by Swami Krishnananda
Close your eyes for a few minutes and do deep meditation. Delve into your own self and collect your consciousness in the manner it was described to you. Let this be done for a while.
When would you meditate? At what time of the day? This has to be decided, each by oneself. Though there is a general prescription that early morning hours are good, or midnight, or evening time, it is left to you to modify these general indications according to the circumstances of your life and the facilities that you have for doing your meditation.
If you are working hard in an office for eight hours and returning home at eight o'clock in the evening, you would not like to sit immediately for meditation because of the fatigue of the day. You may like to lie down and take rest for a few minutes. And perhaps you have something to tell the family members; if you have a wife and children, husband, brothers, etc., you cannot just keep quiet the moment you come back from the office. You may sit and have a little chat with your family. You may have a supper, or maybe you take late supper, depending upon your way of life.
If your supper is late, say, at ten o'clock in the night, then, after you have your ablutions and washing, you can sit for your meditation for an hour, in case you don't have any visitors that you are expecting at that time. Sometimes big officials have people coming to see them, even after they retire from their office in the evening. You have to dispose of that duty also before you sit for meditation, so that when you sit, you do not have any kind of programme or commitment in the mind.
The mind should be entirely free. If that is not possible – you are occupied with your duties even in the night, for some reason – find some time before you go to bed. Actually, the length of time that you take in meditation is not so important as the intensity of your feeling during the meditation. If the intensity is not adequate, if it is shallow, then you have to sit for a longer time to make it go deep. This is one suggestion.
Oftentimes you will find that the mind is recalcitrant and will not yield to your wish for allowing it to meditate. If it is not at all possible for the mind to concentrate at that particular time for some reason of distraction, take up a scripture which is to your liking – an elevating literature which glorifies spiritual life – and read calmly a passage or two of the book. Rove your mind over the ideas expressed in those pages of the scripture. Several things of high value are mentioned there, and over each one of those ideas, you move your mind and bestow deep thought. After that, you can withdraw your mind from study, and directly do your contemplation.
If the mind is not willing, even after you have given sufficient time for study, then take a few deep breaths in and out, drink a cup of water, or stand up and walk on the verandah for a few minutes; then sit down. If you are accustomed to chant kirtans and bhajans, chant some kirtan loudly and do a bhajan by yourself, just to lift the mind to a level required for meditation. Then sit again for meditation.
A great assistance for the purpose of meditation directly is japa sadhana – reciting of a formula, a mantra, into which you might have been initiated, or which is to your liking – with a japa mala or without a japa mala, as the case may be. Loudly chant the mantra. Then, slowly moving your lips, recite the mantra. If the mind is wandering during mental recitation, then again start loudly chanting the mantra.
Actually, japa itself is a complete sadhana. That, by itself, is sufficient to purify your mind and allow it to concentrate on the divinity of your mantra. The mantra japa is not merely a recitation; it is also a simultaneous contemplation. Every mantra has an originator, which is a rishi. A divine sage visualised the mantra in his meditation, and so his thought also is present there and is charged upon the mantra.
When you read a book, you also know the mind of the author of that book; actually, you are reading the mind of the author. The book is not outside the thoughts of the person who has written the book, so you are in a state of attunement with the mind of the author; as he was thinking, so you are also thinking now. The book is only an instrument, a guide, to keep you in harmony with the thoughts of the great author of a scripture or book that you are reading. So, while chanting the mantra, you are in harmony, en rapport, with the great thought of the sage who visualised the mantra.
The mantra itself is a power. The words of the mantra are not mere haphazard letters. They are associated in a particular systematised manner, so that when they are recited in the proper intonation, the words combine and create a new chemical effect, you may say,as, when you mix the acidic and the alkaline, there is a third effect following immediately. A chemical force is generated by the juxtaposition of the letters of the mantra, so that the mantra itself is a power. The other power associated with the mantra is the thought, the vision, the power of the sage who visualised it – so two forces are impregnated into the mantra.
There is a third power: the divinity which is the presiding principle of the mantra. The very mantra indicates a god. The thought of the god is also a communication that you are establishing between your mind and the presence of that great power in the divinity, so that through the medium of your thinking, the force of the divinity also gets charged into the mantra. The sage's thought is a power, the letters of the mantra themselves are a power, and the divinity's immanence in the mantra also is a power.
There is another thing called "metre." The way in which the mantra is composed is called a metre, just as in poetry there is a metre. By the recitation of the poem which is written in a particular metre, you are roused into a particular feeling which cannot be there if you read a mere prose, or a translation of that in ordinary vernacular. A tremendous power of all these kinds gets concentrated in the mantra. Knowing this well, feel that this combined force is entering into you while you are reciting the mantra.
There are other formalities that you may follow: the place that you choose for the chanting of the mantra, the direction you have to face, and the other attitudes that you have to maintain. Usually, you have to face the east, is what the elders tell us, because the sun rises in the east. The moment the sun is about to rise, the whole atmosphere is charged with a new prana shakti. The Upanishad says that the sun rises as the very prana of all living beings in the world. In the entire direction of the east, the atmosphere is charged with prana shakti of Surya Bhagavan,the Sun. When you face the east for your mantra recitation, you are imbibing the impress of that force that is coming from the eastern direction.
Some people say that the northern direction also is good, because it is believed that there is an electromagnetic force that passes from the North Pole to the South Pole. For this reason, people say that you should not sleep with your head toward the north; otherwise, your brain can be affected by the electromagnetic waves that are charged from the north to the south. The force will pass through your head, through your body and go to the south. That is why you should not sleep with your head toward the north, it is said. But for meditation it is good because if the charge is on your personality when you are actually meditating, it will enrich you with more vigour. So, the eastern and northern directions are prescribed for this purpose.
But in places like Rishikesh, facing the Ganga also is very good; whatever be the direction, it is immaterial here. Here everything is holy and all directions are good. Facing the Ganga is as good as facing any divine emanation of force. If you are living on Swargashram side, you will face the Ganga in one direction; if you are here, you will face it in another direction. So, likewise, the direction is chosen and the mantra is recited in this manner with the concentrated feeling that you are in the midst of a tremendous electromagnetic power charging you from all sides.
How long will you do the japa? As long as your heart is not satisfied, as long as you do not feel the presence of the divinity of the mantra, as long as you do not feel the effect of the chanting of the mantra, so long go on continuing it for months and years. You can go on doing it throughout your life, also. Many people take to japa as their only sadhana and do not do anything else. That is wonderful. What does Bhagavan Sri Krishna tell you in the Bhagavad Gita? "Of all spiritual sacrifices, I am japa." No worship, no yajna, no sacrifice, no havan can equal japa. So, take to japa sadhana, the recitation of mantra; chanting of the divine name may also be through kirtana and bhajana as accompaniments.
As far as possible, choose the same time every day, because the time also has an effect upon you. As the time process is a cyclic movement, a particular time that you have chosen for a special practice gets charged by the very cyclic movement of time at that hour. Similar is the case with the place that you choose, because the particular location where you are seated for japa also gets charged; even the seat under you is charged with the divinity. Your whole body is divinised at that time.
In intense types of japa, an electric energy is produced in the body; a sensation of a peculiar nature will arise in you, and the energy will try to go out of your body and get down into the earth, if you contact the earth and sit on bare ground without any seat. It is, therefore, said, "Do not sit on bare ground, because the charge will go down to the earth." The earth with its gravity will pull down all the energy of your body. So, have a seat that is not a conductor of electricity; – it should be a non-conductor.
The same place, the same time, the same attitude, the same mantra, the same divinity – don't change these things experimentally. You should not change the mantra, as if something else is better. As every object in meditation is as good as any other object, every mantra is equally good, and there is no particular distinguishing factor among them.
In this yoga of japa, all the other aspects of yoga also will be found to commingle in some way or other. Inasmuch as there is a god in front of the japa sadhaka, bhakti yoga comes in, even in japa sadhana. You love your god of the japa mantra, your divinity; you pray, and you are deeply in affection of that god. This is the bhakti aspect of japa sadhana.
And you concentrate with the power of your will on this divinity, on the rishi (sage) and on the mantra itself. This is the raja yoga aspect of japa sadhana. You understand the immanence of this divinity everywhere, not that it is in one place only. The concentration on the immanent aspect of this divinity is the jnana yoga aspect of japa sadhana. So, bhakti yoga, raja yoga, and jnana yoga – all these are in japa sadhana. Bhagavan Sri Krishna has rightly said that nothing is equal to japa as a sadhana.
Whether you have to take a bath or not – sometimes this question will arise. These factors are irrelevant for yoga sadhana. If you feel that the bath before japa is very good, take a bath; and you feel refreshed at that time. But if you are ill and you are not permitted by the doctor to take a bath, or you have some reason that you should not take a bath at that time, then there is no objection to your taking to japa sadhana even without your bath.
What about travelling in a railway train at that time? Let the train move – what does it matter? But you are not moving; you are in the same place, so forget the movement of the train. As you forget the movement of the earth and think you are stationary, like that you forget this also. Let the movement be there. It will not disturb you in any way. Thus, any time is good, and any manner conducive to concentration also is good in japa sadhana.
The mala (rosary) that you use is also very important. The mala has a twofold effect. Because of the continuous touching of the beads with the chanting of the mantra, the beads also get charged with a force, so the mala is very holy. You cannot just keep it on the ground or throw it somewhere. Many people put it on their neck, or keep it in a little bag secretly, so that it may not be soiled. Sometimes they tie it on the wrist, which is not proper because your hand does all kinds of things when you take food and wash yourself, etc. You touch all sorts of things, so it is not a good practice to tie the japa mala on the hand. It should be on the neck, or in your pocket.
Now, this japa mala is a reminder to you that you have to do the japa. Whenever you see the mala on your neck or in your pocket, you are reminded of a noble thing. When you see money in your pocket, you are suddenly reminded of some value; or if you have a pistol in your pocket, you are reminded of another idea altogether. But if you have a japa mala, a noble thought arises in the mind.
Generally, I would advise you to keep two things always in your pocket: one japa mala, and a small edition of the Bhagavad Gita. These will protect you also – not merely act as reminders. They are wonderful things. They are protective forces. They will guard you, like a guardian angel. Do not be under the impression that this is a silly matter. There is a great value here. Some people have praised rudraksha beads also to that extent: as long as you have a genuine rudraksha with you, it will guard you.
There is a report that I read in a paper once. There were two gentlemen travelling in a railway train. One of them was a foreigner; another was an Indian from the south. This South Indian was praising the value of japa through a rudraksha bead and he was mentioning the varieties of rudrakshas. He said that it is wonderful: as long as you have it with you, you will be guarded from even great dangers and catastrophes. The foreigner was listening to all this.
This person who was listening to the glory of the rudraksha bead read a report in the paper as to what happened at that time: "There was a sudden bursting noise, as if everything was getting shattered. I knew nothing else after that. When I woke up, I found myself in a hospital. There was a derailment of the train, a great tragedy, and many people were injured seriously. One person only was free from injury – some gentleman from the south. Somehow he escaped. Everyone else was injured in this calamity." It was the newspaper report which the injured one read while in hospital. Till then he was unconscious.
So, everything is wonderful in this world; all things are valuable and holy, and you should not scoff in a modernistic manner, which is very unfortunate for us, at things which are sacred, and regarded as sacred and protective forces by the ancient masters.
The japa mala is not only a reminder that you should do the japa; it is also a protective angel in your pocket. Keep it always with you. You tie a wristwatch always, but the wristwatch cannot protect you; the japa mala will protect you. You hang a mini-radio in your pocket; this is our modern culture. These are of no utility for you, finally. They are ultimate distractions. We have to live in this world beautifully, and not as tragic victims of dark forces. Take, then, to japa sadhana as a potent method of communion with divine forces.
Sankirtana also is a great yoga. Gauranga Mahaprabhu, Chaitanya Deva, was an ardent promulgator of sankirtana bhakti: Chant the divine name to the ecstasy of your spirit; loudly call God, Come! In your own language you can have a bhajan of this kind. And because you feel that He is coming and He is charging you with His presence, you feel sometimes like dancing with the sankirtana mantras. The people who dance in sankirtana are not foolish people. They feel a new energy in themselves, and that is what makes them jump as children jump in pure enthusiasm.
Why do children run here and there, and when you are keeping quiet are not keeping quiet? Something or other they are doing always because of the overabundance of energy in their body. This overabundance of energy in sankirtana also is a divine gift. Thus, this is one of the methods you can adopt if other methods are not suitable for any reason. Namadev, Ekanath, Kabir, Mirabai, Surdas, Tulasidas – all took to this path as the sole means. There is no other way in Kali Yuga, say the scriptures.
All these instructions and admonitions are to bring you to a focusing point that you have to lead a spiritual life in the true sense of the term, and not as an isolated factor of your life. Spirituality is not something that is carried in your pocket that you take out whenever necessary. It is the vital breath of your life. It is the very skin of your personality. You carry it wherever you go. The spirit with which you live in this world, and act, speak and work, is your spirituality. Your attitude generally to anything is the spirituality thereof. It is not the scripture, it is what you think and feel throughout the day. That is your spirituality.
Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was a great embodiment of this kind of inclusiveness of the powers of nature and of people in one single individuality. He was a lover of God; he was a lover of human beings, of nature, of the Himalayas, of the Ganga, of holy places like Varanasi, Badrinath, Kanyakumari, Rameshwaram. There is nothing that he did not love, and he could summon their presence into himself.
This is another interesting thing to hear. You have to summon things into yourself; it is not always necessary to go to things. It is possible that if you finally want a thing, it will come. It is a psychological secret that if you strictly believe that what you want has come, it should come and it has to come, because your resolution touches the object that you need and it gravitates towards you immediately.
There is a story of the power that was exercised by Sage Bharadvaja, which we have to read in the Valmiki Ramayana. Bharata went to the forest in search of Rama. On the way he passed through the hermitage of Bharadvaja, somewhere near modern Allahabad, as we are told. Bharata went with a large army – elephants, horses and soldiers. When he found that he was nearing the sage's ashram, he removed his royal dress, removed his shoes, put on a dhoti and an upper cloth, and went alone to the holy ashram. The sage saw him and queried: "You are Bharata, coming from Ayodhya? What for have you come here?"
"I am in search of my brother who has left the palace and gone into the forest," said Bharata.
"He is staying somewhere near here. You can see him tomorrow. There is no objection. You have come alone, all the way from Ayodhya, like this?" asked the sage.
"No, Maharaj, I have a large army and retinue, and I did not want to disturb the sanctity of this place; therefore, I asked them to stay far away," said Bharata.
"No, call all of them here. You will all have supper. I will feed you," said the sage.
Bharata had a difficulty in his mind: "Is the sage testing me? He has nothing with him. He has only a water-pot, a walking stick and a yajnashala, and he is going to feed all these people?" Feeling thus in the heart, Bharata said, "Maharaj, I am very grateful for your kind words, but we do not require any dinner. I am going back."
The sage was omniscient. He knew all things in the minds of people. He thought, "This fellow is thinking that I have no power at all, that I am a beggar. Let me show my power to him."
"Call all of them," he said. When the sage thus ordered, Bharata brought the entire army, some thousands of them, with elephants and horses. This great master went to the yajnashala and poured a little ghee with mantras and all the divinities he summoned below. "Come Indra, come Varuna, come Ganga, come Yamuna, come Sarasvati, everybody come!" Immediately rivers started flowing in front. Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati were flowing around and angels descended from heaven with golden plates filled with delicious dishes. Thousands and thousands of them started descending with brilliant bodies. Each soldier and official had a residence and palace in which to stay, with bathing ghats, gardens, and people to massage their tired bodies. The people wondered if they were dreaming. Food was served. Nothing of the kind ever was tasted by any human being,such a celestial, grand dish was served! All were given beautiful beds in different palaces.
The soldiers began to mumble: "Let Bharata go in search of Rama; we will stay here only. Why should we go unnecessarily? This is a nice place. Let Bharata do his work. What does it matter?" They all slept very well. The next morning when they awoke, there was nothing to be seen. Only the jungle was there and one brahmana sage was sitting alone with a stick and a water-pot. All the celestials had vanished. What do you think of all this?
The power of summoning – you have only to want it intensely and it is there. If you want the grace of Swami Sivananda, it is here. It will come now, not tomorrow or the day after, but your heart should be prepared for it. Oh it may come or not, I am a foolish man. I don't know. He is very far away. If you think like that, he will be far away only. He will never come. Nay, nothing can come.
"It is near, it is all-pervading, everything is here; if I touch, everything comes," – assert thus deeply from the heart. It will come. As everything is everywhere, you will receive also everything everywhere. You need not move from your seat. Everywhere you will find everything, in the very place where you are sitting. Such is the power of the summoning that you can exercise by the yoga of Universal Attunement.