In Japa Yoga Meditation, Mantra & Meaning Are One
Question: If in meditation we are supposed to focus on the mantra and its meaning, then there is more than one thought. How can there be concentration on both things at the same time?
Answer: When you say the word “cow," it is meaningful. You do not just repeat the word, “cow, cow, cow, cow," you meditate on the cow, right?
If you repeat, “Swami Brahmananda, Swami Brahmananda, Swami Brahmananda,” this name has a meaning, at least for those people who know Swami Brahmananda. The meaning is the person, and the picture will come. You don’t just meditate on a sound, you meditate on Swami Brahmananda. You repeat the name, but the meaning is Swami Brahmananda himself.
If I repeat the mantra of Lord Krishna, the meaning of the mantra is Lord Krishna himself, so I actually meditate on Lord Krishna. When you repeat the name of your beloved, the subject of meditation is your beloved. That’s the meaning. The meaning of the name is the one that the name indicates.
In Japa Yoga, and this is very beautiful, we say that the name and the one that the name indicates are one. So, when I repeat the mantra of Lord Krishna, there are not two thoughts. The object of my meditation is Lord Krishna himself. The mind is not split at all.
If I repeat the mantra, “Om Namo Bhagavate Visnudevanandaya,” I meditate on my guru, Swami Visnudevananda. The mind is not split between the name and the meaning of the name because, as it is taught in Japa Yoga, the name and the meaning of the name are one.
Many times when people receive a mantra, the mantra is just a sound, which is fine. If the mantra is repeated many, many times, the sound is going to generate the meaning of the sound. You don’t have to go to a dictionary because the sound itself will generate the meaning, which is the form of the deity.
Even if I don’t know who Lord Krishna is, one day the mantra of Lord Krishna will introduce me to Lord Krishna. At that time I am going to be introduced to the Lord and then the Lord himself becomes the meaning, the subject of the meditation, rather than something that appears to be just a pleasant but meaningless sound.
Eventually, when you are introduced to the meaning of the mantra, it is not an intellectual meaning. The Lord himself becomes the subject of meditation and the Lord himself is not seen as separate from the mantra. The mantra generates the form of the Lord.
On the other hand, if you already have devotion, let’s say to Lord Krishna, repeating the mantra of Lord Krishna invokes that love, that devotion. The mind easily becomes one-pointed and it is infused with love and devotion, and it becomes very easy to meditate.
Swami Swaroopananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda. A practicing yogi from a very young age, Swami Swaroopananda has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of yoga. He taught in Yoga Teacher Training Courses around the world and is currently teaching advanced yoga philosophy courses and lectures internationally. He is Director of the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat and acharya (spiritual director) for the Sivananda centers and ashrams in the Bahamas and the Middle East. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres.