"Prayer is more than meditation.
In meditation, the source of strength is one's self. When one prays, he goes to a source of strength greater than his own."
—Madam Chiang Kai Shek
We are made of sound. The first thing that came out in creation was sound. A mantra is a spiritually empowered sound. The constant and repeated chanting of a mantra brings about changes within the person who is chanting, making him more serene and empowered, and making the environment quiet and invigorating at the same time.
Reciting a mantra that motivates you may provide just the right jumpstart for the day. It is something that has been realised by the sages in India, and if we apply this realisation in our lives today, we will surely find both motivation and peace. Stillness and calm brought about by the chanting of the mantra combines with the early morning surge of energies to fill us with the joy of being and sets the pace for the day ahead.
"Prabhat Shlokam" or morning mantras are prayers that are chanted early in the morning, preferably between 4 and 8 am, a time when the day is just beginning and the weary world has not yet begun its hustle and bustle to get on with life.
"Aum" or "om" is one of the most powerful mantras to chant in the morning on waking up. It is the amalgamation of three sounds. The "aaa" sound comes from the navel. Navel is Vishnu, the maintainer or preserver; "uuu" is from the solar plexus, the point between the breasts, for Brahma, the creator and "mmm" is the throat, or Shiva, the destroyer.
When you say "aum", the reverberations are in these three parts of the body. It is a very powerful mantra that invigorates and calms at the same time, creating a stillness of being from which vast pools of energy can be tapped. If you chant this for 15-20 minutes in the morning, it alleviates you.
Mantras are like a key that readies us to receive enlightenment, to guide us to meet with the demands of the mundane while moving towards awakening and spirituality. Doorways to the heart and soul open when the mantra is chanted or heard.
The Gayatri Mantra is another mantra that is chanted in the morning. It reads as:
"Om Bhur Buvah Suvah,
Tat Savitur Varenyam,
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi,
Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayath."
The meaning of the Gayatri mantra is: We contemplate the glory of light illuminating the three worlds: gross, subtle and causal. I am that vivifying power, love, radiant illumination and divine grace of universal intelligence. We pray for the Divine Light to illuminate our minds.
The Gayatri Mantra is a Vedic prayer to illuminate the intellect, and is addressed to the Sun or "Savita", which means "that from which all is born". This mantra holds the essence of the Vedas or knowledge and fosters and sharpens the knowledge-yielding faculty. It is a sacred mantra through which we realise the unity and multiplicity that is present in life and creation. "Atma" or the "divine being" is one, though the forms which it takes are many. Gayatri is the Trinity of three deities — Gayatri, Savitri, and Saraswati. Of these, the first is the master of sense, the second is the teacher of truth, and the third is the master of speech. These three are present in each one of us.
The chanting of this mantra in the early morning hours evokes in us our intuitive powers and our intellectual capacities at the beginning of the day. This mantra creates vibrations that fill the environment with light and peace.
While "Aum" and the Gayatri mantra are best chanted in the morning, they can also be chanted at other times of the day.
"Karagre Vasate Lakshmi
Kara Madhye Saraswathi
Kara Mule Tu Govindah
Prabate Kara Darshana"
"On the tip of your fingers is Goddess Lakshmi; on the base of your fingers is Goddess Saraswati; in the middle of your fingers is Lord Govinda. In this manner, look at your palm." When we begin our day with this prayer, we look at our palm [kar], which symbolises the five organs of action and then we invoke the various deities. We then say that all our actions during the day will be performed with the right attitude, dedication, discipline and love.
This prayer is followed by this one,
"Samudravasane Devi Parvatastanamandale, Vishnupatni Namastubhyam Padasparsham Kshamasva Me"
This means, "The ocean is your clothing, the mountain, your bosom, I am about to step on You, so please forgive me." This prayer is offered to the Earth in gratitude for allowing us to step on her as we set forth in the morning to attend to our daily tasks.
"Su" signifies good or auspicious and "prabhatam" means morning, and this hymn is chanted to wake up the Lord and seek His blessings at the start of the day.
purva sandhya pravartate,
kartavyam daivam ahnikam."
This means, "O Rama, Kausalya's auspicious child! Twilight is approaching in the East. O, best of men! Wake up, the divine daily rituals have to be performed."
It is a common feature in South India to wake up to the sound of Suprabhatam, or the early-morning prayer. MS Subbulakshmi singing the Srikamakshi Suprabatham in her most melodious voice is something that is incomparable, and as we listen or hum along, we feel one with the divinity within us. "Suprabhatam" literally means "good morning" and we wish ourselves and the world just this when we sing this hymn.
Devotional chanting is very intense and creates oneness with the God within us. A mantra is not just a sound; it embodies the divinity of spirit. Chanted in the mornings, a mantra taps all the potent goodness that lies within us. The cosmic vibrations that we set up by chanting in the morning spread wellbeing to us and also to the world.
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