Chandra Shekar, who was born in New Delhi and hails from Chennai, is a former industry manager and venture capitalist who embarked on a journey of self-discovery after the death of his wife in 2005. He lives in San Rafael, California and is a recording artist, writer and public speaker. Together with noted guitarist Tomas Michaud, he recently released The Magic of Gayatri in which he chants the Gayatri mantra and helps the listener understand its beauty, depth and meaning.
He is interviewed here by Abha Iyengar.
Om Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yo Naha, Prachodayaat."
- The Gayatri Mantra
Abha: What has led you to believe in the healing power of sound?
CS: While my wife was ill with cancer, I became more and more disenchanted with traditional methods of treatment. I began to take an active interest in alternative methods and stayed up late at night researching different approaches. Thanks to the internet, I found that there are so many healing techniques that the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry did not speak about. Especially interesting were those healing modalities that had to do with sound and light vibrations and frequencies. By the way, many of these methods have been known to our ancestors and were recorded in the ancient scriptures of almost every indigenous people - we Indians, the Egyptians, the Polynesians, Hawaiians and the Native Americans.
Abha: Please tell us about your explorations with sound, as a method of healing.
CS: As I mentioned earlier, many native people have used and still use the sound-vibration of chants for healing purposes. I started researching Indian mantras and Hawaiian chants and found amazing parallels. I also found similar traits within the prayers and chants of the Native Americans. I looked for clues in ancient manuscripts, including The Vedas. Then I began to look for technologies that apply sound and light frequencies for healing. I came across at least three companies in the U.S. that were getting positive results from their approaches towards healing.
Abha: Did you personally recite or chant the Gayatri Mantra before you decided to take it out to the world?
CS: Yes, for almost 50 years, since my sacred thread ceremony. But, I had chanted it mechanically before understanding its true value.
Abha: Indian tradition places great value on and recognises the healing power of sound through chanting of mantras. Any reason why you specifically chose the Gayatri mantra?
CS: I guess the simple answer is that, it was the one I was most familiar with. But, as I started the project, my belief strengthened that the Gayatri was universally loved, was easy to understand and to apply. I was surprised at how many people in the West knew the mantra and spontaneously recited it to me when I told them about my project to create a CD.
There is another reason that I feel pretty strongly about. For centuries, this mantra was used by the religious fanatics to control and discriminate. Until fairly recent times, women and non-Brahmins were not allowed to chant the Gayatri mantra, let alone foreigners. What people forget is that the mantra is a universal prayer; it predates all religions, including Hinduism. It was a gift from the Divine for all humanity. I wanted to make it loved and accessible to everyone, regardless of his or her religion, sex or ethnic background.
Abha: How many times in a day are we supposed to chant the mantra?
CS: Our Vedic scriptures say that we should chant the Gayatri mantra 108 times on three occasions during the day — at sunrise, noon and dusk. I personally chant it nine times on multiple occasions and listen to it in the car as often as I can. The real issue is that regardless of how many times one chants it, if it is not chanted with intent and with an open heart, it serves very little purpose.
Abha: Do you know of any instances of how the Gayatri Mantra is creating an impact on people as they chant it or listen to it?
CS: I am getting some pretty amazing feedback from people around the world on the effect this CD has on them. There are no two similar responses. My sense is that listening to or chanting the Gayatri mantra helps people where they most need the help -— whether the need is physical, emotional or spiritual. One lady from Australia wrote that her young baby had not slept for three months and obviously neither had the parents. Since she started playing the chant, the baby and the parents have both been sleeping soundly! To be honest, I have no clue as to what is happening and I also feel that I am not supposed to ask.
Abha: Could you give us the essence of the Gayatri Mantra in your view?
CS: There are many interpretations of the Gayatri Mantra. My own way of understanding and loving the essence of this prayer is as follows,
"We meditate on that most adorable, desirable and enchanting lustre and brilliance of our Supreme Being, our Source Energy, our Collective Consciousness, as manifested by the Sun..who is our creator, inspirer and source of eternal Joy. May this warm and loving Light inspire and guide our mind and open our hearts."
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