Prayer-world, mantra-world and japa-world

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Part I — Prayer-world

The need for prayer

Prayer and meditation are medicines to cure us. As we go to a doctor for medicine to cure our physical body, similarly, prayer and meditation are the medicines which will cure us in our inner life.

Prayer is important for each individual at the beginning. Meditation comes later. With prayer we grow individually into the highest Divinity. But whenever we pray there is a subtle desire for something. We may call it an aspiration, because we pray to become good, to say something good, or to do something good, to have something divine which we do not have, or to be free from fear, jealousy, doubt and so on. In meditation we do not do that. We just allow ourselves consciously to enter into the effulgence of light, or we invoke the universal Light to transform our ignorance into wisdom.

In the West, many saints have realised God. They did not care for meditation; they only prayed most intensely. In the Western world we hear more about prayer than about meditation. In the East we pay more attention to meditation. This is the difference between prayer and meditation: when I pray, I talk and God listens. When I meditate, God talks and I listen.

If we want to differentiate between prayer and meditation, we can say that prayer is the conscious ascent of the human consciousness and meditation is an invitation to the Infinite or an offering to the Infinite. It is the individual who will choose whether he would like to make rapid progress by praying or by meditating.

We also use the term 'aspiration'. Aspiration is within both prayer and meditation. He who is praying feels an inner cry to reach God, to realise God. When we pray, we go up, up, up. He who is meditating feels the need of bringing God's Consciousness right into his being, into his own consciousness. Aspiration is the only key for both prayer and meditation. Either we reach up to Him or He comes down to us. Ultimately, it is the same. God lives on the third floor, but when He comes down to the first floor He is still the same God. One aspirant may go up and get Him; another may bring Him down. When we pray we go up and touch Him; when we meditate we bring Him down into our consciousness.

Mistakes made while praying

To eliminate strain while meditating or praying, try to focus all your attention on the heart, not on the mind. First try to see the heart-source. From there you will feel a flow which will be going either upward or downward. Try to direct the flow so it moves upward from the heart. This flow, which is divine Grace, is like water. Each time you pray or meditate, feel that you are digging inside. Naturally, the all-nourishing water comes up, for this water is being supplied constantly from its infinite Source: God.

Straining and praying intensely are two different things. You can pray intensely, without straining your nerves. Tremendous intensity can be inside prayer, but intensity is not the same as strain. When you strain you make yourself absolutely stiff. The strain need not be in the arms or legs; it can be in the area of the nose or in the forehead, as if you had knit your eyebrows consciously and deliberately.

If one prays with his eyes closed and sometimes drifts into sleep for a few seconds, no harm. One has been praying and meditating for half an hour. Then if he sleeps for one second, he should feel that he is not actually sleeping, but taking a peaceful rest. But if one's prayer is only a short prayer and a long nap, then that kind of prayer is useless. If one has the tendency to fall asleep quite often, then his prayer will be no prayer. In this case, he should pray with his eyes open.

We know that cleanliness is next to Godliness. When we take a bath every day, we get a sense of cleanliness and when we go deep within cleanliness, we get a sense of purity. What is real purity? Real purity is an inner shrine, a constant remembrance of God within us. We start by cleaning the hands, face and body because outer cleanliness helps us considerably. It convinces our mind that we are entering into a life of purity and it gives us a subtle vibration which we would not otherwise have.

Outer discipline, as well as inner discipline, is required for real prayer. If a person wants to pray for five minutes, he will have to do many things properly. He will have to sit quietly, he will have to keep his backbone erect, he will have to control his thoughts and so forth. A time will eventually come when he will be able to pray even while lying down, but if a beginner wants to pray while lying down, he will only enter into the world of sleep. When he is advanced he can do anything he wants.

If our prayer and meditation are informal, this does not mean they are bad. But at the beginning of our spiritual life we will never get intensity from anything that is informal. When we talk informally or mix with anybody informally, we may get real pleasure, but there is no intensity. Only if one has intensity will he get real joy. Informal things, especially if they are inner, will automatically be relaxed because they will find no focus, no energy, nothing to help them stay for a longer time. There is no abiding life in them. The forms of ritual will give them a firm foundation to rest on.

These so-called rituals are of supreme necessity in the beginning, because the physical mind has to be convinced. A day will come when the physical will be fully convinced. Then the seeker will deal directly with the soul and will become part and parcel of the consciousness of the soul. His inner intensity will be spontaneous and constant. At that time, he will not need any rituals.

If there is intensity, one will see the source and the goal. Intensity is like a bullet that comes from this specific place and goes to that specific place with a positive force and direction. When there is no intensity, one's prayer cannot reach its goal. The best thing to do when praying is to be very formal and systematic, to have a purpose and a pattern. But one also has to remember that when prayer is too formal it is in danger of becoming mechanical.

The use of prayer

If one wishes to help other people through his prayers, it is necessary to do a few things first. The most important thing is to meditate every day. If you cannot meditate, then pray. But you cannot really help people without first getting the inner capacity through your prayer and meditation. If you want to help people, then help people after you have received inner strength from your own prayer and meditation. Do the first thing first. You have to pray and meditate. If you cannot meditate, prayer is also a form of contacting God. If you pray you will get spiritual wealth; if you meditate you will get spiritual wealth. But if you try to help others without meditation, without your wealth, what will you be able to give them? At that time you yourself are a beggar too.

Your prayer and meditation is your inner work. When you work in the morning by praying and meditating, God gives you your salary, your spiritual wealth. Once you have your money, you can give it to others. But when you get your spiritual wealth, you must give it to the right person. There will be many who need and want your help. If you give it to the wrong person, then you will only create more problems both for him and for yourself. Prayer and meditation will not only give you the wealth but also show you the right person to whom you can give your spiritual wealth with utmost effectiveness.

Your prayers can help another person, but you have to know how. You are praying to God and that particular person has God within him. When you pray for his welfare, you are not touching him directly: you are touching the God in him. Your prayer is going to God, the Source.

What do you do if a plant is dry? You need not actually touch the plant itself. You pour water at the root and the plant again gets strength. As you would go to the root of a plant, go to man's Source. His Source is God. The person you are praying for will get the most benefit if you pray with this idea in mind.

Question: During my meditation I try to pray for health for my father because he's very sick. But sometimes I think that I want him to get better just to make me feel better. Is it all right to pray for my father so he will get better?

Sri Chinmoy: As a human being, you have every right to pray to God to cure your father, since he brought you into the world. He is your closest and dearest. As a human being, you have received affection from him millions of times, and you spontaneously offer your own affection, concern and gratitude in return. This is the human approach to the Supreme. Became your will has not surrendered to the divine Will, there is tremendous attachment in your so-called concern.

For the divine approach we need to add another dimension: "Eternal Father, if it is Your Will, please cure my father." You have to know if his stay on earth will really be of any help to him or to God. Will your father make spiritual progress or work for God if he remains on earth a little longer or will he just lead an ordinary life and create more problems for himself?

You love your father, so you want your father to be cured. But if your father is cured, perhaps he will not be able to progress inwardly at all. If his cure is not the Will of the Supreme, it is best to let him go when the Supreme wants him to. If you identify your will with the Will of the Supreme, you will see that if your father stays on earth, you will be happy, and if he does not stay on earth, you will be equally happy because God's Will will be executed.

Prayer: with words or without words?

Prayer is usually done with words, although there is a form of prayer without words which, unfortunately, many of my disciples won't be able to do at this time. For that, one has to develop a very high state of meditation. Only inside that meditation can silent prayer be offered.

Prayer with words should be outwardly inaudible. Others won't hear it, but one should form a sentence of a few words that will convince the aspiring mind. The heart is already aspiring but the mind needs to aspire. So it is better for the aspiring heart to form the thought.

First, form the sentence by writing it on the tablet of your heart. Then try to see it there. Once the words are written, you can return many times to see them. If you want to repeat the sentence, good, but it is not necessary. When you repeat your prayer you have a choice. Either you write it once on the tablet of your heart and read it again and again, or you continuously write the same thing — whichever gives you more joy.

There is another way of praying: the way of total silence. For that, the mind has to be calm, quiet and totally silent. When there is no thought, just a vacant mind, light itself automatically forms its own divine thoughts and ideas.

Prayer and meditation

A seeker who wants Peace, Bliss and divine Power in infinite measure will feel that prayer is not as important as meditation. When we pray, we try to elevate our entire consciousness. When we pray, we aspire toward the Highest and our whole existence goes upward like a flame. Prayer can come from the heart, but there is always a tendency in prayer to desire something. Since we are following a path of spirituality, naturally we will use our prayer to ask for something good, divine and fulfilling. But when we pray we automatically act as if we are beggars who are crying to God to grant us a boon.

When a beggar comes and knocks at the door, he does not care whether the owner is a rich man or a poor man; he just knocks and knocks in order to get something. This is the way we pray to God, asking for this and that, looking up at Him and crying to Him. We feel God is high above while we are down below. We see a yawning gulf between His existence and ours. We ask for things like a beggar asking a king for a coin. We do not know when or to what extent God is going to fulfil our desires. We just ask and then wait for one drop, two drops or three drops of Compassion, Light or Peace to descend upon us.

When we pray, there is an inherent subtle tendency on our part to push or pull from within. But when we meditate, we just try to throw ourselves into the Sea of Reality and grow into the Reality itself. Usually when we pray, Infinity, Eternity and Immortality do not immediately enter into our mind. Even though our prayer may be intense, it is only a tiny raft on which we are trying to cross the sea of ignorance. But when we meditate we become an ocean liner. At that time we can not only cross the sea with utmost safety and certainty, but also we can carry many along with us.

In prayer, unfortunately, our whole attention is on attaining one particular object. When we feel that the thing we have been crying for is achieved, our prayer often ends. We take a rest for a few months or a few years. Then when subtle desire prompts us, we begin to pray again.

When we meditate, it is nothing like that. In meditation we dive into the vast sea of Consciousness. We do not have to ask God for Peace or Light because we are swimming in the sea of divine qualities. At that time God gives us more than we can ever imagine. The deeper we go in meditation, the more we expand our own consciousness, the more abundantly the qualities of Light, Peace and Bliss grow inside us. Meditation itself is the fertile soil where the bumper crop of Light, Peace, Bliss and Power can grow.

In meditation there is a flame of constant aspiration. Our journey is eternal; our progress and our realisation are also constant and unending because we are dealing with Infinity, Eternity and Immortality.

In prayer we think of our own need and try to fulfil ourselves with God's help. In meditation, we throw ourselves into God's Consciousness and allow God to fulfil Himself in and through us. When we pray we act like beggars, but when we meditate we become princes. We see and feel that the whole universe is at our disposal. Heaven and earth do not belong to someone else. They are our own Reality which we cannot fully experience right now because we have lost it. But we are trying to regain it through our soulful meditation.

The way to get the utmost from meditation is to meditate according to the soul's necessities and demands. We must not feel that just because we are sitting quietly for five or ten minutes our meditation is going well. Meditation is not that easy. It requires conscious effort. The mind has to be made calm and quiet; at the same time, it has to be dynamic and vigilant like a fortress and not allow any enemies to enter. The heart must be like a pure and blossoming flower, opening fully to the light of the soul. The soul must come to the fore and spread its inner light all around. This is real, integral meditation.

In the highest spiritual life there is no comparison between meditation and prayer. Meditation is infinitely deeper and wider than prayer. In the West prayer is used by seekers with considerable efficacy. But a real seeker who wants to go to the ultimate Goal must feel that prayer is the lowest rung and meditation is the highest rung in the ladder of spiritual evolution to realisation. When we pray to God we ask God to fulfil us, to give us Peace, Love or Joy. When we meditate we expand, spreading our wings like a bird, trying to enter consciously into Infinity, Eternity and Immortality, welcoming them into our aspiring consciousness. We see, feel and grow into the entire universe of Light-Delight.

In prayer we have nothing and God has everything. That is why we say, "God, give me this." When we meditate we know that whatever God has, either we also have it or we will someday have it. We feel that whatever God is, we also are, but we have not brought it forward.

By praying wholeheartedly, we arrive at a certain consciousness where we get Peace, Light and Bliss, but this consciousness will not always be a certainty, nor will we receive it in infinite measure. Prayer immediately separates us from the Source, whereas meditation takes us to the Source or brings the Source to us. When we meditate we feel that we are growing into the highest divine Reality. A real seeker can do both. He can start with prayer and end with meditation. Prayer is like a hand grenade but meditation is like an atom bomb. Certainly in the beginning if he wants to pray, he should pray. But ultimately he will come to realise that he must pay more attention to meditation. Those who have started following my path sincerely and devotedly should give more importance to concentration, meditation and contemplation.

For what should we pray?

All of us have prayed to God to fulfil certain desires. Then after some time, we were ashamed. We asked ourselves, "How could I have prayed for such silly things?" But it is never too late to correct our mistakes. Once we have come to realise them, we can pray to God for guidance, the most essential thing. When we allow God to lead and guide us, this problem of personal desire never arises because He transforms our personal desires into aspiration.

Very often seekers pray for their near and dear ones and they create real problems in the inner world. In spite of knowing that their parents or dear ones are most ordinary and not at all aspiring, they pray for them most sincerely. The children pray for their parents and dear ones because they feel it is their duty — and to some extent it is a real duty. If the children pray to God to cure their parents of illness, what happens? When they are cured, they enter deeper into ignorance and create problems for their children, who are spiritual.

When we pray for Light, Purity, Peace and Bliss, consciously or unconsciously, we become closer to God. This is the difference between desire and aspiration. In our desire, we try only to possess and be possessed, but in our aspiration we enter into our infinite Self where there is nothing to be possessed by and nothing to possess. Everything is already ours and we are part of everything.

So what are we trying to do now? We are trying to aspire, not desire. In the ordinary human life we desire, but in the spiritual life we aspire. Desire was necessary in our early life, but the strength of desire is very limited. Now we need aspiration to carry us to God. Today one desire is fulfilled, tomorrow another and the day after tomorrow another. It is like an endless train. With only one aspiration we can go up like a climbing flame and touch the Highest; with one aspiration we can realise God.

When we pray to God, there is a divine approach which is infinitely superior from the spiritual point of view to the ordinary approach. When we pray with our human love, very often, although not always, we act like beggars. We have a conscious or unconscious desire to get something from Him. As long as there are two different wills involved, the seeker will have no peace. The best thing is to pray to God only for the fulfilment of His Will in and through us. At that time we are not expecting anything from Him, even unconsciously. In that way we give Him the responsibility and we become the observer. We pray for whatever God feels is best for us. If the seeker can sincerely say, "My will is my Father's Will," his conscience will be free because he is identifying himself with the Will of the Supreme, the eternal Father.

Some people pray for understanding between generations. They sincerely say, "We have to change ourselves first before changing the world. Then we have to adapt ourselves to the ways of others." There will not always remain conflict and misunderstanding between the old generation and the new generation if each is sincere and genuine in its own inner and outer progress. Each must try to see the truth that the other is trying to reveal. Truth is omnipresent and at the same time truth is manifold. At each moment truth is being utilised for a different purpose.

We must never pray to God to change someone's mind just because we want his opinions to agree with ours. If we feel that he is making mistakes, we should pray to God to guide and mould him in a divine way, the way He wants. A man has every right to pray to God to make his son a brilliant, sincere, honest and true citizen of the world, a pride of humanity. But he has no right to pray to God to make his son's opinions always agree with his own. That will be wasted time. He does not actually know what is best for his son, but his mind tells him what it thinks is best. That is a selfish prayer. But we can freely pray to God to make our son, our wife, or anybody whom we love, the best person on earth in every way: physically, vitally, mentally and spiritually. This kind of prayer is always good and is never a waste of time. It is a sincere wish for the best for the person we are concerned about. So let us not try to justify our own ways, but let us pray to God to guide and mould our younger ones in a divine way, in His own way.

In the spiritual life we should pray only to please God in His own Way. If God wants us to be His instrument, well and good. If God wants somebody else to be His chosen instrument, at that time also we have to be equally satisfied. If a seeker cannot please God in His own Way, then the next best thing is to try to please God in a limited way. We can try to please God instead of pleasing darkness and ignorance. Then gradually we will develop abundant inspiration and aspiration to please God in His own Way.

What is the best thing to pray for? By far the best thing is to pray to God to give you the inner capacity to please Him in His own Way. You can try to please God in your own way and God will be pleased to some extent. But if you can please Him in His own Way, then God can think of you as His chosen instrument became He will know that at any moment He can send you into the battlefield of life. What for? To fight against fear, doubt, anxieties, imperfections, limitations, bondage and death. This is what you will do the moment you make your total, unconditional surrender to God's Will. When you can say, "Let Thy Will be done," God will say, "You are ready now. I can accept you as My chosen instrument."

Otherwise, what will happen? Right now if God stands in front of you, immediately you will bring Him a big garland and you will place it at His Feet. You will think, "I am sure God is pleased, because He likes flowers and I have brought flowers to worship Him." But at that time, if God was thirsty and wanted a glass of water from you, do you think your offering of flowers will really please Him? He was thirsty, but you brought only flowers. The idea that God may want water, not flowers, did not flash across your mind. But your mind told you that worshipping God with flowers is the best thing to do, so you brought flowers and placed them at His Feet. At that time you expected God to be pleased with you, and God was pleased to some extent by your own form of worship. But poor God was thirsty at that time and He wanted water from you. If you had asked God, "Please tell me what You would like to have from me," then God would have said, "Please bring Me a glass of water." Then you would have done it and you would have pleased God totally.

We have always to wait for God's Command. We have always to be vigilant, aspiring and loving. At any moment God can tell us that He is ready for our service. At any moment He may be ready to command us. Our soul listens to God's Commands, but our mind, vital and body are stubborn. They are very often unwilling to listen to God's dictates. Then what happens? There is a fight in the family. As in our earthly families the members very often quarrel and fight, our body, vital and mind very often stand against our heart. The poor heart wants to take the side of the soul but when the vital and the body put pressure on the heart, the heart often surrenders to the vital and the body and loses the fight.

Always pray to God to fulfil Him. In order to do that we must first realise Him consciously. He is within us as He is within everything and everybody. This is a theoretical idea right now, but there will come a time when it will be a conscious feeling. We will be consciously aware of the existence of the Supreme in ourselves and in everybody. We have to feel the Supreme as the supreme Reality. Unless we have the conscious feeling of God's presence in each individual it will be impossible for us to fulfil Him totally in His own way. First we have to feel that He is in everybody. Otherwise, at every moment we will find fault with our friends, neighbours and relatives, and then, if God asks us to serve Him in them, we will be reluctant. Everybody has read in a book or heard from others that there exists someone by the name of God, but this is not a reality for them. When we have a living feeling of God's existence within us, then we can sincerely pray, "God, I wish to please You and fulfil You in Your own way." That is by far the best prayer that we can offer to the Supreme.

Time for prayer

There is a time when we should pray instead of meditating. It is when the Supreme asks us to pray. Sometimes the Supreme asks us to pray for a certain thing or event. He already knows the result, but He still wants us to pray. At this time we must not be concerned about the result. Our job is to pray as soulfully and as intensely as we can. This is our chance to prove that we have tremendous intensity. It is the Will of the Supreme that we pray. Whether or not we get the desired result is immaterial. We only have to prove our sincere effort. Since it is His Will for us to pray, we have to pray most soulfully, without being attached to the result. The result He knows.

When we pray, we must not bring the mind forward at all. We must not think, "Oh, this is only another form of desire." Far from it. It is not a desire like the desire to make thousands of dollars or to write beautiful poems or to become world famous. It is not a desire for personal satisfaction. When it is the Supreme's Will that we pray, we have to think of our prayer as aspiration and as revelation. Human will has aspiration, but divine Will has something more: revelation. When the Supreme asks us to pray, we are becoming part of His Revelation.

Better to pray than not to

The Christian world is full of prayer. Right from our childhood we learn to pray to God. We pray for everything: "Give me five dollars more in my salary," "Do something special for me today," "Give me a delicious meal tonight," "Let me win a contest." When we start praying for all these kinds of things, there is no end. Our parents have taught us to pray, but they have not taught us what to pray for. They say, "Pray to God for everything you want." So we start praying, "O God, please make me be first in the examination." "O God, let me be first in the running race," and so on. This is the kind of thing we pray for.

Instead, parents should say to the child, "Pray to God to make your mind calm and quiet so that you will feel Peace and Bliss everywhere. Pray in the heart." But unfortunately, the parents do not tell this to their children, so from early childhood the children pray for every silly thing. Still, it is certainly better to pray to God for silly things than not to think of God at all.

The better thing is to meditate. On our path, we give more importance to meditation than to prayer. If children are taught how to meditate they will not develop the habit of expecting God to fulfil their desires. Parents can say, "If you meditate, your mind will be calm and quiet. You will become totally one with the vastness of Infinity. God will become your friend."

When we meditate we enter into Vastness itself and lose our separate existence. Unfortunately, when we pray, even if we pray for purity and humility, we feel immediately that our Father is outside of us and above us. We do not feel this way in meditation. It is better to pray than not to, but those who are a little advanced and really sincere in their devotion shall give more attention to meditation than to prayer.

If we meditate in the heart, what will happen? We will get the result of spiritual prayer in infinite measure. Naturally, God need not fulfil our desires whether we pray or meditate. But He will definitely fulfil our aspiration through meditation. What has God to do with our desires? On the one hand, if God fulfils our desires today, then tomorrow we will blame Him for helping us to enter deeper into ignorance. On the other hand, if God does not fulfil our desires, then we will say, "God, you are really unkind to me."

But again, it is better to pray than not to. If one has a desire to get something done, it is far more likely to be done through prayer than through leading an idle life. The idle person feels, "God will do everything for me." Yes, God will do it — after He waits for Eternity and Infinity. We also have to do something; we have to play an active role. It is better to do something than to do nothing. Even if we do a wrong thing, a bad thing, at least we will be making progress through experience. If we do nothing, we will make no progress at all.

Part II — Mantra-world

Question: Will you please speak about mantras?

Sri Chinmoy: Mantra is a Sanskrit word. In Indian philosophy, spirituality and the inner life, mantras play a considerable role. A mantra is a syllable divinely surcharged with power. This power can be utilised for a divine purpose or for an undivine purpose once it is attained through chanting.

Mantras are of two types. One kind of mantra is called dhvani-antak, which means 'with sound'. This mantra comes into existence from sound. The other kind of mantra is called varnantak, which means 'lettered'. This mantra is called a soundless mantra. When two things are struck together we hear a sound. But we hear the sound of AUM, the anahata nada, in the inmost recesses of our hearts. Ahata means struck; anahata means unstruck. Varnantak and anahata are the same.

At times we will discover that we hear the word we have been repeating even after we stop. If we continue repeating 'God, God, God,' for some time, when we stop, we will hear the same name of God being repeated inside our heart. The mouth is not functioning, but the inner being has started repeating the mantra naturally and spontaneously.

Question: Do you recommend the use of any special mantra?

Sri Chinmoy: I prefer to advise my disciples to meditate, but I have given mantras to a few of them. Each mantra offers a particular result. While using a mantra, we invoke a certain aspect of God or a certain cosmic god to give us Peace, Light, Bliss or something else that we want or need. But if we can meditate well for ten or fifteen minutes, this serves the same purpose because we enter into the infinite expanse of Peace, Light and Bliss, where our soul can drink whatever it needs or wants.

When aspirants cannot enter into their deepest meditation because the mind is restless, this is their opportunity to utilise a mantra. 'Supreme', 'AUM' or 'God' can be repeated by anyone for a few minutes before he actually starts his meditation. The mantra should be repeated slowly and aloud.

If you want quick results in your inner spiritual life, you should repeat a mantra every day without fail, for a least half an hour: fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the evening. There can be no mantra more powerful than the mother of all mantras, AUM.

Question: What is the significance of the Gayatri mantra?

Sri Chinmoy: In India we have many mantras. In the Gita, Sri Krishna says that the Gayatri mantra is the best of all the mantras. Its meaning is: "We meditate on the transcendental glory of the Deity Supreme, who is inside the heart of the earth, inside the life of the sky, and inside the soul of the Heaven. May He stimulate and illumine our minds." It is said that if one can recite this special mantra one hundred thousand times, then all his wishes will be fulfilled. Any desire, any aspiration, no matter how mighty, will be fulfilled.

Question: Can you please tell us about a few other mantras?

Sri Chinmoy: The goddess Kali is the Mother of both infinite Power and infinite Compassion. Her seed name or seed form, her mantra, is "kring'. When she is invoked through her mantra she must be invoked in a powerful way. If you can repeat "kring' most soulfully and powerfully for just fifteen days, you will see power and fire all around you. This fire will not burn anybody but people will notice it because it will arouse them from their comatose drowsiness.

Some of you have a great fondness for Lord Krishna. You can invoke him by chanting "kling' most sweetly. That is his mantra/ or seed sound.

If you are physically weak, if your physical constitution is not satisfactory, if you chant:

Tejohasi tejomayi dhehi
viryamasi viryam mayi dhehi
valam masi valam mayi dhehi

sincerely and soulfully, in a week's time you will see a change for the better in your health. It means:

"I pray for dynamic energy;
I pray for dynamic virility;
I pray for indomitable physical strength."

In this world some people are poor while others rich. Some people are desperately in need of money to make both ends meet. Some years ago, a disciple of mine was having tremendous financial difficulties. I gave her a particular mantra:

Ya devi sarvabhutesu
ratna rupena sangsthita
nastasvai namastvai
namastvai namo namah

and in thirteen days she came to me and said that her finances had tremendously improved. The meaning of this mantra is:

"I bow and bow and again I bow to the Supreme Goddess who resides in all human beings in the form of material wealth and prosperity."

Many people have used this mantra in India. In her case it took only thirteen days for the mantra to accomplish its purpose. In someone else's case it may take three months or just three days. This particular mantra has tremendous power, but it is effective only for bringing material wealth.

If you want to remain in supreme Ecstasy and Delight all the time, then you will have to chant this particular mantra:

Anandadd hy eva khalv imani bhutani jayante
anandena jatani jivanti
anandam prayantyabhisam visanti

We all need Infinity. If Infinity is the particular object of your aspiration, if you want to have infinite Consciousness within and without, then the mantra that you have to practise is:

Purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udacyate
purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasisyate

Question: How quickly does a mantra remove desire from the mind?

Sri Chinmoy: It depends on the individual seeker. If he has established abundant purity in his being, then it is a matter of months. But if the seeker is not pure enough, the mantra will take a very long time to produce the necessary effect.

Question: I start my meditation by repeating my spiritual name a hundred times as you suggested, but I lose track of the count, so I have to go back and start over again.

Sri Chinmoy: Repeat your name fifty times most soulfully. Soon you will be in another world; the world of the soul's divinity. Take some rest, then start again. If you make a mistake and lose track of the number, pay no attention to it. Just continue with some likely number. You have to understand why I asked you to count. When you count, you separate your consciousness from other things. At that time you will not be thinking of someone else or something else. Your consciousness will be focused on what you are repeating and you will begin to feel that you are meditating only on your higher self.

While you are counting, you should enter into the world of silence deep inside the consciousness of your soul's name. Then you won't have to count at all.

When a runner is about to begin a race, he is full of conscious awareness. His hands, knees and feet all have to be in the right position when the starter fires the gun. But once he is in motion and running at top speed, he doesn't think whether or not he is placing his feet properly on the ground. He just runs. He does not look back; he looks forward. Lo, he reaches his goal. Each seeker is a divinely inspired runner, running consciously and speedily toward the Goal of the Beyond.

Question: Does everybody have his own mantra?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, everybody has his own mantra. There are many, many Sanskrit mantras. A mantra can be only one syllable, or it can be a group of syllables or a sentence. But in the Indian scriptures it is said that if you want mental illumination, you can practice the mantra. If you want purity, you can use this mantra. If you want some other quality you can also use this mantra. AUM is a mantra which is most effective for anything and for anybody.

Question: Before becoming your disciple, I took a course in meditation in which they taught me a mantra and told me to repeat it for fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the afternoon. Is that the way I should continue meditating? I feel I can meditate more than that.

Sri Chinmoy: On my path you should meditate on your heart. If your japa conflicts with the kind of meditation I ask you to do, and with your oneness with me, then I advise you to give it up. But if you feel that it does not conflict at all and is only adding to the effectiveness of your present method of meditation, then please continue. If it is obstructing your spiritual growth, please give it up. But do not spend all your meditation time in chanting. You should do pure meditation also.

Question: Can you tell us about the major psychic centres in the body and their mantras?

Sri Chinmoy: There are six major psychic centres in the human body. These centres are actually located in the subtle body. For each centre there is a seed sound or seed word. Each word represents a state of consciousness and within each state of consciousness there will be a particular symbol: perhaps a flower or an animal.

There is a centre at the base of the spine which is called Muladhara. If we can repeat the seed word lam while focusing all our attention at the base of the spine, in the course of time we will open this centre and we will be endowed with the power to cure diseases.

A few inches higher, near the spleen, is another centre, called Svadhisthana. If we can repeat the mantra vam while concentrating here, we will eventually be endowed with the power to offer love to everyone and everything and to receive love from everyone and everything.

At the level of the navel is a centre called Manipura. If we can concentrate here and repeat the syllable ram with power and force, we will eventually be able to conquer all sorrow and suffering. Also, this centre gives us the power to enter into the subtle worlds and higher planes.

The heart centre is called Anahata. The mantra yam has to be chanted here slowly and sweetly. If we can open the heart centre, we can attain pure joy and the bliss of oneness.

The throat centre which is the fifth centre, is called Vishuddha. If we chant ham while we concentrate on it, we will receive the power of eloquence in expression in all forms of art.

Then we come to Ajna, which is a little above the base of the nose. There the seed word is AUM. By concentrating on this centre and charting AUM, we can get boundless psychic and occult powers.

No matter which centre we choose to concentrate on or which mantra we repeat, we should try to feel a vibration from all the centres. While we are repeating a particular mantra, we should try to feel that a current is flowing through our spinal cord as if a snake is passing through us, and all our centres are being aroused by this current.

Question: I have read that there are seven spiritual centres in the body, but you have just given us six.

Sri Chinmoy: Sahasrara is considered to be the seventh spiritual centre, although it is not linked to the other six. The Sahasrara chakra is located at the crown of the head.

When one enters into this crown centre, he enters into trance and goes beyond the consciousness of this world. The mantra of this centre is 'Supreme'.

There are many other insignificant centres in the subtle body, but the six I have talked about and this Sahasrara chakra are the most important ones.

The significance of Aum

AUM existed. Nothing else. AUM exists. Nothing else. AUM will exist. Nothing else. What is AUM? It is the mother of all Indian mantras. What is a mantra? It is the Power in the guise of a sound. The sound of AUM is unique. Generally, when two things are struck together, we hear a sound. But this sound needs no such action. It is anahata, 'unstruck'. It is the soundless sound. A yogi or a spiritual figure hears it self-generated in the inmost recesses of his heart. When you begin to hear it, you can be certain that you are far advanced in the spiritual life. Your God-realisation will no longer remain a mere cry in the wilderness. The day of your Self-realisation is fast approaching.

'A' stands for Aspiration to realise God. 'U' stands for Union with God. 'M' stands for the Manifestation of God in us, with us and through us.

AUM says that man errs when he says that he lives because he breathes. He lives because in his breath there is the Power that is God Himself.

O man, AUM can fulfil all your desires or AUM can free you from all your desires. Only one boon is granted; choose either of the two. If your worldly desires seem infinite, then rest assured that God's wealth is more than infinite. You can freely continue asking Him for things mundane. But if you want inner and outer freedom, God, being absolute Freedom, can eternally fulfil your highest aspirations. So you can freely go on aspiring for things divine.

AUM is a single Sanskrit character represented in English by three letters pronounced as one syllable. We could speak about AUM until the end of the century without exhausting its infinite meaning. We can say that AUM is a tree. A tree has its roots firmly embedded in the ground. Its trunk, branches and boughs reach up, up, up in a mute prayer to the Highest. A tree is a living symbol of flaming aspiration. The roots, digging deep as if trying to reach the very bowels of the earth to extract its life's nourishment, are represented by the 'A'. The trunk and foliage, manifesting the eternal Life for all of us to see on this plane of existence, are represented by the 'U'. The topmost boughs reaching up toward the infinite as a mute prayer to the Highest, are represented by the 'M'.

AUM is a river. The 'A' is the source, surging forth from the bosom of the earth. The 'U' is the rushing current of eternal Life carrying with it all that it touches. The 'M' is the ultimate arrival at the infinite Ocean of the transcendental Beyond.

AUM is a lighted candle. 'A' is the wax, 'U' is the flame, 'M' is the light and heat spreading outward toward the farthest and upward toward the highest.

AUM is a man. 'A' represents his basic physical nature, the forces that nourish and propel him. 'U' represents his life's manifestation, growing toward greater and higher forms of expression. 'M' represents his aspiring soul touching the Feet of the Supreme.

AUM is God. 'A' manifests the visible existence: creation in its infinite forms and innumerable expressions. 'U' is the current of Life eternal, carrying all creation onward and upward. 'M' is the infinite Supreme, the transcendental Unmanifest.

AUM is the soundless sound. It is the vibration of the Supreme. It is a single, indivisible, ineffable sound. When we hear the soundless sound within, when we identify with it, when we live within it, we can be freed from the fetters of ignorance and realise the Supreme within and without.

Question: What happens when we chant AUM?

Sri Chinmoy: A Sanskrit word or syllable has a special significance and creative power. When we chant AUM, what actually happens is that we bring down Peace and Light from above and create a universal harmony within and without us. When we repeat AUM, both our inner and our outer beings become inspired and surcharged with divine Light and aspiration. AUM has no equal. AUM has infinite Power. Just by repeating AUM, we can realise God.

When you chant AUM, try to feel that God is climbing up and down within you. Hundreds of seekers in India have realised God simply by repeating AUM. AUM is the symbol of God, the Creator.

No matter how grave one's sin is, if one chants AUM a few times from the depth of one's heart, the omnipotent Compassion of God will forgive and redeem the victim. In the twinkling of an eye, the power of AUM transforms darkness into light, ignorance into knowledge and death into Immortality.

Question: Should meditation always be preceded by chanting AUM?

Sri Chinmoy: No. I sometimes do it, but it is not at all necessary. When I first started my spiritual journey, I was fond of this divine sound which represents God in three forms: God as Creator, God as Preserver and God as Transformer. When we begin our meditation, we can first enter into God the Creator who is creating aspiration in us. Then we can feel that God the Preserver is preserving us to continue our divine journey. Finally, we can feel that God the Transformer is transforming our ignorance into wisdom at every moment. He is transforming our unlit consciousness into the illumined consciousness, our darkness into light, our falsehood into the plenitude of truth. The chanting is not at all necessary, but if one wants to get inspiration, it can be helpful.

Question: Will you please tell me briefly about the soundless sound?

Sri Chinmoy: The most significant mantra is AUM, which is called the soundless sound, anahata nada. Anahata means 'that which is not struck'. If I strike something you will hear a sound. But the sound of AUM is created without any collision; therefore, it is called the unstruck sound, the sound that is not made by striking something. Yogis, great spiritual figures and all who are far advanced in the spiritual life hear the soundless sound in the inmost recesses of their hearts.

If you repeat the mantra AUM every day for two hours, three hours, or four hours, you will get the vibration of that sound within your heart. You will not have to strike your heart in order to hear this sound, but by repeating the word AUM outwardly, you get the sound inwardly.

When the soundless sound is vibrating constantly in your heart, your whole body is surcharged with divine knowledge, divine light, divine power. If you practise only that mantra, that is enough to take you to God. The syllable AUM is the most effective mantra. Again, if you want to hear the soundless sound, you can aspire all the time, saying, "O God, descend into me and make me hear the soundless sound." But the easiest and the most effective method is to repeat the mantra itself. AUM is the symbol of God, the Supreme.

Question: Guru, can the experience that AUM will give me be visual and auditory and will it bring me consciously closer to God?

Sri Chinmoy: Absolutely! It will do everything. It will be visible, it will be audible and it will bring you closer to God within you. AUM is the mother of all mantras. AUM is God's sound. Every second God is creating Himself anew inside AUM. This sound He used to create the world; this sound He uses to preserve the world; this sound He is using to transform the world.

Question: How are we actually supposed to chant AUM?

Sri Chinmoy: There are various ways to chant AUM. When we chant AUM with tremendous soul's power, what we actually do is enter into the cosmic vibration where the creation is in perfect harmony and where the cosmic Dance is being danced by the Absolute. If we chant AUM soulfully, we become one with the cosmic Dance; we become one with God the Creator, God the Preserver and God the Transformer. All that God has within and without, AUM can offer to us, because AUM is at once the Life, the Body and the Breath of God. This is what an Indian seeker or an Indian spiritual Master feels when he chants AUM.

If you get an attack on the emotional vital plane and wrong thoughts, wrong ideas, wrong vibrations enter into you, repeat AUM or the name of the Supreme as fast as possible. Do not chant slowly. When you are trying to cleanse your mind of impurities you must chant as if you were running to catch a moving train.

When you do japa, do not prolong your chanting too much. If you prolong the syllable AUM, you won't have the time to chant five hundred or six hundred times. Just say the syllable in a normal but soulful way so that you will get the vibration.

I know that some of you repeat AUM and 'Supreme' at home. It is wonderful that you practise this, but please practise it aloud, not silently. Let the sound of the mantra vibrate even in your physical ears and permeate your entire body.

Question: Can we hear AUM inwardly if we can't say it out loud?

Sri Chinmoy: It is quite possible to utter the word AUM silently or to hear it inwardly without actually saying it. Wherever we are, the sound of AUM is already there. We have only to enter into the sound. If we know how to enter into the original source of the sound, which is inside the heart, then we need not chant aloud. We chant AUM aloud because when the outer mind is convinced, we get greater joy and a greater sense of achievement. We can very often hear the sound of AUM without chanting it ourselves, but we do not know whether it is coming from our heart or from the atmosphere. Sometimes during meditation seekers hear the sound of AUM although nobody is chanting it aloud. This means that inwardly somebody has chanted or is chanting AUM and the meditation room has preserved the sound. If we are conscious during sleep, we will hear the sound. It is not the heartbeat we will hear, but the soundless sound. We will hear it and feel it most convincingly.

If you want to meditate while you are in some public place where there are all kinds of noise, what can you do? If you go deep within, from inside either you can bring to the fore just a drop of infinite Peace, or you can bring forward a louder sound. That louder sound is not a destructive sound but a sound that contains indomitable power. It gives us the feeling of how potentially great and divine we are. If you can bring your indomitable power to the fore and become one with the force which is coming from your heart, you will see that the outer noises of the world are no match for your inner sound.

When you are surrounded by outer noises, try to enter into your own inner sound itself. To your surprise, you will see that the sounds which disturbed you one minute ago do not bother you now. On the contrary, you will get a sense of achievement because instead of hearing noise, you will hear divine music, and that divine music is produced within you.

Question: AUM is not a term which as meaningful to us in our culture.

Sri Chinmoy: True. In your culture the most significant word is 'God'. In India, we repeat AUM or the name of a cosmic god or goddess, like Shiva or Kali. In chanting a mantra the most important thing is to know in what aspect of the Supreme we have absolute faith. I use the word 'God' here in the West because I know that all your life you have been trained to pray to God. But today AUM can enter into you with all its significance. The time will come when you can go deeper within, and if 'AUM' inspires you more than 'God' then you should chant AUM. It is the inspiration that you get which is of the utmost importance. You can chant the word 'God' if that gives you more inspiration.

Part III — Japa-world

Question: When you close your eyes completely and hum that way, does that create a kind of hypnotism in your followers?

Sri Chinmoy: Not at all. My followers know that I am not a hypnotist. I do not believe in hypnotism and I do not encourage my disciples to use hypnotism. Whether I keep my eyes open or closed, they feel the same divine consciousness when I meditate. The chanting itself enters into their aspiring heart and creates a divine vibration which inspires them to pray and meditate. This has nothing to do with hypnotism.

Question: Are invocations important in meditation? Sometimes when we invoke you, we feel that it is because you are not with us that we have to invoke you.

Sri Chinmoy: This is wrong. It is not true that I am not with you. On the contrary, you have to feel that I am with you and you are with me, always. My consciousness is always with you and with all my disciples. You have to feel that you are within me and I am within you, which is absolutely true. Oneness is already established, but it needs to be manifested. What actually happens is that when you are invoking me you are manifesting me. It is not that I am in some other place far away and you are bringing me by invoking me. We are already one, but when you invoke me, you are like the child who calls his mother because he needs something from her. When the child calls, immediately the mother knows that he needs her to do something for him. To do the thing is to bring it into manifestation. When you invoke the Supreme, at that time you feel that you need something and the Supreme is going to do it for you. Invocation means that something is being manifested in your consciousness and in the outer world.

Question: I wish to know if chanting is a kind of meditation?

Sri Chinmoy: Chanting is not, strictly speaking, a form of meditation. It is an invocation. By using a mantra, we can invoke God to enter into our inner existence, our inmost self. In meditation we try in a broader way to enter into God's Infinity, Eternity and Immortality.

Question: Will you please explain the difference between mantra and japa?

Sri Chinmoy: Japa is the repetition of a mantra. AUM is a mantra; it is not japa. If you repeat AUM twice, thrice or hundreds of times, this repetition is japa. A mantra can be one syllable, many syllables or even a few sentences. When we repeat the mantra, it becomes japa.

Question: How effective is Japa Yoga?

Sri Chinmoy: In true japa, the seeker has to repeat a particular mantra which is given to him by his Master. If he does not have a Master, then his mantra can be revealed from within. A seeker can also determine inwardly how many times he should repeat his mantra if he has no Master to tell him.

If a follower of Japa Yoga needs purity, the Master will tell him to repeat a particular mantra a few thousand times daily. If he needs mental knowledge, he will have to do a different mantra. For each divine quality the aspirant wants, he must chant a different mantra. The aspirant may have decided to repeat the name of God ten or fifteen thousand times, with the expectation of a certain result, But while he is chanting the name over and over again he may actually be thinking of something else. The lack of one-pointed concentration and soulful attention while one is chanting takes away most of the effectiveness of the mantra. If you repeat the name of God ten thousand times while thinking of something else, you cannot expect to get any result. It does not matter how many hours you chant, if you do not chant sincerely and soulfully. But if you do chant properly, then Japa Yoga can be most effective.

Question: Can japa be done at any time?

Sri Chinmoy: Japa should not be done just before going to bed. If japa is done one thousand, two thousand or three thousand times, the mind will become agitated because the body wants to enter into the world of sleep. The aspirant will repeat, "Supreme, Supreme, Supreme, …" but he will only be working the mind like a machine. If he continues beyond his capacity his mind will become agitated.

Then he will suffer because he will not get proper sleep. Japa should be done in the morning or during the day. But it should be done only one hundred or two hundred or at most three hundred times before going to bed. I have asked some disciples to do japa every day, but sometimes they forget or they don't feel like doing it during the day. Then what do they do? At night, just before they go to bed, they do it all. This is very bad. If you meditate before going to bed you will invoke peace, light and bliss, but if you do japa five hundred or one thousand times before going to bed you will invoke power and energy and you will become too tense to sleep.

Question: When I do japa, I feel more devotional if I chant your name, but at the same time, it seems more difficult to chant your name than to chant 'Supreme'. Should I do both?

Sri Chinmoy: You should chant whatever gives you the most satisfaction. If you chant my name, the Supreme will not be displeased. If you chant AUM or Supreme, I won't be displeased either.

Question: If we don't have a spiritual name, is there any efficacy in chanting our given name?

Sri Chinmoy: Some of you have asked me for a spiritual name, your soul's name, and I have given it to you. When you repeat your own soul's name, I assure you that you will be able to bring to the fore all your divine qualities; you will be energised with your soul's divine power. You can do this if you don't care to repeat 'AUM' or 'Supreme'.

But just by repeating your own name, the name given to you by your parents, you will not achieve anything. Western names do not have the mantric quality of Sanskrit words. If you go on repeating your American name, nothing divine will happen from that. But if you slowly repeat your spiritual name just ten times, a new and fruitful consciousness will dawn in you. The divine qualities of your own soul will come to the fore.

Question: When one chants AUM aloud fifty, sixty or a hundred times and then stops, is the AUM that continues up above the head in the silence related to the turiya state of consciousness?

Sri Chinmoy: No, the turiya consciousness is far, far above the head. The Sahasrara chakra is at the crown of the head, in the subtle body. When you stop chanting AUM, if AUM starts vibrating above your head, it is not functioning or vibrating in the turiya state.

The soul does chant AUM and if you can hear it and identify yourself with the soul's chanting, then you can come to the turiya state. But no matter how powerfully you yourself chant AUM, your chanting will not approach the turiya consciousness.

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