Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


Here is a place to linger, to let your intellect roam. Aatmaavrajanam is being written as a progressive study and, as such, can be read like a book. Anyone arriving at any time can simply start at the very first post and work their way through at their own pace. Please take time to read the info tabs and ensure you don't miss a post, by subscribing to the blog. Interaction is welcomed. Don't be a spectator - be a participator!

The Coup of Counting

Hari OM

Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.

 The flowering of love is meditation.
(J Krishnamurti)

Whilst mala was mentioned last week, it is not an absolute essential to japa practice, particularly at these beginner stages. At first there is no need to get caught up in methodology of counting and such.  It is good to know about it though, and to understand that japa-prayer/meditation is quite an art in itself.

The number of beads mentioned pertain to 'auspiciousness'.  108 is considered the single most auspicious number and for large festivals and full saadhanas, multiples of this are used.  For convenience, a sadhak may wear a wrist mala, which most often has the 27 beads, and will make four 'tours' of the mala to create the full 108 repetitions.  As a general rule, the longer malas (54/108) are not worn unless one is under full training, but the wrist malas may be worn on daily basis.  (The full malas, if they are worn, ought to be kept under one's clothing (not in sight) and the sumeru (head bead) ought to sit at the nape of the neck.) Ideally, the malas will be kept, when not in use, in a cloth or silk bag on the chosen altar space in the home, or if this is not set up, by the scriptural books. 

Showing respect for one's mala and books of knowledge is a large part of awareness (mindfulness) and being 'present'. Mala is not a piece of jewellery or decoration. In affording a sacredness to this spiritual tool, we are training our minds to think always on a higher level.

Whilst the main rule in Vedanta is that the thoughts (mind) dictate the actions we make, equally, in order to take back control of the mind (and therefore the thoughts of which it is made), is to take up actions of a better quality. Thus we have 'ritual' in spiritual practice. (Of course, in some quarters, ritual has itself become something of a block...that will be discussed elsewhere.) Preparing ourselves before taking up our meditational pose by showering, dressing in a dedicated tunic or ensuring that we are adequately hydrated, for example, is a ritual.  We can use these preparations themselves for japa.

Start to turn the mind towards the task of introspection and dedicated Self-analysis by making each task sacred. At each and every movement of the hand, chant or call for blessing.  Any task in the day, done with this kind of awareness can become part of your spiritual practice… your saadhana.

It does not have to be visible to the world. Whether or not Joe Bloggs or Sanjana Iyer know that you are dedicated to spiritual improvement is entirely irrelevant. It is not their approval you need to be seeking.  Unless of course, Joe and Sanjana are fellow travellers and can share the experience and give support when the going gets tough! Saadhana is an entirely personal experience and each and every task that is asked of us in daily life as well as from shastra, if given the appropriate attention, will yield rewards.

This applies most of all when it comes to sitting for meditation.

For anyone who has obtained a mala, or has taken the care to make one for themselves, follow these few simple steps;
Keep it always sacred, by holding it to your heart, lips and brow before and after use, acknowledging the      Lord's presence in the beads
Keep it always sacred, when not in use, by wrapping in cloth bag or putting in a place dedicated to it
Keep it always sacred, even if worn, by sliding it inside the clothing and keeping sumeru upwards
Keep it always sacred, by not allowing it to touch the ground, whether in use or not
Keep it always sacred, by using only the right hand for the recitation of mantra.

To use it, place the strand over the ring or middle finger of the right hand. Keep the meru bead behind the thumb as you grasp the first bead.  Not too firmly, but enough to fully feel the bead and to be able to wiggle it slightly between the finger and the thumb. The forefinger should be kept out of the way during japa, as it represents the ego.  (Some devotees obtain a japa bag, which suspends from the neck and hides the mala - the hand slips inside and there is a special hole near the top for the forefinger to come through and thus avoid temptation of joining in!) Hold the bead of chant in front of you at approximately heart level. This will keep the beads from touching ground (if you are sitting in full floor aasana) but is also the most comfortable for shoulders and arm for prolonged sessions. The elbow can be tucked against the body.

Stay with each bead for as long as it takes to complete the mantra fully. Only move to the next bead when the vibration of each chant has faded. Rotate by pulling the current bead down (towards the body) and then grasping the next bead in line. After 108 repetitions, the meru bead is approached.  Do not cross it.  This is considered as to be putting yourself above the Lord...instead you must twist the mala round, grasping the new first bead and then progress.  This short video will help in understanding.

Japa practice can be done at anytime, but is especially useful prior to meditation, or as the meditation itself.  We shall explore this more. If you have not taken up a mala, do consider knotting a length of string and dedicating it to this practice. It is not so much the material itself, as the aide it becomes to our focus. (There are mala snobs out there!  Remember at all times, what counts is not with what the counting is done, but that the counting is done at all…)

If no mala as such is held, counting can still take place by using the phalanges of the fingers.  On the right hand, press your thumb to the bottom phalange of the first finger (it can be used in this case because the hand is now upturned and on you lap, therefore 'surrendered'). Make the chant then move up to the middle, chant, then to the third (tip) phalange, chant.  Now move across to the third (tip) phalange of the middle finger.  Work down and at the bottom, move across to the bottom of the ring finger and work up. Finally moving across the tips to the pinkie and down to its base. 

This equals 12 chants.  On the left hand place your thumb on the bottom phalange of the forefinger.  This marks one round of the right hand.  The right hand now goes back to the beginning and repeats the action.  At the completion of that 12, the left thumb moves up to the middle phalange of the forefinger.

Are you seeing the pattern?  When the left thumb reaches the tip of the left ring finger that is 9 x 12 = 108 !!!

Practice the rotation of 108 chants.  For this purpose, use only the name of the Lord dear to your heart - this can be Lord Jesus also!  If you are uncomfortable repeating His name thus, use the Sanskrit version - Isha (pronounced eesha).

Any Catholics among you will be thinking "ah this is like rosary!"  Correct. Although japa has been around for centuries longer.

Concentrate fully on this japa daily.  Feel the vibration of focus and chant combined.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hari OM
If what you have read has made you think, tell me why. If you are wondering, others are too, so ask that question. If you have a doubt, let it out.

Please note that only members of this blog can leave comments. You are respectfully requested to refrain from entering hyperlinks to other sites. You may otherwise find your comment deleted. Thank you for your courtesy.