Today lots of people are turning towards meditation & yoga just to get relax and reduce stress from their daily (sombre?) routine. But meditation is not meant for just getting relaxed. Certainly it has some higher dimensions and benefits, other than spiritual, like it steadies the mind, improves efficiency in our everyday work, improves health, concentration, decision making power by better control over mind, etc. Interested aspirants are recommended to read a book "The Mind and its Control" by Swami Budhananda and to go through an article on "Meditation and Concentration" by Swami Bhajanananda....... Let us see what Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and others say about japa and meditation.
Holy Mother | Conversation with Holy Mother | Swami Vivekananda | Swami Yatiswarananda
Holy Mother's Words:
- "The mind keeps well when engaged in work. And yet Japa, meditation, prayer also are specially needed. You must at least sit down once in the morning and again in the evening. That acts as a rudder to a boat. When one sits in meditation in the evening, one gets a chance to think of what one has done - good or bad -during the whole day. Next one should compare the states of one's mind in the preceding day and the present. ... Unless you meditate in the mornings and evenings along with work, how can you know what you are actually doing?"
- Do you know the significance of Japa and other spiritual practices? By these, the power of the sense organs is subdued.
- "Repeating the Name of God a fixed number of times, telling the rosary or counting on fingers, is calculated to direct the mind to God. The natural tendency of the mind is to run this way and that way. Through these means it is attracted to God. While repeating the name of God, if one sees His form and becomes absorbed in Him, one's Japa stops. One gets everything when one succeeds in meditation.
- What a lot of work I did when I was of your age! And yet I could find time to repeat my Mantra a hundred thousand times everyday!
- A devotee took a tiny banyan seed and said to Mother, "Look, Mother, it is tinier even than the tiniest seed we know. From this will spring a giant tree! How strange!" "Indeed, it will," Mother replied. "See what a tiny seed is the Name of God. From it in time comes divine moods, devotion, love, and spiritual consummation."
- "Just see the power of habit. By the law of habit man attains realization by continuous practice of Japa."
- One should meditate on one’s chosen Deity as one goes on making Japa. In meditation the face of the chosen Deity of course comes first; but one should meditate on the whole figure, starting from the feet upward.
- One must cast aside indolence and put one’s mind to prayer and meditation at the proper time.
- "One has to suffer the consequences of one's deeds. But by repeating the Name of God, you can lessen its intensity. If you were destined to have a wound as wide as a plough share, you will get a pin-prick at least. The effect of Karma can be counteracted to a great extent by Japa and austerities."
- "The Mantra purifies the body. Man becomes pure by repeating the Mantra of God. ... It is said, 'The human teacher utters the Mantra into the ear; but God breathes the spirit into the soul."
- "The conjunction of day and night is the most auspicious time for calling on God. ... The mind remains pure at this time.
- Do not give up Japa even if the mind is unwilling and unsteady. You must go on with the repetition. And you will find that the mind is getting gradually steadier-like a flame in a windless corner. Any movement in the air disturbs the steady burning of the flame; even so the presence of any thought or desire makes the mind unsteady. The Mantra must be correctly repeated. An incorrect utterance delays progress.
Conversation between Holy Mother and a disciple :
- Disciple: " Some say that one achieves nothing through work. One can succeed in spiritual life only through Japa and meditation."
Mother: "How have they known as to what will give success and what will not? Does one achieve everything by practising Japa and meditation for a few days? Nothing whatever is achieved unless Mahamaya clears the path. Didn't you notice the other day that a person's brain became deranged because he forced himself to excessive prayer and meditation? If one's head becomes deranged, one's life becomes useless. The intelligence of a man is very precarious. It is like the thread of a screw. If one thread is loosened, then he goes crazy. Or he becomes entangled in the trap of Mahamaya and thinks himself to be very intelligent. He feels that he is quite all right. But if the screw is tightened in a different direction, one follows the right path and enjoys peace and happiness. One should always recollect God and pray to Him for right understanding.
- Disciple: "Mother, why is it that the mind does not become steady? When I try to think of God, I find the mind drawn towards other objects."
Mother: "It is wrong if the mind is drawn towards secular objects. By 'secular objects' is meant money, family, etc. But it is natural to think of the work in which one is engaged. If meditation is not possible, do Japa. Realization will come through Japa. If the meditative mood comes, well and good, but by no means do it by force."
- Disciple: "Is it of any use to be merely repeating His Name without intense devotion?"
Mother: "Whether you jump into water or are pushed into it, your cloth will get drenched. Is it not so? Meditate every day, as your mind is yet immature. Constant meditation will make the mind one-pointed. Discriminate always between the real and the unreal. Whenever you find your mind drawn to any object, think of its transitoriness, and thus try to withdraw the mind back to the thought of God. A man was angling. A bridal party was going along the road with music. But the angler's eye remained fixed on the float. The mind of a spiritual aspirant should be steadfast like that."
- Disciple: "Suppose I can't do Japa of the Mantra of my chosen Deity?"
Mother: "What do you mean? You won't do Japa of your Mantra? What a suggestion! If you don't do the Japa, you lose; that affects me not in the least!"
Swami Vivekananda on meditation :
- Do not spend your energy in talking, but meditate in silence; and do not let the rush of the outside world disturb you. When your mind is in the highest state, you are unconscious of it. Accumulate power in silence and become a dynamo of spirituality.
- Meditation is the one thing. Meditate! the greatest thing is meditation. It is the nearest approach to spiritual life -- the mind meditating. It is the one moment in our daily life that we are not at all material -- the Soul thinking of Itself, free from all matter -- this marvellous touch of the Soul!
- There is the whirl of change. Permanence is nowhere except in yourself. There is the infinite joy, unchanging. Meditation is the gate that opens that to us. Prayers, ceremonials, and all the other forms of worship are simply kindergartens of meditation.
- Within there is the lion -- the eternally pure, illumined, and ever free Atman; and directly one realises Him through meditation and concentration, this world of Maya vanishes.
- The greatest help to spiritual life is meditation (Dhyana). In meditation we divest ourselves of all material conditions and feel our divine nature. We do not depend upon any external help in meditation.
Swami Yatiswarananda on meditation (from Swami Brahmananda’s Spiritual Teachings) :
- Even the out-and-out Advaita Vedantins go on repeating their ‘OM’ or ‘Soham’. In all schools, and especially in the Bhakti School, great stress is laid on Japam. Japam is one of the most effective practices for all beginners, although one comes to realize its effectiveness and value only much later.
- Faith is most essential before taking up Japam. It does not matter if it, to some extent at least, becomes mechanical. The beginner finds his centre of consciousness is continually shifting, going up, coming down etc. This is a most difficult situation for all aspirants.
- In the beginner there are mostly two states of mind:— one awfully restless, the other mind falling down to the subliminal plane. Both are to be avoided if you want to make real progress.
- You must never allow yourselves to get into a drowsy state during your attempts at meditation or your Japam. This is most dangerous. Sleep, drowsiness and meditation should never be connected in any way. If you feel very drowsy, just get up and pace the room while you are doing your Japam, till this drowsiness leaves you.
- When the mind is awfully restless and outgoing, we should doggedly persist in our Japam even do it mechanically, without giving in to this restlessness. In that way, part of the mind is always engaged in Japam. Thus the whole mind cannot become or remain restless.
- “That which is done with full knowledge becomes more effective,” — says the Upanishadic seer. But mechanical repetition of the name of the Ishtam or one’s Mantram has its effect too. We should always go in for that which is more useful though, but at times, when our mind is very much disturbed, we may just sit in some quiet corner and begin to do our Japam mechanically, but with great doggedness.
- Sri Ramakrishna used to say, “Japam is like a chain. From one link we pass on to the next, and finally we pass on to God.”