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.
By chanting AUM in japa, you are chanting a मान्त्र/maantra. Mantra's are word-symbols or whole sentences which represent and express (as much as it is possible to do so with sound) the universe and 'God' as perceived in Sanskrit philosophy. In some circles, a great deal of nonsense has been written about mantras, as if they are magical spells or only available to 'the initiated'. There is nothing secret about mantras used in Vedanta and saadhana. They all are found in the scriptures, there for any to read.
That said, and as will be discovered if at all serious practice is taken up, the rhythm and tone of the mantras brings about a vibration and sensation which moves beyond the sound itself and becomes something physical. The more advanced the student, the more profound the mantra, the more intense this becomes. Everyone can experience this. Unfortunately, unless one is well-guided, this can lead to some disconcerting experiences and it is from such as these many and varied, not to say erroneous, claims are made upon mantras. Unlike popular songs, it is not everyone who can manage 'the tune', as it were. There are some mantras which require little in the way of training or supervision. AUM is certainly one and we shall be learning others. These can indeed be likened to popular music, in that it requires little to be faithful to the original.
Then there is the next level which is more (continuing the analogy) of a level akin to jazz or other specialised, but still 'pop', music. A little more skill is required; the need to sit with those who have already taken the stage and follow their lead.
Then there are the virtuoso chantings, more akin to classical music - and most specifically, plain or Gregorian chant in the Western tradition. If anyone reading has taken up that form of chanting, they will know there are some very strict rules applied to the production of the sound, the pronunciation and so forth. To rise to the full glory of such chanting, much dedication and the leadership of a master at the art is required.
Thus, in vedic chanting, whilst all can take it up and play around with it, the intrinsic value comes only from correct and respectful usage. Even AUM must be held in homage, not merely repeated as if hitting a nail with a hammer. It is from this need to uphold correct usage that the concept of being 'given a mantra' by a teacher brings with it a certain sense of mysticism and even magic. To be honest, there is a difference in being brought into the realms of spiritual connection by one who has already moved through the territory, as compared, say, to listening to it on a record and trying to copy it. The spiritual power of the learned one can be passed directly to the learner by virtue of presence and intent; these cannot be handed through screen or audio speaker.
Of the mantras which can be freely taken up, the focus can be one of two things; focus on the Universe as Self, of focus on a manifest form representing that universe and some of its values as seen in the likes of Sri Rama, Sri Krishna et cetera. Remember, use of murti/image is there for those who may have some difficulty at first in sitting in the emptiness. A person learning to write must first work on form and it is only later, when form becomes instinct, that the content beyond the form - the essence of the words created - can be practiced. Constantly this idea is given to us; work at the level you are at, ever seeking to raise that level.
It is time to think on use of a mantra other than AUM/OM. Make no mistake, this is a powerful and meaningful mantra and in many ways, the Ultimate Mantra. However, if there is a struggle to envisage the complete yoga of your small self into Greater Self, then perhaps meditation upon some the following may help. For the next seven days, use a different japa mantra and do only the single mala (108) chanting each day. Note what differences there are between the mantra chosen and use of OM… NB; pick carefully, for you must not keep swapping mantras at this stage. Whichever you choose today, stick with it for the week. As with AUM, find your breathing rhythm and tonal point which enables sustained chanting. Chant with Love and full focus.
If you like the idea of an ishta devataa - a personal presence of God - then use such a mantra;
ॐ श्री येषु नमः/om sri yeshu namaH (Lord Jesus I prostrate to thee who are the embodiment of All)
ॐ श्री रामय नमः/om sri raamaya namaH ( " Rama……………….)
ॐ श्री लक्ष्मयै नमः/om sri lakshmayai namaH ( " Lakshmi ……………………)
ॐ नमः शिवाय/om namaH shivaaya
…..and so on. For those who prefer to meditate and chant upon the formless then the mahaavaakyas or general concept statements are the best chants;
ॐ तत् त्वमसि/om tat tvamasi (that thou art)
अयं आत्मा ब्रह्म/ayam aatmaa brahma (this Self is Brahman)
अहं ब्रह्मास्मि/aham Brahmaasmi (I am Brahman)
तदेव सत्यं तद् ब्रह्म/tadeva satyam tad Brahma (that alone is the Truth, that is Brahman)
आनन्दो-हं आनन्दो-हम् /aanando-ham, aanando-ham (I am bliss, I am bliss).