Maha mrutyunjai mantra

This is a somewhat technical post. Someone requested me to write on this mantra so I took my time over it and its typical grammar. I will follow the grammatical meaning Shabd-arth and extrapolate it to the essence of the mantra Bhav-arth, all strictly within the framework of the grammar. 

ॐ त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे
सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम् ।
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान्
मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात् ॥

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The Rg 7-59 Sukta

The Maha mrutyunjai mantra is from the Rg ved 7th Mandal. It is the 12th shlok in the 59th sukta. So I opened my copy of the Rg Ved and and tried to understand what this sukta says. (If you can afford and feel like, get the 4 Ved Sanhita-s published by Yug nirman yojana vistar trust. These are translated by Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya and Shrimati Bhagvati Devi Sharma, the set costs about Rs 1400/-)

The Rishi of this sukta is Vasishtha-maitravaruni. The deities are the Marut and the Mrutyu vimochani Rudra. Chhand, ie the meter of prosody is the Anushtup. 

The Marut are the energies of the breath, fierce winds, storms and war. And this word also means god, gold and beauty. Marut are the conscious energy of movement, change and vital energy/ pran. Rudra is the deity associated with the Marut as they both rule over the area between ‘the Earth and the Sun’, ie the Mooladhar and the Sahasrara chakras. They are sort of a link between the physical foundation and the heights of the conscious. Rudra is also said to be the father of the Maruts, so can be considered to be the brilliance of the pran energy. He is the reason due to which changes occur in the substance of the pran, which cause further cascading changes in animated beings. The energy which causes change can also be used to consciously direct the change and if needed also be used to stop the change from occurring. Thus Rudra and Marut together are a formidable force.

As I had mentioned in my post on Kaal here, ‘change’ is an illusion. Perception of change depends on the perspective. (eg If you stand at the center of a merry-go-round, your position does not change, even if it spins around you. But if you ride on the play-horses here, you will be swinging around till you get dizzy.) To exit this illusion of ‘apparent change’, we have to consciously use the power of Marut and Rudra. And this is precisely what we are doing in this Sukta which includes the Mahamrutyunjai mantra.

Let’s briefly examine the framework of the Rg 7-59 Sukta,

  • In the first 1-10 shlok-s, ‘we’ are invoking the Marut, fortifying them with power, requesting them to increase our strength, to destroy all our enemies, to be with us in happiness, to support us with their presence.
  • In the 11th shlok, we are inviting the Marut to come to our Yajnya with ‘Yajnyam Marut Aa Vrune’. This is the first mention of ‘Yajnya’ in this sukta.
  • So the background is that we are harnessing the power of the Marut, the vital energy and now exhorting them to provide their these energies to the Yajna, ie the evolution towards the Self. We are increasing the power of our vital energy/ pran and fortifying ourselves for the final evolution. And are preparing ourselves for taking the decisive step towards the highest evolution.
  • Then the 12th shlok of this sukta is the famous Maha mrutyunjai mantra.

The Maha mrutyunjai mantra written as per the anushtubh chhand, ie 4 lines of 8 syllables each.

Trayambakam yajamahe
Sugandhim pushtivardhanam |
Urvarukam eva bandhanat
Mrutyuh mukshiya maa amrutat ||

The form of this shlok in the Sukta does not start with the Om, but when we do sadhana with this mantra we have to begin the mantra with Om, else it creates imbalance.

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The grammar of the words used in the Maha mrutyunjai mantra. Writing a bit on this to emphasise the beauty of the Devbhasha Samskrutam.

  • Tryambakam – neuter gender, nominative and accusative singular
  • Yajamahe – root verb Yaj यज् (1UP /AP) present tense, plural, first person
  • Sugandhim – neuter gender, nominative and accusative singular
  • Pushtivardhanam – neuter gender, nominative and accusative singular.
  • Urvarukam – neuter gender, nominative and accusative singular.
  • Iva – indeclinable
  • Bandhanat – neuter gender, ablative singular
  • Mrutyu – masculine gender, nominative singular
  • Mukshiya – root verb मुच् Much (6UP /AP) benedictive, first person singular (a very typical verb form)
  • Maa – indeclinable
  • Amrutat – neuter gender, ablative singular

The nouns are in three forms. So we have three options of subject/ object nouns.
1. neuter gender, nominative and accusative singular.
2. neuter gender, ablative singular
3. masculine gender, nominative singular

The indeclinables are Iva and Maa

Both the verbs in this mantra are from the ubhay-pad category, but their atmane-pad forms are used. Thus it is clearly indicated that the fruit of these actions directly go to whoever has acted in the first place. From these verbs, it is understood that the mantra is recited by ‘us’ or ‘I’. The doer is the first person, initially in the plural in ‘yajamahe’ and then in the singular in ‘mukshiya’.

  • So with the first verb yajamahe, ‘We’ are getting the fruits of this evolution which ‘we’ are performing in the present tense.
  • And in the second verb ‘mukshiya’, it is the benedictive mood. So ‘I’ am giving ‘myself’ this blessing that by the result of this action ‘I’ will be liberated. This is a rare form of the verb found only in Vedic Sanskrit.

Now if you just look at these words and their grammar it is obvious that the way the mantra is traditionally translated does not fit the words. I am assuming that there are two sentence structures because there are two verbs in the mantra, yajamahe and mukshiya. Also in Sanskrit, more than the order of the words in the sentence, the grammar is paramount in conveying its sense.

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So let’s understand what is being said.

Om is the moorti of the Advaita. Om is the energy which is accessible in the created universes and yet is ‘nearest’ to the highest Consciousness. A sort of a bridge from the illusion of creation to the Reality of the Non-dual. Om is composed of four parts of which three are accessible in the created universe, ie the states of Jagruti, Swapna and Sushupti, represented by the akshar A, U and M. The vibrations created by the 4th part ie the Bindu help the spiritual aspirant realise his Self. At the lowest level of consciousness you are aware only in the Awake-Jagrut state. As your consciousness expands you become aware of your Dream-Swapna and later Deep-sleep Sushupti states. And as you progress even more, you are able to dissolve these three states related to the creation into the 4th part of Om, the Bindu. Once this happens you are Enlightened, ie you have achieved Moksh, you experience yourself as the Non-dual Advaita. Whenever you do any mantra jaap you must start with Om, this channelises the power of the mantra in a safe and conducive way for you.

The trayambakam are the three states which are seen or perceived. ie the Jagruti, Swapna and Sushupti, thus the trayambakam are often commonly considered to be the ‘three eyes’. These trayambakam are the fluid energies which generate these three different types of experiences. As one experiences does one exist, so we can say that these three, Jagruti, Swapna and Sushupti, are the three perceived states of existence. Only when these three states of existence are ‘sacrificed’ does the fire of internal Self become visible. These three states are to be merged into the Light of the Self or ‘sacrificed’ in the fire of Awareness, which in this mantra ‘we’ will be doing.

In this sentence the doer is not specifically mentioned, ie there is no subject noun but as the verb ‘yajamahe’ is in first person plural, the subject is implied as ‘We’. The mantra describes a dynamic situation where these three states of perception are made to continually evolve, ie their energy levels being increased by ‘our’ conscious efforts. Here the doers are in plural. The three fold states of lower levels of consciousness ie Jagruti, Swapna and Sushupti avastha are continuously evolving by the action of multiple doers. Ie the doers of this act are still perceiving themselves as the multiple and are working with multiple states of existence, duality is perceived to exist.

Sugandhim is used as an adjective of Tryambakam. These three states, Jagruti, Swapna and Sushupti bear only a very small quantity of the Highest Consciousness. These three states are exactly ‘perfumed’ with the tiniest part of the most Excellent awareness. These three contain the highest virtue of the Eternal Beautiful, but just a hint of it, as it should be. These are the emanations of the Advaita and at their essence are also the Advaita. Something like a perfume exuded by a flower, the three states of existence are exuded by the Eternal. Just as the smell of a flower is at once both the flower yet at the same time apparently separate from it.

Pushtivardhanam is used an adjective of Tryambakam. These three states are continually being nourished and their levels of animation are being promoted by their link to the Eternal. They are thriving, developing, increasing their levels of awareness only due to this connect to the Highest. They are continually expanding, enlarging, extending, upgrading themselves. They are completing themselves by their link to the Awareness. All this is happening because ‘we’ are evolving the Tryambakam to begin with.

Finally Urvarukam is used as an adjective of Tryambakam but with the use of the indeclinable ‘Eva’ it has a subtly different meaning. This word causes a lot of confusion as it commonly means a cucumber or a melon. But vegetables have no place in a mantra focussed on the highest Consciousness. Broadly Urvaruk उर्वारुक can be understood as the result when the catalytic energy is acting on the foundation. And in Sanatan Dharma whenever we talk of a catalytic energy we mean the eternal consciousness. In this mantra, Urvaruk is the great fire of consciousness which burns within the depths. The blazing Sun. The bountiful extensive great ocean of consciousness. 

When we, by our efforts, evolve the three states of perception, we realise that these are mere emanations rooted in the Bindu ie the 4th state of Om, ie the Eternal Advaita. They are simply ‘fragrances’ of the Non-Dual flower. Thus we merge ourselves into the Non-dual.

The first part of the mantra deals with how the three states of perception are consciously made to evolve and gain more and more of the essence of the Eternal, to come very very close to the Eternal.

So by ‘our’ efforts we are bringing the Tryambakam almost to the level of the Urvarukam. But then what comes after this stage? This is in the second sentence in this mantra.

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Now the second part, ‘Bandhanat Mrutyuh mukshiya maa amrutat.’

Bandhanat, means ‘separated from the bindings’. We all believe that we are bound to our existence through different attributes, the Gun – Satva, Raja, Tama, Avastha – Jagrut, Swapna, Sushupti or even identities like Rajan, Priya, husband, wife, mother, father, child, teacher, student, the karmic ties which bind us. Our belief in these ties is so strong that we are unable to conceive our Eternal nature, this is also the cause of existential sorrow. Thus we take on lives after lives, searching for the true Happiness, trying to find the Self.

Mrutyuh is a noun in the masculine nominative singular form. There are several meanings for Mrutyu. Death or the deity of Death, ie Yam are the usual ones. But Mrutyu also means the secret of existence, ie the Para-Brahma. And also Maya, Vishnu, Kali, Kama-dev, samsara and the hunger ie desire. Interestingly, relevant to our mantra, Mrutyu essentially is ‘the evolution which is rapidly completed’.

In the first part we saw that the 3 states are still evolving continually by the action of multiple doers.
In the second part, the verb ‘mukshiya’ is the benedictive singular first person. The plural doer has now become singular. With the evolution of the three states, the non-duality has started asserting itself. 

So this “Bandhanat Mrutyuh mukshiya maa amrutat” will mean the following,

The ‘evolution which is rapidly completed’ will now most assuredly be separate from all bindings. This secret of existence will be released from all bondages. The concept of desire (which causes more ties) will be unyoked from all concepts of ties. The idea of Maya and Creation will be cast aside. Satva-gun will be discharged (Satva gun is the last one to dissolve in this involution process) etc. ie, the singular doer is now assuring himself that the direction of the evolution will most assuredly take him to himself. This is an intention expressed in the positive sense. ie release from bindings.

At this stage the doer ‘I’ realise that I am non-dual, there is no one but me and I have no attributes, I am almost there, so I use my intention to consciously ‘bless’ myself. Only I can bless myself, as there is no one else but me. I bless my own Self with this benediction. ie, ultimately everyone has to intend his own evolution. To evolve spiritually or to remain stuck in the ties is a decision that everyone makes for himself. If you want to play the Game some more or if you want to realise the Self, this is your own choice your own intention. You are always blessing your own self in this sense.

This ‘rapid evolution’ will most definitely not be separated from immortality. It will not be cast away from the Light. It will not be abandoned by the Eternal. ie, singular doer is now assuring himself using the negative clause too. That he will never be separate from the Advaita. He will always remain conscious of his Eternal Light and aware of his Non-dual nature.

It is interesting that the mantra reinforces the blessing using the positive ‘Bandhanat Mrutyu’ and negative intention “Maa Amrutat’ both. Somehow these two intentions are balanced by the benediction ‘Mukshiya’ that is placed between them. It makes the structure of the mantra very elegant.

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It is significant that the deity, conscious and aware intelligence linked to this mantra is the ‘Mrutyu vimochani Rudra’. Rudra means the vibration, change or brilliance. Vimochani means the act of release, liberation, casting away. Mrutyu has several meanings as above. Try to think on what the ‘Mrutyu vimochani Rudra’ really implies.

This mantra is all about how the energies of the Marut-s and the Mrutyu vimochani Rudra are being utilised by the spiritual aspirants to evolve the limited consciousness which thinks it to be separate from the Eternal to reach the highest pinnacle of Self awareness, the Advaita.

There are absolutely nil vegetables in this mantra and we are not worshiping any god nor propitiating any deity with this mantra. There are no deities in Sanatan Dharma, we Hindus adore pure consciousness, we adore our own form, the highest Conscious Intelligence. I create my Universe for the Game I play, for this I first create a mind, this now runs in the ten directions creating further elaborate illusions for my Game. When I am done playing, I dissolve the Game. This requires that I train the mind, stop it from running in the ten different directions and focus it on the one single Bindu that really Is. As I dissolve the mind, I see Myself.

This post is a very rudimentary way of understanding this mantra. If you want to really experience it, do its Jaap, ie 108 times mental repeats at least once a week. Or do its Homa. Or listen to its Ghana-path, its spiralling energies looping in your mind. This Maha mrutyunjai mantra is very useful for all issues in life, if you train your mind with its energy, it will act as an all-round remedy for all your problems.

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