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


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Why Japa?

Hari Om
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 act of 'meditation', you will by now have understood, is not a mere sitting rigid, eyes squeezed shut, a falling asleep; neither is it a simple sitting and musing over the events of life.

Meditation is a state to be reached after the practice of physical control, relaxed but controlled posture, a drawing inwards from awareness of body, then focusing mind, then intellect and finally releasing all these to move into a space of total awareness which is at once empty yet effulgent. Until that point is reached we are in various states of meditational preparation and rehearsal. First there is the settling in aasana. Next the ignoring of physical stimuli (room temperature, draughts, voices and such). Then we have to wrangle with the mind - the major hurdle. The more success we have in restraining mind the more aware we become of our intellect as a separate, higher component of our mental structure and the "I" voice within us - the ahankaara, the ego state - which also has to be overcome to connect with our 'governing awareness' and then onwards to full Consciousness Connection.

The antaH karana** - the inner makeup of manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), ahankaara and chitta (consciousness) - is where the vast majority of work is required for the meditation student. You may like to review all articles touching upon the antaH karana thus far from the label list in sidebar, but this post is directly related to this point.

Everything moves with such speed internally, that the four components are lumped together under the term 'mind'. This is fine for daily purposes. Here in the seat of contemplation, however, it is important to begin to know which part is taking precedence at any given moment. We can only 'see' ourselves through this very equipment and to be able to overcome them we have to use them. The pole vaulter simply cannot be a pole vaulter without the pole used to make the vault, but the vault itself cannot be made without releasing the instrument used to reach the height aimed for.

There are various stages of saadhana which have been supplied for the student to engineer their 'vault'. One which has been mentioned a few times is that of japa yoga; the path of repeated chanting of mantra. Many who follow the jnaana-marg (knowledge path) would argue that japa falls into bhakti-marg (devotional path). This is an error on their part. Certainly it can seem that there is a ritualistic tendency which may arise from japa yoga… if this is happening however, it simply means the student is failing themselves. A mere twiddling of the beads or rote chanting can be done by anyone. Japa, to be effective requires focused and alert attention. Japa, practiced well, brings the mind and intellect into complete control, a single pointedness which is required for pure meditation. The mind which has been tuned up through japa on a regular basis starts to want the stillness created and will eagerly come under our command.

Japa, in short, is the method of keeping the mind on one thing and one thing only… The Self, Higher Consciousness, Brahman…

Can you, if the word 'pen' is mentioned, avoid immediately having an image of the object mentioned come into your imagination? Here's another word. Try it…


There - what happened? The word is inextricably associated with an image. This is because, when we were young and impressionable, our parents kept repeating 'cow, cow, cow' and pointing to a picture of said animal. For ever and ever we associate the word and the object thereafter.
You may not have absolutely 'seen' a cow, but the essence of shape and size and appearance entered your awareness on seeing that word, did it not? Yes it did. Try again…


Fun, isn't it? Herein lies the basis of japa yoga and why it is so effective. Another aspect is that the more we hold something dear, the more focus we are likely to give it. The image of a cow may have held more definition for those readers who were brought up on a farm and may have had a favourite cow, for example. We will always feel more for 'pets' than we will for the general herd. In families, we cannot help but have stronger feeling for those we see every day compared to our cousins or aunts who may live distant and are seen but once a year. We will still have fondness, but there is not the same bond at all. Japa, performed daily, in our sacred space, becomes an intimate friend and we can the more readily devote ourselves to it. Japa performed thus never really leaves us, even when we move out of the meditation space, just as we can never really forget our mothers, no matter how removed we are from them in a physical sense. Once bonded, ever remembered. This is the clue that we must make japa a thing of the heart. In doing this we find a tool which not only permits jnaana to enhance, but bhakti to enter. The two wings of spiritual flight!

During the next week, observe how the mind forms images on hearing descriptive words and nouns. Become aware of which the mind attaches to and which it ignores. Begin this mental awareness, in order to better utilise japa yoga.

**[NB; this is not to be confused with the 'antahkarana' spoken of in various healing practices and other philosophies - whilst they have arisen from this tradition, they have simplified and re-interpreted. Such distillation still serves a purpose in life, but coming to the source - to the 'mother tincture' if you will - will always be more efficacious!]

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