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Sunday, August 7, 2011

How To Use YOUR HOME ALTAR


A home altar actually has many purposes, many things you can use it for - and that is it’s beauty! In this section we will discuss such uses. 

An altar is a meditative place of peace, a sanctuary for you, and a place to make your spiritual connections

For those just learning this, if so inclined, can offer your beautiful pictures of the Lord - some incense, etc (recommended). Here’s how:

Standing to the right side of the altar (your left), you can make circles with the incense around Their entire Transcendental picture. 

OR, if you want to get a bite more detailed over time, just make:
-three little circles starting at Their feet, 
-then 3 to the waist, 
-then 3 to the head, 
-lastly 1 – 3 times around entire picture. 

If you want to also offer a flower individually, it’s done the same way. Simultaneously chanting, which is described below.

Water can be offered just by placing the cups [Theirs only] in front of Them, and then saying mantras or prayers. [Below]

All of this sets the mood, supercharging the atmosphere (and you!) with higher vibrations of spiritual energy. 

Though not always necessary, just know this option exists.
Vedic prayer. It has power and not some mere ritual or wishful thinking. 

 Even from a basic understanding, and something many do not know, Mantra carries prana. Tho more importantly, it connects us with God. Either way you win. :)

Therefore by sitting cross legged (but really any method of sitting or even standing is fine) in front of your altar, in your special place of peace, then chanting with sincerity, thus a Vedic prayer/mantra can increase your abilities to heal self and others, on any level. 

CHANTING & MANTRAS

We can look at mantra chanting from various points of view. They work on every level so will briefly touch on those, and wish to state I myself am interested in the spiritual aspect. Yet, the following is interesting. 

From the more material scientific point - to pronounce a word creates various types of vibrational frequency. This is a scientific fact. The frequency of the word vibrates in the brain within the cerebral cortex. When that sound is a spiritual sound, then even materially it has benefits, and has been found to form what’s known as a feedback loop while the brain is producing such sound, thus the brain listens to it, next responding with a deeper level of awareness and personal empowerment

Even we notice, an opera singer can break glass with the mere sound vibration of their voice, the decibels of an airplane too loud has punctures ear drugs as has some rock music, etc. Matter of fact, scientific studies have shown that plants exposed to hard rock music for significant periods of time withered and eventually died, whereas plants exposed to classical music thrived! Certainly sound vibration has power! We merely need to use it rightly. 

And form the subtle material auric body point - mantra is a mystical formula composed of the original Sanskrit language of the mystical Spiritual Sky

Now, for those curious about chakras and its relationship to this: Speech originates in the Muladhara Chakra. Through desire it moves upward and crosses the navel or Svadhisthana Chakra, continuing on up to the Solar Plexus or Manipura Chakra, on further to the heart or Anahata Chakra. Here it transforms into Pasyanti and Madhyama to finally reach the throat or Visuddha Chakra. This causes it to take audible form of sound vibration called vaikhari. This vaikhari has been categorized into 50 alphabets of Sanskrit starting from “a”(A) and ending with “ksh.” 

Everything, even our physical body, “starts” from the more subtle auric body (which includes chakras). If we get sick, it first hits our auric body only to later move through into the physical. Though ‘later’ could be anywhere from a few minutes to years, accordingly. However, it still must first meet up with, and transfer through, the chakras and auric body. 

Thus, healing will also start there, and sound vibration known since time immemorial by great sages and yogis of India to definitely effect these different chakras and our aura, will therefore be healing to body/mind/soul when used. 

However, memorizing the details of how it all functions and unfolds is all very complex and not really necessary. It works whether you are paying attention to it or not, just as your heart keeps beating whether you understand the physiological details of how it does its job or don’t understand it. It’s so much easier to just chant from a spiritual perspective which takes care of everything in the first place. 

So most important is the spiritual point, because when our body ultimately passes over we will not need any of the other, therefore they will also eventually die away. Whereas, the effects and benefits regarding the spiritual potency of a mantra will never go away. It's beneficial eternally. 

Though it’s not necessary to move into an ashrama to learn this. Anyone can practice the Yoga of Mantra Meditation within the peaceful realms of their home. Spiritual life, like anything else, means practical activity. The key is to accept the guidance of scripture/shastra and the pure jagat guru Srila Prabhupada. 

True spiritual knowledge empowers us. We actually become strong on many levels, including psychologically, and with achievement of our desires. This is also why we need to become humble. The power we get from a real and genuine connection with the Supreme Being is more potent than any can even begin to imagine. Not to worry, God isn’t about to send you jumping on a bandwagon. Ha 

Simultaneously we are expected to remain sincere, honest, and try to be humble. With that said, we can do much good for the world and ourselves as we engage in ancient, Divine, Vedic mantra chanting.

Mantra Meditation actually give us direction in all aspects of life, healing the heart, healing the body (various levels) and especially healing the soul. 

Results? It brings much peace, happiness, and the opportunity to never take birth again but instead -- rejoin Lord Sri Krishna in the Spiritual Sky

Thus we can put some valid effort into organizing our lives in such a way as to follow Krishna's teachings as much as one can at any one point in time - gradually, gently aiming for increase - on a practical level. 

Simply we try to do our best. Then it will be possible for us to rise to the transcendental plane even while living in the material world. We can be in the world, but not of the world, though this often takes time, yet is achievable.

The first principle of chanting is to understand, and use, the transcendental vibration of the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra

Others may be added after this one is used, as Maha translates as "great;" mantra translate as "sound that liberates the mind from ignorance." There is no mantra as great or as powerful as this Maha Mantra:

Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

There are no restriction, no hard and fast rules. You don’t have to become an initiated disciple. You can just chant these holy names of the Lord anywhere, any time. 

Although there is additional benefit to set a specific time of the day to regularly chant. Early morning hours are ideal as they are astrologically but especially spiritually considered to be auspicious and blocking of malefics. However, anytime of day will offer powerful benefits, as it is more in accord with heart and sincere endeavor.

Now chanting the Maha Mantra can be done in two ways: 

1. A. Singing the mantra, called kirtana (aloud)
 
B. singing the mantra as a bhajana (aloud but more quietly)
Both of these both are usually done in a group though not limited to that.

2. Chanting or saying the mantra to oneself, called japa (which literally means "to speak softly")
Focus on hearing the sounds of the holy names. Just stick with it and remain aware. While chanting, enunciate it clearly, approaching Krsna in a prayerful spirit. 

If your mind roams, don’t beat yourself up, simply draw it back to the resonance of the Lord's divine names. Chanting this Maha Mantra is a prayer to Krsna. It means:

"O energy of the Lord, O all-attractive Lord Krishna O Supreme Enjoyer, please engage me in Your service."

The more you are focused and genuine as chant Hare Krishna, the more spiritual growth you will build.

Because Krishna is forgiving, loving, and kind, thoughtfully He has made returning “Home” extremely e-a-s-y in this age of Kali-yuga, that we may get out of the material world in 1 birth [it was considerably more complicated in previous ages] simply by enjoying the pleasure of chanting His names. All of His powers are within His Names, because He IS non-different from them, or “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.”] Merely, invisible to our material eyes. It’s simply a matter of realization. the mantra.

"There is no difference between chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and meeting Krsna eye to eye, face to face. Simply one has to realize." ~ Prabhupada lecture, 1-12-73, Bombay, India

Thus we begin to understand that the names of God and God Himself are one and the same. Accordingly, we are directly associating with God and receiving sweet purity when chanting Hare Krishna and Rama. 

Endeavor to chant in a humble state of mind, a meditative mood, and with devotion. According to ancient Vedic literature, Lord Krishna is personally dancing on your tongue when you chant His holy name. How wonderfully blissful! :-)
 
Whilst chanting unaccompanied (though can be done with others desirous to do the same), and you wish to chant more than just a few mantras, use a strand of 108 small beads. 

These are called “japa” beads and highly recommended. They help to maintain a tally of how many mantras you chanted, as well as increases the ability to focus your attention on the sound vibration of these sacred Names. 

There’s 108 gradated beads plus one big bead known as the head bead. 

Start chanting on a bead next to the head bead, rolling it gently between thumb and middle finger of right hand while simultaneously chanting the complete Hare Krsna mantra (16 syllables). 

Then shift to the following bead and do again. Like this, blissfully chant on all of the 108 beads till you arrive at the head bead once more. This is called “one round” of japa. After that, and avoiding chanting on the head bead, simply turn the beads around and begin your second round upon the last bead you chanted on. 

The time line for one round generally averages between 5-7 minutes, but time is really not so important, just a guide. Take however long you need.

Once a devotee receives spiritual initiation they vow before God and Guru to chant a minimum sixteen rounds “Hare Krsna mantra” daily. Of course more can be added on any particular day you feel enlivened, a holiday, etc. Simply the initiated need to be sure and maintain sixteen.

For the uninitiated, even if you can chant only one round per day, the idea is commit to chanting that round, finish it every day. 

After some practice or time (or sooner) you may feel you could chant more than one etc round, then add to the number you were chanting daily. 

Again and for anyone, on days of inspiration it’s perfectly ok and even a good idea to chant more than your selected number, due to enthused feelings, returning next day to lesser number of rounds, as long as we do so consciously. 

What if we slip and have trouble maintaining a certain amount of chanting? Remember, don’t beat yourself up, just do what you can and “keep on keepin’ on.” :) Returning next day (etc) to the number of japa you have set for yourself.

Beads are holy so don't let them touch ground or put anywhere unhygienic. If it accidentally happens, relax. Just touch them to your forehead with a sincere apologetic mood, and a “Hare Krishna.” :-) 

That beads can be kept clean it's good to carry them inside a particular pouch called a “bead bag.” Someday I’ll have to figure out how to describe a sewing pattern for that, but beads can be used without one. Just be conscious and take care of them.

You can string your own beads: 

Just purchase 109 graded wooden beads and some strong string or thin rope or some have even used [new, clean] fishing line. String 108 of the beads. 

This next point is important. In between each beads place a knot. Every time. This signifies Personalism. 

String all your beads bringing the almost finished product together at the top, taking both cords, and string them thru the head bead. 

Your now have your own set of japa beads!

If you would like to buy Japa Mala, and since I need to start making a living, hope you will buy them through my links:

WHITE TULASI MALA: 108 Beads, knotted after each bead [that's important.] Prayer beads. Currently $7.74. Click here for updated details.


NOTE: Most mala need to be soaked in OIL a couple weeks before using, or they may crack much more quickly. You can use any type of oil, tho Sesame is often used. I used Olive Oil once. It did the job but me and my beads smelled like olives for quite a while. ha Anyhow, if you choose to use Sesame oil, please get it through me here: AYURVEDIC BANYAN BOTANICALS CERTIFIED ORGANIC SESAME OIL, $15.99 as of now.

TULASI WOOD SUPERIOR GRADE MALA 

Hand Carved. Very light brown in color. Bead size 7-8mm approx. Lovingly knotted by artisans in India. 108 beads plus one tassel mala - mala length 42 cms approximately. Go here.




Next, aside from japa beads, you can also SING the Maha Mantra in kirtana. While its perfectly fine to sing alone, and recommended as the insects even benefit (!), therefore what to speak of you! But kirtana is generally performed with others. A melodious kirtana with family or friends is sure to enliven everyone. Devotees use traditional melodies and instruments in the temple, but you can chant to any melody as for example was done by George Harrison and others, using any musical instruments to accompany your chanting. As Lord Caitanya said, "There are no hard and fast rules for chanting Hare Krishna."
 
If you would like to experience some of these various forms of singing (transcendental sound vibration in song form), in a moment I will give good links that offers a variety of music:

Explanation of Hare Krishna Mantra (not music but very interesting!)

"Singing of the Hare Krishna Mantra - very nice."

Govinda [produced by George Harrison,sung by Yamunna dd]

“Sanskrit song about the Spiritual Master” [Here it is sung, when making offerings it is not sung but spoken.]

"Too cute! :) Child sings Hare Krishna in such a sweet mellow tune."

“Chanting on beads (not music - chant your japa along with Prabhupada just like we do at temple.)”

"MANTRA CHOIR" Whether knowing the words or not, this is worth listening to and so moving!"Giri Govardhana" another name of Krishna.

Lots of choices! Possibly more to come when time allows me to do so. :) Check back for updates or additions.

Enjoy your spiritual senses. They are real. There is some misunderstanding, at times, that we must turn off all senses. However, this is inaccurate. And impossible, because they came from God. Simply in the material world, with that all around us, is where we turn to please our sense. The basic explanation based on Prabhupada's teachings, is that we were made to be happy, to experience pleasure, and if we do not get it from our higher senses, we must get it somewhere so we turn to material senses. Now knowing we can still have pleasure with Krishna, we can do it differently. 

Spiritual life is so much fun I never 'got it' why some like to make it miserable. ha We eat sublime prasadam, dress unique [tho technically you can dress however you wish], smell offered incense,  and boy can we sing! ha I don't mean we have to have great voices, that's even irrelevant. But we should belt it out, and take joy Krishna's names. And some of the younger generation have been having a bit of fun with that. :)

Often a person discovers japa and kirtana, when performed in front of an altar - a special place - becomes more personal, plus boosts efficiency. Simultaneously, there are no hard and fast rules, singing is fun! Here's a Sweet song for peace amongst us all. English - sing along. :)

Sing the Maha Mantra to the walls, to the wind, to the cat outside your window or goldfish in a bowl. What if some can’t hear? Ahhhh but the soul always hears. 

Let yourself go, any style as there is no one way it must be sung. Some prefer classic, while others get inspired with something different. And some combine both while others do not. And all are perfectly fine. 

Discover what gets your mojo going ha, and do it! Experience the bliss of singing the Maha Mantra! 

When I lived in the ashrama I was told to even sing it to the walls, ha, as even bacteria, or something else, will benefit. :) And once again, so will the singer.