A simple method to abide in the ‘I am’
I humbly offer salutations to my Guru Sri Nisargadatta maharaj who made me correctly understand the meaning of God:
“Just hold on to the knowledge ‘I am’, your sense of ‘being’ or ‘presence’. This feeling that ‘you are’ is the God in you, let it be you guide or Guru, there is nothing else to be done.”
This statement loudly rung a bell in my mind as I recollected the words Sri Brahmachaitanya Gondavlekar Maharaj:
“The quality of ‘being’ or ‘presence’ is common to all objects living or non-living, with form or without form. Thoughts are formless but their ‘presence’ is very much there. This ‘being’ is ‘Nama’, the name of God which I which I strongly recommend you all to recite.”
Sri Gondavlekar Maharaj (1845-1913) was one of the great exponents of
the practice of ‘Namasmarana’ which means remembering God by reciting or
chanting his name. I had read his teachings several years back, even before
knowing Sri Nisargadatta maharaj.
According to Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj the 'I am', 'being' or ‘presence’ is common to all objects, living or non-living. It is the composition of the object in terms of the five elements and three qualities that determines whether the 'I am', 'being' or 'presence' is known or expressible to it. The 'I am', 'being' or 'presence' is a reflection of the Absolute and holding on to it one can realize the Absolute.
The teachings of both these masters are quite similar which thus lead us to an ancient and simple practice or ‘Sadhana’ of ‘Namasmarana’. If one investigates one shall find that the teachings of not only these two masters but almost all the masters are quite similar and all bring you to the doorstep of God. The reason, at least for me, was quite simple, my intellect or understanding only went up to a certain point and could go no further. There was something definitely missing in all this and that was devotion! Without surrender to the divine you could never possibly expect yourself on your own to go beyond the intellect and realize the Absolute. If you are nurturing any such expectations you are still on an ego trip that you always go on for achieving anything in your day to day living as an individual.
I thought, repeating the Name of God? This is something insane! But then, in all this that you have been doing so far, has sanity paid off? No, so why not insanity for a change? And see the grace of my Guru, I didn’t have to wait long he had all the answers for me. Let us see what he had to say in this matter:
“Constant repetition of words (Japa) is a kind of madness but deliberate madness. All repetitiveness is tamas, but repeating the name of God is a satwa-tamas due its higher purpose. Because of the satwa the tamas will wear out and will take the shape of detachment, relinquishment, aloofness, immutability. Tamas becomes the firm foundation on which integrated life can be lived. The purpose of Japa is to conserve oneself, that means the knowingness (the knowledge ‘I am’) is to be returned. Japa in Marathi means to guard, to protect. You should protect your beingness by Japa.”
He further said:
“When you are initiated into a spiritual discipline with a sacred name, it means that it represents you ‘Ultimate True Nature’. Be one with the sacred name completely, then it will give you all the mystical knowledge necessary for your spiritual evolution. It will awaken you into your ‘Eternal Awareness’. This is the mystic key-word of the Navanath Sampradaya, the traditional order of the nine Gurus.
Before the emanation of any words ‘I’ already exists: later I say mentally ‘I am’. The word free and the thought free state is the Atman. The Atman per se is self sufficient but when it clings to the body, ‘treatments’ such as mental and physical recreation or occupation are necessary, without which the Atman cannot be tolerated by a person. For spiritual evolution, which is a requisite in the detachment of Atman from body identity, various disciplines have been recommended; the best is ‘Namasmarana’ – recitation of a holy name of God. But here God means the indwelling principle within you – the Atman, which is given various names. These represent the ‘inner God’ who will respond no matter which name of God you chant. Japa (using beads of rosary) is an occupation to the hands but it is the inner God you are supposed to invoke. The keynote of recitation is to confirm this ‘I-am-ness’ within itself. The merging of beingness within itself is the very fount of bliss.”
Another great exponent of ‘Namasmarana’ from Kerala Swami Ramdas (1884-1963) was bestowed by the grace of the master of masters Sri Ramana Maharshi in 1922, about this experience he said:"The Maharshi, turning his beautiful eyes towards Ramdas, and looking intently for a few minutes into his eyes as though he was pouring into Ramdas his blessings through those orbs, nodded his head to say he had blessed. A thrill of inexpressible joy coursed through the frame of Ramdas, his whole body quivering like a leaf in the breeze."
In that ecstatic state he left Maharshi's presence and went to spend nearly a month in a cave on the slopes of Arunachala in constant chanting of Ramnaam. This was the first occasion that he went into solitude and during this period of solitude he never bathed, shaved, or cut his hair. When he ate, he only ate very little. After twenty-one days, when he came out of the cave he saw a strange, all-pervasive light: everything was Ram and only Ram.
Swami Ramdas says about the Name of God:
“God and His Name are not distinct from one another. Name is God Himself. The moment we think of the Name, our mind is filled with the presence of God. There is no easier way of focusing thought upon God than taking constantly His Name. When we repeat the Name aloud, we feel our heart is flooded with the ecstasy of love, because the sound of the Divine Name awakens the heart to the bliss and love of God.
Although the mental repetition of the Name is held to be far more efficacious than the verbal repetition, still the rare experience of sweetness and joy derived by uttering the Name aloud is incomparable. When the entire being of the devotee thrills with rapture to the music of the Name he realizes that the Name is Brahman.
God is both, manifest and unmanifest. The Name stands for such a God. Here the unmanifest is the all‑pervading, infinite, immutable, tranquil and static spirit of God. The manifest is the entire universe of name, form and movement with all its beings, creatures and things. The Name stands for this all‑inclusive and all‑transcendent Godhead, who is both personal and impersonal.
The Divine Name is thus the beginningless source of all creation and the creation itself. God, the absolute, is the nameless Name. The Name can free the soul from bondage. The Name can take it to the highest consummation of spiritual life. The Name can grant a blind soul Divine sight. The Name can bless an individual with a universal vision full of sublimity. The Name can lift the soul to inconceivable heights of God‑realization.
The power of the Name is invincible. A mind which is considered to be unconquerable, by the soothing influence of the Name becomes, docile, yielding and submissive. The mind itself is transformed into God by the power of the Name. He who takes refuge in the Name can work wonders. Death itself will stand in awe of him. He can command all the forces of nature and direct them, to bring about a spiritual awakening in the hearts of men. The Name can make a human being an embodiment of eternal love and joy. The Name can convert an individual into a Cosmic Reality - an ignorant soul into a very God. Where the Name of God is sung, the atmosphere is permeated with purity, peace and bliss; for the symphony of the Name spreads everywhere the splendour of love.
The Name is all‑sufficient. The utterance of it is itself meditation. The ecstasy born of it is itself Samadhi. The Name is love, light, power and joy. The writer can vouch for it from his own experience that the Name by itself without any other Sadhana can grant one the fullest vision of God everywhere and may merge him in an ocean of never‑ending love and joy.
There is no Sadhana, which can be so universally adopted by all people and is at the same time so simple for realizing God, as the Divine Name. It is perfectly true, in the words of a saint, that he who has God's Name always on his tongue is a Jivanmukta, or a liberated soul.
So, dear friends, to whatever race, caste, creed or color you may belong, take up the Name of God, and feel the sweet communion with it, and you may depend upon it, your souls through constant bathing in the nectar of the Name will not only be purified but will also be illumined with the omnipresent and omniscient light and love of God. This practice of taking the Name will lead the unyielding spirit of man to complete surrender to the omnipotent power and will of God. In the earlier stages when the Name is repeated with earnestness, faith and concentration, the face and the body of the devotee will shine with a peculiar lustre, his mind will be filled with wisdom and heart with love. This is due to the predominance of Satwa Guna in the devotee. Later when the repetition is continued with the same zeal; he will behold the universe before him as the very expression of God. Becoming one with God, he will have the vision of God everywhere
Thus, verily the Name is God Himself.”
Throwing aside all dry polemics let us just try to constantly recite the name of God. You may choose any name that you can easily love and identify yourself with. This is the simplest method to abide in the ‘I am’.