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The Hamsa Gayatri (The Sacred Swan)

By Yogi Baba Prem

 

Of the numerous Gayatri mantras that are known, one of my favorites is the Gayatri to Hamsa mantra. It is longer than most one or two-word mantras for beginners, but short enough for most people to easily learn and chant. Regrettably, the internet has become filled with versions of this mantra that are incomplete or modified for slightly different effects, leaving students with no clear understanding of which mantra would be most beneficial.

 

The mantra to the sacred swan is a mantra for uplifting consciousness.  As hamsa literally means ‘swan’, it represents purity, but this is also symbolic for the soul.  The soul, our true essence, is synonymous with the swan.  The swan, or soul, in its highest state requires a different term to more clearly define it--paramahamsa, or the supreme swan is the yogic term commonly used.  Parama comes from the root para--meaning higher, elevated or highest.  It also means final, last and more than.  Parama, itself, means most distant, highest, primary and most prominent.  Therefore, paramahamsa literally means supreme swan.

 

Hamsa in its lower form is the self or ego, and paramahamsa is the higher self or soul.  It is interesting to note that most new age teachings are in conflict with the ego.  Attempting to be in some type of battle with the ego is nothing but an ego game itself.  As the ego is a reflection of the soul, the hamsa mantra takes one beyond the ego and emotional mind and uses the buddhi or intellect as its vehicle to super consciousness.  As the buddhi is the lower manifestation of super conscious mind, it aids in transcending the blocks of the ego and emotional minds. 

 

From a Vedic point of view, the journey of life, karma and experience is for the transformation of the ego, and its realization of its true identity—soul.  This is often referred to in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as the seer and the seen.  The seen is the ego, and the seer is the soul.  The journey of realization is for the seen (ego) to perceive the seer (soul).  This simple line sums up the journey of spiritual transformation.  Therefore, hamsa can be a reference to the ego and/or soul, but most importantly it is a reference to realization or the journey towards realization. 

 

Hamsa is also closely linked with the breath.  Hamsa as a mantra is constantly repeated by the breath, and often referred to as the ‘Hamsa breath’ or 21,600 breath.  This breath is also called the “Hong Sauh” breath, or “So hung”.  It is as if each breath is a reminder of our true essence, but only effective if or when we learn to listen.  This mantra automatically repeats with each breath we take.  But it becomes much more powerful when we consciously repeat the mantra, using the bija mantra form, with each inhalation, inhaling ‘sa’ and exhaling ‘ha’. 

 

As the last letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, ‘ha’ represents the final level of matter, whereas ‘sa’ represents the Shakti or power behind the layer of matter.  In some yoga traditions, these sounds are reversed.  For the yogi and yogini, the hamsa breath reduces greatly from 21,600 due to increased depth of each breath, retention, and cultivating a slower breath.   In yogic thought, our normal breath cycle in a day is approximately 21,600 breaths.  By using this technique, the yogi or yogini will reduce their breath cycle to a slower rate; moving from 10-16 breaths per minute (bpm) to 4-5 bpm. 

 

Hamsa also functions as the movement of energy.  The Shakti (power) of Hamsa is also a vehicle for the Ashwins, which are prana and apana in the yogic teachings.  The link between Hamsa Shakti prana and breath is a powerful and consistent theme.  This draws a strong connection between healing on both a mental, emotional, and physical level using the Hamsa Gayatri.  According to the Hamsa Upanishad of the Shukla Yajur Veda, when hamsa is absorbed in nada (sound), the state of consciousness beyond the 4th state is reached. 

 

Does this mean that the ‘hamsa mantra’ is the most supreme?  This is a difficult issue, as the most supreme mantra is relative to the skill, ability and blessings obtained by the practitioner.  Having said this, this mantra is a very powerful, yet a gentle mantra for personal transformation and realization. When it comes to the supremeness of the mantra itself, what makes the mantra supreme is the subject of the mantra; the skill of the individual repeating the mantra (Japa), and the depth that one can achieve through repetition of the mantra.  But the mantra does focus the mind on our highest nature, our soul, which can have numerous mental and physical benefits. 

 

Hamsa Gayatri can be used as a form of Bhakti yoga, with paramahamsa (soul) functioning as deity (Devata).  The bija mantra of Hamsa is ‘Ham’, which can be used as a powerful form of japa (repetition) itself.  The hamsa mantra is not exclusively for the use of Bhakti yogi’s, but can be incorporated into many different forms of yoga including Hatha yoga, Raja yoga, Jnana yoga and Kundalini yoga systems.  It originates from the oldest form of yoga—mantra yoga, and more specifically Vedic Yoga. 

 

The general meaning of the mantra is “Ego to soul, we will meditate for the soul, we will know the supreme soul. May my soul inspire my thoughts!

 

This mantra should be chanted using the proper tones and should be learned by a Vedic teacher or other qualified teacher.  A recording of the mantra is available for those that wish to learn the proper intonations and sounds of the mantra.  This is also beneficial for those that do not have easy access to the Vedic teacher.  There are special meditations that can be performed by those that have learned the mantra; these are taught to students over the Internet that wishes to learn this higher form of meditation. 

 

Editors Note:

Yogi Baba Prem has recorded audio files for this mantra with the correct pronunciation on it.  It teaches two styles of chanting the mantra.  It also includes the breath sounds to teach the proper rhythm for the mantra.  This allows the student to start at a beginner level with the mantra and move to an intermediate level over time.  This is not  musical audio files, but rather  to train on how to properly chant the mantra. 

 

 The investment is only $5.95, Fl residents have a 6% sales tax.   We only ask that you not distribute the audio files to others as the proceeds of sales go to support Universal Yoga.  If you would like to order, please visit here.  

 

 

Sources: Hamsa Upanishad.  Shiva Sutras. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. 

Copyright 2009.

 

 

 

 

 Copyright 2013.  All Rigts Reserved.

 

 



[ii] Hemacandra: Yogashastra 3.37; Laidlaw p. 166-167.

Yogi Baba Prem

  • Yogi Baba Prem has two books published in India, and has written numerous other books published by Universal Yoga. 

 

  • His articles have appeared in several traditional magazines and a variety of e-magazines.