Philosophy of Japa

This article is sourced from the book JAPA YOGA - A COMPREHENSIVE TREATISE ON
MANTRA-SASTRA  written by Swami Sivananda Saraswati

With due credit to THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY, Rishikesh

What Is Japa? Japa is the repetition of any Mantra of Name of the Lord. In this Kali Yuga or iron age when the physique of the vast majority of persons is not good, rigid Hatha Yogic practices are very difficult. Japa is an easy way to God-realisation. Tukaram of Deo, a Maharashtra saint, Dhruva, Prahlada, Valmiki Rishi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa - all had attained salvation by uttering the Name of God.

Japa is an important Anga of Yoga. In the Gita you will find "Yajnanam Japa- Yajnosmi- Among Yajnas, I am Japa-Yajna." In Kali Yuga the practice of Japa alone can give eternal Peace, Bliss and Immortality. Japa ultimately results in Samadhi or communion with the Lord. Japa must become habitual and must be attended with Sattvic or Divine Bhava, purity, Prema and Sraddha. There is no Yoga greater than Japa Yoga. It can give you al IshtaSiddhis (whatever you want), Bhakti and Mukti.

Japa is repetition of the Mantra. Dhyana is meditation on the form of the Lord with His attributes. This is the difference between Japa and Dhyana. There is meditation or Dhyana with Japa (Japa-Sahita); there is meditation or Dhyana without Japa (Japa-Rahita). In the beginning you should combine Dhyana with Japa. As you advance the Japa drops by itself; meditation only remains. It is advanced stage. You can then practice concentration separately. You can do whatever you like best in this respect. Om is both Saguna and Nirguna, manifested and unmanifested Brahman. If you are a devotee of Rama you can repeat 'Om Ram' for worship of the manifested Brahman.

Name (Nama) and the object (Rupa) signified by the Name are inseparable. Thought and word are inseparable. Whenever you think of the name of your son, his figure stands before your mental eye, and vice versa. Even so when you do Japa of Rama or Krishna, the picture of Rama or Krishna will come before your mind. Therefore Japa and Dhyana go together. They are inseparable.

While you are doing the Japa of any Mantra, think that you are really praying to your Ishta Devata, that your Ishta Devata is really listening to you, that He is looking at you with merciful or graceful eyes, and that He with open hands is giving you full Abhaya-Dana (asking you to be free from all (34) fears whatsoever) with a view to give you your desired object (Moksha). Entertain the Bhava.

Do the Japa with feeling. Know the meaning of the Mantra. Feel His presence in everything and everywhere. Draw closer and nearer to Him when you repeat the Mantra. Think He is shining in the chambers of your heart. He is witnessing your repetition of the Mantra as He is the witness of your mind.

One must take to Japa or Nama-Smarana (remembering the Name of the Lord) very seriously and sincerely with full faith. The chanting of His Name is but serving Him. You must have the same flow of love and respect (devotion) in your heart at the time of thinking of or remembering His Name as that you naturally may have in your heart at the time when you really see Him. You should have full faith and belief in the eternity of the Name.

Mantra Yoga

Mantra Yoga is an exact science. "Mananat trayate iti mantrah- by the Manana (constant thinking or recollection) of which one is protected or is released from the round of births and deaths, is Mantra." That is called Mantra by the meditation (Manana) on which the Jiva or the individual soul attains freedom from sin, enjoyment in heaven and final liberation, and by the aid of which it attains in full the fourfold fruit (Chaturvarga), i.e., Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. A Mantra is so called because it is achieved by the mental process. The root 'Man' in the word Mantra comes from the first syllable of that word, meaning 'to think' and 'Tra' from 'Trai' meaning 'to protect' or 'free' from the bondage of Samsara or the phenomenal world. By the combination of 'Man' and 'Tra' comes Mantra which calls forth the four aims of being (Chaturvarga) viz., Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

A Mantra is Divinity. It is divine power or Daivi Sakti Manifesting in a sound body. The Mantra itself is Devata. The aspirant should try his level best to realise his unity with the Mantra of the Divinity, and to the extent he does so, the Mantra-power or the Mantra-Sakti supplements his worshippower (Sadhana-Sakti). Just as a flame is strengthened by winds, so also the aspirant's individual Sakti is strengthended by Mantra-Sakti, and then the individual Sakti joins with the Mantra-Sakti to make it more powerful.

The Mantra is awakened from its sleep through the Sadhana-Sakti of the aspirant. The Mantra of the Devata is that letter or combination of letters, which reveals the Deity to the consciousness of the aspirant who has evoked (35) it by the Sadhana-Sakti. The Mantra is a mass of radiant Tejas or energy. Mantra awakens supernatural powers.

A Mantra accelerates, generates creative force. Spiritual life needs harmony in all parts of our being. The whole being must be n perfect ease and in tune with the Divine. Then only the spiritual Truth can be realised. Mantra produces harmony. A Mantra has the power of releasing the cosmic and the supercosmic consciousness. It bestows on the Sadhaka illumination, freedom, supreme Peace, eternal Bliss and Immortality. A Mantra when constantly repeated awakens the consciousness (Chit or Chaitanya). Consciousness or Chaitanya is latent in a Mantra.

Sound exists in four fundamental states, viz., (1) Vaikhari or dense, audible sound, sound in its maximum differentiation; (2) Madhyama or an inner, subtle, more ethereal state at which it is inaudible to physical ear; (3) Pasyanti, a still higher, inner, more ethereal state; (4) Para which represents Isvara-Sakti and is the potential (Karana) state of the sound which is Avyakta or undifferentiated. The Para sound is not, like the Vaikhari, different in different languages. It is the unchanging primal substratum of them all, the source of the universe.

The Japa of a Mantra can bring the practitioner realisation of his highest goal even though he has no knowledge of the meaning of the Mantra. Only it will take a little more time. There is an indescribable power or Achintya Sakti in the Name of God or Mantra. If you repeat the Mantra with concentration on its meaning you will attain God-consciousness quickly.

The repetition of the Mantra removes the dirt of the mind such as lust, anger, greed, etc. Just as time mirror acquires the power of reflection when the dirt covering it is removed, even so the mind from which the impurities have been removed, acquires the capacity to reflect the higher spiritual Truth. Just as soap cleanses the cloth of its impurities, so also, the Mantra is a spiritual soap cleansing the mind. Just as fire cleanses gold of its impurities, so also Mantra cleanses the mind of its impurities. Even a little recitation of a Mantra with Sraddha, Bhava and concentration on its meaning with onepointed mind, destroys all impurities of the mind. You should utter the Name of God or any Mantra regularly every day. The recital of a Mantra destroys your sins and brings everlasting peace, infinite bliss, prosperity and immortality. There is not the least doubt about this.

Sound and Image

Sounds are vibrations. They give rise3 to definite forms. Each sound produces a form in the invisible world, and combinations of sound create complicated shapes. The text-books of science describe certain experiments which show that notes produced by certain instruments trace out on a bed of sand definite geometrical figures. It is thus demonstrated that rhythmical vibrations give rise to regular geometrical figures The Hindu books on music tell us that the various musical tunes, 'Ragas' and 'Raginis', have each a particular shape, which these books graphically describe. For instance, the Megha-Raga is said to be a majestic figure seated on an elephant.

The Vasanta-Raga is described as a beautiful youth decked with flowers. All this means that a particular Raga or Ragini, when accurately sung, produces serial etheric vibrations which create the particular shape, said to be the characteristic of it. This view has recently received corroborations from the experiments carried on by Mrs. Watts Hughes, the gifted author of "Voice Figure". She delivered an illustrated lecture before a select audience in Lord Leighton's studio to demonstrate the beautiful scientific discoveries on which she has alighted, as the result of many years' patient labour.

Mrs. Hughes sings into a simple instrument called an 'Eidophone' which consists of a tube, a receiver and a flexible membrance, and she find that each note assumes a definite and constant shape, as revealed through a sensitive and mobile medium. At the outset of her lecture, she placed tiny seeds upon the flexible membrance and the air-vibrations set up by the notes she sounded danced them into definite geometric patterns. Afterwards she used dusts of various kinds, copodium dust being found particularly suitable. A reporter, describing the shape of the notes, speaks of them as remarkable revelations of geometry, perspective and shading: "Stars, spirals, snakes and imaginations rioting in a wealth of captivating methodical design. “Such were what were first shown. Once when Mrs. Hughes was singing a note, a daisy appeared and disappeared and "I tried," She said, "to sing it back for weeks before; at last I succeeded." Now she knows that precise inflections of the particular note that is a daisy, and it is made constant and definite by a strange method of coaxing an alternation of crescendo and diminuendo. After the audience had gazed enraptured a series of daisies, some with succeeding rows of petals, delicately viewed, they were shown other notes and these were daisies of great beauty. "How wonderful! How lovely!" were the audible exclamations that arose from the late Lord Leighton's studio, and exquisite form succeeded exquisite forms on the screen! The flowers were followed by sea-monsters, serpentine forms of swelling rotundity, full of light and shade and details, feeding in miles of perspective. After these notes came there forms of other trees, trees with fruits falling, trees with a foreground of rocks, trees with sea behind. "Why", exclaimed the people in the audience, "they are just like Japanese landscapes."

While in France, Madame Finlang's singing of a hymn to Virgin Mary "O Ave Marium" brought out the form of Mary with child Jesus on her lap and again the singing of a hymn to 'Bhairava' by a Bengali student of Varanasi studying in France, gave rise to the formation of the figure of Bhairava with his vehicle, the dog.

Thus, repeated singing of the Name of the Lord builds up gradually the form of the Devata or the special manifestation of the Deity whom you seek to worship, and this acts as a focus to concentrate the benign influence of the Divine Being, which radiating from the centre, penetrates the worshipper.

When one enters the state of meditation, the flow of the inner Vritti is greatly intensified. The deeper one goes into meditation the more marked is the effect. The concentration of the mind upwards sends a rush of this force through the top of the head and the response comes in a fine rain of soft magnetism. The feeling arising from the downward power sends a wonderful glow through the body, and one feels as if he is bathed in a soft kind of electricity.

The above experiments demonstrate the following facts:

  1. Sounds produce shapes.
  2. Particular notes give rise to particular forms.
  3. If you want to generate a particular form, you must produce a definite note in a particular pitch.

The repetition of the Panchakshara Mantra, 'Om Namah Sivaya' produces the form of Lord Siva. The repetition of 'Om Namo Narayanaya,' the Ashtakshara Mantra of Vishnu, produces the form of Vishnu. Ina Mantra, the vibrations to be produced by the notes are all important. Much emphasis is laid on the pitch (Svara) as well as form (Varna) of a Mantra. Varna literally means colour. In the invisible world all sound are accompanied by colour, so that they give rise to many-hued shapes. In the same way colours are accompanied by sounds. A particular note has to be used to produce a particular form. Different notes in different pitches give rise to different shapes. In the science of Mantras, we use different Mantras for the purpose of invoking different gods. If you worship Lord Siva you use 'Om Namah Sivaya,' but in worshipping Vishnu or Sakti you will have to change the Mantra. What happens when a Mantra is recited? The repeated recitation of the Mantra produces in the mind the form of the Devata or the Deity connected with the Mantra which is your Ishta, and this form becomes the centre of your consciousness when you directly realise it. It is, therefore, said that the Mantra of the Deva is the Deva himself. This may explain the much misunderstood dictum of the Mimamsa philosophers that the gods do not exist apart from the Mantras (Mantratmako Devah). This really means that when a particular Mantra appropriated to a particular god is properly recited, the vibrations so set up, create in the higher planes a special form which that god ensouls for the time being.