Shloka # 4: “Ritualistic worship, chanting and meditation are done with the body, voice and the mind; they excel each other in the ascending order.”
Shloka # 5: “ Worship of God in his eight fold form, understanding that He is so manifest, is proper worship of Him.”
Recapping last class Swami Paramarthananda said Ramana Maharishi mentioned three types of Karmas that help inner growth. He broadly classified them as Kayika, Vachika and Manasa Karmani.
In shloka # 5 Kayika karma is defined as offering puja to God as it purifies a person. Two types of puja are mentioned.
First type of puja is a direct and formal puja performed in a room or in a temple following all rules of puja, as per shastras. This puja may also include Nithya Sandhya Vanadanam.
Second type of puja is indirect puja where everything I do, all my actions, is an offering to god, as a puja.
After that, in shloka # 6, Ramana MahaRishi describes Vachika Karmani or oral activities. They include Parayanam and Japam.
The Parayanam can be Vedic or Non-Vedic. They can even be in any language such as Tamil, Malayalam etc. They all should, however, be glorifying God.
Japa is taking God’s name, one name and repeating it. Japa is a great and efficacious spiritual Sadhana. Sri Krishna says among Yagyas, Japa Yagya is best. For Japa Yagya an initiation is not a requirement. One can consider Bhagavan as one’s Guru; choose an Ishta Devata and then chant. The mantra chanted must be one for an Ishta Devata. Ishta Devata is one towards whom you are naturally inclined. For an Ishta Devata, one can consider, the family deity or the village deity as well. Choose a Nama and with God’s grace start chanting it. Chanting 108 times is considered ideal. More than that is allowed as well.
Formal Japa must be performed sitting down and in a quiet place. Mantra Japa is essential for nourishing spiritual body even as food nourishes the physical body and love, the emotional body. Once I choose the Nama and the place of worship, I should then sit in a proper posture and invoke the Ishta Devata deity. A photo or a figurine is helpful to mentally invoke an image of the deity. Then, one offers namsakara. If one knows a dhyana shloka praising the deity, this also helps with visualization. If a person has been initiated in several Devatas give importance to your Ishta Devata mantra. Do not discard the other initiated mantras. The other mantras need not be chanted 108 times. In general, the more you repeat a mantra, the greater its Shakti.
Before and after chanting a mantra such as “Om Namah Shivaya” for over 100,000 times over a period of say two months one should perform Purascharana. This mantra chanting is like depositing money in a bank, it is depositing spiritual power. You can draw on it whenever you need it. It may be helpful in a crisis. You can call upon the mantra and say, “ With power of this mantra let this crisis pass”. Such a Japa helps in the material world as well. Thus, mantra Japa is useful for spiritual as well as material well-being. Every Japa has a meaning. It is useful to know its meaning. Most of them mean surrender to God. Thus, Namah Shivaya means I surrender to lord Shiva. It also means, I accept whatever happens, wherever it happens (family, workplace etc.) as will of God. This is known as Sharanagathi. I think of the meaning of the Japa and then start chanting. Initially it can be loud to set the pace and pitch and later one can convert it to Manasa Japa.
During Japa there is no need to think of the deity. The mind can only do one thing at a time, deliberately. So, one has to decide if one wishes to concentrate on deity, mantra or mantra meaning. Concentration on mantra and its meaning are two different things. We have to choose one of them. In Japa, importance is given to sound of the Japa. It is not Artha Pradhana rather it is Shabda Pradhana. That is the reason a mantra cannot be translated into another language. The letters (or word) are most important. The silence between letters of mantra is important. In mantra japa one should concentrate on sound of the shabda alone. The silence between words of mantra is also important. Mantra meditation is different from silence. In Japa, concentration is on sound of the shabda. Silence is an important Vedantic meditation. There is a meditation called Silent meditation. It falls under Nidhidhyasanam and can be performed after Vedantic study especially of Manduka Upanishad. In this meditation, one starts with the Nama and then focuses on the silence. From silence then one goes to Chaitanyam. In Mantra Japa there is no silence. One only focuses on the words or letters of the Japa. After performing the Japa one should perform namaskara. A Japa mala can also be used. Mantra Japa is very important in many religions including Christianity and Islam.
Shloka # 6:
“Uttering the sacred words, either in a loud or low tone is preferable to chants in praise of the Supreme. Mental contemplation is superior to both.”
As per Ramana Maharishi, Japa Mantra can be performed in three modes. They are:
1. Uchha Japa: Loud chanting, all can hear.
2. Manda Japa: Whispering chant, only I can hear.
3. Manasa Japa: Purely mental, even I can’t hear.
Manasa Japa is considered most efficacious. They say it is ten times more effective than Manda Japa. Manda Japa is ten times more effective than Uchha Japa.
Manasa Japa is a form of meditation as well hence it is also known as Japayagnam. So, if anyone wants to practice meditation the best method is to chant the Nama mentally. This is the best method to get started on meditation. Other forms of meditation require understanding of scriptures. With this Vachika Karmani portion of shloka # 4 is over.
Shlokas 7 and 8 respectively deal with Manasa Karmani. They contribute to one’s spiritual growth. Ramana Maharishi calls it Chintanam. Any thought associated with Ishwara is Manasa karma. Even a flame can be thought of so long as it is associated with Ishwara as remover of darkness. One can meditate on nature such as on a river, a flower etc. Here God is considered the intelligence behind nature. Nature itself is Vishwa Roopam. Ishwara Chintanam can also include your children, considered a gift from god. Anything connected with God; thinking about it is Manasa Chintanam. Any activity associated with Saguna Ishwara is Manasa Chintanam. It is also called Upasana or mental spiritual activity. Puja is not Upasana as it a physical activity. Only mental activity qualifies as Upasana.
“ Constant, natural meditation like steady flow of ghee or a stream of water is better than intermittent contemplation.”
In this shloka following word meanings are important to note.
Sarala Chintanam: Flow of thought of God.
Viraltaha: Not obstructed by other worldly thoughts. The flow of divine thoughts is not obstructed by worldly thoughts.
Two examples of such meditation are provided in this shloka.
First is the analogy to flow of ghee. When it is poured, because of its thickness, it flows in one continuous flow (Dhara Pravaha).
Second is analogy of flow of a perennial river or stream.
In the first one, flow is artificially maintained by tilting (Aajya Dhara) and later it becomes a natural flow.
Swamiji says Ishwara Upasana is of two types.
- Ishwara is different from me (Dvaita Upasanam). This is acceptable in beginning stages, however ultimately we need to know that there is no difference between Jivatma and Paramatma.
- I imagine God as myself; it is a higher form of meditation. Even in SandhyaVandanam this is prescribed. It is Advaitam and is called Abheda Upsanam.
After Vedanta studies I will know I am God, however, at this time, I imagine I am God.
Nyasa means I visualize the deity as myself. This is Abheda Upsanam. This is superior to Bheda Upsanam. It prepares you for “ Aham Brahma Asmi”.
Swamiji says, one’s Dasa Bhava (dualistic) should go . I should know “I am Jagat Karanam” or the Swamy.
Shloka # 8:
“The meditation “I am that” is regarded as more purifying than one based upon dualistic thought.”
This is describing Abheda Upasanam.
Here there is Abheda bhavana. Thinking Soham means I am Sakshat Ishwara. It is superior to Bheda or Dvaita Upsanam. We must start from Dvaita and then move to Advaita.
(My note: Purascharana means preparatory rites, which is associated with mantra japas. Puras means first of all and ācaraṇa means undertaking, practicing and performing. Therefore puraścaraṇa means first preparatory rites. There are two types of puraścaraṇa rites. One is to make saṅkalpa to certain prescribed number of recitations followed by homa, tarpaṇa, mārjana and bhojana on a regular basis. The second one is to do mantra japa and complete certain rounds as prescribed mantra śāstra-s. Puraścaraṇa should be done only after obtaining specific permission from the Guru, who initiated the mantra. Guru should be worshiped before and after puraścaraṇa. It is important that Guru should be offered dakṣiṇa. If Guru is not available, dakṣiṇa should be offered to his wife or son.)
With best wishes,