principal. Out of eight gopis, Radharani and Candravali are chief, and out of these two Srimati Radharani is superior.
This has also been confirmed by Srila Rupa Goswami as follows:
tayor apy ubhayor madhye radhika sarvathadhika
mahabhava-svarupeyam gunair ativariyasi
Of these two gopis [Radharani and Candravali], Srimati Radharani is superior in all respects. She is the embodiment of mahabhava, and She surpasses all in good qualities." (Ujjvala-nilamani, Verse 2)
Other references to the supreme position of Srimati Radharani are as follows:
tabhir ya eva nija-rupataya kalabhih
goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhuto
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, residing in His own realm, Goloka, with Radha, resembling His own spiritual figure, the embodiment of the ecstatic potency possessed of the sixty-four artistic activities, in the company of Her confidantes [sakhis], embodiments of the extensions of Her bodily form, permeated and vitalized by His ever-blissful spiritual rasa. (Brahma-samhita 5.37)
devi krsna-mayi prokta radhika para-devata
sarva-laksmi-mayi sarva-kantih sammohini para
The transcendental goddess Srimati Radharani is the direct counterpart of Lord Sri Krsna. She is the central figure for all the goddesses of fortune. She possesses all the attractiveness to attract the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. She is the primeval internal potency of the Lord. (Brhad-gautamiya-tantra)
inhara madhye radhara prema--'sadhya-siromani'
yanhara mahima sarva-sastrete vakhani
Among the loving affairs of the gopis, Srimati Radharani's love for Sri Krsna is topmost. Indeed, the glories of Srimati Radharani are highly esteemed in all revealed scriptures. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 8.98)
yatha radha priya visnos tasyah kundam priyam tatha
sarva-gopisu saivaika visnor atyanta-vallabha
'Just as Srimati Radharani is most dear to Sri Krsna, Her bathing place known [Radha-kunda] is also dear to Him. Among all the gopis, Srimati Radharani is supermost and very dear to Lord Krsna.' (Padma Purana)
anayaradhito nunam bhagavan harir isvarah
yan no vihaya govindah prito yam anayad rahah
When the gopis began to talk among themselves, they said, 'Dear friends, the gopi (Sri Radha) who has been taken away by Krsna to a secluded place must have worshiped the Lord more than anyone else.' (Bhag. 10.30.28)
That "gayatri-muralista-kirtana-dhanam radhapadam dhimahi" is the ultimate meditation on brahma-gayatri is also confirmed by the tattva-acarya Sripad Jiva Goswami in his commentary on the first verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam:
janmady asya yato 'nvayad itaratas carthesv abhijnah svarat
tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye muhyanti yat surayah
tejo-vari-mrdam yatha vinimayo yatra tri-sargo 'mrsa
dhamna svena sada nirasta-kuhakam satyam param dhimahi
There Sripad Jiva Goswami explains thus:
Janma means manifestation, adyasya means adi or original, yatah means from whom. From whom has the original rasa (madhurya) manifested? Radha, who is itaratah distinct from all others, and Krsna (anvayat). Artesu means various pastimes and abhijnah means expert. They are expert in the performance of pastimes. Vyasa, the adi kavi says the sabda brahma entered his heart (hrda) and he understood through prema bhakti these pastimes (tene brahma hrda adi kavaye). When, under the order of Narada, Vyasa sat in meditation in a trance of prema bhakti (bhakti-yogena manasi samyak pranihite 'male) this is what he realized, and it is about this, the pastimes of Radha Krsna, that he wrote in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Vyasa says that these two, and Sri Radha in particular, are so wonderful. Who can understand them? Even Krsna is bewildered by Radharani, what then can Anantasesa and others know about Her (muhyanti yat surayah)? Land (mrt) turns into water and flows, while water (vari) takes on the character of land and becomes stunned upon hearing the flute of Sri Krsna, which He plays only to attract Sri Radha, whose effulgence (tejah) dims the light of the stars and moon, tejo vari mrdam yatha vinimayo. Among the gopis there are three kinds, those who favor Radha (headed by Lalita), those who serve in the opposition's side (headed by Candravali) and those who take sometimes the side of Radha and sometimes the side of Krsna (headed by Visakha). They are all wonderful, yet all three groups (yatra tri sargo) are insignificant (mrsa) in Her presence, yatra tri sargo 'mrsa. All have their purpose only in relation to Her. Radha's presence and influence (dhamna) defeats (nirasta) all interference (kuhakam) created by the opposition party such as that of Jatila and Kutila, and the leader of the gopi opposition Sri Candravali, dhamna svena sada nirasta-kuhakam. Thus their pastimes go on eternally (satyam). Therefore I meditate (dhimahi) upon these two (param) who are actually one in mahabhava, and one as potent and potency. Vyasa here has described Radha and Krsna in the singular, purposefully and appropriately, as well as neuter in gender because they are beyond the conceptions of male and female."
Thus Srimad-Bhagavatam itself can be taken as a meditation on Srimati Radharani. Throughout the revealed scriptures the exalted position of the gopis has been proclaimed. In fact the personified form of gayatri namely Gayatri devi, who is also known as Savitri devi and Saraswati devi herself, acheived the perfection of becoming one of the gopi maidservants of Radha and Krsna. In the Srsti-khanda of the Padma Purana there is a description of how the goddess Gayatri herself became a gopi in Goloka Vrndavana, gayatri-gopikanyaka. The narration goes as follows:
Gayatri-devi also attained Krsna after becoming a gopi in Vrndavana. After her marriage to Brahma she worshiped Sri Krsna. He was satisfied and gave her the benediction that she would take birth in the village of Gokula Vrndavana and there live with her parents and family as cowherders. Krsna was able to understand that her intention was to have him as her husband. Therefore, Krsna informed His friends, 'My dear friends, please listen to what I have to say. At this particular time I have arranged for Gayatri-devi to be married to Brahma, but when I take birth amongst the residents of Vrndavana, Gayatri-devi shall become My mistress (a gopi in paramour rasa).' (Padma Purana, Srsti-khanda, ch. 17. 5th khanda, text 15-37 )
Thus far we have established with sufficient references from guru, sastra, and sadhu that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is indeed the natural commentary on brahma-gayatri. That which we find in Srimad-Bhagavatam should be understood to be the essense of the brahma-gayatri.
Everything is possible by the mercy of the Supreme Lord and His devotees. When one has acheived such grace one can understand the worship of Sri Sri Radha Krsna and that of Sri Caitanya to be the purport of gayatri.
yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha-deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed." (Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.23)
It is mentioned in the beginning of this introduction that the Gaudiya Vaisnava conception of Sri Gayatri is the summit of all theistic thought. As evidenced in the Vedic scriptures, this is by no means a stretch of the imagination. In fact in the history of the world a more complete conception of the sweetness of Divinity has never before been revealed. Such is the sum and substance of Sri Gayatri Mantrartha Dipika.
We humbly pray that the Supreme Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu may be satisfied with our endeavor, and that all His dear most devotees will similiarly be pleased with this presentation.