A mantra is a sacred verse or sound, a grouping of sound vibrations which have an effect on the mental and psychic consciousness. Recited or chanted in Sanskrit, it symbolically conveys the spiritual dimension of yoga. The word-by-word translations and commentaries offer a conscious and profound access to yoga philosophy. The most popular (mantra) consists of only letters: O-M! Yet there are numerous mantras. Traditionally, we open and close our Ashtanga practice with a mantra.
”I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Gurus which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being, which are the refuge, the jungle physician, which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara.
I prostrate before the sage Patanjali who has thousands of radiant, white heads and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man holding a conch shell, a wheel and a sword.“
Mantra and Ajapa Japa Meditation
Of all the systems of yoga used to induce pratyahara and intended to lead eventually to samadhi,japa yoga is the easiest and safest and can be practised by anyone at any time and under any conditions. Japa means the constant repetition of a mantra. Japa becomes ajapa (spontaneous) japa when the mantra automatically repeats itself without conscious effort. It is said that ajapa japa comes from the heart, whereas japa comes from the mouth. Ajapa japa relieves the mind of all tensions, which in turn removes the root cause of most physical and mental ailments. Ajapa
japa exerts a direct influence on the nervous system’s reticular activating nucleus, which is located in the midbrain. In japa there is a continued rotation of consciousness centred on the mantra and the mind becomes concentrated and relaxed, which tends to bring all the physical and mental faculties of man to their most efficient working state.
How to do mantra meditation:
– Select any mantra or name of God, preferably one given by your guru. If you have no mantra,use Om or Soham, which is the universal mantra suitable for all. Repeat it from 108 to 1,080 times daily; that is, practise one to ten malas (a string of small beads).
– Use only the middle finger and thumb of the right hand for rolling the beads; the index and little fingers should not touch the beads.
– Japa is best practised in a steady meditation asana such as padmasana or siddhasana/siddha yoni asana.
– Do mental japa for some time.
– Pronounce each letter of the mantra correctly and distinctly. Do not repeat it too fast or too slow. Increase the speed only when the mind starts to wander.
– Do not wish for any worldly objects while doing japa. Feel that your heart is being purified and the mind is becoming steady by the power of the mantra.
– Keep your guru mantra a secret; never disclose it to anyone.
– If possible the aspirant should face to the North or the East while practising.
– Japa is intended to bring the hidden, subconscious elements, fears and desires of the mind to the surface in the form of images and thoughts. When these come into your mind, watch them as an unaffected spectator, but do not lose track of your japa.
– Japa repetition brings about chitta shuddhi or mental purification which is very important in the preliminary stages of spiritual life because if the samskaras and vasanas are not removed early,they will become great obstructions later.
– In meditation we are not trying to force the mind; we try to avoid effort at concentration. What we want is simply relaxed awareness. We remain only an impartial witness.
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