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Living the Yoga Life: Japa and Sound (Shabda)

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The opening of Saint John’s Gospel is: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” That, however is only a paraphrase of the Vedic verse: Prajapati vai idam agra asit. Tasya vak dvitiya asit. “In the beginning was Prajapati [God the Creator], and with him was the Word [Vak]” (Krishna Yajurveda, Kathaka Samhita, 12.5, 27.1; Krishna Yajurveda, Kathakapisthala Samhita, 42.1; Jaiminiya Brahmana II, Samaveda, 2244). This shows that the true, original Christianity is deeply rooted in the philosophy and yoga of India–actually is the philosophy and yoga of India.


The world is generated (manifested) from/by sound: shabda or vak. Sound is the foundation of all relative existence. Everything is Sound. Sound is the foundation of all evolving life, and therefore the foundation of yoga itself.


Every element (bhuta) has a sensory experience that is common or “native” to it. Earth (prithvi) has smell; water (apa) has taste; fire (agni) has sight; air (vayu) has touch; and ether (akasha) has sound (shabda). The power of sound alone has both an active and passive aspect. Akasha possesses the power to both generate sound and to hear it. Furthermore, akasha alone is pure; all the other elements have admixtures of one another, including akasha.

Even more, the elements predominate in each one of our five bodies. Earth predominates in the annamaya kosha, the physical body. Water predominates in the pranamaya kosha, the pranic body. Fire predominates in the manomaya kosha, the body that is the sensory mind. Air predominates in the jnanamaya kosha, the body of the intellect. Ether predominates in the anandamaya kosha, the body of the will.

Since ether is the ruler of the elements, and it has two powers, will and sound, yoga is based on sound produced by the yogi’s will and in which he becomes absorbed in meditation. This is an important principle to keep in mind.


All things, being vibrating energy, have sound as their inner essence, and the Sanskrit language is a verbal reproduction of the sound patterns that are the sonic blueprint of all objects, conditions, and mental states (bhavas). Shabda is life, the primal sound-impulse at the heart of all manifesting things, physical, mental, and spiritual.


The yogi’s primary involvement is with sound (shabda). He begins with sound and ends with sound, and his involvement in sound is what carries him along the path and ensures his success.


The atma and akasha are inseparable. From akasha arises shabda, divine sound which leads us to atma-bhava and then to atma-chaitanya: the Self. Then the jiva will be revealed as Shiva.


The chitta is the mind-intellect (manas-budhhi) complex. If the sensory, ego-oriented mind dominates the chitta, then it becomes clouded by the distraction, confusion and delusion that is inescapable in that condition. But if the buddhi dominates the chitta and maintains its ascendency, then it becomes purified and becomes chidakasha, etheric consciousness. In that akasha atmic consciousness arises automatically and prevails. That is why the last sutra of the Brahma Sutras says that enlightenment is attained through sound. Sound arises in akasha, and sound and consciousness are inseparable.


Internally we must always be immersed in the Divine through japa and meditation, which become the two illumined eyes through we shall see ourselves, others and the world. That is jnana. When the mind is immersed in the Self, desires are gone like the illusions they were. Then bliss and liberation are ours.


We are living in maya, which is both a condition and a power of illusion. Maya causes us to see duality and multiplicity even though unity and oneness is the truth. Because of this our mind is fragmented and scattered, a conglomerate of confusion and contradiction. But the more unified the mind is through yoga practice, the more powerful its focus of attention becomes. And since everything is really Mind, whatever we focus our mind on will become affected, even transformed. This is why both Vyasa and Shankara, commenting on the Yoga Sutras, tell us that meditation is a continuous stream of identical thoughts. This is the secret of mantra. When the mind becomes united through continuous repetition of Soham which is an embodiment of Atmabhava–the consciousness of the Self–then the Consciousness that is the Self is revealed, and our awareness becomes established in that Self through prolonged and continuous practice. The mind is then revealed as the Self, as Satchidananda Itself, and therefore Paramananda: Supreme Joy.


One of the most important events of my spiritual life was the discovery of a tiny book by M. P. Pandit, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo, called Japa. When I read it I knew I had found the way to spiritual transformation. I bought several copies of the book and gave them to my friends who were also struggling to be yogis. By the wisdom we found in Japa we no longer struggled but applied and discovered the benefit for ourselves.

Here is the essence of Japa for you to read:


The tradition of Japa in India dates back to the ancient times of the Rishis of the Veda. “Know-ing, speak His name,” enjoins Dirghatamas (Rig Veda 1.156.3). “Of all the Yajnas [offerings or sacrifices] I am the Japa Yajna,” declares Lord Sri Krishna to Arjuna (Bhagavad Gita 10.2). “Japa yields the fruit of all other Yajnas,” states the Tantrasara.

What is Japa? What is its rationale? What is its process? Japa is the repetition of a Mantra, a potent syllable or syllables, a word or a combination of words, done with the object of realizing the truth embodied in the Mantra. The object may be mundane like the achievement of certain states of affluence, health, power; or it may be spiritual, say, the attainment of God in any or many of His aspects. In either case the Mantra which is chosen for Japa has the necessary power within it and by constant repetition under proper conditions the power can be evoked into operation to effectuate the purpose. The vibrations set up each time the Mantra is repeated go to create, in the subtler atmosphere, the conditions that induce the fulfillment of the object in view. The Divine Name, for instance, has the potency to stamp and mould the consciousness which repeats it into the nature of the Divinity for which the Name stands and prepare it for the reception of the gathering Revelation of the Godhead.

At the basis of the Science of Japa is the ancient perception of sages all over the world that Creation proceeds from Sound. The universe has issued out of Nada Brahman, Brahman as Sound. Each sound has a form, a subtle form which may not be visible to the physical eye. Equally each form in the creation has its own sound-equivalent, the sound which preceded its formation on the subtler planes of existence. When this particular sound is reproduced–even in its transcription on the human level in terms of our speech–vaikhari as it is called–it sets in current the very vibrations which brought and therefore can bring that entity into being. Thus the Rishis perceived the sound-bodies of the Devatas, Deities, in their spiritual vision and [clair]audience and they instituted them as Mantras, as terms of Call to the respective Deities. When a Mantra is uttered effectively it sets in motion vibrations that evoke the corresponding Deity into the atmosphere where it is uttered. This in brief is the principle underlying the Mantra and Japa Yoga. That sound has form is a truth which is being confirmed today by Science starting from the opposite end.

Now this perception of the inherent power of sound, shabda, was applied with remarkable success by Indian adepts in Yoga who have reduced their knowledge and experience to an exact Science. The tradition continues to this day and is kept alive by its votaries.

…When repeated for a long time, the Mantra goes on creating vibrations which press upon the layers of the inner consciousness till one day there comes a sudden opening and the Truth ensouled in the Mantra reveals itself.

Next in Living the Yoga Life: Japa with the Breath

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About to Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga: Introduction

    1. Living the Yoga Life: Climbing the Ladder of Consciousness
    2. Living the Yoga Life: Sanatana Dharma, Sanatana Yoga
    3. Living the Yoga Life: The Atman/Self
    4. Living the Yoga Life: Bhakti and Jnana
    5. Living the Yoga Life: Brahman
    6. Living the Yoga Life: Ishwara
    7. Living the Yoga Life: Breath
    8. Living the Yoga Life: India and Sanatana Dharma
    9. Living the Yoga Life: The Importance of Independence
    10. Living the Yoga Life: The Intelligent Path
    11. Living the Yoga Life: The Internal Life
    12. Living the Yoga Life: Japa and Sound (Shabda)
    13. Living the Yoga Life: Japa with the Breath
    14. Living the Yoga Life: Jnana
    15. Living the Yoga Life: The Jnani
    16. Living the Yoga Life: Karma and Karma Yoga
    17. Living the Yoga Life: Kundalini
    18. Living the Yoga Life: Liberation
    19. Living the Yoga Life: It Is All Up To Us
    20. Living the Yoga Life: Madness, Divine and Worldly
    21. Living the Yoga Life: Manas (Mind) and Buddhi (Intelligence/Intellect)
    22. Living the Yoga Life: Buddhi Yoga
    23. Living the Yoga Life: True Masters (And Not)
    24. Living the Yoga Life: Maya
    25. Living the Yoga Life: Meditation
    26. Living the Yoga Life: Prana
    27. Living the Yoga Life: Raja Yoga
    28. Living the Yoga Life: Reincarnation
    29. Living the Yoga Life: Religion
    30. Living the Yoga Life: Samadhi
    31. Living the Yoga Life: Sadhana
    32. Living the Yoga Life: Dedication to Spiritual Life
    33. Living the Yoga Life: Self-realization
    34. Living the Yoga Life: Shivashakti
    35. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Experience
    36. Living the Yoga Life: The Spiritual Teacher
    37. Living the Yoga Life: Subtle Anatomy
    38. Living the Yoga Life: The World
    39. Living the Yoga Life: Worship
    40. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga, the Body and the World
    41. Living the Yoga Life: Dharma and Adharma
    42. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga–The Supreme Dharma
    43. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga Nidra
    44. Living the Yoga Life: The Yogi
    45. Living the Yoga Life: Some Advice to Yogis
    46. Living the Yoga Life: Qualities of a Yogi
    47. Living the Yoga Life: This and That
    48. Living the Yoga Life: Touch Not
    49. Living the Yoga Life: The Gita Speaks To The Yogi
    50. Living the Yoga Life: How It Is Done
    51. Living the Yoga Life: Use your mind
    52. Living the Yoga Life: Some things it is wise to avoid
    53. Living the Yoga Life: Things you should definitely do and have in your life
    54. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Reading
    55. Living the Yoga Life: Gorakhnath Speaks To The Yogi
    56. Living the Yoga Life: And A Final Word From Me
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