Mantra's In Meditation
There are a number of methods which help in japa meditation that have been tested for thousands of years and based on psychological and natural principles.
Counting the beads in the form of japa is familiar to Western experience. A japa mala is similar to rosary and used in Mantra repetition. It increases alertness, helps in focussing the physical energy. It consists of 108 beads but there is an additional bead, the meru, which is slightly larger than the others. Reciting one mantra for one bead means japa has been done 108 times, or one mala. The fingers should not cross the meru. When it is reached, the beads are reversed in the hand; one continues reciting the Mantra, moving the mala in the opposite direction. The thumb and the third finger roll the beads; the index finger, which is physically negative, is never used. The rosary must be above the navel, and should be wrapped in a clean cloth when not in use.
Prayer should be done before beginning the japa which induces purity of feeling. Eyes are closed and the mind focused either between the eyebrows on the ajna chakra or on the anahata chakra of the heart, one should invoke the aid of his chosen deity and guru. The Mantra must be recited clearly, distinctly and without mistakes, for it and the deity itself are one and the same thing. One who recites the mantras must do so at an average rate, neither too fast nor too slow, while concentrating on the meaning of the mantra. Recitation should be done only when concentration lessens because it is necessary to keep alert throughout the practice.
Variety in japa is necessary to sustain interest, avoid fatigue and counteract the monotony that can arise from constant repetition of the same syllables which can be done by modifying the volume. The Mantra can be repeated aloud for a while, then whispered, and then recited mentally to avoid monotony because the mind will be tired by doing the same things repetitively. Even if one recites the mantras without feelings attached to them, has great purifying effect. Patience will do as feeling will come later, as the process of purification progresses.
Audible repetition is called vaikhari japa, but repetition done by whispering or humming is termed upamsu japa. The Mental repetition, manasika japa, is the most powerful because it requires higher levels of concentration, as the mind tends to shut off after a period of time. The advantage of loud japa is that it shuts out all worldly sound and distractions. One should practice them alternately, particularly when drowsiness sets in.
Initially the worshipper may find himself giving up too soon, which may be after five or ten minutes of repeating the Mantra. They may think the syllables to be meaningless and they may think them to be mere syllables and nothing more. But by persevering for at least half an hour without interruption, he will give the Mantra time to work itself into his consciousness, and it will take a few days for the benefits to show up.
Meditation on the image of the chosen deity creates tremendous power. Sound and form correspond and reinforce each other. Sound vibrations alone can produce the form in the consciousness of the aspirant. The process is enhanced by visualizing the deity in the heart area or the space between the eyebrows. With the visualization, there should be awareness of the powers of the deity.
When meditating on Siva, the energy is focused on rolling the mala beads, the image of the deity, the third eye, the crescent moon, serpents, trident, drums, etc. The Mantra OM Namah Saivaya is continuously recited, which enters the aspirant’s consciousness. Repetition of Mantra has a cumulative effect, and with continued practice, its effect and power multiplies. Japa meditation is much more than a verbal exercise and a state of complete absorption in the Supreme Being.
When japa practice is finished, one should not plunge immediately into worldly activity. Taking some rest is must. Sitting quietly for about ten minutes, one should reflect on the Lord and feel His presence. As routine duties are commenced, the spiritual vibrations will remain intact. When doing manual work, focus your body on the work but give the mind to God.
Like a woman who continuous knitting while talking to her friends, one can sustain mental japa. With practice and time, the manual work will become involuntary. When the Mantra is repeated throughout the day, God consciousness will permeate one's life.
Another form of japa is Mantra writing or likhita japa. Under this, the Mantra should be written with a special pen and notebook, which are especially for the purpose. It should be done for half an hour in complete silence and concentration. While writing, simultaneously repeat the Mantra mentally so that the impression made in the consciousness gets intensified. Likhita japa may be done in any language or script. It greatly helps the aspirant to concentrate and leads to meditation. By practising likhita japa, sets up a continuous vibration of divine energy that guides and protects the person in everything he or she is doing.
There is caution for advanced meditation which strictly should not be attempted without the guidance of guru. Bija Mantras and certain mystic Mantras, such as the Sri Vidya, should not be repeated by those who are not well acquainted with them and with the Sanskrit language. If not repeated properly, they can actually bring harm to the psychic system. Those who do not have a guru, who has broken the power of these advanced Mantra, should concentrate on their own Mantras.
Deity Mantras are used for purascharana, which is concentrated japa meditation extended over a long period of time. When performing a purascharana, the aspirant should have some free time each day for japa because the Mantra is repeated 100,000 times for each syllable of the Mantra. The Mantra is repeated with feeling, and in a particular manner with the right observance, until the fixed number of Mantras has been recited. It may take three years for the mantras to finish if one recites them slowly. It should be done by observing certain rules and regulations laid down in the scriptures in regard to purascharana and must observe dietary discipline.
Anushathana is the practice of religious austerity with the goal of attaining some object or the highest being spiritual. For the success, the desire should be spiritual in nature and kept in view throughout the practice. The rigor of the austerity depends on the constitution and health of the aspirant.
For japa anushathana, a deity Mantra is selected according to the desired goal. Although his personal deity might be anyone, if one wanted to compose sublime music, he would repeat the Mantra for Saraswati; if he wished his spiritual obstacles to be removed, he would select a Ganesha Mantra. Japa meditation is then performed with intense concentration and no thought of the external world.
There are other types of japa meditation, but the broad techniques are similar. Approached with faith and devotion, and carried out with perseverance, japa is the most direct path to God-Realization.