Japa: Repeat any Mantra as pure Om or Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Sivaya, Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya, Om Saravanabhavaya Namah, Sita Ram, Sri Ram, Hari Om, or Gayatri, according to your taste or inclination, from 108 to 21,600 times daily.
God is intangible, avyakta
(imperceptible). All this is made very clear in the Vishnu Sahasranama.
He is goodhah
(hidden): Eko devah sarva bhuteshu goodhah
(the one Lord is hidden in all beings). He is sukshma-atisukshma
(subtler than the subtlest), avangmanogochara
(not known by the senses or the mind). Yato vacho nivartante aprapya manasa saha
(whence all speech along with the mind, turn back, not reaching it). He is beyond thought, beyond speech.
What then is the way to approach God? We are bound in gross physical consciousness, severely limited to thinking in terms of names and forms only. Without the basis or support of these names and forms there is no vichara
(enquiry) in our antahkarana
(inner being). That being the case, what is it that can link us with That
which is beyond thought, speech, mind and intellect. Is there some bridge that can link us, bound as we are to outer appearances, bound in gross conceptual and objective thinking, to that which is beyond? All our vrittis
(thoughts) are vishayakara vrittis
(thoughts of sense objects). We can only think in terms of time and space, names and forms, here and there, this and that, and not of the Transcendental. Bound in this state of limited finite consciousness, what is the possibility of our trying to link ourselves with that which is Infinite, beyond time and space, beyond names and forms.
It is here that the great science of the practise of the Divine Name comes as an answer to this great problem, this barrier between the known and the unknown, the finite and the Infinite, the manifest and the unmanifest, the individual and the Universal. There is a chasm of relativity between us, the individual souls caught in the aneka (many), and the ekameva’dvitiyam (the Absolute).
The Divine Name is such a link. It is like a boatman who ferries and touches both banks of the river. It has the advantage, that like a ferryman, it can take us from this bank of finite consciousness to the other bank of Infinite, Universal Consciousness. The Name has this great advantage.
God is intangible. Whatever we know of Him in temples, mosques, synagogues and churches is only created by man—conceptual and man-created. Upon all idols and murtis
we have to superimpose our own imagination of a higher Being. However, this intangible Being is present with us in one tangible aspect which we can actually feel, experience, create and practise, that is the Divine Name which we ourselves can articulate very clearly. It has a sound which we can hear and we can write it also.
The form of God is beyond our comprehension. But here is something, an aspect of God, identical with Him, discovered in ancient times—the mantra (sacred syllables) of the Supreme Absolute Being. Here is a sound that is formless and therefore it has contact with the formless world. Parabrahman is nirakara (formless) and nirguna (without attributes) whereas the Divine Name is nirakara (formless) but saguna (with attributes).
It is in the form of sabda (sound), it is in the form of nama (name), it has a vibration, it has a tangible sound which we can hear. We can produce it on gramophone records, we can produce it on tape-recording machines. We can put it into any media and once again reproduce it. We can send it across the seas, we can amplify it, we can broadcast it through microphones. So here is something we can do what we like with, and the greatest astounding truth about it is, it is Divinity in manifestation as sound.
It is Divinity manifest as sabda
(sound) which Vedanta refers to as sabda-Brahma, nada-Brahma.
He who is nada-bindu-kalatita
(beyond sound, time and space) is caught by nada
(sound). He can be thus approached by this particular nada
because it is formless. So, it is at once that tattva
(principle) that has access to both fields—the formless Parabrahma
field and the saguna
field of names and forms in which we are living.
For us everything has some quality, and sound is one of the five main qualities perceived by us (Five qualities: form, taste, touch, sound and smell). Sabda-brahma, nada-brahma is identical with God. The Lord and His Name is identical. Thus, every mantra composed of the Divine Name, containing the Divine Name, framed around the Divine Name like: “Om Namah Sivaya, Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Sri Ram, Om Sri Krishnaya Namah, Om Sri Ramaya Namaha, is structured around this sakshaat pragat swaroop paramatma (direct manifest form of the Supreme Self).
Patanjali has a sutra
which says that perfection can be attained by the repetition of the Divine Name, and Jagat Guru Lord Krishna says: “He who repeats My Name at the time of leaving the body, attains Me. He does not return once again into this mortal world.” The abheda,
(the identity of the Lord and His Name) has been established by direct experience by those who have practised this path and attained perfection. One among those whom we know within historical memory, who attained Self-realisation through the practice of the Divine Name, was the Guru of Shivaji, Samartha Ramdas, who knew nothing and did nothing except repeat Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram.
On the other side of the Indian sub-continent, in Bengal, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu attained the great state of Divine consciousness, became inebriated with God-consciousness through nama sankirtan of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. He travelled to Vrindavan and throughout the length and breadth of India and established the supremacy of the Name as the one unfailing sure method for attaining God-consciousness in this Kali Yuga (Iron Age). Kali Yuga kevala nama adhara—“The Name of the Lord is the only refuge in this Iron Age.”
Repetition of the Divine Name is only a revival of an ancient method. Long before Lord Rama incarnated in this world, the hunter and dacoit Ratnakar attained perfection through constant practice of the Divine Name, the Name made up of two letters Ra
—the Taraka mantra
. He did not know anything. He was illiterate, uncouth, uneducated, from a forest hunting tribe, and he actually repeated the Name in the wrong way. In Sant Tulsidasji’s Sri Ramcharit Manas
there is a saying:
Ulta naama japata jaga jaana
Valmiki bhaye Brahma samaana
“The whole world knows that Valmiki attained Brahmic-consciousness, attained the great realisation Aham Brahmasmi by doing japa even in a wrong way.”
He became renowned in Indian spiritual history as one who had attained that supreme state of Brahmic consciousness by japa
alone. He did not know Sanskrit, he did not know Vedanta, he did not know the Upanishads,
he did not know the Bhagavata,
he did not know Ashtanga Yoga or Kundalini Yoga, he did not know asana
He did not know anything. Therefore, he could only do what he was capable of doing. Even though he was unlettered he became endowed with Brahmic-consciousness and thus became an illumined Sage. He became the great sage adi-kavi Valmiki
who produced the immortal epic the Valmiki Ramayana.
He was a murdering desperado, a dacoit, cruel, violent, a sinner yet he became one with Brahman in his spiritual consciousness through the repetition of Rama Nama.
Therefore, with every breath utter the name of God. Take to this unfailing sure path—the path of the Divine Name. In this Kali Yuga it is supreme. It is the least complicated, most efficacious and simple method. All saints and spiritual teachers of India over the past 300 or 400 years have never failed to lay great emphasis on the practice of the Divine Name as an unfailing and certain way to attain God-realisation.
Gurudev says “Do japa of any Name that is to your taste or just
‘OM’, from 108 times each day to 21,600 times, that is from one mala to 200 malas
(21,600 are the number of breaths that we take every 24 hours). The more the better! A trader or businessman never questions: “How much should I earn?” He ever tries to increase his wealth. Like that this great golden key has been given for you to attain chitta-suddhi
(purification of mind), bhakti
(one-pointed meditation) and ultimate sakshatkara
(Re-alisation). It is a sampoorna yoga
May His Grace and blessings give you success in your inner spiritual life, in yoga abhyasa and spiritual sadhana.
[TWENTY IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTIONS, A Series of talks on Swami Sivananda’s Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions.]