Life in this modern world is full of problems and tensions.
The best solution to these tensions is turn towards God in prayer. The Hindu method of prayer is “meditation” (dhyana) and “repetition of divine name” (japa).
Here is the earnest attempt to present this subject, including some practical hints, in as simple a manner as possible.
Since a human being wants complete cessation of all kinds of sufferings and a continuous enjoyment of bliss, all scriptures proclaim that spiritual life is the sole means of attaining it.
Spiritual life, in primary sense, is rooted in the spirit, the Atman or God residing in one’s own heart, who is also all pervading and transcendent. That means only a muktapurusa , a saint who has realized God, can lead such a life. However, in a secondary sense, a way of life that helps us to realize God, can also be termed as spiritual life.
2. God :
God is described as responsible for creation(srsti), preservation(sthiti) and dissolution(pralaya) of this world. He is also the law-giver, the Supreme ruler , who metes out punishment to the wicked and rewards the virtuous.
Spiritual life that leads one to God-experience and hence gives moksa can be called “yoga“.
According to meditation on any one of these various aspects of God, will also lead to same God-experience or realization, ultimately resulting in moksa.
That form or aspect of God, which one likes to meditate upon , is called ‘Ista‘ or ‘Istadevata‘ (chosen deity). This Istadevata may be the traditional family deity or any other aspect, to which the spiritual aspirant is naturally drawn.
In cases where the aspirant is unable to decide the Istadevata, the issue can be left to the guru or spiritual teacher.
For practising meditation and japa(repetition of the divine name of the chosen deity) it is necessary that the aspirant takes mantradiksa (Spiritual Initiation) from a qualified guru.
4. Intitation or Mantradiksa:
Mantra or the divine name is that which protects the disciple when he repeats it and reflects on it. Diksa is the process of giving mantra to the disciple by the guru by which the sins of the disciple are destroyed or attenuated.
In Mantradiksa, the guru generally imparts the sacred mantra(divine name) to the disciple and also instructs him in detail about the step-be-step process of meditation.
Now a simple process of meditation may be described for the sake of who have not had the benefit of mantradiksa :
- Choose your Istadevata. It can be your family deity or any other aspect of God which appeals to you most.
- Choose two times in a day which are convenient to you for meditation. Once you choose the timings, try to stick to them as far as possible.
- Choose a place for meditation in your home. It can be your puja-room or a corner of your living room.
- Spread the asana or meditation-seat in the place of meditation and sit upon it with folded legs. Keep the backbone, neck and head erect. Let your hands rest on your lap. Close your eyes.
- Think of the vast infinite sky without sun, moon, stars and also clouds, but filled with dim light, for a couple of minutes. This will help you to relax your mind and body.
- Now, withdraw the consciousness into the region of your heart. Imagine that there is a beautiful 12 petalled red lotus there. Also imagine that your Istadevata is sitting on the same, fully living and conscious.
- Mentally offer your prayer to the Istadevata. Pray for good health, peace of mind, faith and devotion.
- Try to meditate for sometime, say 5 to 10 minutes. Eventhough the mind may run away from the Istadevata during this meditation, try to bring it back again and again and fix it on the deity.
- Then do japa or repetition of the divine name of the Istadevata. Suppose the Istadevata is Rama, you can simply repeat “Rama…..“. The minimum number of repetitions of the divine name should be 108. If you want to do more, it should be multiples of 108.
Do not immediately get up from the seat after meditation. Continue to sit there for some more timeamd do some chanting.
6. Significance of Mantrajapa:
A mantra becomes effective only when its japa is done. That is, it should be repeated a prescribed number of times as per the directions of the guru.
During japa, the counting can be done either by hand or by rosary(japamala).
Meditation and japa help the spiritual aspirant to gain greater control over the mind and concentration.
Generally they go together. However, id meditation deepens, japa may automatically stop.
If there is not much concentration, mere japa, especially if done in large numbers, can help one to get greater concentration and peace.
Hence all the spiritual aspirants are advised to take mantradiksa from a qualified guru and then practise spiritual disciplines as per his instructions.
This post is only like an appetizer that may increase one’s spiritual hunger.