The practice of mantra meditation is very simple. But first let me give you a summary of the science of identity, of which mantra meditation is a part.
“Science” means “truth”; therefore the science of identity means the truth of our identity. The first question regarding our identity is: what are we in essence?
Am I My Body?
In today’s world, the most widespread concept is that we are chemicals. Modern scientists say we are just chemicals that somehow or other combined together a long time ago to create life. According to them, we are the evolution of those chemicals and nothing more. Being influenced by these theories people in general have come to think that we are matter or chemicals—we are these bodies.
However, let me give some evidence that shows you are not actually the body. First is the fact that the cells making up the body are continually changing. This means that every seven or eight years you actually have a new body. The particles of matter which made up your body eight years ago are not the same particles of matter making up your body today. Your hand, for example, is not the same hand you had eight years ago, even though the same basic shape is there.
Once a lady told me that she knew she was the body because she still bore a scar from an injury to her body many years ago. But, in fact, even scar tissue is made up of cells which last only a very short period of time before being replaced by new cells. It is an illusion to think that the body you have now is the same body you had previously. You think it is the same body only because it is changing so slowly. You are continually taking in food which goes to make up new cells, and dead cells are leaving as waste—mucus, urine, etc. In this way, the body is always renewing itself and old parts are being discarded. You have no idea where the body you had on ten years ago is today. It is now spread all over the place.
Sometimes people try to refute this by saying that the brain and nerve cells do not die but remain for an entire lifetime. However, analysis of the structure of a cell shows that a cell is made up of minute material particles known as molecules, and these material particles are constantly changing. Just as you have your body with all its organs like the heart, the liver, the stomach, and so on, each cell also has its little organs known as organelles. And just as the body takes in new particles of matter and expels waste, each cell is also constantly taking in new material particles and expelling waste. This means that the atomic material particles that make up the brain and nerve cells are always changing. Therefore it cannot be claimed that the same brain and nerve cells are there for an entire lifetime.
The basic point is to understand that you are not the gross physical body. There is other evidence for this conclusion which you can study in depth. [Explore this topic further in Jagad Guru’s video titled Mistaken Identity: You Are Not Your Body]
Am I My Mind?
The second part here is that you are not the mind; the mind is continually changing. To understand this point more clearly, you can do the following simple exercise. Look at some picture or form. The picture or form is there before you and you are the witness or viewer of it. Now close your eyes and keep that same picture or form in your mind. You are still viewing it as a witness but now that image is appearing in your mind instead of outside the body. It is closer. That is the only difference. You can look at a picture in your mind in the same way you look at a picture on a wall.
Similarly, you are the one who watches good and bad dreams. You are the one who watches the beautiful and ugly thoughts, and you are the one who tries to get rid of bad thoughts and hold on to beautiful ones. A continual stream of thoughts is going by in the mind and you are watching them like you watch a movie. So who is the person who is aware of the changing mind? Who is watching the mind? That is you—the self.
There is another experience everyone has had that further shows how you are not the mind. A student sometimes has a hard time putting his mind on his schoolwork or homework because his mind really wants to do something else. His mind drifts off to the surf, for instance, but then he remembers what he is supposed to be doing so he tries to bring his mind back. Similarly, a yogi sits down to meditate but his mind keeps spacing out so he tries to bring it back under control. So who is it that is watching the mind jumping from one subject to another? Who is the one who is trying to control the mind? It is you—the transcendental self. You have a mind and you have a body. [Explore this further in Silent Witness Meditation]
Who Am I?
The mind and body can be compared to clothing covering us: the mind is like the undershirt and the gross physical body is like an over shirt. You are the self, an eternal living being temporarily within the body.
Everyone is aware that they existed ten years ago and that they also exist now. Even though the body and mind are continually changing, there is a constant factor or principle. That is you, the living entity. It is not that you have a soul; but rather, you are the soul. That is your real identity. Aham brahmasmi—”I am an eternal living entity. I am part and parcel of the Supreme Soul. I am a spark of the Supreme Soul.” You are spirit in essence—not material.
Along with understanding your essence you must also understand your position. Your position is dominated, not dominator; you are not all-powerful. Although you are spirit, not matter, you are not the Supreme Spirit. If you were the Supreme Spirit you would not be bound up on the wheel of birth and death, covered by ignorance. You would not have forgotten your identity and be suffering and struggling so hard with material nature. Therefore it is not difficult to appreciate that you are not all-powerful, but rather you are the dominated part and parcel of the Supreme Soul.
This brings us to the final aspect of our identity: our function. Naturally, a person will ask, “If I am spirit soul, not matter, and if I am the dominated part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, then what is my natural function? What am I supposed to do?” The answer is that the natural function of the living entity is to engage in the loving service of the Supreme Spirit. The living entity, being non-material, cannot find happiness trying to be the lord or enjoyer of material nature. Everyone wants happiness, but due to misidentifying themselves as matter (i.e., the material body), they try to find happiness in matter. They think they can be happy just by making their bodies happy, but they are never happy. Within themselves they are still starving. The living being needs spiritual food.
That spiritual food is the taste of Spiritual Love. The living being feels actual happiness upon being re-established in a loving relationship with the Supreme Soul. This is a fact that has been understood and acted upon by all great saintly persons. So this, in brief, is the science of identity: understanding our real essence, position, and function.
Mantra meditation is an integral part of the science of identity and is meant to clear the mind of all misconceptions about our true identity. The mind needs to be cleansed or purified by a power strong enough to do that cleansing. After all, by ourselves we do not have the power to remove ignorance or to climb into the Spiritual World. But by the practice of mantra meditation, the mind can be purified.
“Mantra” means transcendental sound vibration, sound which transcends the material world. It does not originate in the material world; it originates in the Spiritual World and descends to the material platform without losing any spiritual potency.
A mantra is not something that anyone can make up, but rather must be received through the spiritual master who has received it from his spiritual master who received it from his spiritual master, and so on. It is transmitted from spiritual master to disciple since time immemorial. There is no historical beginning; rather, the disciplic line begins with the Supreme Soul Himself. A mantra is the descent of the Supreme in the form of sound vibration, making it possible for us to receive Him. Hearing and repeating such sound vibration has the gradual effect of cleansing the heart and mind so that a person experiences his real identity more and more each day.
There are several ways to chant a mantra. The first is simply to say it repeatedly. The second way is called japa yoga.
The practice of japa yoga necessitates use of the tongue, ears and fingers. This means that a person no longer needs to make a distinction between internal and external activities. Many people think that meditation is internal only. They fail to recognize that their internal consciousness is affected by their external activities. Great sages have understood how external sense perception–whether via the sense of touch, sight, or hearing-actually affects consciousness. If you hear a song via the ears, that song will remain in your mind. This means that whatever you do with your senses affects your consciousness. Do not imagine that “spiritual” simply means something internal only; the internal world cannot be separated from the external world.
Therefore, the senses must be engaged in ways to help a person remember his identity and his relationship with the Supreme. Instead of leaving the senses idle (which is actually an impossibility), the senses can be engaged in japa yoga. For example, everyone has a tendency to move their hands to touch something. That is why many people smoke cigarettes–they just like to be constantly touching and fiddling with something; they hardly smoke at all! So this natural tendency can be redirected and utilized to purify one’s consciousness and thus help him realize or remember his true identity.
Yoga means “linking up” or “union” with the Supreme. Japa yoga means chanting the mantra with the sense of touch (the fingers and the lips) and the sense of hearing (the ears). Using a set of beads, the method is to repeat the mantra while holding or touching one bead at a time. Remember to chant loud enough for your own ears to hear the mantra, and try to pronounce each syllable clearly. Japa yoga is usually practiced alone.
The best way to practice japa yoga is in the morning after rising and showering. You can sit and chant for a while or, since many people find it difficult to sit for a long time without getting sleepy, you can also chant japa yoga while walking—especially somewhere like a beach or park where there is not much disturbance. The early evening around sunset is also a nice time to chant japa. Set aside a time of day and chant a certain number of times on your beads beginning with once around in the morning and once around in the evening. And then you can gradually increase the number of rounds you are chanting each day.
The mantra can also be chanted in the mind. This needs very little explanation. If a person is regularly chanting the mantra out loud, then automatically and spontaneously it will also begin to appear in his mind.
Kirtan is another way of chanting a mantra. Kirtan means the chanting of a mantra with more than one person. This is congregational chanting, whereas japa yoga or chanting in the mind are individual practices. Some people say that a mantra loses its potency if it is chanted aloud. Of course, this is nonsense. If somebody’s mantra loses its potency when chanted aloud, then it had no potency in the first place. A mantra means sound which is non-different from the Supreme Soul, and the Supreme never dissipates or becomes diminished. He never loses His potency.
Hearing and chanting a mantra externally in the association of others can be accompanied by musical instruments if you wish. There are no hard and fast rules; you can chant loudly and dance or you can sit down together and chant softly. Generally, although not always, one person leads and the others follow.
Learn mantra meditation with Jagad Guru in this special video meditation class.