There are often complaints which come in from time to time to the Masters.
They include: ‘I have seen very little benefit from this mantra,’ or ‘I have been chanting for a long time and yet I still have these problems,’ etc.
There are two cardinal rules when it comes to mantras:
- Benefits are proportional to effort.
- Karma is the greatest influence on your success.
Benefits vs. effort
The idea has been put forward a number of times on this blog.
If you are not feeling that you are advancing, then redouble your efforts – literally! Start afresh from an auspicious day and double the amount of times you are chanting.
If time is really a constraint, then redouble your concentration over the allocated time for meditation. A greater level of intensity of your prayer will deliver benefits more quickly than japa for the sake of it.
That’s not to say japa without the emotion behind it will not help – the mantra itself will help you either by directing someone to teach you how to chant it or to explain where you are going wrong in your efforts. Either way, stick with it for a proper period before considering another route!
Once the benefits start to flow, you should steadily increase your japa to see a steep improvement in your life.
The Law of Karma
Karma is called a Law of the Universe for a reason: it is immutable. One must understand that the effects of past actions will inevitably catch up with you in one form or another.
However, God has given us a powerful method to cope with this: free will. Current and future actions also accrue positive Karma, which can be used to offset the negative and create beneficial future events for ourselves.
The offset of bad karma is key. One can steadily erode (but not completing diminish) the negative effects of karma through mantras. The most general prayers (often also the simplest) offering prostrations to the highest deities in the Hindu pantheon will have the greatest effect.
If you find you are making little progress in your sadhanas, then undertake some karma dissolving sadhana immediately before starting a new anusthan or puruscharan.
If all else fails, there is no harm or shame in considering other options. Some souls are not due to take the path of mantra japa and it is more appropriate for them to follow other paths of Yoga.
It is extremely difficult for anyone to be able to judge who should move on and when. That is for you with the help of your Guru to make such a decision. However, I would expect an aspirant to try any one method for a number of years before taking such a step.
Focusing between the eyes is difficult
A common practice in mantra japa is to focus one’s inner vision on the space between the eyes on the forehead.
If accompanied by a physical focus, this may result in eyestrain for many aspirants.
There is an alternative
An alternative method of focusing one’s mind is to control your breathing. This process is known as the concept of pranayama.
There are 5 pranas in the body (vital forces). It is not necessary to go into too much detail on their function but in essence they are the energy flows throughout the body which regulate bodily functions. When controlled, they allow one to tap into your inner power and open the gates of the mind during meditation.
In fact, it is this heightened level of concentration which leads to powerful siddhis manifesting in the aspirant.
Many methods, one goal
A simple method of controlling one’s breathing is simply to watch and regulate it consciously.
1. Relax and take deep breaths to calm the mind initially.
2. Start Japa and establish a rhythm.
3. Then attempt to say one or two mantras mentally while inhaling and 1-2x more mantras exhaling. Your exhale is longer than the inhale and so you will naturally end up reciting more mantras.
4. Repeat until the mind stills and then delve deeper into more focused meditation.
This is just one way. You can vary this as you wish according to your own needs but the point is the same – control your breath to control the mind.
I would strongly suggest you learn more advanced techniques through a qualified yoga instructor or with the supervision of a practising Guru.
The subconscious mind is a powerful tool. In combination with mantras, it can lead to quick siddhi.
The subconscious mind is fast
Subconscious thought processes actually run much faster than the conscious mind. It is not necessarily slowed by what is rational or by checks and balances as per the conscious mind. It is truly your consciousness untethered by reality.
Use it to chant
Implanting the seed of mantra into the subconscious mind is a powerful technology. Why? Because it allows you to continue to chant a mantra, uninterrupted, focused and with all concentration through the night as you sleep.
The benefit is that this adds up to another 7-9 hrs of extra chanting per day! You will also feel awake, alive and refreshed the next morning because you sleep deep in concentration and your brain straight away reaches what’s known as the delta wave level of sleep.
The method works particularly well after a long day of intense concentration at work and ideal for weekdays.
Your mind will require some rest during dinner, then sit to meditate with a moderate level of concentration on your chosen mantra. With practice, your mind will continue to chant it through your sleep.
You’ll know if succeeded if you wake up still chanting the mantra.
It is inevitable that the early stage sadhak (spiritual aspirant) feels the effects of mental and physical tiredness during mantra Japa (chanting).
The most auspicious time to chant any Vedic mantra is during the Brahmamuhurtha (the time of Brahma) – 2 hrs before sunrise. In India, this is between 3-4am. In the Western World, and more northern territories in general, the change of climate means that sunrise timings are variable between Summer and Winter and daylight hours change significantly, so some adjustment must be taken into account.
Western Culture is not oriented around early rising; in fact it is almost the opposite – most social activity for adults occurs in the evening. In this regard, it is incredibly difficult for those accustomed to such regimes to change.
The mind is a powerful device but the beginner will find it difficult to access its full potential. Sadhus (holymen) have long shown us that it is possible to go into deep trances of meditation for hours to days on end and go without sleep! But this is a stretch for a beginner and the initial problem is more that enthusiasm will begin to wane and thoughts wander, resulting in mental tiredness. Note that this is effectively the same for any mantra japa – whether bija or longer verse.
Here are some tips to stave off tiredness
- Eat lightly! A heavily meal will often send the sadhak to sleep while digestion kicks in!
- Stretch your muscles before sitting. This gets the blood flowing and avoids unnecessary fidgeting or physical discomfort.
- Get a good nights sleep. Needless to say, one must balance japa with the requirements of the day. Proper rest is essential to maintain both.
- Vary the speed of Japa. This helps to cut through the monotony. Slow down when you feel your concentration deepening. If you feel enthusiastic and more motivated toward your goal, then by all means speed up! The goal is to increase the intensity of japa to your own limits of concentration and focus; if you are inclined for a fast rousing speed then use it – eventually the mind will find a stillness on its own and you will automatically enter silent mental japa.
- Stand up! Do not feel that you must maintain one specific posture (asana) through out. If you’re tired and find yourself actually falling asleep, stand up! Move your body, rengage your enthusiasm with some japa out loud then resume as your previous asana once vigour returns.
Night 5/6 of Navaratri
Navaratri is quickly progressing! Use this golden time to gain the grace of the Divine Feminine or Devi!
Laghu Anusthan is the preferable method
A popular sadhana (undertaking of religious practices for a fixed period) is to chant a number of malas (rosaries’) of a given mantra over the 9 days of Navaratri. 27 malas (or 108×27) over 9 days is considered a short form of sadhana (called a laghu anusthan – find out more by clicking here).
Whilst the time for the full 9 day sadhana has passed, the period of Navaratri is so powerful that the Devi will give you the partial benefit without observing such a strict regime.
The 40 day challenge awaits YOU!
Let’s go one step further – I challenge everyone reading this post who are interested to take part in a small challenge. This is particularly useful for those people that either felt that they have no time to embark on such a journey, those that feel that the conditions of sadhana are too strict, and those that just dont know how!
Step 1: Choose a mantra
Step 2: Estimate how much time/how many times you can chant this mantra DAILY – not once a week or a month. The routine must be daily and without break.
Step 3: HALVE the number that you decided above. Why? Let’s be realistic and avoid excuses!
Step 4: Begin IMMEDIATELY!
Fine print: OK, so there’s no such thing as a free lunch! Forgive me for inserting this clause into the ‘contract’ above, but please add this one thing to your sadhana: Pray for those that are struggling to even start, to find a way!
Start chanting NOW to see dramatic and miraculous positive changes in your life! Life does not wait, does not inform you of what’s around the corner and does not consult you before changes are made. Neither should you.
What to chant?
Three key mantras were given in my prior post (click here to see it) – but again, lets not use this as an excuse to not start. Chant ANY mantra you choose, any number of times for significant and immediate benefits! Just be regular, sincere and focused in your prayer and the Devi will take care of the rest!
The Next Stage of Japa Yoga
For those that are no longer dabbling in Mantra Yoga and wish to move into more advanced territory, one should attempt to adhere to the five stages of Japa:
- Vaikhart. Chant the mantra out loud.
- Upamsu. Then repeat the mantra in a hushed whisper such that the person next to you could not distinguish the words.
- Madhyama. Now progress to mental Japa. Envision the mantra vibrating with the Heart Chakra, with its 108 flows of prana emanating from it.
- Pasyamti. Envision the mantra vibrating the Naval Chakra. It is not uncommon to see the mantra in words at this stage, once sufficiently advanced.
- Para. Now descend into perfect silence. The mind should now be calm, clear and completely empty. Merge into the silence of peace.
Will yourself to focus!
Chant slowly, clearly and feel each word of the mantra. Contemplate its meaning and will yourself to concentrate at first to cut through the whimsical movements of thought.
These steps allow the aspirant to move from beginner to intermediary very quickly.