In my last blog entry, I discussed how I was quite aware that my suffering would not disappear once I was walking. I have known for some time now that no material gain, including the health of my body, would bring me the peace that I seek. But somehow vocalizing this recently was quite sobering. I asked myself, “What is the point in walking again, if I’m still going to suffer?”
Despite my knowledge of the material world and its inability to produce inner peace, in the back of my mind I always felt that recovery would remove a large part of my suffering. This will be true to an extent, but it is the nature of suffering to inevitably creep back in after each material challenge is removed. What new suffering will be presented as an able-bodied person? What new challenges and fears will I have to face? I could already feel the anxiety creeping in.
I then came to the realization that if anything is possible, if it’s possible for me to break the laws of modern medicine and walk again after nearly ten years of paralysis, then it is also completely possible for me to transcend my suffering and enter a state of peace and bliss unlike I’ve ever known. But how do I get there? How do I attain such magnitudes of peace? I knew there was a tool at my disposal which I had been using since embracing Amma as my guru, but it was time to sharpen that tool into a fine instrument, and further increase my dedication of its use. The spiritual tool of which I speak is japa. (The “a” is pronounced like the “u” in bus.)
Japa is the repetition of mantras or the divine name or names of God. It is the simplest and most powerful path toward self-realization, and dedicating yourself to this practice will without a doubt transform your life. Repeating God’s name, and chanting divine mantras, calls upon and creates powerful energies that transform and elevate the spirit in ways that are impossible to understand. It also trains the mind to constantly turn towards God and cast aside the petty thoughts, distractions and obsessions causing your suffering. All suffering is caused by thoughts, and to enter a state of peace and bliss, one must simply get rid of them. Doing so removes all the static, and clears the pathway for you to become a divine instrument of God, living in the freedom and bliss that is God’s love.
There are two main ways to practice japa. One is to focus solely on the sounds and syllables of the words. If done aloud, you can feel the intonation as it leaves your lips, and the vibration it causes in your chest and throat. You become the mantra. The other way is to visualize God or your beloved deity while chanting, focusing completely on the characteristics of your form of God, never letting that vision slip from your mind’s eye. The form which you are envisioning, whether it is Krishna, Jesus, or Allah, should be correlated with the mantra you are stating, although I make an exception for the gayatri, because of the universal nature of that particular mantra. With either method of japa, thoughts will always arise, but with forgiveness and awareness, we gently come back to the vision or the mantra, and slowly make our way towards the ultimate goal of self-realization.
One should always strive to develop single pointed concentration, but I have realized that even the constant uprising of thoughts do not take away the power of the mantra. Many times, my mind is constantly jumping around to various false stories from my past, present and future. I finally come back to the mantra, only to find myself jumping right back into my thoughts. But even during these moments, where the mantra is simply a background track, the power is still there, helping me to transform and reach higher levels of my being.
Practicing japa can and should be done throughout the day. A truly dedicated spiritual aspirant will spend every possible waking moment chanting the mantra, opening up the connection to the divine and eliminating thoughts. Any moment that passes without doing so, breaks the connection, and once again you are immersed in a material world of suffering, filled with endless wants and desires. It sounds very intense to dedicate oneself to such a lifestyle, but eventually the mantra becomes a part of your being, a sanctuary that brings comfort in times of struggle, and peace during moments of great difficulty. As you slowly begin to feel the power of the mantra growing, chanting it is no longer a burden, but becomes possibly the only healthy obsession that exists. An obsession to know God, to know oneself, and enter a realm of peace and love.
Finding your own personal mantra is an individual experience, and no one can tell you how to specifically go about it. Some say it is necessary for a guru to give you a mantra, but not everyone has a guru. I have also read that it is best to select one mantra and stick to it. Being the nonconformist that I am, there are several mantras that I use on a daily basis, including the one that Amma gave to me, and the Gayatri mantra. My Amma mantra is known by only me and Her, and is the one I use constantly throughout the day, whenever my mind is not preoccupied with some other activity. I do not believe the Gayatri mantra is meant to be said in this fashion. It is very powerful, and should only be said when you are able to sit and focus completely on the task at hand. Chanting the Gayatri more often has been the biggest change in my current lifestyle, and I believe it is doing wonders when it comes to both my spiritual growth and physical healing.
In fact, the past month or so I have been experiencing tremendous periodic pain in my sacrum and legs. I started experiencing some pain in my legs a few months back, but it has increased both in frequency and intensity. It tends to be a deep aching and throbbing sensation, nothing I cannot handle, and actually feels quite wonderful to be honest, like life flowing into my nerves and veins. But as wonderful as that feels, chanting my mantras has become so much more than the quest for recovery, it is the quest for enlightenment, the quest to merge with the light from which I came. It is possible for any one of us, for there is no limit to what we can achieve, no barrier we cannot break, and no amount of suffering we cannot overcome.
If you would like to learn more about japa and finding a personal mantra, the book “The Mantram Handbook ” by Eknath Easwaram is an excellent guide. Some may also find this link to be useful: http://www.dlshq.org/teachings/japayoga.htm