Mantra and Japa Meditation
The Rishis developed the science of mantra in ancient times. There are different kinds of mantras. The two main categories are the Bija mantras (Bija means seed in Sanskrit) and the Moksha mantras (Moksha means liberation). Bija mantras are very abstract. They are like the seeds of different forms of energy and are used to acquire powers, called Siddhis. They, therefore, have to be handled very carefully under the guidance of a competent Guru.
Spiritual aspirants who seek liberation mostly use Moksha mantras in Raja, Bhakti and Nada Yoga. On the path of Raja yoga, the mantra is used as an object of concentration. The repetition of the mantra is associated with visualization of the Ishta-Devata, the deity represented by the mantra. In Bhakti Yoga, the devotee uses the mantra as a way of sublimating his emotions, developing faith and love and being in constant remembrance of God. The Nada Yogi will work more specifically with the sound vibration of the mantra to connect with the Source or Nada Brahman.
Mantra means, “That which protects.” It is Divine energy encased in a structure of sound, a formula for a specific manifestation of God, just as H2O is the formula for water. The name of God is mantra. In each and every name, be it Rama, Christ, Krishna, Allah, or Buddha, the power of God abides.
Name and form are like the two sides of a coin. The repetition of a name generates the corresponding form in the mind, whether this form is consciously known or not. Even as the name of an object in this world generates the consciousness of that object in the mind, the name of God generates God-Consciousness and purifies the mind. That is why the thought patterns created by mantras are positive, beneficial, and calming. They lead to the realization of the highest perfection of God. He who constantly chants the name of God for- gets the world and merges into Super-Consciousness.
A mantra has five specific qualities:
1) a definite meter or rhythm;
2) a specific Sakti or energy;
3) a presiding deity or manifestation of God;
4) a link with the Rishi to whom this mantra was revealed and who used it to realize God and, in turn, handed it down to humani- ty through his disciples; and
5) a kalika or pin that locks the energy. Each person has to do the Sadhana necessary to unlock the energy in order to have the siddhi of the mantra as well as the vision of the Ishta Devata, the chosen ideal, represented through the mantra.
The great Yogis and Rishis have prescribed Japa, or constant repetition of a mantra, for those who long for liberation. It is one of the most efficient, simplest and positive ways of developing concentration of the mind and getting rid of its impurities. Just as one cleans a vessel by continuously pouring clear water in it until all the impurities have flowed out, mantra repetition takes away all the impurities of the mind and drowns its noise. Eventually, only the Divine vibration remains. The mantra will be so rooted in the mind that it will remain in the background day and night. This is the purpose of the practice. Contact is made with the specific manifestation of God or Ishta Devata, the chosen ideal. As God’s power abides in his name, the mantra becomes a constant support and protection. It transforms the personality in subtle ways and brings true happiness.
Japa is first done aloud. This is the Vaikhari stage. At this stage, the Moksha mantras – which I have arranged in Ragas and Talas and made available through various recordings have proved to be very helpful for impregnating the mind with the Divine Name. (On the CD “A Garland of Moksha Mantras,” you will find 21 of the most important Moksha Mantras.) After awhile, as one becomes more attuned to the subtler vibrations, the repetition becomes mental and more internalized. This leads into the transcendental state until eventually it connects with the source: this is the stage of God-Realization.
The Main Moksha Mantras
Shiva is the Lord of the Yogis. Seated in Mount Kailash, he is absorbed in deep meditation. He has mastered the senses, the mind and transcended the three gunas. Involved in the destructive aspect of creation, on the spiritual path, he is the one who dissolves Maya or Illusion, through the power of his third eye, the eye of discrimination that transcends dualities.
Naaraayana is another name for Vishnu. Vishnu is God involved in preservation. He is the one who compassionately incarnates each time creation is in danger. Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus are all incarnations of Vishnu.
OM SHRI RAM JAI RAM JAI JAI RAM OR OM SHRI RAAMAAYA NAMAHA
Rama is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. When he was born, he was not aware of his divinity. He became enlightened after hearing a discourse of Sage Vasistha, his Guru, about reality and illusion. This discourse is 50,000 stanzas and is known as the Yoga Vasishtha He is the symbol of a perfect son, husband, father, brother and king; the symbol of a man who has realized all his Divine potential in the different aspects of this earthly life. His name is often associated with the name of his wife, the divine Sita (Sita-Ram).
Vasudev is another name for Krishna, also an avatar of Vishnu. Unlike Rama, as soon as he was born, Krishna was fully aware of his divinity and able to use all his divine powers. He is God playing with different human roles, stealing butter as a child, sporting with the gopis (girls) as a lover, enjoying all aspects of life. He is also God freeing the world from the demon Kamsa, or taking side with the righteous and giving them his full support, as in the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita. Krishna is also referred to as Govinda, Gopala, Nandalal, Murali, Mukunda, etc. You will find these different names in “Murali Krishna,” recorded in “Cosmic Chants” (Found in the Chant Book on page 71) – as well as in the musical album “Adorations to Krishna.” His name is often associated with Radha, his consort, as Radha Krishna.
HARE RAMA, HARE RAMA, RAMA RAMA HARE HARE,
HARE KRISHNA, HARE KRISHNA, KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE
This mantra has been chanted twenty-four hours a day since 1940 in the ashram of Rishikesh for world peace.
The CD Garland of Moksha Mantras contains 21 mantras with the proper pronunciation and examples of how to chant them.
Commonly Asked Questions
How do you choose a mantra?
A There are different ways. You may feel an attraction for a mantra that sounds familiar; for example it keeps going on in your head even when you are not thinking about it. If that happens spontaneously, you know that it is your mantra. It shows that you have practiced with that mantra in past incarnations. The only way to know that is to become deeply involved and immersed in the practice like we do in our courses. Then look for a Guru to initiate you into this particular mantra and use it for your Japa meditation. If you don’t know and cannot choose, then the Guru will choose one for you by know- ing your personality.
Q Sometimes when I do japa, my mind tries to take me out of it. Should I give it some space to wander or should I do the japa faster?
A This is a case where chanting and singing helps a lot. In the same way when you are tired and stressed, it takes a lot of courage to do asanas and pranayama. When the mind is really agitated, pranayama is not always able to bring it back to quietness. In such cases, if you try silent meditation it is even worse! But the moment you start chanting, the mind is uplifted and filled with Sattva. Your problems do not seem so important anymore. You will reach a point where the mind is so charmed and focused that you just want to remain silent.
When we are in emotional turmoil, we have to draw from our own strength and energy in order to do asanas, pranayama and japa. There is nothing wrong with that. But when we chant the name of God, we receive Divine help. What can be more powerful than God’s name and divine vibration?
Q It is said that the silent repetition of a mantra is more effective than loud repetition. Why is that so?
A This is a general statement. Japa can be done audibly or silently. When done audibly, it establishes the vibration of your mantra in the body and mind. When you sit for meditation and you have to wrestle with an agitated mind, it is more helpful to do some chanting. After some time you reach a point where there is more quietness in your mind. Then you find that you can sit silently and delve deeper into the Self. You are striving to be able to repeat your mantra silent- ly, but it may take some time!
Q Do we have to use the same mantra for a long time or are we sup- posed to use a different mantra every day?
A For chanting, you can use any mantra, but for japa meditation, you stick to the mantra into which you have been initiated. While repeating your mantra, you can vary the speed but you keep the same rhythm. The right pronunciation will allow you to taste “ras,” the nectar contained in 137 it. Repeat it with “bhava,” devotion. This will build a tidal wave of God’s thought in you. Every cell of your body will be aligned to that vibration. Create an association between the mantra and the representation of the deity associated with it. This will create positive impressions in your mind. It will help you to imbibe the qualities of this representation of God. To develop a more personal relationship with your chosen ideal, read stories and learn some bhajans and prayers pertaining to that aspect of God. Then you will become a channel through which that energy will flow.
Q When I repeat the mantra, should I also think intellectually of its meaning or do I have to stop the intellect?
A In the process of repeating your mantra, attributing meaning really has no meaning. In fact, it becomes an obstacle if you start to intellectualize it. The meaning is there to give you the bhava, feeling, devotion and motivation. If you know that something is useless, you don’t use it, but if you know that this vibration will take you to God, you will be motivated to use it all the time.
Q Is it useful to know how the mantras affect the different Chakras?
A Imagine a scientist who knows all the workings and details of the digestive process and the specific function of each enzyme. And then imagine an ordinary laborer in the field. Both of them sit down to eat a nice vegetarian meal. Does the one who knows all the details digest any better than the one who doesn’t? In fact, the scientist who knows how the food is digested may become so caught up in analyzing what is happening in his body as he digests that he forgets to enjoy the food.
Q People of different nationalities and different mother tongues have different pronunciations. Does it make a difference?
A The pronunciation needs to be very exact when you use Bija mantras because they deal with different kinds of energy and powers that are not exempt from risks. But in our practice we only use Moksha mantras which are perfectly safe because they represent the benevolent aspect of God. They are charged with God’s love and they have the power to weak up divine love in you. That is why some of the most important ingredients in the repetition of a Moksha mantra are devotion, attitude, bhava and feeling. Therefore, even if you are not pronouncing it perfectly, you still have the image of the deity in your mind and the devotion toward that deity. Thus, the transformation will take place. When a baby cries, its mother understands the child’s needs. In the same way, God knows the heart of his devotees and how to fulfill their needs.
Q Is it possible to deal with samskaras through japa?
A It is a very effective, positive and direct way of dealing with samskaras. What are samskaras? They are deep-rooted impressions or scars. If you find you have certain undesirable tendencies, then you will want to change them. And those which are desirable or divine, you will want to develop and promote them.
How do you deal with undesirable samskaras? Don’t worry about them! Just encourage the good ones, make them so big that the others just fade away into insignificance. That is one positive way of dealing with them. Mantra, japa and sadhana help you to favor these divine samskaras.
This is very different from what Western psychology is doing. Western psychology tries to process all this garbage. Why would you want to process garbage? You know it will worsen. It is the same with your mind in your life. Don’t go backward in your life. The past is dead and gone. Don’t let it sabotage your life and your mind. Don’t revel in pity, recriminations and all that nonsense! Move on! Only reflect on the past if it can help you to improve. Then you are living sensibly, living a life of aware- ness, trying to consciously evolve and grow. But if your reflection on the past is bringing you trauma and depression, forget about it! It is irrelevant, useless. As you continually dwell on negative things, you give them more energy and they become more pronounced. The safest and most positive way to deal with undesirable samskaras is to develop the good and positive ones and promote the divine within you.
So for you, the failure of Western psychology is to wallow in various aspects of one’s life, the traumas. Do you totally disagree with exploring what happened at the time or is that still valid? It does seem that facing up to a problem instead of repressing it is good.
There is some use for it but people take it to ridiculous extremes. Sure, you have to recognize what is there or you will have no way of knowing what is bad, good, destructive or horrible? First, you have to see it for what it is, recognize it and say, “I don’t want this anymore.” This is promoting the good, it is not repressing or suppressing; it is dealing with negative tendencies in a positive way. It is a way of sublimating and not repressing.
–Excerpt from the book “Sampoorna Yoga” by Shri Yogi Hari © 2004