tad japah tad-artha bhavanam
The special or sacred symbol used to communicate with our Higher Power (tad), should be recited repeatedly and continuously (japah) along with a deep respect and contemplation (bhavanam) on the Higher Power’s qualities.
PRACTICAL LIVING In the last sutra Patanjali mentioned the importance of choosing a special way to relate to Ishvara (God). This sutra tells us how to do this: (1) through repetition of Ishvara’s name (whatever name you choose); and (2) with a deep respect and focus on the qualities of your Higher Power.
(1) “japah” is an ancient form of prayer or connecting to God that is found in many different spiritual practices. It involves systematic repetition of God’s name. This can be done out loud, mentally or as a whisper depending on the individual and the environment (if you’re waiting in line at the bank you may want to recite your pranava mentally). The chosen sacred sound acts as a mantra, which means “that which keeps the mind steady and produces the proper effect”. The purpose of reciting this mantra can be explained in Bruce Lee’s words: “As you think, so you become” – the more you recite God’s name, the closer you get to cultivating His qualities.
(2) “bhavanam” is the other aspect of how to relate to God. It is a mental construction or visualization of our Higher Power. This can be done through the visualization of an image, a sound, an emotion or whatever works for the individual. Mechanical or mindless recitation of God’s name is not enough. We need to be focused and sustain that focus as we recite (this is the meaning of Yoga – see Sutra I.2). As we are able to train the mind to focus on God’s qualities, we enter into a deep state of meditation. This state involves a connection with that Higher Power we have chosen to believe in. The more we are able to connect, the more we experience and understand the concepts of profound calmness, of inner peace and of surplus love.
IN THE YOGA WORLD As mentioned on the previous sutra, for many people the word “aum” or “om” is a powerful pranava. As this pranava or sacred word is repeated, one gradually realizes its full significance, eventually reaching the highest state of yoga: connection with the deepest Self, an experience of profound peace and love. In this state, all sources of suffering (misperception, the ego, attachment, avoidance and fear) are transcended and only space and clarity exists. This connection occurs in the heart space. Below are 2 quotes from different ancient texts describing this connection:
Mundaka Upanishad: “Brahman or God within the heart is the target; the mantra Om is the bow; and the ego self is the arrow. With an undistracted mind (ekagrata), one should hit the target and be completely absorbed by merging the self in Brahman.”
The Bhagavad Gita (VIII:12 & 13): “Having closed all the gates (of the senses), and firmly holding the mind in the heart, having fixed the life breath in the head, engaged in the practice of concentration, uttering the one syllable Om, the symbol of Brahman, and remembering me, one who departs, leaving the body, attains the supreme goal.”
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Kristy comes to mind when I think of devotional recitation of God’s name. It is inspiring to see this beautiful woman’s dedication to her spiritual practice! She bought a harmonium a few months ago and a few hours later she was already playing and singing. Since then, the harmonium and her voice have been 2 powerful tools she has been using to practice japah with devotion, with faith, with respect. Her students have been blessed with her dedication and this is only the beginning! Thank you Kristy for sharing your enthusiasm, your commitment and your energy with so many of us!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and we will look at the last sutra on God next week!