“The gāyatrī-mantra will excite us to be mindful about Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s lotus feet, to obey Her orders.”
“Rādhā-dāsyam, the service of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, is the ultimate meaning to be extracted from the gāyatrī-mantra.”
oṁ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ tat savitur vareñyaṁ bhargo
devasya dhīmahi dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt oṁ
oṁ –– the seed mantra which contains everything within it; bhūr — the physical world; bhuvaḥ — the mental world; svaḥ — the intellectual world; tat — that, the three planes of experience; savituḥ — the soul; vareṇyaṁ — worshipable, venerable; bhargo — the super-subjective area, the svarūpa-śakti; devasya — who is beautiful and playful, Krsna, Reality the Beautiful; dhīmahi — come meditate; dhiyaḥ — of meditation, of service; yo — who; naḥ — us; pracodayāt — enthuses our capacity;
“Above the three planes of mundane experience, bhūr, bhuvaḥ, svaḥ, is the soul, savitur, who shows us everything just like the sun. Above the soul is the super-subjective plane which is vareṇyaṁ, most venerated and worshipable. That worshipable plane of existence is called bhargo, brilliant and illuminating. The super-subjective area, bhargo, is the plane known as the svarūpa-śakti which is the internal pleasure potency of deva, Kṛṣṇa, Reality the Beautiful. That bhargo is His own divine potency, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Let us meditate upon the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, whose extended self and essential nature, mahā-bhāva, is the svarūpa-śakti, and who enthuses our capacity of devotional service. Let us surrender unto Her divine service.”
The meaning of the brahma-gāyatrī must bring us to the conclusion of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The gāyatrī-mantra and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are one and the same. It is the very gist of the Vedānta-sūtra. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the elaborate commentary of gāyatrī:
artho ‘yaṁ brahma-sūtrānāṁ bhāratārtha-vinirṇayaḥ
gāyatrī-bhāṣya-rūpo’ sau vedārthaḥ-paribṛṁhitaḥ
“The meaning of the Vedānta-sūtra is present in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The full purport of the Mahābhārata is also there. The commentary of the brahma-gāyatrī is also there and fully expanded with all Vedic knowledge.” (Garuḍa Purāṇa)
The meaning of the gāyatrī-mantra must be in the line of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. If we analyze how this is possible, we shall uncover the steps leading the gāyatrī-mantra to the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
What is the meaning of gāyatrī? The word gāyatrī is a combination of two Sanskrit words: gānat (what is sung) and trāyate (gives deliverance). This means, “A kind of song by which we can get our salvation, relief, emancipation. Gāyatrī is known as veda-mātā, the mother of the Veda. If we examine the Vedic conclusion from its most condensed aphorism to its most extensive expression, we shall find that it begins with oṁkara, the Vedic symbol oṁ. That truth is expressed as the gāyatrī–mantra, then it appears in the form of the Vedas and thereafter as the Vedānta-sūtra. Finally, the Vedic conclusion is given its fullest expression in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Since the meaning, the purpose of Vedic knowledge progresses in this line, the gāyatrī-mantra must contain within it the meaning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam — that is, that the Kṛṣṇa conception of Godhead is the highest.
This must be the meaning of the gāyatrī-mantra, but the problem is how to extract Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam — the Kṛṣṇa conception — from within the womb of gāyatrī. I heard that Jīva Gosvāmī has given such an interpretation, but I could not find where it is written. I heard that he has given the meaning of gāyatrī leading to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Anyhow, the tendency awakened in me to draw the meaning to the Kṛṣṇa conception.
The general meaning of gāyatrī is “that song which grants liberation.” Liberation must have some positive meaning. Liberation means not freedom from the negative side, but positive attainment. This is the definition given in Śrīmad–Bhāgavatam: muktir hitvānyathā rūpam svarūpena vyavasthitiḥ — unless and until we attain the highest possible positive position, real mukti, real salvation has not been effected. Mere withdrawal from the negative plane cannot be called liberation. Hegel has said that the object of our life is self-determination. We must determine our normal function in the organic whole — not mere emancipation from the negative side, but participation in a positive function in the domain of service. This is considered to be the highest attainment of life. This is the real meaning of gāyatrī.
The word gāyatrī comes from two Sanskrit roots: gānat and trāyate. Trāyate means positive attainment to the final stage (sva-rūpena vyavasthitiḥ). And gānat means not mere sound, but musical sound. That musical sound which grants us the highest positive deliverance indicates the saṅkīrtana of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and the flute song of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Gāyatrī is the song which by singing we are freed,
The music of divinity to help our highest need;
Coming to Gaurāṅga’s lotus feet, the tune is saṅkīrtana —
Then reaching to Vṛndavāna — Kṛṣṇa’s holy flute vibration.
Mahāprabhu’s saṅkīrtana helps in reinstating us,
To take us to the ecstasy of service, known as rasa.
And those who enter Vṛndāvana, then Kṛṣṇa’s sweet flute-song
Helps engage His servitors to serve Him e’er anon.
The flute is sounding, all are thinking,
“O, He’s coming!” “He’s going!”
Struck with wonder, river Yamunā cannot go on flowing.
The friends are all engaged with Him throughout the afternoon;
Yasodā hears the flute, she thinks, “My son is coming soon!”
O Kṛṣṇa, Lord of love — Lord of the heart, Lord Śrī Govinda,
Your flute-song in the night, the gopīs run to the Yamunā.
The Lord of Vraja-dhāma — the Sweet Absolute
Engages all His servitors just by playing His flute.
Dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya, the entire range of rasa
To the highest, madhura — all represented in Śrī Rādhā —
The whole serving area is full in Rādhikā:
All services, like branches, are but a part of Her.
The divine song awakens us, our hearts we shall surrender
Unto Her holy lotus feet — the service of Śrī Rādhā.
Rasa-rāja, Mahābhāva — dui eka rūpa —
The Lord of love — His consort, in one form both include:
Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu, the Golden Lord has come
And attracted gāyatrī to rādhā-dāsyam.
The Vedas, Upaniṣads, all scriptures of the truth,
Have come to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the acme of all faith;
And there this full conclusion of theistic realization
Will reach the heart embracing such devotional conception.
Śrī Gāyatrī Nigūḍhārtha
bhvādes-tat savitur-vareṇya-vihitaṁ kṣetra-jña-sevyārthakaṁ
bhargo vai vṛṣabhānu-jātmā-vibhavaikārādhanā śrī-puram
bhargo jyotir-acintya-līlana-sudhaikārādhanā śrī-puram
bhargo dhāma-taraṅga-khelana-sudhaikārādhanā śrī-puram
bhargo dhāma-sadā nirasta kuhakaṁ prajñāna-līlā-puram
gāyatrī-muralīṣṭa-kīrtana-dhanaṁ rādhā-padaṁ dhīmahi
gāyatrī-gaditaṁ mahāprabhu-mataṁ rādhā-padaṁ dhīmahi
dhīr-ārādhanam eva nānyad-iti-tad-rādhā-padaṁ dhīmahi
“With all of your thoughts and heart’s desire, fully engage yourself in the pure devotional service and worship of bhargo, the supreme goddess Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the unlimited origin and possessor of the svarūpa-śakti of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Beautiful Godhead (deva). Being the ultimate and all harmonizing potency of Kṛṣṇa, She remains His eternally unexcelled beloved servitor. In order to fully enrich and promote His līlā-vilāsa, She manifests Herself in variegated congenial forms. It is She Who manifests Herself as dhāma (Goloka) the abode of Kṛṣṇa, in the form of beautiful effulgence (saundarya-jyoti) and opulence (vaibhava), adorning and glorifying Him all around. It is She who extends Herself as līlā–śakti (the potency principle which promotes the bliss giving pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in variegated colorful, tasteful, mystically opulent and beautiful ways). She is the unlimited ocean of love of Kṛṣṇa personified (mahā-bhāva-svarūpinī). Therefore, adore Her as the supreme goal of life, Who gives venerable, blessed intelligence, realization and taste of enhanced loving worship towards Her and Her eternal beloved deva, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the all fulfilment of life. The sound of gāyatrī is none other than the divine flute song of Kṛṣṇa. This flute song is naturally filled with rādhā-prema and dedicated to serve pleasure unto Her. What is the special characteristic of this all-attractive flute song in the life of devotional aspirants? It deeply attracts all souls to the unending beauty, glories and qualities of His eternal beloved Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and situates them correctly in their own respective positions in Her eternal ecstatic service. Kṛṣṇa’s flute song thus deeply inspires the devotees to embrace an artist-servitor in the divine service-concert of His eternal consort Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī through harmonious service performance. The innermost meaning of this flute song for all devotees is rādhā-padaṁ dhīmahi which means to wholeheartedly embrace and engage yourself in the service of the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī with all devotional love. The highest and innermost instruction of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is rādhā-padaṁ dhīmahi.”
The purport of Śrī Gāyatrī Nigūḍhārtha is as follows: The first word is oṁ. Oṁ is the seed mantra which contains everything within it. The next word is bhūr. Bhūr is where we are, Bhū-loka, the world of our experience. The next word is bhuvaḥ. Bhuvar-loka is the world of mental acquisition. It is the support, the background of our experience. Our present position of experience is the effect of our mental acquisition. That we are here in the world of experience is not an accident; we have acquired this position by our previous karma. The physical sphere, this present world of experience, is only the product, the outcome of our previous mental impulses. And the subtle world of previous karma, the mental sphere, is known as Bhuvar-loka.
The next word in the mantra is svaḥ. Above Bhuvar-loka is Sva-loka. The mental world (Bhuvar-loka) means acceptance and rejection: what to do and what not to do — “I like this, I don’t like that.” Sva-loka, however, is the plane of decision, the world of intelligence (Buddhi-loka). Our intelligence tells us, “You may like this, but you don’t do that, for then you will be the loser.” That plane, the plane of reason, is known as Sva-loka. In this way, this material world is composed of three general layers, bhūr, the physical world, bhuvaḥ, the mental world, and svaḥ, the intellectual world.
Of course, a more detailed analysis will reveal seven layers: Bhūr, Bhuvaḥ Svaḥ, Mahā, Jana, Tapa, and Satyaloka. This has been dealt with in detail by Sanātana Gosvāmī in his Bṛhad-Bhāgavatamṛtam. Here, these seven strata have been summarized in three planes of existence: physical, mental, and intellectual. And these three planes of experience have been summarized in a word, tat.
The next word in the brahma-gāyatrī is savitur. Savitur generally means sūrya, the sun. And the sun means, figuratively, that which shows or illuminates; that by which we can see. The three gross and subtle strata within this world are shown to us by a particular thing, savitur. What is that? The soul. Actually, the world is not shown to us by the sun, but by the soul. What really gives us perception and allows us to see gross things? It is not actually the sun that helps us to see, we see with the help of the soul. This is found in Bhāgavad-gītā 13.34 (yathā prakāśayaty ekaḥ kṛtsnaṁ lokam imaṁ raviḥ). The soul reveals this world to us just as the sun does. The sun can show color to our eyes, the ear can reveal the sound world, and the hand can reveal the touch world. But really in the center is the soul. It is the soul who gives light to this world, who gives us an understanding of the environment, the world of perception. All perception is possible only because of the soul. Here, the word savitur, which generally means sun, can only mean soul, like the sun, which shows us everything.
All seven strata of our existence-represented by bhūr, the physical plane, bhuvaḥ, the mental plane, and svaḥ, the intellectual plane — have here been reduced to one entity: tat — “that.” “That” is shown by the sun which in this context indicates the soul. Here soul means individual soul. The individual soul is the cause of his world. Not that the mind is in the world, but the world is in the mind. Berkeley has said that the world is in the mind. Here it is being expressed that everything is seen with the help of the sun. If there is no sun, everything is dark — nothing can be seen. So without light, nothing can be seen. And in a higher sense, light means the soul. The soul is the subject and the soul’s object is the seven planes of experience within this world.
The next word in the gāyatrī-mantra is vareṇyam. Vareṇyam means pūjā: worshipable, venerable. This indicates that although within this plane — the objective world — the soul is the subject, there is another domain which is to be venerated and worshipped by the soul. That is the Supersoul area.
That worshipable plane of existence is known as bhargo. Bhargo means the super subjective area, the area of the Supersoul. This is mentioned in the first verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: dhāmnā svena sadā nirasta-kuhakaṁ satyaṁ paraṁ dhīmahi. Śrīla Vyāsadeva says that here he is going to deal with another world whose pristine glory is so great that by its own ray, all misconceptions are brushed aside. The subject is the soul, and its object is all these worlds of experience. And the super subject is the venerable area which is superior to the subject, the soul, that is the super subjective area.
The word bhargo means “more subtle than the soul,” and “holding a more important position than the soul.” So this means the Supersoul, the Paramātmā. In general, of course, the word bhargo ordinarily means light. Just as an X-ray can show us what the ordinary eye cannot see, bhargo is svarūpa-śakti: higher, more powerful light that can reveal the soul. And that energy — bhargo — belongs to whom? It belongs to deva. What is the meaning of the word deva? Deva means “who is beautiful and playful,” that is, Śrī Kṛṣṇa: Reality the beautiful. He is not a non-differentiated substance, but is full of līlā, pastimes. Deva means pastimes and beauty combined, and this means Kṛṣṇa.
His domain is bhargo, brilliant, and it is vareṇyam, to be venerated by the jīva soul. What is the nature of the svarūpa-śakti? It is the vaibhava, the extension of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. She holds the full service responsibility and the energy to serve Kṛṣṇa. Bhargo is no less than the vaibhava, the extended body of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, which contains everything for the service of Kṛṣṇa. Bhargo represents mahā-bhāva, the predominated moiety, and deva, Kṛṣṇa, is Rasa-rāja, the predominating moiety.
In the gāyatrī-mantra, we are requested bhargo devasya dhīmahi: “come meditate.” What sort of meditation is possible in that plane of dedication? Not abstract meditation, but service cultivation, kṛṣṇānuśilanam. Dhīmahi means ” to participate in the spontaneous flow, the current of devotion in Vṛndāvana.” And what will be the result (dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt)? The capacity of our cultivation will be increased. As we serve, a greater capacity and willingness to serve will be given to us in remuneration — just as interest is added to capital in the bank (dāsa kari’ vetan more deha prema–dhana). In this way, our dedicating principle will be increased again and again. Dhīmahi means ārādhana, worship. It cannot but be explained in terms of ārādhana, pūjā, seva — worship, adoration, loving service. The word dhī is derived from the word buddhi, which generally means that which we cultivate with the help of our intelligence. But here, dhī is a reference to that venerable intelligence which descends into this plane to help us cultivate service. So dhīmahi does not mean abstract meditation, but devotional service. This is the underlying meaning of the gāyatrī-mantra.
Gāyatrī, the song of deliverance, also means saṅkīrtana. Kīrtana is also sung, and it also improves us towards the highest goal. The saṇkīrtana of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu also reinstates us in our highest serving position. So brahma-gāyatrī in connection with Mahāprabhu comes to mean kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. Then it reaches Vṛndāvana and the flute kīrtana. And when we enter Vṛndāvana, we shall find that the sweet sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute helps to engage all the Lord’s servants in their respective duties. When the flute is sounded, the gopīs and others are adjusted in their respective duties. At night, the gopīs, hearing the sound of the flute will run to the Yamunā, thinking, “O, Kṛṣṇa is there.” And when Yaśodā hears the song of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, She thinks, “My son is there. He is coming home soon.” In this way, the sound of the flute engages all the servants of the Lord in their respective positions and inspires them to be mindful of their service.
In my Sanskrit commentary on the gāyatrī-mantra, I have written dhīrārādhanam eva nānyad-iti tad rādhā-padaṁ dhīmahi: All other services are represented fully in Rādhikā. Like branches they are all part of Her. Mādhurya-rasa is the chief or mukhya-rasa, the combination of all rasas. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is mahā-bhāva — She represents the entire serving attitude.
The flute-song of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, expressed as the gāyatrī-mantra, is reminding us and engaging us in our service. And what is our service? Our service must be to surrender ourselves in the service of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī — to accept the suggestion of Rādhārāṇī. The gāyatrī-mantra will excite us to be mindful about Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s lotus feet, to obey Her orders. She is mainly representing the whole service area. So to try to engage ourselves in Her service, under Her order — to accept Her direction and to obey Her — that is the service of Śrī Rādhā. In this way, the meaning of the gāyatrī-mantra has been drawn to rādhā-dāsyam, self-determination (svarūpena vyavasthitiḥ).
In the meantime, the partial representations in vātsalya and sākhya-rasa are also part and parcel of the original mellow of conjugal love, madhūrya-rasa. The vātsalya-rasa devotees will serve Nanda and Yaśodā, the sākhya-rasa devotee will serve Śrīdāmā and Sudāmā, but ultimately, the whole system in one conception is included in Rādhārāṇī.
Rādhā-dāsyam, the service of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, is the ultimate meaning to be extracted from the gāyatrī-mantra. That is the supreme end of our life. It cannot but be so. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the ultimate or full-fledged theism to be extracted from the Vedas, Upaniṣads, and so many scriptures. All the revealed truth rises to its acme, to its highest position, in the conception given by Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. And Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam teaches us that the highest realization, self-determination, is to be found in the service of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī — that under Her guidance we may serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa. We aspire for a direct connection with Her service.
What, then, is the inner meaning or purport of the word bhargo? Bhargo vaijvrsabhānujā-ātmā-vibhava-eka-ārādhanā-Śrī-pūram. Bhānu means the sun, or “who shows us by light.” Rādhārāṇī is the daughter of Vṛṣabhānu. I have selected the word bhānu. To represent Her personal extended self, I have given the word vaibhava. Vaibhava means, “what comes out,” or “extended self.” Prābhava is the central representation and vaibhava is the outer extension. The very gist of svarūpa-śakti is Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and the whole svarūpa-śakti is Her extended self. The town of Her beautiful service, that is, the country, the abode of Her beautiful service is the whole svarūpa-śakti.
Just as rays of light extend from the sun, the whole internal potency is an extension of mahā-bhāva, Śrī Rādhikā. She has developed Herself into such a beautiful area of brilliance, of internal energy, and thereby She serves Her Lord. All these necessary things have sprung from Her. To help Her in serving Her Lord, they all come out. When the entire internal energy is condensed in a concise form, it is mahā-bhāva, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. And when Rādhārāṇī wants to serve, She extends Herself in limitless different ways. And with some contribution from Baladeva and Yogamāyā, the whole spiritual world, including Vṛndāvana, Mathurā, and Vaikuṇṭha, evolves to assist Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī in the service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
In this way, I have drawn out rādhā-dāsyam, the service of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī as the meaning of the gāyatrī-mantra and have tried to represent it in Sanskrit verse. Gaura Haribol!