by Sri Chinmayananda, an excerpt from Tune in the Mind.
For Chinmayananda publications visit www.chinmayapublications.org
Japa is a very effective mental discipline for spiritual progress. In recent history there is the instance of the esteemed teacher of Sivaji, Samartha Rãmadãs, who perfected himself through the japa yoga of the Sri Rama-mantra: “Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama.” Bhagavan Yogesvara Krsna Himself says in the Gitã: “I am, among the yogas, the japa yoga.”
“How must I start?” To do japa is the way to perform the japa yoga. What happened to that holiday maker who waited on the sea-shore for the waves to subside so that he may take his bath comfortably? Don’t waste your time in vain on the shores of life; get into the ocean of this bliss and be refreshed.
Have a special room for your prayers; fix a charming picture of your heart’s Lord, at such a height from the floor that when you sit in front of it, the Lord’s feet shall be in level with your eyes. Spread a plain seat (ãsana) in front of your ista, the Lord of your heart. Have a mala (rosary) of 108 beads. Now start the japa, behind closed doors please, to begin with. Sitting on the äsana in any comfortable, legs-folded pose, in the beginning, gaze at the Lord’s beaming face, body, legs, feet. Now slowly raise the gaze up from feet, legs and body, to the face of the Lord. Close the eyes now; feel His presence within you and try to visualize the Lord exactly as in the picture. This visualization of the Lord should be done within you in your love-heart, which is exactly on the right side of the physical heart. This is the spiritual heart-centre where, if you meditate, your success is doubly assured. Feel feel His presence.
Now repeat your ista-mantra a few times, slowly, steadily with all the love you are capable of. This invokes the devotion (bhakti) in you to do japa most effectively. Take the mala,’ search for the off-bead: this is called the Meru. Bring the tips of your ring-finger and thumb together, and let the mala be hung at this junction, repeat fervently your ista-mantra; at each repetition turn one bead with the middle-finger, always allowing the index finger to stand apart.
The index finger is considered to be an ‘outcast’ because of its language. This finger is generally used in pointing out the “other”, in accusing “another’, in threatening etc. Essentially the index finger is used to express duality and the other-ness of things and beings!
When you have thus repeated 108 times your chosen mantra, naturally, you will come back to the meru-bead: you have now done one mala. Now be careful: don’t cross the meru turn the mala in such a way that the 109th mantra is counted on the bead with which the 107th mantra was registered. Thereafter proceed in all sincerity and finish with your second mala of japa. Thus do 20 malas of japa twice a day… once in the morning and once in the evening.