Affirming Three Aspirations

Asatoma Sat Gamaya
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityorma Anritam Gamaya  

Lead me from the unreal to the Real
Lead me from the darkness to the Light
Lead me from the temporary to the Eternal 

              – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 

Unreal = untruth; only relatively real; that which is merely manifest out of something else, such as the pot manifesting out of the clay; the aspects of ourselves that are really false identities appearing to be who we are
Real = truth; that unchanging reality, like the clay, out of which everything else manifests; the true Self, the core of our being

Darkness = the darkness of ignorance, of not seeing either the world or ourselves clearly; stemming from the process of ignoring, which is inherent in ignorance
Light = the light of knowledge, of seeing clearly the true spiritual nature of things and ourselves 

Temporary = that which is mortal, subject to death, decay, and decomposition; our surface identities
Eternal = that which is not subject to death, decay, or decomposition; the immortal core of our being

Swami Rama: “Prayer is a major technique used by religionists to seek satisfaction of their desires and comfort in spite of their frustrations. Many people who are not acquainted with the basic principles of Vedantic philosophy think that there are prayers in the Upanishadic literature. For example: “Lead me from the unreal to the Real; lead me from darkness to Light; lead me from mortality to Immortality” may be thought to be a prayer. But it is actually an expression of the aspirant’s spiritual desires that remind him of his goal of life constantly. It is not a prayer but a way of maintaining constant awareness of Supreme Consciousness. It is not asking God or any supernatural being to help one or to lead one to the higher states. The idea is not to know God as a different being, but to know one’s own real Self and its essential nature, which is the Self of all. One is not attaining something that is not already there but is realizing that which is self-existent. This Upanishadic verse is not a prayer asking for anything but a way of strengthening constant awareness of Supreme Consciousness which is the goal of the Upanishads.”