Sadhana for Week 35
Mind Level: Japa
Mental Japa of Ishta Mantra Or “Om Shri Chinmaya Satgurave Namah” - 27 times or 108 times
“A mind trained in Japa is like pre-cooked food. It is ready for ‘consumption’” - Swami Chinmayananda
P. Balakrishna Menon, pursued the japa of Om Namah Shivaya from childhood. Every night before he went to sleep he would do japa for half an hour. In his youth when he turned into an Agnostic, he questioned the existence of God. Through the freedom struggle, his days as a journalist, time spent in jail etc. he slowly started questioning the fundamentals of life and his japa returned to him. He kept doing japa even when he met Swami Sivananda with the intention of exposing the Sadhus. Swami Sivananda’s satsang transformed him and he wanted to take Sannyas. Swamiji told him to go on a Char Dham yatra to see if his quest was deep or just a passing phase. Upon reaching Badrinath, Balan did 6,00,000 Shadakshari Mantra Purashcharan from 20th June to 14th August 1948. 100 malas a day for 56 days.
Ultimately he decided to take Sannyas and was initiated into it by Swami Sivananda who named him Swami Chinmayananda.
Poojya Gurudev continued doing japa throughout his days as a student in Uttarkashi under Swami Tapovanam. He made it a life-time practice and many times one would see him with a small mala of 27 beads or 11 beads and he would keep turning it and doing japa during some rituals, or while some cultural performance is happening or in the car while travelling etc.
What is Japa?
Japa is training by which the ever dancing rays of the mind are compelled to behave in a certain order and rthymn.
- Swami Chinmayananda
All sadhanas are done to attain four things: a sharp mind, a subtle mind, a steady mind and a single pointed mind. Japa is the simplest method to achieve all these four. In the Bhagwat Geeta, chapter 10, Bhagwan says of all the sacrifices, rites and rituals, I am the Japa Yagna.
Mind is a flow of thoughts. Therefore it is very important to improve the quality, quantity and direction of our thoughts. Our quality of thoughts should be positive and the quantity should be less. If thoughts are many, the flow is very fast and we get entangled in them. It is said that an average person entertains about 60,000 thoughts a day! We need to reduce these considerably, only then can the Self be experienced.
A Fast mind is a sick mind,
A Slow mind is a sound mind,
A Still mind is a Divine mind.
- Meher Baba
The direction of thoughts must turn within. Most of the time they are engaged in the world of objects outside. To turn within we need a support. In our culture this is beautifully done through the concept of Ishta devata (form), mantra (spiritual sound formula), & japa (repetition of thought, idea or mantra). By engaging our three main senses (eyes, ears and speech) that make us extrovert we can attain this effortlessly. This integrates our personality – our hands, head and heart ie our actions, feeling and thoughts are all in alignment and focused on a single objective.
Ja - Janma Viccheda (Destroying cycle of Birth & Death)
Pa - Paapa Nashana (Destroying Agitations)
Japa helps to destroy the agitations of the mind and also takes one beyond the cycle of Birth & Death.
How does Japa work?
Where there is love the mind will go effortlessly in that direction. The deeper the love, the more integrated will be the personality. Ishta Devata or My Personal God (MPG) is based on this concept. The ideal, the qualities that I most admire, am drawn to or hold dearest are represented in that form of the Lord. Eg Shivji denotes calmness, equanimity, balance. Vishnu Bhagwan symbolises protection, Ram is for dharma, stead fastness in values, Devi is for destruction of the evil or wealth or Self-Knowledge and so on. That is why we have so many forms (Gods) in our culture so that according to one’s own temperament one can identify and choose one’s altar of surrender.
When we have a form it is easier to identify with it and invoke love (bhavna). This also helps to steady the thoughts. When these come together – love and respect, then it is called integration. There are many things that we love but do not respect. Eg chocolate, your dog. There is no surrender or reverence. There are also many people for whom we have a lot of respect but do not love them eg great scholars, achievers. It is only at the altar of the Lord that both love and respect come together because Bhagwan is complete.
The purpose of upasana is that whatever you think you will become one with that. Thus choose only one form. Whatever form one will choose those qualities one will absorb. One form, one mantra is the spiritual formula.
After choosing the form, build a relationship with it. Meerabai’s relationship with Krishna was of a beloved, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s of a child to a mother, Hanumanji’s of a servant to a master. With this one relationship all our emotions get channelized towards Bhagwan.
What is a Mantra?
Each Bhagwan has many names – eg. Vishu Bhagwan has more than a 1000 names. Choose one which denotes your relationship or a general one like Om Namah Shivaya or Om Namo Narayanaya or Om Shri Saraswatyai Namaha. A mantra is not just the name for the Lord. It is a potent spiritual sound formula. Every mantra has tremendous spiritual knowledge embedded in it. By concentrating and repeating the mantra one can overcome the weaknesses and limitations of the mind. This is based on the principle that repeated sound waves create or attract a form.
Japa means to repeat the same thought, idea or mantra continuously. In japa the sadhana that a student undertakes is to awaken the mind. By constant repetition the mantra invokes our dormant potential. The Mantra also gets enlivened for us. After regular practice, even when one has physically stopped chanting, every moment it is going on in the background like a silent undercurrent. It protects the person who keeps chanting it. It takes a person deeper and deeper within one’s own mind. One operates from a deeper level of peace and balance.
Which mantra to choose?
The best is to get initiated by a Sat Guru. Because the Satguru will awaken the mantra within us and it is very easy to do japa then. If that is not possible then chant the mantra closest to your heart. If there is no particular favourite or pull towards a particular mantra then pray to Bhagwan to reveal the mantra to you. You will receive guidance.
Learn how to pronounce the words and the tune of chanting correctly. This is very important to get benefits especially if it is a Vedic Mantra.
Stick to one mantra, all benefits will accrue from it. In our culture only two mantras are recommended; one is Gayatri Mantra and other is the Ishta mantra/Guru mantra. There is no need of doing different mantras for different benefits. Everything is possible through the Grace of the Lord and that is invoked by the Mantra. So one mantra will suffice.
To watch a talk on Japa click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-W_9SRWrJk
How to do Japa?
1. Decide the time to get up and the time to do the japa. Fix the quantity and the time. No compromising on it at all. Everyday same time , same quantity. Apart from that you can do anytime – while waiting for a bus, walking, cutting vegetable, etc.
2. Direction: sit in a comfortable posture facing east or the north. If you are able to sit near a water body (lake or pond) then that is the best. Water helps to quieten the mind faster. If you are sitting indoors, near an altar, light a lamp.
3. Keep the idol/picture of the Lord in front of you. On an altar, ensure that the form of the Lord is such that the feet of the Lord are at your eye level.
4. Asana: one can sit on a chair or on the ground. There must be an asana at the feet if sitting on the chair. If sitting on the ground, sit on the asana with a pillow so that the hips are at a higher level than the knees. This will prevent back pain. Do not share your asana. Asana prevents leaking of energy generated through Japa.
5. The mala that is used must be kept as we keep anything sacred. It should not be left just around the house like a piece or ornament. Have the mala ready in your right hand.
6. 10 Pranayamas must precede the japa or take 10 deep breaths slowly and steadily.
7. Watch the Idol/picture of the Lord carefully and notice every detail. Move from the feet to the face. This is called Traataka or Staring at the form so that it is imprinted on the mind deeply. Its is the support during Japa.
At the time of Japa
Most important is shradhha (Faith), feel the presence of the lord. Have the faith that this japa will lead me to whatever I require - chitta shuddhi (Purity of mind) or Darshan (Vision of the Lord) & Sakshaatkaara (Self-Realisation)
1. Close your eyes and mentally visualise a circle of white light in the space between the two eyebrows or in your heart.
2. Invoke the form of the Lord in it. If you find it difficult, open your eyes and look at the form again and try to visualise with eyes closed. Do this till the form is not clear in your mind.
3. With the form of the Lord in the mind we restrict our flow of thoughts. From many thoughts to single pointedness. Form should get imprinted in the mind in such a way that it is real for you. The form is alive, it is sentient, it is Bhagwan.
4. Imagine that you are in front of the Lord. Invoke devotion in your heart. Feel grateful to the Lord for all the blessings you have.
5. When we have established the picture of Bhagwan in our hearts and mind, begin chanting, doing japa.
6. Begin with chanting the mantra loudly and fast. With each chant, rotate a bead in the mala, inwards. Gradually reduce the volume and speed. Make it slow chanting, mental chanting, and finally silence. When the Japa becomes mental, then the mala can be kept aside.
7. If the mind wanders or sleep overpowers – chant loudly with open eyes
8. Focus on any one of the following intensely during the Japa
a. Visualize the form of the Lord or
b. Visualize the words of the mantra or
c. Concentrate on the sound of the mantra or
d. Concentrate on the silence between two repetitions or
e. Contemplate on the meaning
9. Japa will slowly make the mind quiet.
After the Japa:
1. Once the japa is over spend a few minutes contemplating on the mantra.
2. Sit quietly for sometime.
3. Mentally offer some flowers to the Lord and prostrate in from of the Lord.
4. If your japa is dedicated for someone’s health/prosperity/well-being etc. visualise that person and dedicate the Japa to that person and invoke the Grace of the Lord on that person.
5. Rub your palms place them on your eyes and face and gently open your eyes.
6. Get up slowly and ease into the day’s activities gradually.
In the beginning one may feel that the japa is not yielding any results. Hold on. Keep on doing, slowly one will be established in it. Quietening the mind will take time if one is doing it for the first time. On the other hand if one has learnt to concentrate and withdraw the senses at will, the practice will not be too difficult.
Also one may experience a mechanical dullness on some days. Do not stop. Keep doing japa, the devotion will rise again.
We could do most things best by easing into them slowly.
Don’t be in a hurry.
The best rule is ‘hasten slowly”.
Be careful, but steady, in your pursuit.
- Swami Chinmayananda
When to repeat the mantra?
Daily for a fixed quantity in a fixed place and fixed time. This is a MUST.
Additionally at other times like:
Upon waking up.
Before eating food express gratitude to the Lord.
Take a Mantra-break while at work.
When negative emotions overwhelm us, take a Mantram-Walk
When we loose equanimity & are elated, excited.
When we are scared, nervous, under-confident
When to repeat the mantra?
While waiting for a bus, in a queue etc.
While performing mundane mechanical tasks.
Dedicate it to others for their recovery from sickness / health / prosperity / peace etc.
At night before going to sleep.
For a guided meditation session where japa is being done, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFHZjks6p58
A well trained and controlled mind stands man in good stead,
Better than armies.
It saves him from cowardice as well as perils.
- Swami Chinmayananda
General benefits of doing japa are many eg. a sound body, good decision making skills, peace of mind, etc
However 5 most important benefits are;
1. Harmony in to our lives
The rosary or mala keeps the hands engaged, chanting keeps the speech, form the mind, contemplation the intellect engaged. All four come together and bring discipline in life.
2. Concentration of mind.
The mind that is disintegrated and frayed cannot receive the Truth.
- Swami Chinmayananda
3. Purifies the mind.
There are many techniques to train the mind to concentrate like watch the flame of the candle, etc. But purity will not come. When we think of Bhagwan we invoke bhavna, devotion in our minds and heart. We consciously fill our hearts with gratitude, ask for forgiveness, and surrender with full humility. The form of the Lord goes deep in our sub-conscious mind and cleanses our mind.
Our desires are prompted by the pictures of our sub-conscious mind. Eg in television advertising the pictures appear for only a few seconds on the screen but they are reinforced again and again creating the desire to purchase the product. The subconscious generally does not understand words, except very few of them. It understands pictures and forms. Everyday when we invoke the form of the Lord we are reinforcing it in our subconscious.
4. Controls Impulsiveness
Mind trained in japa will prevent a lot of impulsiveness. The moment you get angry, the japa starts. The mind has an anchor to hold onto.
5. Prepares us for Contemplation
Japa is a very important step to nididhyasana or contemplation. Without japa it is not possible. One can not go to that state of meditation without concentration and purity.
Beginners and Advanced:
Do are advised above.
1. Do as advised above.
2. From form go to sound of mantra. As you get established go to the silence between the two chants.
3. As you get established chanting stops, there is silence. Chanting starts again, stops, there is silence. This happens and you will be able to watch yourself apart from the chanting.
4. As one goes deeper in this sadhana the same capacity will develop when any other emotion is playing. Eg Anger rising, stop etc
5. Those who do japa they get ready for sakshi bhaav.
Warm up the engines of the meditation through kirtan and japa.
- Swami Chinmayananda
UNTO HIM OUR BEST