Introduction to Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra
The great mantra dedicated to Shiva as Mrityunjaya is found in the Rig Veda. It is called the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra, the Great Death-Conquering mantra. It is a mantra that has many names and forms. It is called the Rudra mantra, referring to the furious aspect of Shiva; the Tryambakam mantra, alluding to Shiva's three eyes; and its is sometimes known as the Mrita-Sanjivini mantra because it is a component of the "life-restoring" practice given to the primordial sage Shukra after he had completed an exhausting period of austerity. The Maha Mrityunjaya mantra is hailed by the sages as the heart of the Veda. Along with the Gayatri mantra it holds the highest place among the many mantras used for contemplation and meditation.
The Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra
Mrityor mukshiya mamritat
Number of repetitions
After lighting a lamp and sitting in any yogic posture (preferably Padmasana which is the picture of Lord Shiva in the picture) while facing east. Recite the Maha-mantra 108 times (one rosary) or its multiples in each sitting. This is the greatest work of Maharishi Vashistha. Before commencing the Mahamrityunjaya mantra recite the mantra to the everlasting spirit of the Maharishi vasiShTha for his blessings and guidance which is as follows.
Thereafter, perform Rudrabhishek (Ritual offering of the Panca-Amrita or the five forms of nectar as Honey, Ghee, Curd, Milk and Water) on the Shivalinga.
Understanding the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra
It is important to understand the meaning of the words as this makes the repetition meaningful and brings forth the results.
OM is not spelt out in the Rig-Veda, but has to be added to the beginning of all Mantras as given in an earlier Mantra of the Rig-Veda addressed to Ganapati. This Mantra is given in the prayer page of my Book "Maharishi Jaimini's Upadesa Sutra".
TRYAMBAKKAM refers to the Three eyes of Lord Shiva. 'Trya' means 'Three' and 'Ambakam' means eyes. These three eyes or sources of enlightenment are the Trimurti or three primary deities, namely Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and the three 'AMBA' (also meaning Mother or Shakti' are Saraswati, Lakshmi and Gouri. Thus in this word, we are referring to God as Omniscient (Brahma), Omnipresent (Vishnu) and Omnipotent (Shiva). This is the wisdom of Brihaspati and is referred to as Sri Duttatreya having three heads of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
YAJAMAHE means, "We sing Thy praise".
SUGANDHIM refers to His fragrance (of knowledge, presence and strength i.e. three aspects) as being the best and always spreading around. Fragrance refers to the joy that we get on knowing, seeing or feeling His virtuous deeds.
PUSTIVARDHANAM Pooshan refers to Him as the sustainer of this world and in this manner, He is the Father (Pater) of all. Pooshan is also the inner impeller of all knowledge and is thus Savitur or the Sun and also symbolizes Brahma the Omniscient Creator. In this manner He is also the Father (Genitor) of all.
URVAAROKAMEVA 'URVA' means "VISHAL" or big and powerful or deadly. 'AAROOKAM' means 'Disease'. Thus URVAROOKA means deadly and overpowering diseases. (The CUCUMBER interpretation given in various places is also correct for the word URVAROOKAM). The diseases are also of three kinds caused by the influence (in the negative) of the three Guna's and are ignorance (Avidya etc), falsehood (Asat etc as even though Vishnu is everywhere, we fail to perceive Him and are guided by our sight and other senses) and weaknesses (Shadripu etc. a constraint of this physical body and Shiva is all powerful).
BANDANAAN means bound down. Thus read with URVAROOKAMEVA, it means 'I am bound down by deadly and overpowering diseases'.
MRITYORMOOKSHEYA means to deliver us from death (both premature death in this Physical world and from the neverending cycle of deaths due to re-birth) for the sake of Mokshya (Nirvana or final emancipation from re-birth).
MAAMRITAAT means 'please give me some Amritam (life rejuvinating nectar). Read with the previous word, it means that we are praying for some 'Amrit' to get out of the death inflicting diseases as well as the cycle of re-birth