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Pavamana Mantra

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The Pavamana Mantra (pavamāna meaning "being purified, strained", historically a name of Soma), also known as pavamāna abhyāroha (abhyāroha, lit. "ascending", being an Upanishadic technical term for "prayer"[1]) is an ancient Indian mantra introduced in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (1.3.28.)[2][3][4] The mantra was originally meant to be recited during the introductory praise of the soma sacrifice by the patron sponsoring the sacrifice.[5]

Text and translation[edit]

The text of the mantra reads:[2]

असतो मा सद्गमय ।
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।
मृत्योर्माऽमृतं गमय ॥
asato mā sadgamaya,
tamaso mā jyotirgamaya,
mṛtyormā'mṛtaṃ gamaya.

Swami Madhavananda offers the following translation:[4]

From evil lead me to good,
From darkness lead me to light,
From death lead me to immortality.

Patrick Olivelle offers a slightly different translation:[5]

From the unreal lead me to the real!
From the darkness lead me to the light!
From death lead me to immortality!

The more common modern translation differs slightly in the translation of the first line[citation needed]:

From falsehood lead me to truth,
From darkness lead me to light,
From death lead me to immortality.

These three statements are referred to as the three Pavamana Mantras. Some renderings — generally modern[6][7][8] — add (oṃ) at the beginning and/or ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥ (oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ, 'om peace peace peace') as a fourth line. This is a stylistic addition that concludes a recitation; as such it is often included with the verse. The Upanishad itself does not end the line that way.[2][4]

Sanskrit word meaning[edit]

  • asataḥ — "from falsehood"; ablative case of asat "falsehood", from a (negation) + sat "truth"; becomes asato due to sandhi; can be a synonym for "evil"[9]
  • — "me"; first person pronoun, singular number, accusative case
  • sat — "to truth"; accusative case of sat "truth"; here accusative case shows the destination; becomes sad due to sandhi; can be a synonym for "good" [10]
  • gamaya — "lead"; causative, imperative mood, active voice, singular number, second person of root gam "to go".
  • tamasaḥ — "from darkness"; ablative case of tamas "darkness"; becomes tamaso due to sandhi
  • jyotiḥ — "to light"; accusative case of jyotis "light"; becomes jyotir due to sandhi
  • mṛtyoḥ — "from death"; ablative case of mṛtyu "death"; becomes mṛtyor due to sandhi
  • amṛtaṃ — "to immortality"; accusative case of amṛta "immortal", literally "not dead", from a (negation) + mṛta "dead"; becomes 'mṛtaṃ due to vowel elision.

The Sanskrit term sat, which means "truth" or "what is existing, real", has a range of important religious meanings including "truth" or "the Absolute, Brahman". The passage immediately following the mantra explicitly identifies the unreal and darkness with death and the real and light with immortality, saying that all three portions of the mantra have the same meaning of "Make me immortal."[4][5] In the interpretation of Swami Krishnananda (1977), "From the nonexistent, from the unreal, from the apparent, lead me to the other side of it, the Existent, the Real, the Noumenon." According to this interpretation and in keeping with the philosophy of Vedanta, the text rejects the material world as "unreal", "dark" and "dead" and invokes a concept of the transcendental reality.[11]

Usage in culture[edit]

Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh "तमसोमा ज्योतिर्गमय"।

The quote has been used as an opening statement for the Economic Survey 2021[12] by Krishnamurthy Subramanian, who reports to the finance minister under the Narendra Modi Government.

In 1976, the mantra was used for the lyrics for "Gita", a song by John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, from their album Inner Worlds.

In 2003, the mantra was worked into two pieces of the score for The Matrix Revolutions, Neodämmerung by Don Davis and Navras by Juno Reactor and used in the final battle scene and end credits of the film, respectively.[13]

The mantra features in 'To Kiss or Not to Kiss' in the soundtrack of Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV series).[14]


  1. ^ Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit Dictionary (1899) page 77
  2. ^ a b c Eighteen Principal Upanisads, vol. 1, ed. by V. P. Limaye and R. D. Vadekar, Poona 1958, page 183
  3. ^ Brhadaranyaka-Upanisad (Brhadaranyakopanisad), Kanva recension; GRETIL version, input by members of the Sansknet project (formerly: www.sansknet.org) Archived 19 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c d Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter 1, Translator: S Madhavananda, page 86
  5. ^ a b c Patrick Olivelle (1998). Upaniṣads. Oxford University Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-0-19-283576-5.
  6. ^ "Om Asato Ma Sadgamaya - In sanskrit with meaning". Green Message: The Evergreen Messages of Spirituality, Sanskrit and Nature. greenmesg.org. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  7. ^ "ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय । तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय । मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय । ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥ - BrahmaShlok". Brah.Ma. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Meaning of the mantra Asatoma Ma Sadgamaya". amritapuri.org. 9 August 2000. Retrieved 1 November 2016. Archived 25 August 2021 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit Dictionary (1899) page 118
  10. ^ Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit Dictionary (1899) page 1134
  11. ^ Swami Krishnananda, The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1977) (swami-krishnananda.org) "The light that we see in this world is really a form of darkness, [...] all forms of life are forms of death only. They are not realities. The sunlight is not real light, because it is not intelligent. [...] So, the prayer is for a total rise from this involved, insufficient, conditioned 'being' to the absolutely independent, unconditioned 'Being' which is simultaneously Sat, Jyotir and Amrtam – Existence, Light, Enlightenment, Consciousness, Omniscience and Immortality. No rebirth is possible there".
  12. ^ Economic Survey 2020-21 Volume 1 (Report). Government of India Ministry of Finance Department of Economic Affairs Economic Division North Block. January 2021.
  13. ^ "The MATRIX 101 – Understanding The Matrix Revolutions – Symbolism". Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  14. ^ "Mantra – Nature et structure". Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  • Ram K. Piparaiya, Ten Upanishads of Four Vedas, New Age Books (2003), p. 101.