Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…

Sometimes students have written to or asked Swami Veda Bharati, Swami Ritavan Bharati, and other senior teachers in our tradition questions about practice.  This is one such “Question and Answer,” or Q&A.


If I am not feeling a devotional state of mind or devotional emotions, is there any point in me sitting for meditation or doing japa?


Five have answered this question: Swami Ritavan Bharati, Pandit Hari Shankar Dabral, Lalita Arya (Ammaji), Stephen Parker (Stoma), and Michael Smith.

From Swami Ritavan Bharati:

"There are two aspects to a mantra. One is the prayer contained in it, and the other is the vibration. One is the prayer itself, and the other is the vibration of the sound.
The sentiment that is in that prayer should become very intense; that is one should work to increase the intensity of the sentiment contained in the prayer translation and the intensity of the concentration on the vibration that is the sound of the mantra. Therefore you do not ‘do’ the mantra; that is, we do not just ‘say’ the mantra; mantra is happening by itself." ~Swami Veda Bharati in The Science of Mantra and the Study of Mrtyunjaya Mantra

From Pandit Hari Shankar Dabral:
It is natural for all humans to not feel devotional at times. We go through all types of emotions.

As far as japa and meditation goes, if one sits to meditate or perform japa, regardless of feeling, then slowly our feelings change and japa and meditation leads us to devotion and inclination.

From Lalita Arya (Ammaji):

One of the main ideas regarding japa or meditation is to learn to monitor the emotions (feelings) and eventually get to a state where one is the master of emotions. So this "not feeling" is something you can try to discover where it's coming from and why.

Before we learn to do japa/meditation we learn a lot of preparatory procedures like how to breathe properly, how to sit in the correct posture to help the breathing, how to flow in life and so on.

It has nothing to do with devotion. This happens automatically afterwards.
Merely out of curiosity - do you always give in to this 'not feeling' feeling? So if it’s time to have dinner and you do not 'feel' like eating, do you not eat?

Wishing you many blessings once you start on the path.

From Stephen Parker (Stoma):

I agree completely with Hari Shankar. Over time, the collaboration between our efforts and the grace of the Guru moves our hearts in a more devotional and a more meditative direction. I often tell students, “Follow the Nike slogan—‘Just do it!’”

From Michael Smith:

Sometimes people say that that their meditation and japa has become mechanical.

If you are feeling “blah,” that’s something to observe: “Okay, I’m feeling ‘blah,’” and that observation will take you beyond “blah,” because your witnessing faculty is beyond emotions.

A devotional attitude (bhakti) is good to cultivate. Sometimes people find it difficult to give devotion to a mantra or a deity or a certain image or figure.  Then, I would feel gratitude for the opportunity to be still, or for the yoga teachings that have come your way — and then let that gratitude flow into your japa and meditation.

Ashutosh Sharma said, “If we keep awareness of the flow of our breath, we will never be bored.” Because breath awareness brings us out of our heads and into the present moment. The present moment is always alive and magical – and to be present to what is now happening, rather than lost in thought, is something for which we can be very grateful. This is not the experience of getting some object that we want. Being available to what is now happening is humbling. We feel very small, and there is wonderment and awe at the majesty of it all.  It’s a bhaktic feeling.

Editor’s Note:

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