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General Discussion / In Praise of Japa
« on: June 13, 2018, 11:01:12 PM »
In Praise of Japa

By William Page
William Page retired from teaching English at Thammasat University in Bankok. He has associated with the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society in Boston since 1960 and is a member of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of Thailand. This article was published in the Fall 2009 issue of American Vedantist, and it is reproduced here by permission of American Vedantist.

Japa is one of the main spiritual practices of the Ramakrishna movement.  Combined with prayer and meditation, it forms a triangle?a three-fold method of reaching out for God, establishing him within, and keeping him there.

Prayer is simply the act of talking to God.  The words can be spoken aloud, whispered, or uttered mentally.  They reach out to God and invite him to come down and take his seat upon the lotus of the heart.

Once he?s there, we begin to do japa and meditate.  Japa is the continuous, silent repetition of a very short prayer or invocation called a mantra.  It can be done on its own or in conjunction with meditation.  Meditation is the act of visualizing God within us.  Together, these two practices establish God within us and enable us to feel his presence.

In the intervals between meditation sessions, we usually get preoccupied with our daily work.  If God gets restless at being neglected and seems inclined to leave his seat, we can bring him back by doing japa.

So prayer draws the Lord from the heavens to the heart, japa and meditation establish him on his throne within, and japa keeps him there.  Of course, his grace is also necessary.  Without it, nothing happens.

Do It Now
Prayer and meditation require our full attention, but one of the advantages of japa is that you can do other things at the same time.  Holy Mother, who was famous for doing prodigious amounts of japa, undoubtedly did much of it while busy with her household chores?husking paddy, sweeping and scrubbing the floor, washing and cutting vegetables.

It?s also a good way to shut down the endless chatter of the mind.  We often find our thoughts wandering.  Japa pulls them back and gives them focus.  It?s like a thread that ties the mind to the lotus feet of the Lord; it reminds us always to pay attention to him.

Sri Ramakrishna taught a variety of spiritual practices, but Swami Brahmananda and Holy Mother placed special emphasis on japa.  If you study their teachings, you?ll find that they constantly emphasized the necessity of doing it, and especially at fixed times in the morning and evening.

The fixed times establish the habit.  Once you get used to doing it at certain times, you get restless to do it when those times come.  If you don?t do it, you feel guilty.  In fact, guilt feelings are common among devotees who skip doing their japa.  If you don?t want to feel guilty, better not skip it!

A common complaint among beginners is that they don?t feel any results.  Swami Brahmananda constantly had to reassure his disciples that if they didn?t feel any results in the beginning, they would feel them later on.  Perseverance is the key. In fact, he told one disciple, ?Follow some spiritual discipline for at least three years, and then, if you find you have made no tangible progress, you may come back and slap my face!?  (Swami Prabhavananda, The Eternal Companion, Vedanta Press, Hollywood, 1947; p. 129.)

Vicarious Japa: A Gift from Holy Mother
Holy Mother said that some of her disciples were incapable of doing much japa, so she did it for them.  In her old age, when her attendant noticed that she was doing japa even in bed, she asked, ?What can I do, my son?  The boys come and entreat me eagerly.  They take the mantra and go home.  But nobody does any japa regularly.  Some don?t do it even once.  Yet as I have shouldered the burden, should I not look after them?  That?s why I do japa and pray to the Master, ?O Master, grant them enlightenment, grant them emancipation, and do you take on yourself their care in every way here and hereafter!??  (Swami Gambhirananda, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, Fourth Edition, 1986; p. 397.  See also Swami Nikhilananda, Sri Sarada Devi, The Holy Mother: Her Teachings and Conversations,  Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 2004; pp. 25-26.)

I can imagine some people grumbling, ?Holy Mother made it too easy for her disciples.  She spoiled them.  How could they develop any character if she did everything for them??

I can also imagine her giving a sharp reply:  ?I am the Mother!  Shall I not do everything for my children?  As for their character, you don?t need to worry about it.  I will take care of it.?

Lazy guys like me envy Holy Mother?s disciples.  What a soft deal they had!  We don?t have the luxury of knowing that she?s doing japa for us.  Some of us have to do three rounds of the rosary just to get started.  Sometimes it takes that long just to drag the mind away from worldly thoughts and get it settled down. That?s especially true in the evening, after a day of being beaten up by the world.

Coffee, Tea, or Japa?
Early-morning japa, which is recommended most highly, is supposed to take hold quickly, because the mind is fresh and doesn?t have to wean itself away from worldly thoughts.  But you  have to make sure that you?re fully awake, or you?re likely to fall asleep.

People like me, who need three cups of coffee just to wake up in the morning, are always relieved to read about a disciple of Holy Mother who told her that it was impossible for him to do japa before having his morning tea.  Fortunately for us all, Holy Mother gave him permission to drink his tea first.  (Gambhirananda, p.  410.)

I have been quick to interpret this as permission to drink my three cups of coffee in the morning before trying to do anything that requires the slightest bit of intelligence.  I console myself for this weakness by invoking the example of an eminent Tibetan lama, the late Kalu Rimpoche, who used to drink Tibetan tea while meditating.

Don?t Mess with the Mantra
Japa is sometimes difficult for Westerners, because the mantra is in Sanskrit, a language we?re unfamiliar with.  I know an American devotee who once rebelled against his mantra.  ?I?m tired of this Sanskrit gibberish,? he complained.  ?I want an English mantra.?  So, although he had been initiated by a perfectly well-qualified teacher, he made up an English mantra and started doing japa with it.

At first it seemed new and fresh, and he was heartened by the results.  The image of his Chosen Ideal glowed within him; it  seemed to be cheering him on.  Novelty is always exciting, and he expected to make rapid progress.

But surprise, surprise!  Novelty wears off pretty quickly unless there?s some substance behind it.  Pretty soon, about halfway through his rosary, he began to nod off, and his old mantra started welling up from the depths of his mind.  He stopped it, reimposed his English mantra, and succeeded for awhile; but the old Sanskrit mantra was stubborn, and kept resurfacing when he least expected it.  No matter how much he resisted, it kept coming back.  Eventually the image of the Chosen Ideal seemed to be grinning at him, and then he got the message.

Finally he gave up and returned to his old mantra.  ?There?s more to this mantra stuff than meets the eye,? he admitted.  ?I guess you can?t keep a good mantra down.?

But It?s Boring!
The big complaint that most people make about japa is that it?s boring.  Who wants to keep chanting the same old line?  What a waste of time! What?s the point?

The point, of course, is to recondition the mind.  That?s what spiritual practice is all about: to recondition the mind so that it will become a fit place for the indwelling of the Lord.  But our minds are restless, and scream for more exciting fare.  This is especially true in our switched-on era, when cyberspace is crackling with high-tech entertainment.  Who wants to pray when you can google?  Who wants to chant when you can twitter?

If we?re serious about spiritual life, we have to shut down the computer and dig out the old rosary. Swami Brahmananda?s remark that his disciples could come back and slap his face if they didn?t feel any results within three years is something we ought always to keep in mind.  He didn?t mean three years of just piddling around.  He meant three years of persistent and intensive  effort.

Experience shows that if we keep working on our japa, it gradually takes hold. It stops being boring and eventually becomes sweet.  The mantra becomes an old friend, something solid in the foundation of our minds, an anchor for our wayward thoughts.  It can be a healing balm in times of grief, a refuge in times of trouble.  It takes on a life of its own, and rises from our subconscious to greet us whenever we turn to it.

It also becomes something very much like the default setting of  the mind.  When the mind wanders, the mantra often emerges spontaneously.  We find it resounding within us without making any effort.  All we have to do is listen.

In fact, this may be one answer to the famous Zen koan, ?Who is it that recites the Buddha?s name??  When we become established in japa, the Buddha?s name recites itself.

General topics / Re: Quotes from Shankaracharya's
« on: June 11, 2018, 02:23:40 PM »
Short Messages from Sringeri Jagadgurus:

Sringeri Jagadguru on What to do if no time for Puja and Nitya Karma (Kannada):

Excerpt from the book: Sanatana Dharma Vol. 1
Chapter 11 Dharma is eternal and unchanging
Page 75-77

"Today many people lament: ?Swamiji, we are not in a position to put into practice the principles ordained by the sastras. Times have changed. In the past people led a leisurely life. They used to indulge in religious pursuits from morning till evening. We have to rush to our offices at 8 AM in the morning. How can we take up religious practices, like in the past?? They request me to frame a new set of principles to suit the present day situation. In their opinion, rules framed by the Jagadguru would be accepted by all and would be valued.

I told them that Sri Adi Sankaracharya did not establish the Peethas to stipulate new sets of rules and procedures. He established these Peethas to guide the people, to encourage them and ensure that they abided by the Sastras. It is thus impossible, to change the sastras.

They persist, saying it is not possible to follow the guidelines laid down in the sastras. This is only due to the poor understanding of what is prescribed in the sastras. What do the sastras prescribe?

It is prescribed that we offer worship both in the morning and in the evening. If an elaborate worship is not possible owing to some constraints the sastras prescribe a shorter method of worship as a solution. Why is this not being adopted?

It is prescribed that you should chant the Gayatree mantra 1008 times during the sandhyavandana. If this is not possible it suggests that the mantra be chanted at least 108 times. If, even this is not possible it suggests that you chant the mantra at least 32 times.

The sastras suggest both, mukhyakalpa and anukalpa. lf you follow mukhyakalpa you have to chant the mantra 1008 times. If it is not possible to follow mukhyakalpa you may follow anukalpa and chant the Gayatree mantra only 108 times. What you are asking is - If there is a means by which sandhyavandana can be totally avoided. I am emphatically saying that it is not possible. It is my firm opinion; if it is not possible to chant the Gayatree mantra 1008 times, chant it 108 times; even if that is not possible chant it atleast 32 times, but do not give up sandhyavandana.

If you cannot perform worship in an elaborate manner, chanting Rudra and chamaka, perform it at least in a brief manner, chanting only the purushasookta.

lt would be sheer escapism if you say that even this is not possible.You have time for reading the news papers, for watching the television serials and all other activities. If you say you do not have time only for chanting the Gayatree mantra 108 times it would only amount to escapism. It is a lame excuse given to cover, your lack of interest and faith."

Copyright: Dakshinamnaya Sri Sharada Peetham, Sringeri

General Discussion / Re: Rough Notebook-Open Forum
« on: June 09, 2018, 12:27:36 PM »

Dear Anil

Sorry for the loss of your young sister . Deepest condolence to you and your family .
Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya

General topics / Re: Buddhist Teachings and Practices
« on: May 26, 2018, 09:40:54 PM »

General Discussion / Re: Rough Notebook-Open Forum
« on: May 26, 2018, 07:59:14 PM »

General topics / Re: Buddhist Teachings and Practices
« on: April 30, 2018, 03:54:23 PM »
Anger is within us and external objects or incidents are just the triggers that bring the anger out .Simple explanation to the same given here

A monk decided to meditate alone, away from his monastery. He took his boat out to the middle of the lake, moored it there, closed his eyes and began meditating. After a few hours of undisturbed silence, he suddenly felt the bump of another boat colliding with his own.

With his eyes still closed, he felt his anger rising, and by the time he opened his eyes, he was ready to scream at the boatman who had so carelessly disturbed his meditation. But when he opened his eyes, he was surprised to find that it was an empty boat that had struck his own. It had probably gotten untethered and floated to the middle of the lake.

At that moment, the monk had a great realization. He understood that the anger was within him; it merely needed the bump of an external object to provoke it out of him. From then on, whenever he came across someone who irritated him or provoked him to anger, he would remind himself, that the other person was merely an empty boat, the anger was within him.

Source : From a FB Post

Mahatma Gandhi And Sri Ramana Maharshi
The former president of India, Mr. Rajendra Prasad, once went to the asramam of Mahatma Gandhi and said, ?Bapuji, I have come to you for peace!? The abode of peace was known well to Gandhiji and hence he advised, ?if you want peace, go to Sri Ramanasramam and remain for a few days in the Presence of Sri Ramana Maharshi, without talking or asking any question.? Mr. Rajandra Prasad accordingly arrived at Sri Ramanasramam on 14th August 1938. Though those who accompanied him spent their time in asking Sri Bhagavan questions regarding spiritual matters and in visiting all the places on the Hill where He had lived, Mr. Rajendra Prasad did not move away from the Presence of Sri Bhagavan. Besides, according to the advice of Gandhiji, he spent the whole of that week without raising any question or doubt. At the time of his taking leave of Sri Bhagavan, he approached Him and humbly enquired, ?O Bhagavan, it was Gandhiji himself who sent me here. Is there any message that I may take to him??
Sri Bhagavan graciously answered : ?The same Power which works here is working there also! Where is the need for words when heart speaks to heart??

From The Path of Sri Ramana
Sri Sadhu Om

Note : Gandhiji had not met Bhagavan but advised not just Rajendra Prasad but also many others when they were disturbed to go to Sri Ramana Ashram and sit in silence before  Bhagavan  and come back refreshed . Kanchi Paramacharya had also not met Bhagavan but advised others to go there like Paul Brunton etc .   Here Gandhiji and Kanchi Mahaperiyva did not feel the need to go to Bhagavan but advised others to go . As I was writing this I came across the following quote from a Vedantic Teacher which perfectly describes the situation above and the quote is "There will be no feeling of discomfort in a presence of a person who is truly free." . Now we know why Gandhiji and Kanchi Mahaswamigal advised others to visit Sri Bhagavan .

General topics / Re: Quotes from Shankaracharya's
« on: April 23, 2018, 09:31:08 AM »
We are so caught up in our own judgments, in our own prejudices, in what we want to know, but If one can listen, it reveals a great deal. If we can really quietly listen to everything that is happening in our consciousness, to our own impulses, the various passions, the envies, the fears, then the silence comes into being. - Kanchi Maha Swamigal

The above quote is from Kanchi Mahaswamigal and it is very similar to what J Krishnamurti also keep saying many times .

General topics / Re: Buddhist Teachings and Practices
« on: April 23, 2018, 09:20:52 AM »

Dipa Ma ( a great Buddhist Vipassana Teacher ) said that even while she was talking, she was meditating. Talking, eating, working, thinking about her daughter, playing with her grandson?none of those activities hampered her practice because she did them all with mindfulness.
"When I'm moving, shopping, everything, I'm always doing it with mindfulness. I know these are things I have to do, but they aren't problems. On the other hand, I don't spend time
gossiping or visiting or doing anything which I don't consider necessary in my life."

How do you tie your shoes?
She encouraged me to live what I was teaching. The quality of her presence was like that in the Hasidic tales, where somebody asked, "Why did you go to see this rabbi? Did you go to hear him give a great lecture on the Torah, or see how
he worked with his students?"
And the person said, "No, I went to see how he tied his shoes."

Dipa Ma didn't want people to come and live in India forever
or be monks or join an ashram. She said, "Live your life. Do the dishes. Do the laundry. Take your kids to kindergarten. Raise your children or your grandchildren. Take care of the community in which you live. Make all of that your path, and follow your path with heart.

Jack Kornfield

General topics / Re: Quotes from Shankaracharya's
« on: April 20, 2018, 06:48:18 PM »
Today ( 20 April 2018 ) is Adi Shankara Jayanathi and Sri Mahasannidhanam ( Sringeri Sri Bharati Teertha Mahaswamigal ) in His Anugraha Bhashanam has said that it is our foremost duty to remember and revere Sri Adi Shankaracharya, the incarnation of Lord Parameshwara, for reviving Sanatana Dharma and for showing the path of welfare to all. Remembrance of Sri Adi Shankaracharya and His virtues can be done by all by chanting His Ashtottara Shatanama. If we understand the pregnant meanings behind each name in the Ashtottara, and chant the names, it will be as if Sri Adi Shankaracharya Himself stands before us giving us His Darshan. Sri Mahasannidhanam blessed that every follower of Sanatana Dharma participate in this Japa Yajna, the greatness of which is vouched for by Bhagavan Himself in the Gita, where He states ?  ?यज्ञानां जपयज्ञोऽस्मि? ? Of all Yajnas, I am the Japa-Yajna. Sri Mahasannidhanam also said that the the Parayana of the Ashtottara of Sri Adi Shankaracharya must become part of our daily prayers.

This Adi Shankara Ashtottara Parayanam Program organized by the Srinegri Mutt has been going on for the last few years and they have made excellent tools for people to follow the same through free PDF ( in Sanskrit , Tamil , Telegu , Kannada , Malayalam ) and also free audio downloads and also a free APP . This Adi Shankara Ashtottaram along with the other Stotras recommended by Sringeri Acharayas are a complete prayer by itself which can be followed by every individual , family , group as part of their daily /weekly prayer . I have made this Adi Shankara Ashtottara Parayanam a form of daily prayer and have nearly mastered the Adi Shankara Ashtottaram and will master the other stotras recommended by Sri Bharati Teertha Mahaswamigal in the coming months .For more details regarding this follow the Sringeri Mutt website .
Here is a link to the very clear chanting of the Adi Shankara Astottara in Sanskrit .

I am visiting Sri Ramanasramam sometime at the end of April or the beginning of June this year. And now, someone should not teach me that Bhawan is everywhere, and therefore, what need is there for me to visit Sri Ramanasramam (in lighter veins)!! Well, may be I shall be able to say something then, after I return from the Ashram. Meanwhile, I wish to remain silent, i.e., I do not intend to indulge in mental and physical activities excessively, or as far as possible and practicable.

Welcome back Anil . I do appreciate your feelings . You need not justify your visits to SriRamana Ashram ( or in fact any holy places ) to anybody .  In fact our Ancient masters have said that one must not talk too much about our spiritual sadhana , pilgrimage etc to other people just like that .  It is not for some secrecy but just to avoid un-necessary arguments as some people deliberately disturb the minds of those who are planning these sort of pilgrimages . Sharing some genuine concern regarding  weather conditions , food availability , accommodation facilities etc is  fine but questioning one's visit is not right .
Have a spiritually refreshing stay at Sri Ramana Ashram and feel free to share whatever you want .
Om Namo Bhagavete Sri Ramanaya .

General topics / Re: Quotes from Shankaracharya's
« on: March 18, 2018, 10:53:12 AM »
Short Messages from Sringeri Jagadgurus:

Sringeri Jagadguru on 5 Sutras to become a Dharmika:

1. Do not disturb anyone
2. Do not tell lies
3. Do not desire for other's things
4. See all women in this world as your mother
5. Do not desire to have whatever you see

General topics / Re: Buddhist Teachings and Practices
« on: March 16, 2018, 05:33:07 PM »
Brushing our teeth, cooking our breakfast, walking to the meditation hall ? everything we do, every step, every breath should bring joy and happiness to us. Life is already full of suffering; we don?t need to create more.

Thich Nhat Hanh

General topics / Re: Buddhist Teachings and Practices
« on: March 14, 2018, 03:22:46 PM »
Many of us have lost our capacity for listening and using loving speech in our families. It may be that no one is capable of listening to anyone else. So we feel very lonely even within our own families... So if you really love someone, train yourself to be a listener? You may be the best therapist for the person you love if you know how to train yourself in the art of deep, compassionate listening. You must also use loving speech. We have lost our capacity to say things calmly. We get irritated too easily. Every time we open our mouths, our speech becomes sour or bitter... We have lost our capacity for speaking with kindness... This is so crucial to restoring peaceful and loving relationships.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

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