Mrityunjaya Mantra मृत्युंजय मंत्र (March, 2019)
The topic for this month’s kids assignment is Mrityunjaya Mantra मृत्युंजय मंत्र, which literally means victory over death. (Jaya means victory; Mrityu means death). It comes in the Rigveda (RV 7.59.12).
On this earth, is there any living being who doesn’t want to evade death? Probably no one. Not just healthy, happy, and prosperous, but sick, miserable and poor also want to live forever. Even those animals and insects who may be living a miserable life want to avoid death at all cost. So, it is not a surprise then that Mrityunjaya Mantra, which seems to imply immortality, is very famous. But, will chanting this mantra make us live forever? On one hand, our scriptures promote attainment of moksha and salvation and then also give this mantra to win death. Does it not sound like a contradiction? No! There is none. In fact, the apparent contradiction is due to the lack of proper understanding of Mrityunjaya Mantra.
ॐ त्र्यं॑बकं यजामहे सु॒गन्धिं॑ पुष्टि॒वर्ध॑नम् ।
उ॒र्वा॒रु॒कमि॑व॒ बन्ध॑नान् मृ॒त्योर् मु॑क्षीय॒ माऽमृता॑त् ।
Om trayambakam yajamahe sugandhim pushti vardhanam
Urvaurukamiva bandhanat mrityurmukshiya mamtritaat.
Let’s first understand the literal meaning and then deep and hidden message.
O God, may I leave the world like a ripe fruit leaves the tree on its own. May I live a full life.
When a tree receives proper amount of heat, water, air, and care, and the caretaker does not pluck its fruits ahead of time, a stage arrives when the fruits of that tree reach their maximum potential: the fruits are full of juices, flavors, and fragrance. Those fruits then leave the tree on their own. With this mantra, the worshiper is asking for a similar life. When chanting this mantra, the worshiper seeks a complete and fulfilling life and a departure from this world with complete satisfaction and without attachment to any worldly possessions. And just like a fruit plucked raw doesn’t reach its maximum capacity, the worshiper prays to not be plucked by God in an untimely manner (such as, death due to events like accident, disease etc.). Knowing an untimely death will leave him unsatisfied and give pain to his near ones, he prays for a complete life that will give meaning to his life.
What does living a complete life mean? It means…
- Living a purposeful life;
- Fulfilling the duties as per the each stage of life: Brahamcharya, Grahasth, Vaanprasth, and Sanyas;
- Achieving the four main aims/goals: Dharam, Arth, Kaam, and Moksha;
- Leaving the world in peace, joy, and bliss.
In Hinduism, life is divided into four equal parts. The first part is Brahmcharya Ashram (ब्रह्मचर्य आश्रम). It is also called student life. While in this stage, students are expected to focus exclusively on gaining knowledge and learning life skills and moral values. This phase prepares the student to achieve material success and spiritual growth. Where the practical subject knowledge prepares the students to earn their livelihood, study of scriptures prepares them to achieve their life goals through righteous means, which is essential for a fulfilling life. The tough life style (in olden days, gurus would subject their students to extreme physical hardships) of this phase not only makes students physically fit but also prepares them to deal with hardships of later stages of life.
After marriage, one enters Grahstha Ashram (गृहस्थ आश्रम). Now, the responsibilities of the person expand: from being self-centered as a student to one responsible for spouse, parents, kids, and society. The outlook changes from “what’s in it for me” to “what can I do for others”. In this phase, the person earns (arth) and enjoys (kama) the fruits of their labor. They put in their full efforts to produce maximum possible outcome. With a strong foundation, they achieve and fulfill the responsibilities through righteous (dharma) means only.
The third phase of the life is Vaanprastha Ashram (वानप्रस्थ आश्रम). It starts when the key responsibilities of married life have been fulfilled, e.g., kids are educated and settled, In this phase, the person withdraws from the day-to-day hustles and starts to invest more and more time in social and spiritual causes. While husband and wife are not necessarily required to leave their home, they start to limit their needs and break material attachments. The person shares his learnings and wisdom to help society grow. Most of his time goes in social causes where nothing is expected in exchange for their input – not even appreciation. (note: any volunteering and/or social causes undertaken to earn fame are not considered righteous path in this stage, because work done with such intentions inevitably brings anger, disappointment, and frustration). This phase paves the way for ultimate aim of life: moksha.
The final stage of the life is Sanyas Ashram (संस्यास आश्रम ). The literal meaning of the word sanyas is renunciation. In this stage, the person pulls himself away from all of the outwards dealing. He renounces all of his material and non-material possessions. The focus is completely within. The more he goes inward, the more peace, joy, bliss, and liberation he feels within. Please note that it is not possible to explore the depth of this stage if the person has not lived true to the core principles in the previous three ashrams.
When a person leaves this world after going through and living true to the principles of the four ashrams/stages, he leaves the world like a perfectly ripe fruit leaves the tree. Living such a life is living a complete and full life. Even though such person also dies physically, spiritually he has “won” over death. मृत्युंजय!
As part of the assignment, the hawan kids will share the meaning of this important mantra, their understanding of the mantra’s title victory-over-death, and what it means to live a full life. They will focus on the first ashram (Brahmcharya) in which they are right now. They will talk about the importance of this stage, and why it is critical to stay vigilant in this very stage of life: a stage that will serve as the foundation upon which they will build a tall, firm building (i.e., their life).
Looking forward to wonderful presentations and interpretations by our hawan kids!