Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!
We are now undertaking basic technical discourse on Vedanta. The text forming the basis of these posts is 'Kindle Life'. Please do reread previous posts using the labels 'Workings-days' or 'Kindle Life'.
Ch. 27 JAPA YOGA, continued.
A japa sadhaka's attempt is to always maintain the mind in one fixed line of divine thinking. To one who has gained a sufficient poise in this subjective art of single-pointedness, who has worked out the 'kinks' through dedicated and continual practice and contemplation upon all the possibilities, to that person meditation becomes wholly natural. Meditation becomes but a conscious maintenance of mind in a sole channel - all thoughts being of the same 'species'. Japa, then, is an extremely valuable tool in the sadhaka's spiritual box of tricks.
Regularity and sincerity are the secrets of success in spiritual aims. Guard the mind against all excesses and make it immune to selfishness and passion and al other flurries of emotionalism. Observe how the mind seeks to tie itself down with things and beings, happenings and circumstances. Never lower the guard! Even advanced sadhaks can fall away from the highway.
Something else to beware - that there comes not a 'japa arrogance'; seeking of fruits from the activity. Desire can arise even for spiritual advancement, to the detriment of the one who seeks that advance. Neither make claims of activity that is not one's own. Japa, meditation, sravanam, mananam - all spiritual saadhana is yours and yours alone. It is not a competitive sport, neither are the chantings and activities to be used with a focus of worldly gain from their use. These and many other traps await.
Consider japa as यज्ञ/yajna, worship in the form of action. Gather the purest and best that you have within you and offer that to the Higher. The effectiveness of japa is somewhat proportional to the spirit of surrender in the sadhaka. This is not an emotional outburst of sentimental 'make believe', or charismatic experience. It ought to be a solid act of understanding. A deliberate and conscious release of the ego into that which can draw the spirit ever upward. Once we understand this principle of genuine surrender, there appears before us the bridge between bhakti (simple devotion) and jnaana (clear view of spirit). What exactly is the level of surrender again? Take one of the mantras given two weeks back - whichever one you took, the opportunity to explore surrender within it is there. How so? Here is an example… Om Shri Raamaya Namah; the mantra itself states that there is prostration to the Higher in the embodiment of Sri Rama. Prostration does not simply mean the physical bowing to the feet. Many will do this with absolutely no sense of humility or grace within them! No, prostration requires that our ego is in check and that we are ready to receive whatever grace or love comes to us as a result. In the this case, we are seeking to 'tune' ourselves with the object of our devotion. In attempting this, it is necessarily the case that we draw grace and love to ourselves and begin to engender the qualities readily into our own personality. To identify with the high values and qualities of Sri Rama, we must sublimate our negatives and our ego and prepare to merge with the Lord before us.
Thus a mantra is a kind of formula explaining to us not just that there is an enduring truth, but how to reach it. OM is the symbol of the Infinite which is, finally, attained through surrender of all our false identifications with the material world to the fee of the 'core of things' OM can be found in any form - therefore mantras to Sri Rama, Lord Jesus or to any other pillar of faith, with this intent behind them, will lead us ever toward the Infinite.
This completes exploration of japa as guided by chapter 27 - but let it be only the beginning of your japa journey!
Assuming you have applied yourselves daily to japa according to instruction over the past two weeks, it will already have been making some difference to your meditations. Applies correctly, this will be the case.
Continue this practice now. Make it your constant companion.
There is another form called /likhita japa - writing repetition. This can be used when wishing to explore the connection between sound and element. It is quite subtle and requires every ounce of focus that mala japa does. For this, have a blank page before you and pens or pencils. You can use English lettering - but if you take the time to emulate the Devanagari at least for this much, you may find a deeper focus. Write your mantra out, repeatedly, filling the page. As the point of the instrument you are using touches the paper, recite the mantra also. Take time. Feel the movement and the touch. See how sound moves through and onto the page. Experiment with this at will. See where it takes you. Below are two pictures. One demonstrates the keep-it-simple and regular format and the other shows what can appear if you allow the process to flow fully.