I wrote about practicing the Gayatri mantra daily and there were several questions, thus this generic post.
Everyone above the age of 6yrs should take up one mantra or stotra as a life time thing. ie Recite it every day during your daily puja routine. Choose this as per your convenience and inclination but dedicate yourself to this mantra, your life line for this lifetime. When you do a mantra jaap regularly, you are actually working very hard, focussing your mind, body and soul on this mantra daily for a few mins. This regular practice adds up over your lifetime. Eg exercising daily for 15mins is more sensible and useful than working out once a month for nonstop 24hrs. The mantra is pure Intelligence, it magnifies the work you have done on it and reflects it back at you.
The quantum of energy does not matter as much as your conscious control over your own Mind does. Read this line twice.
Eg. someone I know, does intense jaap of Navavaran mantra but without the necessary lifestyle to be able to absorb such enormous amounts of energy. This has affected her negatively, her mind has become unstable. Generating power from intense mantras is dangerous if you cannot control it.
Sadhana is something that genuine aspirants, Sadhaks or people with a genuine ascetic bent of mind do. They will invest time, energy and sacrifice several things in this process. For doing Sadhanas, you need combinations for asceticism in your chart. Intense Sadhana creates Nivrutti in the mind of the aspirant, ie detachment from the material, from the Game of Creation, from the Lila. This intensity is not for everyone. And, in fact, it is not even necessary for everyone.
So when it comes to spiritual practice, do only that much which you can easily do. You should feel happy when you do it. If you ever feel that it is a burden, review and reduce the practices. Rather than trying for ‘high power’ mantra which others recommend, do what you feel is the best for you even if it is for a few minutes, eg do it for 3 repeats if you feel 108 repeats is too much. But do something daily.
Generally gruhast ie householders do not do such Sadhana. What we do is, perform our daily puja and sometimes Anushthans, ie a targeted pujas. Daily puja would be something quite brief, 10mins max, generally lighting a deepak, putting tilak, putting flowers and doing Arti of the family gods. Daily pujas do not have many rules and are simple. Anushthans are more intense and last for a few days. eg I might intend to do a Gayatri Laghu Anushthan, ie 24000 repeats of the mantra in 9 days of the Ashwin Navratri. In these 9 days I will be bound by several restrictions. I will follow these rules to safely channelise the energy I generate with this mantra into my body. As a householder we are used to certain habits which we cannot continue when we take up targeted Anushthans. The rules vary in the different Anushthans but there are common themes. The first restriction will be on food, ie tamasic foods like non-veg, brinjal, heavy pulses like masoor, highly oily food, very spicy food, alcohol and other addictive substances, food cooked by others etc will stop. Eating ghee, milk from desi cows, eat food you cook yourself, keeping to yourself, not speaking much, not touching random people, shaking hands etc or travelling in crowded public transport will not be possible, physical intimacy with your spouse will stop for that time. Sticking to the schedules determined by your Anushthan will be necessary. You have to discipline your body first, this discipline will then more inwards as the mind gets disciplined. Thus you will get the results of the Anushthan.
Common householders/ gruhast, cannot channelise much power, ie the entire ocean cannot be poured into a small cup. Householders are tiny cups, highly insufficient to hold the power of the mantras in their full-fledged form. So gruhast people are encouraged to slowly increase their capacity with all these festivals we have in the Sanatan Dharma. And we have a festival practically every fortnight. As you do the pujas associated with these festivals throughout the year, every year, you are actually training your mind. In Sanatan Dharma we have a plethora of options. You can choose your favourite deity, source of faith as per your wish. The beauty of Sanatan Dharma is that no one can compel you. You are responsible for your own actions and are required to follow your own Conscience at all times. We have the most beautiful life possible, genuinely happy from the inside. Our festivals are the backbone of our society. We worship pure nature, ie the Samudra Sea on Narali pournima, the Mountains on Govardhan puja, the Sun on Makar sankranti or Ratha saptami, Dawn and Dusk on Chatt puja, the Moon on Kojagiri pournima etc. We worship our Rivers, Sarasvati, Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada etc as our mother, we adore them. We worship animals with equal fervour eg Snakes on Naag Panchami, Bulls on Pola etc and plants eg Banyan tree on Vat Savitri. We worship human like deities ie the embodiments of the three Gun, Satva Vishnu-Laxmi, Raja Brahmadev- Sarasvati, Tama Shankar-Parvati with the rest of the pantheon. We even worship Mathematics with the same devotion, the Shri yantra and the other yantra are complex geometry. We revere sound, light, vibrations, energy. We recognise Divinity embedded in every aspect of creation. We worship Intelligence because we intend to recognise that same Consciousness inside us.
In my blog I have mentioned a few stotra, mantra, sukta which can be taken up as a regular practice. This practice helps still the mind. If the mind is still, you are more Aware, more focussed on the Real. I have written briefly about several including the Amrit sukta, Shri Sukta, Purush Sukta, Mahamrutyunjai mantra, Gayatri mantra, Guru stotra, Teekshna Damshtra Bhairavashtakam, Chakshushi mantra, Navavarna mantra etc. And referred to several books like the Ved, Upanishad, Vijnyan Bhairav Tantra, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Devi Mahatmya etc. All mantra (except the Ajapa mantra and Om) are generally linked to a ray from the Eternal, ie a deity, an Aware Intelligent Consciousness. Eventually all merge into the same Eternal Advaita. It is so elegant.
I have written on Soham, the Ajapa mantra which my Satguru ‘gave’ to all his disciples, the easiest option. It gives control over the Mind, slowly and steadily with every breath you take. You gently train your mind to become aware of the most natural rhythm in the world, the rhythm of your own breath.
Now for some specific dos and don’ts for women in general life. Two events in life are very stressful for women, the menstrual phase of the monthly cycle and the pregnancy.
I wrote a detailed post here on the restrictions during the menstrual phase of the monthly cycle, do go through it.
Next, during pregnancy, there are mantras and stotras which you can recite or listen for your and your baby’s well being during this time. Here your body is doing enormous amount of work. The astral bodies of the mother and child are highly intertwined.
- So doing any sort of practice where you channelise mantra with your breath while sitting on the asan is not advisable. ie you can recite the Gayatri 3 times with your daily puja routine but do not sit on your asan and do a 108 jaap of the mantra with the breath. Or you can mentally recite Soham to relax your mind, but do not sit on your Asan for targeted 108 Soham sadhana.
- Then eclipses. If there are any eclipses visible in your town when you are pregnant, you must be very alert. Best would be to sit in front of your puja ghar/ altar and read something eg the Bhagvat Gita or recite or listen to mantra and stotra while the eclipse is on.
- The Sutak time. In case there is a physical death in your close family ie this is the paternal family or after marriage husband’s paternal side of the family for married women, then from the day of the death till the pindadana on the 13th day, the dimensions of the spirits and humans, ie the Pitrulok and Martyalok are interconnected. This affects everyone in the family. If this event occurs in the same house you live in, try to keep away from the Anteyshti related activities as much as possible. A pregnant woman should not go for condolence visits to relatives or friend’s families, her husband can go if it is necessary.
- The Natak time. Similarly if a new baby is born in your close family, then from the birth to the name ceremony day, again the dimensions are interconnected as the soul gets settled in his new life. This too is an intense time on the energy levels. A pregnant woman can see this new baby born in her family on the day of its Naamkaran sanskar.
Ideally a woman should stick to the daily pujas till the baby is 6 months old at least. Do not attempt Anushthans or other targeted practice during this time. This is the time when the baby is still absorbing your energy, ie breast feeding, and you are also working hard. So first focus on what the baby needs and on rebuilding your strength. After you do the Annaprashan Sanskar for the baby, if you feel up to it you can increase the intensity of your spiritual practice.
For men, the life is interconnected with the Gayatri, as every boy above the age of 6yrs is entitled to the Yajnopaveet Sanskar. This means wearing the Yajnopaveet sutra for a life time and doing Sandhya Vandanam, ie Gayatri puja three times a day. Ask your father or paternal relatives for any restrictions or dos and don’ts as this often varies from family to family. If your parents have not done the Yajnopaveet Sanskar for you but you really want to do the Gayatri mantra in a formal manner then you can do a simple intention on an auspicious Sunday, consider the rising Sun as your Guru and start. Do this only if you really feel and your conscience agrees with it. Never do anything against the Antaratma, the inner voice. At the very least you can recite this mantra even once a day when you do your daily puja.
Generally for major Anushthans, if there is a Sutak or Natak period in your close family then you will temporarily stop your Anushthans till this period is on.
Then there are several dos and dont’s which vary from family to family. This is mostly linked to the culture and the family deities. eg in my family we never wear black colored clothes, as the family deity does not like it. So you will have to ask the elders in your paternal family or husband’s paternal family for any such typical things.
The only requirement for a follower of Sanatan Dharma is that you have faith/ Shraddha in something. This can be in an external source, there are so many options. Or if you prefer, you can put your faith in your own Divinity, ie directly focus on the Eternal, the Advaita that you yourself are. Do not compare yourself with other’s. Don’t ever think that someone is doing so much and you are doing so little. This concept does not exist in Sanatan Dharma. Each one of us is an unique individual, but all linked to the same eternal foundation. We, the followers of Sanatan Dharma, adore Pure Intelligence in every way possible. Every route is acceptable, it only depends on the practitioner’s inclination and conscience.