Antar Mouna and Japa
Swami Satyananda Saraswati
There is a technique in hatha yoga called shankhaprakshalana which eliminates the toxins from the stomach and cleans the whole alimentary canal. This practice helps to cure almost all stomach troubles by regulating the vitiated bile, wind and mucus. In this process you are required to drink about sixteen glasses of salty, lukewarm water and in between you do five different asanas. This cleans the stomach completely; the body becomes very light and free from tension.
Likewise, there is also a mental shankhaprakshalana which makes the mind free from unnecessary thoughts and provides mental equilibrium. Our mind is constipated with foul conceptions, tensions, old samskaras and many unfulfilled desires. As long as we have unnecessary worries and inhibitions the mind cannot relax. When you clean the physical body, you have to drink salt water and go to the toilet a number of times. This will make you very tired, but afterwards you will feel much better. In the same way, you get tired during mental shankhaprakshalana in the beginning because of the tremendous amount of thoughts, but ultimately, when you are able to evacuate the mind of thoughts, you can enjoy real happiness.
Everyone of us has sexual desires, samskaras, superfluous thoughts and worries, whether one is male or female, king or servant. Everyone has many problems; nobody's mind is pure. How can you say that you have no toxins in your body and no disturbances in your mind? If you say this, it implies that you are not speaking the truth. Desires and thoughts are natural. A man without desires and thoughts is not mentally balanced. He is definitely sick. You can know the thoughts in your conscious mind. But the subconscious and unconscious minds are as deep as the ocean. You can see the waves of the sea on the surface, but you cannot see the animals, scorpions, serpents or the valuable pearls in the deeper levels. Similarly, you are unable to know the infirmities or inhibitions deeply rooted in the subconscious mind. You cannot recognize your innermost samskaras which have been gathering there from your family, society or religion from time immemorial. But you have to become aware of them and start witnessing everything which is in your subconscious and unconscious mind. If you want peace of mind you must first know the mind.
In order to understand your mind, you have to practice antar mouna, inner silence. When you practice this yogic process, the suppressed samskaras are driven out from the deeper levels of the mind. While doing shankhaprakshalana you drink so much water; in the same way you have to do japa during antar mouna. The mantra goes into the mind and scratches out the samskaras and tensions. According to the quality of your samskaras, sometimes you may see many insignificant thoughts, sometimes you will visualize terrifying ghosts or very beautiful scenes and landscapes. When the aspirant finds bad ideas or frightening figures coming out from the mind he becomes nervous. This is because he has never seen or experienced these things during the ordinary course of his life. Especially when sitting for meditation, japa or prayer, a bundle of thoughts starts coming out. Why? The reason is that while meditating, you forget the outside world. The consciousness is withdrawn inside where you come across innumerable samskaras in various forms. These are the root cause of mental and physical ailments. When the aspirant looks at these petty and boring thoughts, he becomes desperate and stops his spiritual practices. He thinks that this process of sadhana is not suitable for him. Actually he should not stop, because this mental cleansing is necessary, it must happen.
When you enter a room after a long time, you find that everything is dirty, the floor and walls are covered with dust. In order to clean the room you have to put all the dirty things out. While sweeping, the dirt comes up. If you stop sweeping, the room will never be cleaned. Similarly you cannot clean the mind unless you remove the dirt of worries, tensions and inhibitions by the practice of japa and antar mouna.
The practice of antar mouna and japa should go on simultaneously. You should witness the thoughts like a seer, without identifying yourself with them. You do not have to concentrate your mind on one point in the beginning. But you should be persistent in doing your spiritual practices with utmost regard for them.
It is generally found that most of the aspirants, while doing japa, suppress their negative thoughts. This is not beneficial for them. If you suppress these thoughts, they return again to the depths of your subconscious mind where they hide themselves but continue to play havoc. These subconscious impressions often cause introversion. They are strong enough to confuse and spoil your whole life. During sadhana some aspirants become lean and thin, constipated and sometimes even mad, which is the outcome of suppressed thoughts. If you do not evacuate the bowel for many days, your system will become weak and susceptible to many diseases. Similarly, if you do not let your tensions come out you will have many mental problems.
As long as the elephant is strong and untamed, you have to understand and watch him very carefully, otherwise he will throw you. In the same way, as long as the mind is not under your control you have to make friends with it. Once you have become master of your mind you can treat it as you like, but definitely not in the initial stages. So while doing antar mouna and japa, you should leave the mind entirely free and witness its movements. Thus you will gradually be able to understand the mind.
Most people have very vague ideas about their own problems; they have no liberal ideas. They think only on behalf of their society and traditions. The cause of disease is not only previous karmas; society is also responsible to a great extent. You have to make your mind very strong in order to attain mental peace. You have to separate yourself from the wrong habits and untruthful ways of society. You have to change your thoughts. You have to understand the right purpose, philosophy and higher meaning of life. Unless you know the right way to solve problems, your life will not run smoothly. The members of a family always quarrel, and they become very upset at the death of their 'loved' ones. They lose all mental equilibrium when they have some kind of loss in their business. Therefore, you must learn to accept every situation, then you will find your own solution for all problems whether physical or mental.
Modern scientists proclaim that mind is the root cause of all physical and mental ailments. For instance, diabetes outwardly seems to be a physical disease which occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. But medical scientists have proved that when one constantly thinks about the abuses which he has received from somebody, then he becomes neurotic. This constant speculating has an adverse effect on the neurones of the brain. When the mind is tense, the brain- being the controller of bodily activities - affects the pancreas by stopping its regular function of producing insulin, thus diabetes occurs.
You also must have heard that when a thief goes out to steal, he first evacuates his bowels. Why is this so? Because at that time his mind is tense and full of fear, affecting his digestive system. In the same way, various kinds of tensions, whether they are mental or emotional, affect the different centres of the mind and consequently ruin health.
Again, when one achieves tremendous success in business, in passing examinations or in winning fame and reputation, the mind becomes very relaxed. There is no excitement in the brain-cells and consequently the circulation of blood is obstructed. In this state one can become a victim of coronary thrombosis. Similarly, those who are highly ambitious generally suffer from cancer. It is the mind which is responsible for all sorts of physical and mental disturbances whether they begin in the spinal cord or the stomach.
Last year when I was in London, I found myself sitting beside a young boy in a hotel. We had a long talk during which he told me that he was a heavy smoker. He also offered me cigarettes but I refused. After some time he drank some wine and ate some meat. He asked me whether I was a vegetarian. I said yes. He was astonished to know that I could survive without meat, wine or cigarettes. Later he told me that he suffered from colitis and also asked if I could prescribe any medicine for that incurable disease. So I explained some relaxation techniques to him and suggested that he could get rid of that disease by relaxing his mind. After a few days, he again met me in the same hotel and reported that his disease was fifty percent better. Therefore, be assured that by regularly releasing the tensions of the mind you will always stay healthy and cheerful.
Nowadays, yoga has become an international word; in every country people are familiar with this great science. Yoga is not designed only for sannyasins but it is also for those who are leading an ordinary life. Whenever you suffer either from physical or mental disease you can remove it by practising yoga.
According to modern psychologists, many diseases can be cured by the process of self-analysis. The diseased person is asked to lie down on a bed and to witness his thoughts. Then positive suggestions are given to him by a psychologist. In this way the mind becomes very much relaxed and receptive. The ailing person starts feeling better day by day because his mind is becoming free from tensions.
People go to see films for entertainment which means that they are not self-content. They do not seek the real charm in life. They try to escape from their adverse circumstances by playing cards, chess and reading rubbish novels. This is not the solution to their problems. It is nothing but escape. The enmity or wars among the different countries, collapse of the societies, individual problems and worries are nothing but the product of unhealthy minds.
A married woman came to me and complained about her son who was a very mischievous, undisciplined drunkard. She was tired of trying to correct his bad habits, and was having no success. I suggested that she do tratak on his brumadhya (eyebrow centre) at midnight when the boy was in slumber. She did accordingly and sent positive ideas to him. After constant practice for about three months or so she reported success in correcting his habits.
This mind is mysteriously powerful. Lord Krishna proclaims in the Bhagavad Gita that the mind is the greatest opponent for those who are the slave of it, but the same mind is the greatest friend for those yogis who have brought it under their control. Therefore, it is your duty to understand and then subdue the mind by the practice of yoga. Then only can you attain the mental strength necessary to meet the challenges of life, of suffering and sorrow, without being affected.