Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.
For the next stage of our investigation on meditation, we are going to study - and practice! - japa as a means to tame the mind and we shall investigate the Gayatri Mantra.
The setting of thought-image with word was our discussion last week, in order to demonstrate how interlinked the two are. Thus the intellectual part of japa - the jnaana - is that of focus upon the words of mantra and creating the associated image. What of the devotional - bhakti - aspect?
Well, similarly, it is repetition which sets the seal. Unless we are Realised in Love, we tend as mere mortals to not automatically love something. It takes time to build love. We have to give some thought to love. Clearly, this is made easier by the continued presence of the object to be loved. We can always have our heart open for our immediate family, but the further removed our uncles or cousins are, the less likely we are to sincerely and deeply express love for them. It is not that we don't have it; but out of sight out of mind and, therefore, more tenuous the love. This speaks to the need to spend daily time with japa to make it a saadhana you first love to do and then that it transforms to love for that at which it is aimed. Constantly repeating the names of the Lord, in a dedicated and unselfish manner, we find that the chanting then stays with us even when we are not focused, just as the love and memory of our family do, throughout the day; always in the back of our mind as a motivation for our work.
It is always the repetition of thinking which seals the attachment to anything.
That which is Supreme Reality can only be reached through pure meditation. This has been proven over centuries by all mahatmas who have gone before us. However, the vast majority of us are incapable of the very deep and meaningful separation of our egos which is required to attain that goal. We require 'crutches' to aid our journey up that particular mountainside! Japa is a most valuable tool. Without the training and taming of the mind into a single point of focus, any attempts at meditation will find us wingless, as it were, flying around to all sorts of imagined landing strips. Meditation is keeping the mind hitched to one post and one post alone. Japa is the best training tool we have for this.
How to start?
To coin a phrase… just do it! With anything in life, the only way to accomplish something is to involve oneself in it. Watching videos of swimming, reading about the strokes and breathing techniques, even buying the flotation devices and goggles, will in no way help us until we actually plunge into the water. Only by being in the water, by extending our limbs and flapping them about, albeit most ungainly at first, do we start to learn in the fullest sense of the word. Experience alone is the teacher. Experience only comes by starting on something.
Okay. There are accoutrements, the floats and goggles of japa, to have on hand. What are they? First and foremost, the japa mala. You will recall from earlier posts that this is the 'rosary' of 108 beads. Most commonly available and affordable are those of sandalwood or tulsi. It is possible to make one's own mala, but all beads ought to be of same size and knot placed in between each bead. The Meru (the 'head' bead) must be of larger size. If purchasing a mala (see below), be sure to place it on the 'altar' for a day and dedicate it your heart's work. Be aware also, wrist malas are available (27 beads - one quarter mala), which are useful for ongoing practice in the day, but for purpose of dedicated saadhana, the full mala is much preferable.
Mention of 'altar' was made just now. This is next in 'equipment'; it implies of course that you have a dedicated space - or even if lucky a whole room - in which to sit for daily practice. It ought to be a spot that cannot become overwhelmed by daily living. If you do not have the luxury of that spare room, perhaps a corner of the bedroom which will not be cluttered or receive heavy footfall.
Make the space conducive by having a raised platform or shelf upon which you can place an image for your focus - this is the 'altar'. It can be a murti of your chosen Lord, or it can be an image of the OM symbol - it can be as simple as a large candle with a steady flame. Something to lead the eye to a single focus is what is required. Your aasana (seat) ought to be at eye-level with centre of the focal point - or at the feet of the murti. We have discussed aasana a few times before - review basics here. In aasana, go through the settling of the body, relaxing each part; set the breathing pattern, easy and even; gaze upon the point of your focus. If using a murti, starting at the feet, work your way up the body of your Iishta-devataa, admiring his or her shape, elegance of hands, glory of hair, beauty of face and depth of eye. Gaze into those eyes with only the name of that Iishta in your mind… "Rama, Rama, Rama… Laxmi, Laxmi, Laxmi… Yeshu, Yeshu, Yeshu..." They are your beloved, you are besotted. If you are using OM, trace its curves with your eyes, landing finally on the anu - the point sitting in the chandra (curve). Gaze into it, imagine the space within it and let only AUM be your thought at this time. If using a candle, start from the base and work up to the flame, then gaze at the point between wick and flame. Know that what appears empty is in fact filled with enormous energy. AUM is still the favoured chant for this tool or you may still opt for the name of a favoured Iishta.
The mala may now be taken from the altar. We shall investigate this more next week.
If you have not till now set out a spot in your home for dedicated spiritual practice, make that an aim for this week. Practice sitting in aasana; remember, the body must never feel strained, but also must never be slouched; held correctly relaxation is automatic yet discipline remains. Obtain a mala and dedicate it. Most outlets which promote yoga will have malas for sale; but for a pure product, this page at CM Publications is recommended.