Japa Yoga

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

  1. Handling the Mala
  2. Flow of Nadi
  3. Position of right arm
  4. Use of a Gomukhi
  5. Errors in Japa

This item concerns the handling of Mala. We can practice as a matter of fact Japa Yoga in any manner we like, that is the view of many persons. They think that after all it is meant to recite the name of the Lord. So it matters a little if they do it with the left one or we just do it another way because it is God's name that is to be recited through Mala. In fact that does not sound logic though we do repeat Lord's name, God's name in Mala; but the purpose of practicing Mala, according to Yoga is quite clear, it is called the awakening of psychic awareness in an average individual.

It is not only remembering Lord's name. Those who are practicing Japa for reciting Lord's name, of course for them there is no rule whatsoever. They may practice this way with a Mala with 101 beads or 2001 beads or with 5000 beads as they like. But if they practice Japa Yoga for the awakening of the awareness, for which we have been practicing Yoga for many, many years, then we have to observe certain restrictions, certain methods, in order to impress on or influence the psychic structure of man. Some of the practices and some of the methods enjoined with Japa Yoga are meant in order to suit the psychological nature of the average individual.

For instance, why Mala at all? Even if it is a question of psychic awareness it could be done without Mala. Mala does not awaken the psychic awareness. Why should we do it? Psychic awareness is something quite different than the Mala and that can be awakened even if we have no Mala. I quite agree, but the trouble is with human psychology. The human psychic system is a system which does not remain steady for long and therefore it becomes necessary for us to decide or to choose a medium or a base through which we may know where did we blink and where did we miss? For instance, when you go to a particular place, you go through the mile-stones. Even if there where no mile-stones you would have been able to reach your destination. But in accordance to the psychology of man this mile-stone is very essential. We call it in Japa Yoga a psychic requirement and this Mala therefore can be said to be a psyche requirement which keeps the psychic system of human being under check and under observation.

To make it more clear for those who have not been able to follow the idea behind, in order to introduce a system for checking, detecting those moments when the mind becomes absent and also to know your own progress e.g. at a certain state of Japa when your mind becomes quite calm and serene, there dawns a state in which the fingers can remain inert. They are momentarily as if paralysed and you are quiet and you forget about yourself. Sometimes Mala also falls down and when Mala falls down, you know that you have missed the connection. If you did not have the Mala and that state arrives, how do you know it? You would be under the impression that you would have experienced a very good spiritual state and not Laya.

That happened with me once. One evening at 6 o'clock, I sat with Mala for Japa, I am sorry, in Dhyana. I was in Padmasana. I just took help of the wall on my cot and I got up at 4 o'clock. And I was so happy, except that I had a terrible pain in my knees and thighs that I could not retain the happiness. I directly went to Swamiji and said: 'Swamiji, I had 10 hours of Samadhi'. Swamiji laughed at me. He said: 'That is very nice'. I came back but I did not get good encouragement from Swamiji. Then, once he asked me if I did Japa at all. I said, 'Yes Swamiji, I did Japa.' 'Did you have a Mala?' I said, 'No, I don't have a Mala?' 'Where is your Mala I gave you?' I said, 'Well, I don't believe in Malas'. He said you may believe in Mala or not, that is an intellectual belief but it is not a question of belief, it is a question of need. Then he told me, that night you sat down for 10 hours are you sure that your awareness was in tact or had it gone blank? I said, I don't know. He said, there must be some method to check that, to know that, to direct that. I said, what method could it be? Because in that depth of consciousness, it is not possible to remember everything. He said, it is the continuity of Mala that will tell you that all throughout of your consciousness, this finger was counting and you were in.

So it is said, when the Japa goes on correctly and concentration takes place, then the Mala moves on and on and at the same time, the counting of other fingers also moves on. I am not going into more details of Japa Mala. I would only tell one thing, that Japa Mala may not be a thing which faith may accept, but it is a need that our mind will require, that's all.

The fact that we have 108 beads needs some sort of explanation. Personally speaking I am not satisfied with the explanation I am going to give you. But what I have heard from my elders and read in the books, that I am going to tell you. The selection of 108 is in this way: 1 represents Supreme Consciousness; 8 represents the 8 fold aspect of physical nature, not transcendental nature, physical nature, you call it physics and 0 represents the Cosmos, the entire galaxy of creation. So 1 is Cosmic Consciousness, 0 Cosmic and 8 the 8-fold physical nature which has been much talked about in the ancient scriptures. Then there are other people who say that it is a numerical figure in a sense that the sum total of numerical additions of the word Brahma makes 108. Because the word BRAHMA according to Sanskrit is composed of Ba, Ra, Ha and Ma. If you count which number Ba is in the line (Ba = 27), which number Ra is (Ra = 27), which number Ha is (Ha = 27) and which number Ma is (Ma = 27) and total all the four, it becomes 108. I will make it clear sometimes when I am going to teach you Hindi, because it will take much time to count. And then there are other scholars, thinkers who believe that 108 is the garland, the symbol of unconsciousness associations as we have been discussing that evening in the form of kali with the skull. And these skulls are also 108. It means that 108 number denotes 108 incarnations.

But speaking for myself none of these explanations have been able to give me full satisfaction up till now and I shall try to find why this number 108 is there. There are many more explanations in different books and in different religions for 54, 101, 1001, and so on. Anyway, the number fixed for Mala is 108 beads and the final bead is called Meru. Well, this one may be considered for the time being, the passage of consciousness, and this is Bindu. You will understand this after a few days. Now only this much.

And these 108 centres, stations, camps, where your consciousness keeps on hopping, jumping, hopping, jumping and goes on up to Bindu and from Bindu it returns, it does not cross Bindu. You will kindly remember this very well. The consciousness should not cross this Meru or Bindu; it is called Meru, but it is known as Bindu. That it this particular Chakra. And when once you come up to this point, this makes one rotation of psychic passage complete. Then from this point, you just reverse the Mala and go ahead. So it is something like this way. It is not a circular way.

For our intellectual satisfaction, I am saying that this particular scheme is in order to bring about the revival in the consciousness or it has lost touch with the main theme. If some how or other the mind has become absent and is fond to do then it is at this point when you have to reverse the whole thing it remembers, 'oh Yes, I was lost'. Usually when we start Mala, up to 10 beads we are alright. After 10 beads mind starts wavering one way and fingers go on automatically. Then when the last one comes, the consciousness is to revive itself. It has to revive itself otherwise there will be mistake in counting.

How to handle it for japa? These three fingers are allowed: thumb, third and fourth. These two fingers are not allowed second and fifth finger. You will just hold these finger like this and separate and place Mala between third and fourth finger. It is a very simple thing.

Japa has to be done by placing the palm near the heart and Mala is usually heavy. For those who are practicing a number of Malas, swinging the Mala like this is not a good method. They must have something to support so that the heaviness is not felt by fingers. So you don't support it with the hand. You just have some kind of cloth and then it is done. For those who do hundreds of Malas every day for them even the cloth is not enough. They have to use something else and that I will tell you.

So that is the way and how to move the fingers is you practice. Some of you might be able to do it and that we will learn when the actual practice comes.

When you practice Japa, the left nostril should be flowing always, please remember, left should be flowing. Well, if both are flowing, it is alright, but the left should be flowing at the time that has been described. When the left is not flowing and the right one is flowing then they have a method of changing the Nadi. So, in those ancient days, they used to keep a staff, you must have seen in old pictures of Mahatmas. Some kind of a wooden staff, they used to place under their armpits. The moment they keep it the nadi will stop and the other nadi begins to flow and that is what is used for changing the nadi. But this will be discussed when we discus the topic of Swara Yoga, the science of psychic knowledge through breath consciousness. At that time I will tell you exactly what this Yoga Tantra is and how to use it. Anyway, if the left nostril is not flowing and the right one is flowing please see that the left one flows. In order to have the left nostril flowing, the most important point at the time of Japa is to place your hand for the time being (left hand under right armpit) for about 15 minutes until the left one starts flowing.

The use of a Gomukhi

To use the Mala for any length of time, the use of a Gomukhi is recommended. A Gomukhi is made out of a cloth, a right angle in shape, in which the hand goes and the Mala is supported by the lower part. A Gomukhi is a very light thing and it makes the Japa easy. It is used by those who do Anusthan and practice 50,000 to 60,000 per day. For them it is a must, and also this Yoga Tantra, it is also a must for those people because when people sit down and practice the flow of Nadi changing on account of certain changes in the body, Yoga Tantra is to be used to balance the flow of Nadi. Anyway, it is of no use to us. We just discuss the point now. When this much has been said, ultimately we come to the point.

Error in Japa

It means there is a wrong way of doing Japa and also may be if we do it wrongly, it can have an adverse effect on our psyche. The first thing: the practice of Psyche. The first thing: the practice of Japa should not be done before anybody. It is a different thing, if 5 or 10 of you are in a room and all are devoted in this science, and all are interested in this science, and also practice this, then it can be done. Otherwise, if one of your family members does not like it, there is no meaning in telling "I was doing japa this morning and this man was banging the door and doing all sorts of things." No use to do like that. The only point is that you should not do Japa before others. Because this is something which an intellectual man cannot understand, this psychic energy or this psychic act in the name of Japa Yoga is to be done absolutely in seclusion. There is a lot that when psychic acts are committed before others, they no more remain psychic and therefore the rule is that Japa should be done in absolute secrecy and not as a show. This is one error in Japa.

Do not change the Mantra. If you want the same Mantra to be given by some other powerful man, supposing you take the Mantra from me and you have been able to developed it to a certain extent but not fully because I could not tell you everything about it and you find another man who is more suitable to awaken that Mantra and give you more detailed instructions on Mantra awakening, you do seek his help, but do not change the Mantra, because, the moment you will change the Mantra you create confusion in your unconscious mind and that confusion once created can never be corrected. I know this much. So it is said and strict instructions are there that you should never change your Guru and never change your Mantra. This means, these are the two symbols of your consciousness and if both of them are to be changed this denotes confusion. But normally when I am asked, I have no option. Because people ask me on different levels ‘shall we change our Guru?’ ‘should we have another Guru?’ If I tell them ‘No’, they say ‘what is this? When we can change our husband, when we can change our wife, why not a Guru also?' This is the type of background we have. But coming to the proper, I think some of the matters have become clear and I feel my approach to this problem will by appreciated by you. Guru should never be changed and nor the Mantra. Sometimes it happens that a Mantra has been given to you and by your own sentimental devotions you feel that a certain Mantra is more powerful and the other Mantra less powerful. Oh, yes, there are some people who believe in this also and they subconsciously or unconsciously try to have a particular Mantra. That should not be done. You select the Mantra with utmost care, with absolute faith, with final decision.

There must be two points. Faith is one. Faith has to be there, but you have to tell your mind, ‘I am finally deciding it and after this even if I do not like I am not going to change it’. That is a point, the most important point of error in Japa and many people have been committing this. People change the sect, change the community, change the religion, so many things they do, they do not know what they are changing. They are changing the entire structure of unconscious mind and thereby creating a lot of confusion in thier psychic body. Not only in this life, but hereafter also. So Mantra should not be changed whatever Mantra you have, may be Sanskrit Mantra, may be Roman Mantra, may be any Mantra with or without meaning, you please go on with that. And if at all you want to understand a bit more, or if you want that something should be added to that, then you should go to that man who will tell you not to change your Mantra. This is an error.

Next error in Japa Yoga which people usually do is that they overdo Japa. Sometimes people are so enthusiastic in doing Japa and think that this is the easiest thing, that is the cheapest and the best method for self-realisation. They do thousands and thousands of Japa every day, so much their mind becomes dull ultimately. I would call in the language of psychology that he becomes introvert. So we should not overdo this Japa. You know it very well that any medicine which is powerful should not be taken over the prescribed dose. In the same way, if you believe that mantra is powerful you should not do it indiscriminately and without proper thinking and that is why, on the day when Diksha is given, initiation is given by the Guru, he prescribes the limit. He says maximum, this much. Suppose my Guru at the time of initiation, he told me 5 malas after you leave the bed, 5 malas when you go to bed, 5 malas after lunch, 5 malas after dinner. And you know 5 malas take 3 minutes to make. I was wandering all these little items Swamiji has described. I thought something for ½ hour or 1 or 2 or 3 hours. But one thing he said you do not miss it even one day and then I assure you something. So three minutes I used to do in the morning after lunch, after dinner and when I went to bed. So these 12 minutes out of twenty four hours have trained my psyche, have set a particular rotation and I am so much used to it that my whole twenty four hours are timed to a particular moment. And I cannot help it, and this is called disciplining the psyche. On the first day I have dealt with this topic. Same way, it is not the quantity, not even the quality, but is the regularity that is most important in Japa Yoga. And those who seek quantity go on many thousand times. Not to discourage. No I am not discouraging. Those people usually they become dull, introvert type and some times involuntary sense of fainting occurs to them and then they have to give up that one, fainting. They will be sitting and the mind starts fainting. Why? Because throughout this month, throughout the last month, between 12 and 4 I was doing thousands of Japa for about 16 days, thousands of Japa and I left it. Now my mind exactly during that period starts fainting. That becomes the condition of the nervous system gradually. Overdoing in new enthusiasm is one of the errors in Japa Yoga.

Mala which is meant for Japa should never be worn, or put on the neck. The Mala for wearing and the Mala for japa are two different Malas. Do not lend your Mala. One Mala for wearing and another Mala for Japa are two different Malas but it is not at all necessary to wear the Mala, although wearing of Mala is good. Lending the Mala is not good. If you do not have a Mala any day, you start counting with the fingers.

According to the Hindu method of Japa Sadhana, especially in Tantra Sadhana the moment one of the beads is broken, you are not allowed to use the Mala. This has many references in Tantra Shastra and I think most of you know that Tantra Shastra is an exact science so far as psychic occultism is concerned. So they do not use Mala when one of the beads in broken. They say this has become useless. Then what do they do? They always have a spare Mala with them. And that spare Mala is taken for the purpose and the other Mala is disposed off and in India we dispose it off in the Ganges only. It is never thrown anywhere, no never, well that is according to a particular sect.

And finally those people who want to practice Japa with a specific purpose they should always take care of the pronunciation of the Mantra because the correct articulation of the Mantra will be able to create, as I told you yesterday, the thought figures within your self and instead of reciting OM NAMAH SHIVAYA, if you recite OM SHIVAYA, or OM NAMAH SHIVAYA you see after all the sound changes and the figures also must change and they will change so that the thought, figures in your self should be the same all throughout it is necessary that the articulation of the Mantra should be correct. Not only the grammatical articulations but also the psychical articulation. In Vedas there are two types of articulation, which I am going to describe just in a nutshell. Supposing I recite I Mantra before you and you mark the difference.

First grammatical articulation:

Om, agnimare, guruhitam, nyagnyasdewamritwyam hota ram

You follow the point. It is the accent, it is the pitch which changes between the first and the fifth accent. To our Indian music these two notes Sa and Pa, that is the Mooladhara and Vishuddhi chakra, sa and pa. They always go to that extent. In psychic articulation Ma, Re. Ma goes down to Sa, and Re goes up to Pa. And that psychic articulation so far as Mantra is concerned should be perfect, otherwise they say, if the psychic articulation is not correct and if only grammatical articulation is correct the Mantra will not produce the desired form and effect within.

About this psychic articulation, I will be able to tell you more at the end of your Sanskrit study. Because that is something that should be learned and not only be heard. And those who want to have a mantra for Japa and they just want to pick it from an inert Guru, they should be careful about the selection. It is said that Mantras selected from a book or from a scripture or from any ancient text is as much dangerous for the person as the poisoned arrow for the body.

Now I have practically finished the topic of Japa Yoga.