taj-japaḥ – repeated recitation of That (AUṀ); tad – it’s, that; artha – meaning, aim, purpose; bhāvanam – contemplating, absorbing:
That sound (AUṀ) should be recited repeatedly and meditated upon contemplating its meaning.
That sound (AUṀ) should be recited repeatedly and meditated upon contemplating its meaning.
As we have previously stated, you know…that Vyāsa has said that the inherent or natural relationship between Īśvara and AUṀ is eternal and not a creation of this world, or the people of this world. Now here, we are introduced to this terminology…or this word rather – japa. Japa was the recitation of spiritual transcendental sound.
Since ancient times it was often practiced by the devout yogi’s, using beads of different natures that we use to help focus the attention. So, it was stated that with the use of japa – the repetition of sacred sound or mantra – one engages in utilizing these beads. One engages their sense of touch and in reciting the mantra there is some usage of the organ of speech, and one hears themselves softly reciting the spiritual sound, and so three of the five senses are now engaged. And it was considered that this was a way to bring the mind into greater focus on the pursuit of this spiritual practice. The use of spiritual sound in japa should be understood and appreciated from the perspective that it is by this means that one has the opportunity to become immersed in that which is transcendental or immersed in transcendence.
Sometimes the example was given that just as something which is unclean, and of course I’ll use a rather gross example here like a dog…you know passes stool on the grass, and that’s something that’s incredibly bad-smelling; incredibly unclean. But just by virtue of its being constantly exposed to the rays of the sun, over time all of the dirtiness is removed. And the stool is bleached and becomes chalk-like, and all impurities are removed by the power of the sun, which is a purifying agent in this case. In a very similar manner, when the devoted yogi engaged in the recitation of transcendental sound like AUṀ as a form of spiritual practice or japa, that what we are doing is placing both our body and mind, as well as our self – the ātman within – in the proximity of that which is transcendental. And if you can visualize …you know, you see people bathe in the Ganga, standing waist-deep with offering their deep respects and immersing themselves in the water. In a similar manner, by becoming absorbed in the recitation of this spiritual sound or transcendental sound, one is immersed in that which is transcendental, and becoming purified. The consciousness is becoming purified; the mind and the heart. The dust and the cobwebs that are covering the ātman itself, are being removed and purified.
The recitation of, or the practice of japa is, of course, best performed in the mood of contemplative and very affectionate absorption within the…or with a heart of surrender and devotion. We have already heard that it is through īśvara-praṇidhānād – this deep surrender to Īśvara – that one is able to experience the greatest spiritual realization and experience. And we are being directed by Patañjali as to how one should do this, and Vyāsa is expounding on that.
You’ll notice that one of the words here being used is bhāvanam…bhāvanam literally meaning contemplating or absorption in a state or dwelling upon something. It describes how one should recite and meditate upon these spiritual or transcendental sounds. A point I’d like to make, is that this is not a mental state. We are not talking in the use of this word here… actually in the deeper way in which it should be appreciated, we’re not talking about creating a state of mind. What we are talking about is a very deep spiritual absorption or immersion. And while this word bhāvanam (bhava) is used in different ways in yogic texts and in Buddhism, it’s used in a variety of ways, all referencing this state of absorption, which has been referenced here by Patañjali is somewhat different. If we see this syllable; this transcendental syllable AUṀ, as simply being a tool for me to use to become more focused in my meditation, that is okay – one can see things that way. But if one actually appreciates the connection between spiritual sound and Īśvara – how they are actually inseparable, and how spiritual sound actually contains Īśvara; it contains the relationship between the puruṣaḥ and Īśvara; it contains a vast world of spiritual reality, then by contemplating this understanding, it will become an impetus for the individual – devoted yogi, to actually achieve what it is that Patañjali is speaking about here.
Something which most of the commentators do not actually speak of, is that this word bhāva, it also has a much deeper meaning. A deeper meaning that points to the feeling or the experience of an extremely deep and transcendental affection, or to have a deep and affectionate attachment for Īśvara, which is in its highest state manifests as a divine form of love or prema. So, if we want to look at the use of this word here by Patañjali, it definitely opens the doorway into a much deeper spiritual experience. So Vyāsa is fundamentally pointing out in his commentary, that japa actually becomes a principle manifestation of īśvara-praṇidhāna. If we understand this praṇidhāna is a surrendering of oneself to Īśvara, then the principle way in which one may develop this is through the exercise of engagement in japa in the appropriate way. Not just in a mechanical recitation, but a recitation that is deep and affectionate, and where one is very much absorbed in and contemplating upon the very nature of Īśvara.
One of the other very famous commentators Vijñānabhikṣu, states in his commentary that: “His name (meaning Īśvara’s name) is the praṇava (or AUṀ).” And I’ll just make this…offer this explanation here…one of the ways…there are so many ways of understanding praṇava, but one of the ways of understanding: ṇava means new – that which is new, and when you say praṇava it means, that which is eternally fresh or…yeah eternally fresh, which is the nature of Īśvara. So, “His name (Īśvara’s name) is the praṇava (or AUṀ). And praṇidhāna (surrender or devotion) consists of contemplating Him and by chanting auṁ. This culminates in direct perception of Him. This absorption (saṁyama) in the supreme Īśvara is the foundational practice in asamprajñāta-samādhi and of spiritual liberation.”
So, we may see that different people and different commentators may understand the state of samādhi being spoken of here as being sampradaya, as opposed to asamprajñāta which is stated here. And my own spiritual master has pointed out that samprajñāta samādhi is that which is attained primarily through philosophical searching and through…you know… meditative inquiry, and fundamentally through what I would refer to as mechanical means. Whereas the state of asamprajñāta samādhi is a state of perpetual spiritual liberation, unlike samprajñāta samādhi where…we’ve spoken of previously…where even great and powerful yogi’s have or can fall from that position.
Interestingly in this commentary of Vijñānabhikṣu, he continues to make the point that on the other hand…I mean after speaking about spiritual liberation, and the culminating and the direct perception of Īśvara…he says on the other hand that, absorption in the personal ātman, is a secondary goal or achievement. So here he is drawing a distinction, and I’ll use terms that are probably somewhat commonly used – the term of God-realization and self-realization, and that they are connected but actually two different things. And that it is through the process of īśvara-praṇidhāna, that one can come to fully realize Īśvara and simultaneously have a realization of their own self; their own spiritual being; the nature of the ātman, but that was considered secondary in importance to the first.
So, what we’re getting here from Patañjali is a clear understanding that the purpose and goal of yoga was to attain the Supreme or Īśvara, and that the japa of the praṇava was the principal means. This is also reinforced…and I’ll just mention another verse from the Bhagavad-gīta…I think it is the seventeenth chapter, the 24th sloka, where it states that transcendentalists begin all of their endeavors with the chanting of AUṀ in order “to attain the Supreme.”
So, there are a huge amount of commentary…Vedic commentary on this transcendental vibration auṁ. One of the frequent references is that it is sometimes referred to as tāra, which means the deliverer. And the famous commentator of the Bhāgavat Pūraṇa, Śrīdhara Svāmī describes oṁkāra as the tārāṅkura. Tārāṅkura, meaning the seed of deliverance from the material world; that it is primarily through the meditation upon, the usage of, the contemplation upon, oṁkāra and Īśvara that one can become delivered from material existence.
In his commentary Vyāsa interestingly quotes a verse from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, and in this verse it states and that: “From svādhyāya (which means the recitation of mantra of sacred sound)… “From svādhyāya, let yoga be practiced, and from yoga let reciting of mantras be performed; Through the glory of such chanting and of such yoga, the Supreme Soul (paramātma) is revealed.”
So in this very wonderful verse we are seeing reference to this word paramātma, and how the… The individual being is known by this term ātmā or puruṣa, and the Supreme Being or Īśvara, the puruśa… the puruṣa-viśeṣa, He is referred to as the paramātma – the Supreme. And he uses the term…Vyāsa uses this term paramātmā prakāśate, which means that there’s a literal, not a figurative…a literal revelation of Īśvara. So when we speak of this, I would just reference once again something that we brought up and one of the earlier sutras, and that is the term avaroha-panthā, which means the descending path or the descending process. So, I’ve made mention that there were two categories of spiritual path – one referred to as the ascending process or āroha-panthā, and the descending process, the avaroha-panthā.
So, when we see this term paramātmā prakāśate, it means…this word prakāś means to manifest, or to become evident, or to reveal. And this is quite a deep idea that some people may actually struggle with. What we are hearing here, and what we understand by our own existence; our own life and our experience here, is that it is by the exercise of our will that things happen – meaning actions or karma. Karma or action is something that begins with an idea or a reflex, whatever it is, and then it is manifest as action; as an expression of will. But in this case, we must consider whose will is being exercised in this revelation; in this manifestation; in this prakāś – this showing of something. It is by the will of the paramātmā.
So just like I mentioned earlier, the vast limitless ocean of living beings are known as ātma…the puruṣa-viśeṣa, He is known as the paramātmā. Īśvara is the paramātmā. So we have these words; these terms: ātma, paramātmā, or puruṣa and parampuruṣa, speaking of the two categories of beings. And many commentators in more recent times…Tirumalai Krishnamacharya would often reference the use of this sanskrit term anugraha. Anugraha literally means grace or benediction, or to mercifully bestow. And so what we’re being showing here, is that by fundamentally pleasing Īśvara, by His grace He reveals Himself. It is not that I on my own strength, can come to know the highest spiritual reality. I am actually dependent upon a His exercise of will. This is a really deep subject and something that we can perhaps some go into in the second pada …we can speak at a more length on this.
But what it’s pointing to…if you will recall that we have mentioned previously, that self-realization means the realization of my – meaning the ātma… the puruṣa, the ātma – my essence, my position, and my natural function. So, we have already spoken about how my essence is brahman. Brahman is that which is spiritual, but that is not the complete picture. For me to have a full realization of my eternal spiritual nature, there has to be the realization of my position and my natural function. The position is what has actually being somewhat revealed here…that there is the living being… ‘Nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām,’ that amongst all eternals and conscious beings, there is one that is unique or different. This is the puruṣa-viśeṣa; this is Īśvara. And the question then becomes: If I am equal with all other ātmās, is there any distinction or difference between this puruṣa-viśeṣa; the Īśvara and myself; the ātmān and paramātma? And there must become an understanding that of course I am subordinate to Īśvara, which should be really evident after reading the previous sutras, where Patañjali speaks about the characteristics of Īśvara: how He is transcendental to time; He is the teacher of ancient teachers; He is omniscient – His omniscience is unsurpassed…unequaled and unsurpassed. So this gives us an understanding.
So if Īśvara is in a superior position to my own, then by becoming surrendered to Īśvara, He may bestow grace upon me in the form of full spiritual realization. So, the constitutional position of the ātmā is as the eternal servitor of Īśvara, the Lord. And we are dependent upon His divine grace or intercession for realization and liberation from material entanglement. Thank you.