People often ask how to maintain regularity in their practice of mantra japa. There are two aspects of mantra. The first aspect is sadhana and the second aspect is remembrance.
Until today, you only think of your mantra as sadhana: when you have to sit, hold your mala, do one mala, two malas, three malas, whatever is prescribed, and you become obsessed with a ritual. Sadhana becomes a ritual.
Every morning you get up thinking, ‘This is what I do’, every night before you go to sleep, ‘This is what I do’, every day during the day, ‘This is what I do’. Everything has become a ritual, even mantra japa has become a ritual. When a sadhana becomes a ritual, there are times when the mind will break away from it. Therefore, in yoga two ideas have been given: sadhana and remembrance.
You are given a mantra and you are told to do one mala, two malas, three malas, five malas every day. You are told to fix a space, a time, a location and do your sadhana. So you do that. Then there are times when due to circumstances, work or other engagements you miss your sadhana, the ritual. One day, two, three, four days, one month, six months, one year. Sometimes you come back when there is time and when you remember, ‘Oh! I’ve not done my sadhana for months.” If you think of anything as a sadhana, a ritual, then the mind may be cut due to circumstances.
However, when you think of mantra not as sadhana but as remembrance, then even when you are walking you can repeat a mantra with every step; five minutes, seven minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes. If you are walking, repeat your mantra and you will be surprised, for you are doing five malas while walking without even realizing that you have done five malas. With each step, one hundred steps, one hundred mantras, five hundred steps, five hundred mantras, one thousand steps, one thousand mantras.
In this manner you are actually doing more mantra japa than what you would do as your sadhana.
In sadhana you are doing two malas, you feel compelled and you want to finish quickly. You are moving your beads fast without focus, attention or concentration. The ten minutes it takes to complete two malas you try to finish in five. Therefore, your sadhana is not sincere. The effort you are making is not a sincere effort. You are trying to do the practice quickly so that you can be free of your obligation.
If you walk five hundred steps, you could do in one walk five malas of mantra repetition.
This is known as remembrance, which is spontaneous, simple and does not involve any force or obligation. It is natural. If done as remembrance, every day brings a new opportunity to begin your sankalpa of regularity in mantra japa afresh.
—15 March 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger