Practice of Japa in Ayyappa Worship – The Significance of Sarana Manthra (47)

09/01/2012 History of Lord Ayyappa

The literal meaning of Japa is constant vocal or mental repetition of spiritually potent words or sentences. Japa leads to contemplation on their meaning and import, which will in turn result in invoking the higher faculties of consciousness and expansion. The practice of Japa is universal irrespective of religious differences. This shows that it is a natural act prompted by the evolutionary urge in man. The Buddhists, Roman Catholics, Sufis and all sections of Hindus perform Japa. Whatever be the manthra or name used, Japa is a very effective means for concentrating the mind on a divine idea or principle and to realize it in life through constant practice.

The practice of Japa is to lift the curtain that conceals one’s true nature and enable the gradual development of man’s faculties of will and insight which would help him to grasp the Truth Eternal. With the progress of Japa, our senses, which are by nature outward-going are turned inwards and the mind is guided to embrace the superior realms of consciousness and discover and experience the true nature of our Being.

According to the Yogic philosophy, the universe is a manifestation based on vibrations or special expressions of Energy that originates from the Supreme Truth, Brahman, through various subtle and gross stages. Therefore, all energy is basically consciousness itself, and sound is such an energy, the gross and subtle stages of which are used by the practitioners of Japa for expansion to the various stages of consciousness and eventual realisation of the latent faculties and the Self. (These stages, from the grossest to the subtlest are broadly mentioned as Vaikhari, Madhyama, Pashyanthi and Paraa). The progress of the practice depends mainly on knowledge, devotion and faith. Certain technical methods of recitation have been evolved based on pitch, rhythm, volume, speed, frequency, harmony, intonation, etc., which are performed with a spirit of devotion would bring best results.

For deriving particular results, the sound energy has to be organised and channalized in specific ways. This principle forms the basis of the combination and formation of some spiritually powerful sounds, which are known as the Beeja-manthra-s (seminal or seed sounds). The incomparable and magnificent Manthra-saasthra (the science of Manthra-s) of India is based on the application of higher physics and metaphysics of sound. According to it, through the Japa of Manthra-s (animated or charged words) the entire physical, mental or psychic nature can be transformed.

The human mind is normally in a state of constant fluctuation. The uncontrolled mental activities serve only to detain one in the conditioned state of consciousness and thus prevent him from the perception and experience of higher dimensions of Reality. Sage Pathanjali’s Yogasuthra defines Yoga as ‘Chiththa-vriththi-nirodhah’, that is cessation of this conditioning flux of the mind. It prescribes the disciplines necessary to come in communion with Reality. Mind cannot be silenced by forceful suppression. The attempt to suppress the activities of the mind would only help to intensify its turbulence. It is here that Japa helps us. Through the steady practice of Japa, the ever fluctuating mind is trained to behave orderly with some rhythm.

The repeated chanting of a name or Manthra and the contemplation on its potency with devotion helps the mind to achieve and give one-pointed attention to the principle represented by the name or Manthra. The practice reinforces the mind and activates its latent resources. When we pronounce a name, the qualities represented by it are evoked in our mind. In the Manthra-shaastra the higher divine qualities of consciousness are often identified with a divine form and name. When we utter or remember the form and name, the principles and power which they represent and which are latent in our consciousness are invoked, helping us to transcend some of the conditioning patterns of consciousness. The medium of name and form are thus used in the Manthra-Japa to realise the Truth which is Absolute Unconditioned Consciousness.

‘Japasutram’ a book by Swami Pratyagatmananda Saraswathi makes a scientific appraisal of Japa as a mode of worship. It says, “The Indian Metaphysics of sound asserts that there is sound even without vibration, the unvibrated sound and there is sound without the usual and sensually perceptible medium. It has developed the theory of static sound, the primordial causal stress. In developing this theory it says that there is no vacuum in this universe. It is a beginningless and endless continuum and an indivisible unfragmented plenum. This plenum is instinct with the most powerful and subtle energy yet undetetced by modern physics and its delicate instruments, which according to the measures of metaphysics, are still gross. It is the subtlest element, subtler than solid, liquid and the finest gas. It is subtler, finer and speedier than light and electricity. It pervades the universe. Not an inch or fraction of the universe is without it. Being all-pervasive, it contains, sustains and coheres every object is the universe. It is the container without the content, which is itself an element and not a vacuum. It invades, pervades and inheres. It is both unexpellably immanent and spontaneously transcendent.”

Human consciousness is intrinsically capable of the freedom of this subtlest unfragmented plenum, the total supreme unconditioned consciousness, Brahman. Japa helps us in this evolution to freedom.

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