QUESTION: Dear Sir,
While engaging in prayer with recitation of slokas on a particular Deity,
whether the mind should be centred(concentrate) on the script (text) or the meaning of the verse or the form of Deity?
T R Vasudevan
ANSWER: Dear T. R. Vasudevan,
Thank you for your question.
A saintly sadhu named Gopesh Maharaj, who was then living in Vrindavan, told me many years ago that one should at least understand the words you recite. Over the years since then I have become convinced that this is true, for the words of a sacred text, the meaning of the words, help orient the mind toward Reality. We should try to visualize what the text is saying as vividly as possible.
However, recitation with devotion, even without comprehension, is also beneficial. In this case visualizing the living presence of the deity during recitation is very good. Focusing on the sound of the mantras with the faith that the sacred sounds, being the deity in the form of vibration, have the power to transform consciousness, is also beneficial.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Respected Sir,
Of the following Meditation practice , how do one choose the best option
a) Observing the breath
b) Mental recitation of the Mantra
c) focussing attention in to comprehend / listen to the cosmic sound to feel the vibration
d) comprehending the deity exclusively in the spiritual heart in silence
Can all the above be included in the practice on a time scale of 40 minutes for effective results?
T R Vasudevan
Dear T R Vasudevan,
Thank you for your follow-up question.
Be very clear that the purpose of meditation is total identification with the deity. This shift in identity typically happens in stages from gross to subtle. At first (by which I mean when you are feeling very separate from the deity, and this stage may recur many times in one life) you focus on the deity's form, identifying each of your organs of action (karmendriya) and organs of knowledge (jñānendriya) with the deity's. So, at this stage your attention is focused on visualizing the deity's form. The next stage is affirmation that the deity is none other than Sat-Chit-Ānanda, the source of your mind. You merge yourself in that as ghee gets merged in the homa fire. The Tantras teach ritual techniques called bhūta-śuddhi and nyāsa that accomplish this very directly. But if you understand that the purpose is identification with the deity, even simple visualization of the living, conscious form of the deity with love and faith is enough.
Mental repetition of mantra occurs throughout. Observing the breath can be a good way to calm the mind in preparation for the above meditation. You can do all this in a practice of 40-60 minutes. Sincerity is the one essential thing, as Sri Ramakrishna used to say.