Q. What do I do when my mind is distracted?
A. When the mind is distracted, it will bounce randomly from thought to thought and object to object. You will feel restless. Most of the time our minds are like this. The yogic advice in order to bring back focus and peace is to practice Yoga asanas but also to focus on a mantra when you will coach the thoughts to come back to the mantra from wherever they stray. As we repeat the mantra, we create a new groove for the mind, and as we repeat it, gradually the mind becomes strong and more focused. Through this singularity of focus, we build the muscles of the mind until it becomes strong and concentrated.
Q. How does it work?
A. Your mind will wander to some distraction, but then you bring it back to the mantra. When the thought goes out to an object in a restless manner, you will remember and pull your thoughts back to the mantra. Your mind will say, “Oh I see this object,” then you replace the thought with the mantra. Your mind may say “I like this object…Ooops, mantra!” ” I dislike that thing…Ooops! mantra.” In this way we use the mantra to replace the way of thinking that is causing us suffering. Eventually, after protracted repetition, the mantra becomes the “backdrop” of the mind.
Q.What happens with lengthened practice?
A. Your Self-awareness becomes heightened; there is a switch in consciousness. You have something that is very stable with you all the time, this is the mantra. It is in your company all of the time and will protect and save your mind. It will make you strong. Everything else that you see becomes like a movie projected on top of it. Through Japa Yoga (systematic repetition of a mantra) ,you begin to recognize internally Your Self as very consistent, beyond all thoughts. You become that eternal witness, the backdrop of the mind, the power behind all things, at one with God. Through Japa you keep the mind busy and concentrated on a positive, high vibration.
Q. This sounds good, I suppose I will understand it better if I really practice.
A. Yes, it takes practice to calm the mind and meditate when the thought and the background of the thought become one. Japa Yoga leads you to Meditation. Eventually the vibration of the mantra will transform everything you think about into itself. This means that when the backdrop of the mind is God, what you think about becomes God and the thinker also becomes God; the whole thing is transformed into God, the source of Peace and Happinness. This practice combines the practice of Bhakti Yoga (devotion), Karma Yoga (sefless service), mind control, concentration, meditation, everything.
Q. Can anybody do this?
A. Yes. However, it is better to be guided by a qualified meditation teacher.
Q. Will any mantra work?
A. You have to understand what is a mantra and what it is not. There are rules of repetition and principles behind the science of mantra repetition. Nowadays any word may be called a mantra and anybody might give you a mantra. But a mantra is actually a series of sacred sounds revealed by ancient sages and passed down carefully from Guru to disciple, to us today. The word mantra comes from two root words; man is to think andtrai is to free. It means to think of something that will free you. Normally what we think about binds us. Japa Yoga is a spiritual science so it is very important that you are prepared and approach it correctly. You need to be helped and initiated by a qualified teacher who belongs to a lineage or spiritual school or tradition.
Q. Can I pick it up from a book and repeat it?
A. There is no harm per se, but it is preferable that you do it properly with a qualified spiritual teacher who will help you with your understanding, devotion and faith; otherwise you might become more confused as you change your mind and your spontaneous practice doesn’t bear results.
Q. How long should I practice daily?
A. To begin to see the benefits of the practice of Japa (consciously repeating your mantra), you have to do it often and with strong concentration. The minimum goal after taking mantra initiation is a half an hour of repetition a day. You can split it up to 15 minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the evening. You can do a half an hour, or you can do it all day long.
Q. How do I take mantra initiation?
A. Sivananda tradition gives mantra initiation only after the student purifies him/herself through the combined methods of Yoga. Usually after training during the monthly immersion Yoga Teachers Training course, you are offered the opportunity for mantra initiation if you so wish.
Q. I would like to start now , what do I do?
A. You can repeat the universal mantra OM, which includes everything. Swami Vishnudevananda also promoted the mantra for World Peace : Om Namo Narayanaya. You can repeat verbally or mentally. Or you can write the mantra with single-minded application, (Likhita Japa) 2-3 pages daily in a clean notebook, and send the mantra sheets to the ashram Yoga Farm weekly to be offered to the temples during ceremonies. Thus you actively contribute to the community prayer for world peace and you yourself will become radiant with this vibration of Peace and Love.
For information about the TTC dates and enrollement, pls check www. sivanandayogafarm.org
© Swami Sitaramananda 2014 No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author.