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CONTENTS5. Japa Sadhana  

 

 

             


               5. Japa Sadhana

 

 


     In trying to understand what is external and internal control, it will be helpful to know what Swami Turiyanandaji once said. Swami Turiyananda was a direct disciple of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna and a living embodiment of Vedanta. At the request of Swamiji he went to the United States, and built up the Shanti Ashram in California. Swamiji told the American devotees, 'You saw me delivering lectures; now I am going to bring to you a Swami from India who is a living embodiment of Vedanta. All that I taught you, talked to you, you will find exemplified in that Swami, my brother monk.' That was Swami Turiyanandaji. When Swami Turiyanandaji was requested by Swami Vivekananda to go to the United States to help him, at first he declined. 'No, I would not like to go to the United States. I would like to remain in India.' But Swamiji's love won over Turiyanandaji when he said, 'Well, Hari Bhai, I have given rny life for the cause of Sri Guru Maharaj (Ramakrishna); will you not come and stand by and help me?' Then Swami Turiyanandaji replied. 'I am not going to give lectures like you. I am not an orator.' Swamiji told him, 'No, they have had enough of lectures in the West. They want to see the life of a true Vedantin. Show by your life what I have taught as the Vedanta.' 'Yes, I can then go,' was the answer given by Swami Turiyanandaji. He did live an exemplary sannyasin's life. Now, while he was in the United States one American student referred to the problems of controlling the subconscious mind. And Swami Turiyanandaji said, 'Ordinarily, we know only the surface waves of our mind, but by Yoga practice, we learn to go deeper. By watching and studying our own mind, we dive below our surface consciousness and observe what is going on below. Many Samskaras, latent desires, are stored up there, waiting for an opportunity to express themselves. Through introspection we can discover them before they rise to the surface. This is very important; for once a thought has come to the surface, it is extremely difficult to control it. But at an early stage, it is easy. A seed is easily destroyed. But when it has germinated and grown into a big strong tree, it requires great strength and effort to cut it down. So we must check our desires in their early undeveloped stages. Here is the clue to the control of the mind.' Turiyanandaji pointed out that we only know the surface of our mind. Through japa Sadhana and meditation we can dive below the surface of consciousness and know the desires which are likely to come to the surface of the mind. So it will be highly practical and beneficial to make sure that these desires do not germinate and grow into big trees. As Swami Turiyanandaji said, we should strive our best to cut down before desires grow into big trees. Once a thought has come to the surface and taken hold of the mind, it is extremely difficult to control it. By japa Sadhana every one of us can be conscious of the subconscious layer of the mind. In the subconscious layer of the mind, impressions of different Karmas of this life and the past innumerable lives are stored up. Now, before they come up and attack us, we have to cut them down at their rudimentary stage. If we can do that, then we can have mastery over the mind.


     Sometimes when we sit for meditation, many kinds of impure thoughts bubble up. Is there any way out? Now we have different layers of the mind. The conscious layer, the subconscious layer, the unconscious layer and so on. It has been the experience of most of us, that undesirable thoughts arise from the subconscious layer of the mind. If such undesirable thoughts do assail us during the course of meditation, it is a sure indication that the process of purification has not been perfected and completed and we have to continue with diligent efforts towards the progress of purification. How can that be done? We have to focus our attention on the very depths of our soul. Even if we do that, in spite of our repeated attempts, we may perhaps find that we cannot make any further headway. Perhaps, we are in front of a world which prevents us from going further. This has been the experience with almost all saints and genuine seekers after Truth.


     Is there any method by which we can be successful in removing this wall of impediments? Is there any method by which an aspirant can surmount all the difficulties on the path towards the Goal Supreme? The answer is 'Yes', there is a proved technique. By means of this proved technique almost all the insurmountable obstacles can be overcome. Now, what is that proved technique? That technique is 'japa Sadhana'. In this connection, one would like to quote what the Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi said to one of her intimate disciples. His name is Swami Shantanandaji. The present writer had the good fortune of being in his holy company. He was held in high esteem by one and all for his saintly life. He told us that once when he met the Holy Mother and asked, 'Mother, how can I realise God? How can I have unfoldment?' The Holy Mother suggested a simple method. She said, 'Japat Siddhi! Japat Siddhi! Japat Siddhi! Through performing Japa alone, one can attain realisation.' Now what is this japa Sadhana? It is just the methodical repetition of a sacred formula, a Name - a siddha Japa Mantra that we get from our Guru or spiritual master. We should remember that when we receive a Mantra, we receive it from a competent spiritual master. A Mantra has got an inherent power in it. If we read any book on Tantra Sadhana, we shall find reference to a number of Mantras. However, if we just take any Mantra, and start doing Japam, it will not produce any effect. These are all in the books. What is necessary is that it should come through a Guru Parampara - a successive generation of teachers and disciples. We have to learn it from a Guru. Power is transmitted from a master through the Mantra to his disciple. This disciple again, when he becomes Siddha, transmits the Mantra along with the power to his disciples. So we must have faith in what is called transmission of spiritual power from Guru to disciple. Only when we receive a Mantra with such faith through a competent master, are we able to reach the goal, provided we follow the path prescribed by him.


     To proceed towards the Goal Supreme, we must have our own Chosen Deity or Ishta Deva. Now how can we meditate on one's beloved Ishtam? We must learn the path from a competent spiritual master. The Guru, out of his infinite kindness, gives the Mantra to a disciple. The disciple should not take it as just a syllable or word. The Mantra has got a mystic power. If we have real faith in the words of our Guru and if we go on doing japa Sadhana, we will be able to realise our Ishtam. So what happens if we have a Chosen Deity, and along with it we get a real Siddha Bija Mantra? We then have a definite centre of spiritual consciousness to hold on to. Again and again we should come back to our Ishtam. This is something absolutely essential. Japa becomes efficacious when, along with the repetition of a great Name, we dwell on its meaning as instructed by the teacher. It is said in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, 'Tat japah Tat artha Bhavanam', which means that we are to be constantly conscious of the spiritual significance of the Mantra. It does not matter if, in the beginning, the repetition of the Mantra is mechanical. It may be that we don't find any taste in the holy Name, but still we should go on doing it. Ultimately, we shall find out how delicious is the Name of the Lord. So it does not matter if, in the beginning, we start with blind faith.


     Japa Sadhana lays emphasis on taking the help of sound symbols, because sound and thought are interrelated. A typist knows that, when he strikes on a letter on the keyboard he is propelling the key of that particular letter and immediately the impression is printed on the sheet of paper. In the same way, as soon as we touch on the sound symbols, such as the name of 'Rama', 'Krishna' or 'Hari', immediately the thought related to it comes before our mind, and it does help in our journey towards the goal supreme.


     If we have faith in the mantra, then even if we go on repeating mechanically, ultimately it will have its effect, because there is great power in the divine name. It helps us in counteracting different kinds of thoughts. To attain spiritual realisation or to manifest the divinity within us, japa Sadhana is one of the best means according to all our spiritual masters.


     We need inner purification. We need real transformation of our psycho-physical organism. No unfoldment is possible unless we take pains to practise purity in thought, word and deed. But how to attain absolute purity? Swami Brahmanandaji, the first President of our Order, once said, 'From my own experience, I can tell you that none can ever be absolutely pure, unless one does japa Sadhana.' The present writer was advised by one of the most respected Swamis of our Order, Swami Visuddhanandaji, that for attaining purity of mind one should do a fixed number of Japas every day. The number he recommended was the small figure of 10,000.


     In the same vein the importance of taking the Lord's name was impressed on the present writer by another senior and respected elder of our Order, Swami Siddheswaranandaji. He wrote to me: 'Take your spiritual life seriously. In this Kali Yuga, according to Sri Ramakrishna, repetition of the holy Name is the highest Sadhana. I am a f-a-n-a-t-i-c of japa Sadhana.'


     But we want to realise God somehow doing japam mechanically, one hundred and eight times a day, and for that also we don't get time! The question is whether this is due to want of time or due to want of sincerity. Let us not be traitors to our thought. Let us be frank. We find time for everything, but we do not find time for practising japam and meditation! We should ask ourselves: 'Why is it so?'


     We must have faith in the words of these great ones. Even if the mind is restless, outgoing, and so many evil thoughts come in, the remedy is to go on doing japa Sadhana with diligence and perseverance. This is very important, because through japa Sadhana or by the repetition of the holy name, our body and mind become pure. As a result of constant repetition of a holy name, we get what may be called some kind of spiritual vibration. The world in which we live is full of impure vibrations, non-spiritual and worldly vibrations. To counteract the impure vibrations of the unfavourable environment in which we live, we shall have to create pure vibrations. How can we do that? Through japa Sadhana. Through japa Sadhana we create around us a fencing of spiritual vibrations, so much so that even if we happen to be in the midst of an environment full of impure vibrations, they will not be able to penetrate and assail us, because already, by means of the japa Sadhana, we have been able to create a holy fortress of spiritual vibrations. All kinds of impure vibrations will be neutralised by constant practice of the holy name, and the Jivatma will thereby be able establish his closeness with the Paramatma.


     Japa Sadhana has two kinds of values. One is esoteric and the other exoteric. By the mere vibration of a given sound, a sense of spiritual awakening takes place, a new field of awareness is opened to us. This is what is called in mystical language, the esoteric value of japa Sadhana; it generates a Sakti (power) which unifies all the diverse kinds of energies in us into a single bundle of energy. Our energies are always scattered in different directions. Japa Sadhana makes all these diverse energies one-pointed and makes them unified. By this an aspirant will be able to awaken the Kundalini power which lies dormant in us. In fact, there is a song in Bengali where the devotee prays to the Divine Mother: 'Oh Mother Kundalini, please wake up from the Muladhara.' We have in the spinal column the Sushumna, and on its left and right, we have 'Ida' and Pingala nerves. By constant repetition of the holy name, an aspirant can awaken the Kundalini Shakti lying dormant like a coiled snake in the Muladhara, which thereafter rises along the channel of the Sushumna nerve, and passing through different chakras, gets united with the Supreme Self.


     With regard to the awakening of the Kundalini, when a question was put to Swami Brahmanandaji, he replied, 'There are some special exercises to awaken it, but I believe it can be best done through japam and meditation. The practice of japam is specially suited to the present age.' Therefore, we should be careful lest in our overzeal to awaken the Kundalini we should take recourse to some occult methods and come to grief. The safest course is to constantly repeat the divine name. Therein lies the real clue to awakening of the Kundalini.


     Another important point to remember is what Swami Vivekananda always used to stress. He was against any kind of cheap ecstasy. In fact at the Cossipore Garden House he warned his brother disciples against too much group dances and songs; for, such things can raise the mind to a high level, but then from that high level, the mind suddenly descends into lower centres when the stimulation stops.


     So, to find the truth, it is essential to plunge into the very depths of our being. By japa Sadhana alone superior consciousness can easily be awakened.


     Now is it practicable to pray ceaselessly? Apparently, it seems that it is rather not practicable to spend the whole time in prayer alone. A break in the continuity is inevitable. But if one is to attain spiritual illumination, one has to pray ceaselessly. One has to pray at all times, at all places. No doubt other thoughts will invade our mind and not allow us to pray ceaselessly. The remedy then is to exercise our will power, and reject all other thoughts. This we can do if we only will. If we compel ourselves to repeat the mantra always and if we persevere, we are sure to succeed, and then we shall find that our heart will also open up and continue to repeat the mantra by itself without any effort on our part. It means that repetition will become automatic. That is called ceaseless prayer. We have to attend to things such as the ordinary demands of the body, say, sleep, hunger and other things. We have to meet people, talk to different persons. We are to engage ourselves in so many duties and activities. Is it possible in the midst of all this to pray to God constantly?


     In this connection, there is the story of a Russian pilgrim who grew so used to his prayer that when he stopped it for a single moment, he felt as though he had lost something, and that very moment he would start the prayer again. This went on easily and joyously. He was so used to this ceaseless prayer that when he was asleep he would sometimes dream that he was saying the prayer which he had learnt from his experienced teacher. So when one is used to it, then one can constantly repeat one's prayer and one feels there is nothing more precious and sweet in this world than ceaseless prayer emanating from the heart.


     Our Russian pilgrim said that there were occasions when he would walk as many as 40 or 60 miles a day. While walking he would constantly go on repeating the name of the Lord within and would not feel the strain of walking. He was aware of only one fact - namely, that he was saying the prayer internally. Sri Ramakrishna gave a number of illustrations to drive home the truth that one can pray ceaselessly. Thus he would give the example of village girls carrying so many pots of water on their heads while returning from the common village well. They would chat and gossip with the other women, but all the time their attention would be on the jars, lest they should fall off their heads. Similarly, in the midst off our day-to-day activities or in meeting people and attending to different kinds of business, we can take the name of the Lord internally, provided we take pains to do it. Swami Vivekananda once said that the daily necessary thoughts can all be through God. To quote Swamiji, 'Eat to Him, drink to Him, sleep to Him, see Him in all.' Swamiji continues to say: 'When the whole soul pours out in a continues current to God and there is no time to seek money or name or fame, nothing mundane of this world, no time to think of anything but God, then comes into our heart that infinite wonderful love of God.'


     Let us also refer to Brother Lawrence. In the midst of his hard work in the kitchen, when so many people would ask for so many things and when it was terribly noisy, Brother Lawrence would maintain absolute calmness - the calmness or silence one would get in a church while kneeling down praying to the Lord. Brother Lawrence would get the same calmness while attending to his various duties in the busy kitchen. How was it possible? It was possible because Brother Lawrence did not do anything for himself. All the work that he was supposed to do, he did for the sake of the Lord. He used to say that if one is to be established in the constant practice of the presence of God, then 'one must have a hearty renunciation of everything which we see with our senses as obstruction in our way to God.'


     Ceaseless prayer does not mean that we have to repeat the name of the Lord continuously, but what is meant is that we are to live in His presence. We should also take care to see that we do not do anything or say anything or think of anything which may displease God. The most important point to note while learning the art of ceaseless prayer is, that we can be successful in this, provided we love God; but the fact is that we do not love Him. We pray, say for an hour or so in the morning or in the evening. As a revered personage of our Order, Swami Yatiswaranandaji, used to say, we are religious people for half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening, but this does not build up spiritual life. Spiritual life means constant awareness of the presence of God within and without. If we can do that, then ceaseless prayer becomes a practicable proposition. So constant remembrance of God does not mean that we are to recite the prayer or Mantra we get from our Guru at a fixed hour only, but what is meant is a continuous yearning for God. The whole of one's life must be permeated by prayer. The secret of this is deep love for the Lord. As a bride loving the bridegroom is not separated from him because of constant remembrance of him, so the soul united with God in deep love always remains in Him and converses with Him. This is the secret. We are to be constantly aware of the presence of the Lord. God is everywhere, and we are to see that our thoughts are always with God. But this we cannot do if we are attached to some person or to some object. We have to sever our heart from all that brings us down. We are to guard our hearts with constant remembrance of the Lord. And we also should remember that there are certain fundamental enemies who do not allow us to practise prayer without cessation. Who are the enemies? Carelessness, negligence, forgetfulness of God, thinking only of our own pleasures. If we are careless, negligent, if we forget God, if we seek only mundane pleasures, then the whole of the spiritual realm is closed to us. If we do not want to fall into this abyss, we have to be aware of the foremost enemy - forgetfulness. So we have to work always towards praying to God. God is omnipresent. If one asks, 'Is God present?' - the reply is 'Yes.' He is not only present within us, he is in this hall, outside the hall, in the temple, in your house, everywhere. As a bird which flies everywhere encounters only space or air everywhere, similarly wherever we may go, we are in God, because God is omnipresent. This being so, what is required of us is to be always alert and do everything in the living presence of God.

 

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International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015


 

 

 

 


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