In her talk January 27, Swamiji discussed two types of japa, loud and silent (click here to listen to the audio). “The mind we are saddled with is stupid. To make it worse we allow it think all kinds of foolish futile thoughts. That is why I insist on discipline and good habits, and that is why japa has such an important place.” She followed this with, “There are two kinds of japa: loud and silent. In meditation when you are doing japa in solitude the japa is mental. While in a group chant, you chant loudly and everyone around benefits.”
I love this last statement. “…chant loudly and everyone around benefits.” In every Master Yoga and Ashram training or event we chant. We repeat mantra together aloud as a group. If you have had this experience, think back on it. How did you benefit? Did it appear to you that those around you benefitted?
I find coming together with other Svaroopis for japa or to chant is amazing. The chant is so alive. It’s like a river of Grace that arrives to flow on and deliver me to my Self, right alongside everyone I am chanting with. It’s so sweet, so joyful and so easy. Frankly, because of reciprocal adaptation, even if I sat in the group chant and didn’t say a word, that river of Grace would sweep me up into it. Amazing!
The group chant has 3 unique stages for me:
Stage 1: The Introduction
In the moments before the chant begins, the attention of the group tends to be scattered. Individuals may be fiddling around with propping or chatting amongst themselves. Then the leader of the chant provides instruction about the mantra, the individual Sanskrit words along with their pronunciations and meanings. She or he also tells us whether to chant in unison with them, or in call-and-response (where the leader chants a line and the group repeats it back).
As I practice the Sanskrit pronunciations before we start, the words feel cumbersome and awkward in my mouth. Everything feels a bit chaotic. Instruments may be tuning up, like harmonium, tabla (drum) and string instruments (tamboura, guitar, sitar, etc.). Often, simple percussion instruments are handed out to the group to play along. Sometimes I will take a simple rattle to play along, but most of the time I don’t as drumming or playing an instrument can distract my attention during the chant.
Stage 2: The Chant
As the chant starts, the group begins to follow the directions of the chant leader. Other noises quiet, and movement settles down. The chaos starts to subside, replaced by consistency. It may take several minutes for the group to get into the groove, but their focus starts to narrow in on the mantra, melody and rhythm. For me, the effort of pronouncing the words falls away and the chant begins to flow through my mouth.
The words of the chant seem to dance through the air in a repetitive sequence. As phrases repeat themselves, it can feel more like they differ than stay the same. I notice that although I am saying possibly the same line many times, each time I say it, it offers me a different angle in which to view the expression.
Through the chant, I have many opportunities to touch the mantra and feel it penetrate through me. The opportunity to be absorbed into the chant is deepened and widened through the experience others are having. I drink in their sound as they float in the same river of Grace as me. The space around us shifts to something new, something timeless, something pure and Divine. The chant carries me, along with those around me, into the awareness of the Divine.
Stage 3: The Divine
This is a full place. This space I feel complete in. There is nothing separate from me. It’s infinite and timeless. My deep yearning becomes satisfied. As I recall this experience right now I well up with tears thinking about how special this state, space, place, or knowing is.
When the chanting ends, I open my eyes and look around, I see that each of the individuals around me have changed. Their expressions radiate this Divine place. Their presence reinforces the reality of what I am experiencing.
I feel a deep sense of gratitude for everyone in the group. The space around me has shifted into a sacred space and I feel honored to be in it. There is no longer chaos, only a sense that all that is, is as it should be.
Swamiji’s also said, “When you’re chanting aloud, the sound of the mantra, which is the sound of consciousness, crystalizes into words vibrating with the wholeness of consciousness, with the integrated force of consciousness.” I perceive this as what I have referred to as a flowing river of Grace.
Our chant this weekend is a group chant without music, called “japa.” In our Japathon!, we chant because we are celebrating the birth of the Ashram. Of course, all births are blessed, as life is a gift. But the Svaroopaâ practices and the Ashram were birthed and they exist to support us in the knowing of our own inherit Divinity. The river of Grace runs through our practice to saturate us with the knowing of the Self. How special is that?
As we each chant together, from whatever towns we are in, across the world, we will be allowing that Grace to flow through us — for everyone to benefit. How could you miss the opportunity to be a part of such a Divine event?