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Re: Ashtakshari and Gayatri

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Tue Sep 05 2000 - 11:57:20 PDT

keshava ramanujan writes:
> Adiyen has a question relating to two very sacred and powerful mantras. In 
> Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Lord Sri Krsna says in 10:35
> 
> gayatri chandasam aham
> 
> "of all mantras I am Gayatri"

Dear Keshava,

You ask a good question. However, it is based on a faulty premise.
Please take a look at the Gita verse in question. "chandas" simply
means "meter", not "mantra".  Your quote actually means, 

     Of all meters, I am the gAyatrI. 

Many mantras are in the gAyatrI meter, including the one that is
typically called the 'gAyatrI mantra'.  Actually, that mantra 
is more properly known as the 'sAvitrI mantra', because it is
addressed to 'savitR', or the sun.  

The ashTAkshara mantra is also classified under the gAyatrI meter.

Not all mantras are created equal.  The sAvitrI is no doubt 
a great mantra with a profound meaning. But the ashTAkshara is
reckoned even higher and is uniformly praised in the vEda, 
mahAbhArata, other smRtis, as well as in the divya prabandham.  

The basic reason, as given in the nAradIya kalpa, is that 
this eight-syllabled nArAyaNa mantra is immediately evocative
of some of the fundamental truths of reality.  It presents
in simple terms the omnipresent nature (vyApakatva) of the 
paramAtmA using the paramAtmA's proper name 'nArAyaNa'. 
Of all mantras, mantras that describe the omnipresence of
God are the best.  Of these mantras, the nArAyaNa mantra
is best because of the significance of the name 'nArAyaNa'.

For further elucidation, one can study the appropriate
sections of the mahAbhArata and the rahasya granthas
of our acharyas.

rAmAnuja dAsan
Mani



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