Can you repeat the Lord’s name with each breath? Whichever name of God is dear to you. If you do, your life will change. We live not by physical age but by the age of the prana, the life force, which regulates breathing: inhalation and exhalation. Because of this, the age of the physical body is not important. If you can repeat the name of God with each breath, it means your life force is being totally utilized for God. And when that happens everything changes—whatever you call worries, sorrows, sufferings, imperfections or deficiencies are all being eradicated.
You may feel that to be conscious of each breath and put the holy name in it, you will not be able to do anything else, but that is not so. In the beginning it may appear that being occupied with the holy name will take you away from other activities and thoughts. But eventually it becomes your natural habit and then the holy name repeated with each breath can go on simultaneously with any other action outside. Let me give a common example: you are doing dishwashing, cooking, walking, showering or even talking and still your thinking goes on. How does that happen? Thinking has become your habit, a part of your nature, so it goes on in spite of whatever else you are doing. In the same way, when repeating the name of God—whichever name is dear to you or a thought or an idea—in the beginning it will affect your outside activities. But when it becomes a habit, in spite of whatever you are doing, the repetition of the holy name within will go on automatically with each breath.
The yogic term for this is ajapa japa. Japa is repetition or reciting; ajapa is non-repeating or repeating in spite of you, incessant prayer. Eventually it becomes a habit and it gives you, let me put it as an unqualified guarantee: you will get whatever you want. If the holy name of God is not so sweet, choose something else: an idea such as “God is within me, Spirit is within me, Light is within me,” or “God is everywhere.” But it should not be too many lines. If you have to repeat sixteen lines for each breath, then you have to prolong one breath too much—something in the pan will begin to burn, your child will start crying, your duties will suffer or the world will go helter skelter! So take one, two, three or four words maximum, such as the Vedic mantras: Aham Brahma Asmi— “I am That,” Tat Twam Asi— “Thou Art That, Light is within me, Light is around me,” or “Jesus, Jesus, Krishna, Krishna” or a mantra to Buddha. If your Master has given you a mantra, repeat that holy name. Or simply repeat Om. Om is a bija or “seed” mantra, the best mantra as far as language goes. But if you are not inclined to this, it doesn’t matter. Just change it a little bit to say “Amen,” though the effect will be a little less because Om is very scientific.
At first it is difficult to use each breath for God’s name, God’s memory or an idea. To start anything new certainly proves to be difficult but by practice, which we call sadhana, it can become perfect. “Practice makes perfect” is a common saying but this is not true in the spiritual sense. Practice makes you exhaust your mind and then the Perfection, which is already there, is realized. That is a spiritual explanation. When you go on repeating the holy name with each breath, there will be many times, many breaths, in which you will not be able to repeat the name. Just remind yourself and again come back to that. Carry on until the practice becomes quite normal or natural. The purpose is not just repeating the name with each breath; when each breath is utilized in God’s name or a spiritual idea, then it not only purifies you but also your inherent power awakens.
Repeating the holy name of God is not a minor matter; it is panacea for all ills. Those who have accomplished this know it is true. The time will come when repetition of the word or words will give rise to feelings. This is called bhava. Eventually feelings give rise to divine Vision—Darshan—or Realization. First you call God by name, then you feel for Him, then you see Him. It is a process. When you don’t see a person, you just call loudly, don’t you? And when he doesn’t come, you may begin to cry, weep or be angry—meaning, you have feelings. Then when that still doesn’t happen you become frustrated, helpless or longing for that person. That longing in the spiritual sense becomes breathtaking, what you call the “dark night.” When you see good scenery, you call it breathtaking and when I see someone lon
ging for God, it is really breathtaking! I feel the joy behind that longing; in that squeezing suffocation there is joy.
When each breath is utilized for God’s remembrance, you will never die. Apart from physical death, you achieve immortality. God’s name, just one word: the word was with God and the word was God and is God. Why do we forget these formulas? The basic sin is forgetfulness, unawareness or unconsciousness. A very simple formula, two plus two equal four: the word was with God; the word was God. This was the original sound. Repeat that in your spirit and mysteries will open unto you. Follow the easiest and simplest of formulas; do not go into intricate mathematics.
I’ve sometimes told the anecdote of an absentminded scientist. In Indian villages, they use cow dung as fuel. Ladies take the wet cow dung and knead it like dough and then form it into flat rounds and thump them onto the village walls. They get stuck there with no science; they just stick. By evening or the next day they become dry and are used as fuel. There used to be a scientist living in one such village and one day he was passing by such a wall. He might have passed by perhaps a hundred times; he lived there. But seldom do such absentminded professors or scientists lift up their eyes to look beyond ten yards. One day by chance his eyes were open to the outer world and his sight fell on the cow dung on the wall. He stood there and went on thinking and thinking. Villagers began to pass nearby and they were wondering why this gentleman was standing there. They knew and revered him—he was a very respectable person—and they understood it must be something important when such a great man stands to look at this mud wall and cow dung. They went on gathering—two, then four, then six, then eight—until there were quite a number of people standing there watching him looking at that wall but nobody dared to ask him why. Then an one old man got a little restive and said, “Sir, can I ask what are you doing?” The scientist replied, “Well, I’m wondering how the cow went up on this wall…” And all the people began to laugh. Naturally! This simple thing didn’t occur to him even through he must have seen women doing this thousands of times in his life.
When we become too mechanically concentrated, when we bring the hand around the head to catch the nose, we forget there could be easy ways. As if to see God is so difficult! It’s so tedious, so painful. We make it difficult; otherwise it is easy. You could utilize each breath, each breath, by the repetition of God’s name—Om or Jesus or Krishna or Buddha or I Am That, Thou Art That, Light is within me, Light is around me—whatever. Life is counted in the number of breaths. This is yogic language. Each life has been given a number of breaths but those could be prolonged or shortened, and accordingly the life is lived out. Even if the body may be injured dangerously in an accident, it still could live if breaths remain, but sometimes a person may die even in a minor accident if the breaths are over.
There is a force behind what we call life: jivan shakti in Sanskrit. Jiv is creature, jivan is life, and shakti is power, life force or creative force. When this jivan shakti is used in the repetition of God’s name or a mantra or an idea, your latent creative powers begin to flourish, which gives rise to joy, peace and wisdom. God is easy and He made ways easy. But when we want to play and prolong, it takes time and space. The amount of space and time it takes to catch your nose straight on is less than if you go around your head. Utilize each breath in this way and you will see miracles happen—miracles! It doesn’t need faith. It doesn’t need doubting. You doubt those things that you do not know but these are not things that you cannot know; these are technical subjects that anyone could research and try. Where is the question of doubting? The word was with God, the word was God, is God. That word, just repeat it incessantly until it becomes as your habit.
Any amount of work, any amount of activities, any amount of attention anywhere else will not distract you from your polestar. But in the beginning it does need hard practice. The word for practice in India is sadhana and when you go on doing sadhana you become siddhi: perfected. Siddhi means perfect or ripe, like boiling a potato until it is soft to the core. It means we should go on doing sadhana or practices until our inmost core gets ripe, thoroughly baked or cooked. The inmost core that softens is ego. Then “me” melts. The word of God has the power to soften or melt your ego. Results may not happen in the beginning—it is difficult, I know—but by practice it becomes easy. Pray incessantly until the Lord hears. Do not get tired in between if He doesn’t seem to hear. We become impatient, hasty and selfish and when our prayer is not heard in a stipulated time and space; we give up or discontinue. That is not incessant prayer. Go on doing until it happens. That is an aphorism, actually. Go on doing with no calculation of time. Discouragement, dejection, disappointment and despair are simply blocks that you have to transcend.
Those who want to reach the Goal must transcend blocks even if they appear to be insurmountable. I am saying “appear” because there is not a single block in your whole life that is insurmountable though we feel that many are. Even if you come across an “insurmountable” block, stop there if you are not able to proceed. Just go on praying incessantly; go on repeating God’s name. The block will move, mysteriously.
Incessant prayer with each breath, incessant repetition of God’s name is very scientific. It works wonders. It is therapy physically for the vital sheath as well as the mental and psychic. And ultimately it dissolves the ego. So much so that the ego gets fed up and says, “Better I don’t live”—it is so bothered! And God’s name says, “So much the best—please vanish!” and brings a great relief. That is incessant prayer, incessant repetition of God’s name, incessant faith, incessant love, incessant devotion, incessant positivity—and it works wonders. Power, joy, peace, everything comes out of this. If we remember Him, He will let us know everything. The use of each breath for God gives rise to the topmost secret in us, the very center of creation, the Creator. It will give you a beautiful consciousness.
Seeker: Can you explain the meaning of 108 beads on a mala?
According to the mala theory, 100 means perfection, purna in Sanskrit and eight beads are added for the five elements of the body—earth, water, fire, air, ether—plus one each for mind, conscience and ego. Aman chit ahankar is the Sanskrit term for 108. How sages arrived at this number of beads for the repetition of the mantra, we don’t know because it must have been thousands of years back. But perhaps they meant that these elements plus mind, conscience and ego should be transcended and only 100—perfection—remain.
Published in Light of Consciousness Vol 18#3, our Meditation & Mantra Issue, Winter 2006, available here. Edited from a recorded Satsang titled, Repeating God’s Name (H-5), given on August 31, 1977. For further information on the Satsangs of Swami Amar Jyoti click here.
In this practice of ajapa japa, Swami Amar Jyoti recommends that one mantra be repeated rather than various mantras.