By Shri Sadguru Brahmachaitanya Maharaj Gondavale

Nama is the name of God. Considered as a means of attaining God, there is no distinction among the different appellations by which different people may be calling God. Nama is the connecting link between an individual soul and the Cosmic Soul. It is the means as well as the end. It has its beginning in saguna and it ends in nirguna. God, the Ultimate Reality, is abstract, attributeless, formless, intangible. He first got His nama only when He manifested in a tangible form; so nama is saguna. Nama persists even after the tangible form ceases to exist; so, it can be termed nirguna. So, whether one worships a tangible representation or an attributeless, abstract concept as God, nama is the common foundation.

Nama is extremely fine, subtle, and so is vritti; nama is, therefore, the connecting link between vritti and God. Repeating nama will cleanse and purify vritti; thereby the mind will be clarified, peaceful, stable, free from all agitation, and this will eventually strengthen faith. In olden times, a bride was initially a complete stranger to the bridegroom’s family; and yet she completely merged her personality, her individuality, with her husband’s. Vritti should similarly merge and lose itself in nama.

Food has some taste of its own; adding our relish to its taste, we eat the food. Nama, without a taste of its own, will gain sweetness in proportion to our relish for it. Roads converge on Pandharpur from different directions. However, for darshana all have to join the common queue. Similarly, whatever their sadhana, all must finally take recourse to nama. The bliss that nama is can be realized by uttering nama, listening to it with one’s ears, and forgetting one’s self in the process.

We completely identify ourselves with our name; so is God completely identified with nama. The nama that we chant today continues unchanged, but it becomes increasingly comprehensive and meaningful; finally, one experiences its identity with God. Water is an essential component of the living body; so should nama become an integral part of ourselves. It should so thoroughly pervade our being that it should only cease with the last breath. Nama should become such an integral part of our life that nama and life cease together. An adherent to nama will realize that it is nothing but sheer bliss.

Nama Imparted by a Sadguru

The question is often raised if one may begin to repeat a nama of one’s own choice, or must one be first initiated by a sadguru and assigned a specific nama which he should then repeat? Nama is self-existent and complete in itself, and needs nothing else to make it perfect. And yet, nama imparted by a sadguru certainly is something very special, distinctive, in that it is reinforced by his spiritual strength and support, and consequently there is no scope for pride of doership to rise in the sadhaka’s mind. When a sadhaka repeats nama imparted by a sadguru, he gradually develops a relish, a zest for it, and in due course, derives a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. It is therefore highly desirable that nama should be obtained by initiation by a spiritual master, a sadguru. However, till we meet a sadguru we must keep on repeating the nama of our choice; for, this itself will expedite our meeting the sadguru.

It is, however, not easy to come across a sadguru, to recognize him, and to feel faith in him. Therefore we should, till then, steadfastly repeat the nama of our choice. It is common knowledge that ants don’t need to be invited to a lump of sugar; they like it and are themselves in search of it. Similarly, if you do what the saints like, namely, maintain constant awareness of God’s presence and keep up ceaseless repetition of His name, the sadguru will himself search you out and hasten to shower grace on you.

It may happen that the sadguru initiates you in the nama that coincides with your own choice; it is then possible that you may feel that the sadguru has given you nothing new, for you were already repeating the same nama. Now, being initiated by the sadguru has the distinctive merit that it precludes the rise of ego, for the sadhaka thereafter does nama-smarana at the sadguru’s behest, and not on his own. This elimination of ego is most important, for even a vestige of pride or ego may vitiate the very purpose of meditation, just as even a grain of salt suffices to turn a pail full of milk sour. It is therefore of the utmost importance completely to renounce pride of ‘doership’.

How Long Should We Repeat Nama?

How long should we repeat nama? We should do this as long as our breath continues or we are conscious of ourselves. Just as we continue to breathe till the moment of death, so, too, we should repeat the nama till the moment of death. To put it more precisely, just as the body ceases to live when breathing stops, so, too, we must feel as if we are dead if nama stops. We must take nama literally until life becomes extinct, or until the ‘self’ or the ‘individual I’ ceases to exist. The last stage is when the ‘individual I’ feeling becomes dead, and what remains is only nama. One can, indeed, never do ‘enough’ or ‘too much’ of it. It is commonly believed that there is nothing further to be done when one attains beatitude or ‘ultimate liberation’; however, if any duty remains even thereafter it is only nama- smarana.

The common man so completely identifies himself with the body that normally he is not even conscious that he has it. Conversely, when the sadhaka engaged in nama-smarana becomes unaware that he is doing it, we can conclude that he has attained real’ solitude’, or oneness with the cosmic soul.

A man suffering from insomnia takes enough of the prescribed sedative to induce sleep; similarly we must take nama until we achieve enduring inward contentment. Nama being free from all upadhi, we will not be able to realise its true bliss unless we become likewise.

Should we keep a record of our japa, that is to say, should we note the number of times we have repeated nama? Yes, this is necessary if we have resolved to do it upto a specific minimum number every day, or to do a certain total number. To accustom oneself to a regular practice of japa, as also to ensure that not a day passes without a certain minimum japa, it is advisable to keep a daily note. While doing this, however, one shouldn’t feel that, ‘now that I have completed the number proposed for the day, I have nothing to do with the nama until tomorrow.’ After the daily quota is done, during the rest of the time also we should repeat nama as far as possible, for akhanda (i.e. unbroken) japa should be the ultimate goal.

The Proper Posture for Repeating Nama

Just as a sweet tastes sweet whichever side you begin to eat, nama achieves its purpose whichever way or in whatever position you take it. One who has tasted a sweet will not ask from which side he should begin; similarly, one who chants nama will not ask ‘how’ he should do it. The sower sows the field without bothering which side of the seed faces up, for the sprout always instinctively manages to make its way up. Similarly, whatever the way or manner in which the sadhaka may begin ‘chanting’ it, nama will ensure his progress in the proper direction. The main thing, therefore, is to begin.

To ask which posture we should adopt for nama-sadhana, is like asking what posture we should adopt for breathing. The answer is, whatever posture facilitates free, unhindered breathing. What does a person suffering from asthma do? He tries to sit up or recline in a position which affords him easy breathing. He aims at ease in breathing, and he adopts any posture that provides it. Similarly, we should aim at unbroken and undisturbed chanting of nama, and adopt any posture which avoids hindrance and offers convenience therein. Do not attach over-importance to posture. Imagine that we adopt the Padmasan posture for nama-smarana, and after a while we start feeling strain in the back; our attention will, in that case, be directed more towards the body than to nama; in other words, instead of losing our attention to our body (which we aim at), we shall be doubly reminded of the body. The object, therefore, should be to avoid break or distraction in nama-smarana; and we may adopt any posture of the body conducive to meditation on nama, according to personal idiosyncrasies or requirements. Nama is totally independent of the state or posture of the body; indeed, this is the peculiar feature of nama-smarana.

However, our sense of identity of ourself ‘I’ with the body is so strong and indissociable that we cannot be content unless we attach some strings or limitations or conditions to nama, although it is itself absolutely unconstrained by upadhi. This is precisely what we should not do. Such conditions, if fulfilled, will lead to joy or woe, but condition-less nama will lead to limitless and pure bliss.

Concentration in Nama-smarana

Why are we unable to achieve concentration in nama-smarana although we earnestly desire and strive for it? What should we do to achieve this concentration? It is true that hordes of vagrant, irrelevant thoughts throng and distract the mind during meditation. The simple remedy is, not to pursue or multiply them, not to indulge in day-dreams. Thoughts will go away as they come, if we ignore them. Indeed, nama-smarana will itself lead to concentration. Real concentration will come only at an advanced stage. The mind is, by its very nature, fickle, restless, fugitive. It can be steadied only by tethering it to something; so we should keep it engaged in nama. Practising listening to nama mentally, as we chant it, will greatly help achieve concentration. Persistence in repeating nama will ultimately lead to concentration of the mind.

Everyone knows that the mind readily concentrates on what it likes or is interested in. We have an inborn affinity for worldly matters and sensual pleasures, and so get easily absorbed in them. If, then, we cultivate affection for God, why should we not be able to get engrossed in Him and His nama? So let us cultivate a keen longing for God and nama.

Real concentration requires complete fusion or merger of identity, like that of salt in water. Yoga may train you in concentration, which, however, will last only so long as the state of samadhi lasts. Real, lasting concentration is to be fully and incessantly aware of the divinity pervading all things. When we realize that all is God and nothing else, where is the scope for duality to exist? And the moment duality vanishes, oneness or concentration alone remains: this is true samadhi.

Even if a person is lonely, he creates a whole world in his mind and peoples it with a host of persons and things, with the help of his imagination. The learned especially possess a prolific imagination. If the mind must, after all, imagine something, let us think of God in His various qualities as a benefactor, as the protector of everybody and everything, and as the bestower of peace and bliss. God, Who transcends and defies intellectual comprehension, should be imagined as saguna, with a certain form and name, and we should endeavour to concentrate our mind on these to the exclusion of all else.