The Mother Divine
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“Do we have to essentially do japa by counting or can we do it mentally without a count?” the disciple asked.

The Master responded by beginning with an anecdote.

“A small child plays a little toy bride, there’s a toy bridegroom and she remains engrossed in her game through the day in her own little make-believe world. This goes on… Then one fine day when she grows up to be of marriageable age, and has a husband of her own, her toys are of no use any more. She discards them as she now has a real person as her husband.

Similarly, when we start our sadhana, in the early years, we start by keeping a count of the number of times we called (and hence remembered) God. This count is important to ensure we are clocking a minimum amount of time in remembering God without fail. Daily. But afterwards, when the remembrance deepens and stabilises, there is no need of counting.”

This is Master’s answer and is meant for an evolved sadhaka. But are we that evolved?

Much as we would like to believe that as bhaktas, we remain in constant remembrance of God, the fact is our daily life consumes almost all of our waking hours. And therefore, it is important to maintain a minimum count. Hence, japa through counting serves that purpose. Counting is our vigil. The mala is our day and night guard.

Japa is the repeated utterance of the Name of Lord that allows us to build a divine impression in the very fabric of our being. It is these impressions or sanskaras that act as fuel to propel more devotion, faith and hence the ability to call God with greater intensity and for longer hours. This continues till a time is reached when a sadhaka is unable to spend a single moment without being in close remembrance of God. In other words, uninterrupted God-remembrance becomes a part of his living. It is then that counting becomes redundant.

The Master’s anecdote serves to indicate reaching that stage when God is remembered every moment, and at that stage there is no need to count.

Looking at this more deeply, one realises that the real union is in consciousness and everything outside, every external ritual, sadhana, upachar etc is but an instrument to create that God-consciousness.

But we find several people directly jumping to the final step and declare, “I don’t need external worship. I don’t need the mala; everything is going on in my mind!” The obvious question is: “Really?”
The state of constant remembrance is a highly exulted state and is not reached easily. One may be deluded into believing that one is constantly remembering God or is engaged in duties that act as a reminder of grace all the time. But in reality, this may be far from truth. While in the grasp of Maya, one is all-consumed and during such moments, God thoughts leave us. However, since our alertness or awareness of those moments is low, we do not realize that in believing that we are immersed in God, we are in fact, deluding ourselves.

The flipside of this is that in giving up counting, one may actually regress instead of progress on his journey of God-consciousness. And this altering of one’s direction towards a regressive journey can happen so subtly, that one may just miss it entirely and be trapped into a worldly life with lesser and lesser God consciousness.

Hence, to protect oneself from such delusory act with detrimental consequences, one is advised to hold on to the count and keep increasing it. When an all-consuming God consciousness fills up a devotee, the devotee will know it and the necessity to count will automatically leave him or her.  That is the galitahasta state that the likes of Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath reached wherein if he picked up a flower or water to make an offering to God, the hand would just refuse to be raised and the water flowed down the palm. But for the ordinary rank of sadhaks counting is a must.

Once a devotee forgot how to count the repetitions of the Mantra on his fingers. Sri Sarada Ma said, “What does it matter? The purpose of all this is to direct the mind towards God.”

“Repeating the Name of God a fixed number of times, telling the rosary or counting on fingers, is calculated to direct the mind to God. The natural tendency of the mind is to run this way and that way. Through these means it is attracted to God. While repeating the name of God, if one sees His form and becomes absorbed in Him, one's Japa stops. One gets everything when one succeeds in meditation.”

May Japa help us all! May the mala keep us company and having done her job, bid fare!

Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda)