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.