I’ve had a CD of the Chants of India for about 20 years. Although I don’t particularly use the CD anymore, over the years I digitized the music and it’s stayed with me in other forms.
I’m a strong believer in the concept of the universe and that when you need something and it matches your vibrations, it will manifest into your reality. If ever I go long periods of time without having listened to the music, I find that the music seeks me out. Which is kind of nice.
The Chants of India by Indian musician Ravi Shankar and George Harrison is a collection of Vedic and other Hindu sacred prayers set to music. In this blog post, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite tracks on this collection and their significance.
Mantra 1: Asato Maa
Asatoma Sadgamaya is a Shanti Mantra (Mantra of peace), it is taken from Brihadaranyaka Upanishads (1.3.28). When I told my mom about this “song,” she said she already knew it. This was a prayer that was recited in her school every morning! Isn’t that a beautiful thing… to empower children with positive chants from an early age? It is believed that the recitation of these verses brings peace. More recently, this peace mantra has been used in the ‘Navras’ soundtrack from the movie ‘The Matrix Revolutions’.
Meaning: What the mantra really means is “God, please lead me to the understanding that I am not the limited body, mind, and intellect, but I am, was and always will be that eternal, absolute, blissful consciousness”.
The chant (Listen):
ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय ।
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Oṁ asato mā sadgamaya |
Tamasomā jyotir gamaya |
Mrityormāamritam gamaya |
Oṁ śhānti śhānti śhāntiḥ ||
From ignorance, lead me to truth;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to immortality
Om peace, peace, peace
Mantra 2: Gayatri Mantra
Chances are that you already know this one. The Gāyatrī Mantra is one of the most highly regarded and well known Sanskrit mantras. It’s from the Rig Veda and dedicated to Savitr, a form of the sun. According to Douglas Brooks, Ph.D., a professor of religion at the University of Rochester and a teacher in the Rajanaka yoga tradition, chanting this mantra serves three purposes:
- To give back to the sun. “My teacher used to say the sun gives but never receives. The mantra is a gift back to the sun, an offering of gratitude to refuel the sun’s gracious offering.”
- To seek wisdom and enlightenment. The mantra is a request to the sun: May we meditate upon your form and be illumined by who you are? (Consider that the sun offers its gift of illumination and energy to all beings, without judgment and without attachment to the outcome of the gift.)
- It’s an expression of gratitude, to both the life-giving sun and the Divine. Brooks encourages taking a heart-centered approach to the mantra. “The sensibility it evokes is more important than the literal meaning. It’s an offering, a way to open to grace, to inspire oneself to connect to the ancient vision of India,” he says. “Its effect is to inspire modern yogis to participate in the most ancient aspiration of illumination that connects modern yoga to the Vedic tradition.”
Meaning: We meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this universe; may He enlighten our minds.
The chant (Listen):
ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः ।
भर्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑धीमहि ।
धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त् ॥
Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
Dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt
The eternal, earth, air, heaven
That glory, that resplendence of the sun
May we contemplate the brilliance of that light
May the sun inspire our minds.
Mantra 3: Mangalam
This beautiful chant is a positive track to start your day with. When I sometimes listen to this on my way to work, my mood is instantly uplifted and I’m overcome with an abundance of joy and love for everyone, everything, every being.
Meaning: Mangala is an adjective meaning auspicious, lucky, fortunate, etc. With the suffix “m,” it becomes a noun: auspiciousness, luck, etc. It is also related to the goddess Durga suggesting, “one whose touch brings ecstasy.”
The chant (Listen):
Bhumi-Mangalam, Udaka-Mangalam, Agni-Mangalam, Vayu-Mangalam, Gagana-Mangalam, Surya-Mangalam, Chandra-Mangalam, Jagat-Mangalam, Jiva-Mangalam, Deha-Mangalam, Mano-Mangalam, Atma-Mangalam
Translation: May there be peace on earth, water, fire, and air, the sun, moon, and planet, in all living beings, in body, mind, and heart. May that peace be everywhere and in everyone. So be it, so be it, so be it.
Of course, these are just the tip of the iceberg. I hope you enjoyed this post and the featured mantras. Check back to see updates on some of the other compositions in the Chants of India.