Gayatri Mantra remains one of the most popular Mantras recited in every day life by Hindus. It is attributed to Rig Ved, but its citation is also found in Bhagwad Gita and other scriptures. In fact when asked by Arjun, who he was, Sri Krishna likens himself to Gayatri.
ॐ भूर् भुवः स्वः
तत् सवितुर्वरेण्यं ।
भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि ।
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् ॥
Its literal translation could be as follows (Wikipedia):
“May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar the god:
So may he stimulate our prayers.”
Savitar, the God invoked, is called on as a manifestation of one who helps you rise above your current state. He is asked to help you rise to a point that you may be Him.
As one can see, amongst all the prayers, the prayer to be at the highest level of consciousness may very well be the highest of all prayers. It doesn’t ask for glories or properity or wealth, but that one who prays maybe able to rise to the level of one prayed to, helped by the latter.
The mantra is preceded by Om – the eternal sound, and then the mahāvyāhṛti (“great utterance”) – bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ (which literally mean Earth, Air, Heaven).
There is an interesting story of Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Paramhans. Naren, as Vivekananda was called earlier, was very depressed as his father had died leaving the family in debt and without money. He went to Ramakrishna, whom he was shunning for long, asking him to ask Maa Kaali to alleviate his family’s problems. His Guru, Ramakrishna said to him that he had never asked for any material thing from the Mother and would not do so even now.
However, if Naren so wished, he may go the next day and ask for what he wants and the Mother will grant him his request. The next day Naren returns from the temple and Ramakrishna asks if he asked for his family’s well being. Naren replied in the negative. He had instead asked for wisdom and renunciation. Ramakrishna again asked him to go and ask for his request and again he did the same.
When the need to ask for even happiness is no longer important but the pain to be one with the deity or the God is ingrained deeply and if out of that longing, Gayatri flows out, then its meaning can be realized.
It is also an aspiration of a person to reach the highest that he can imagine Creation and Existence to be – God or the Highest Consciousness itself. Nothing less will do!