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The other day when searching for something in Volume 5 of Collected Works of the Mother, the following words caught my attention:
There is the purely mechanical, material prayer, with words which have been learnt and are mechanically repeated. That does not signify anything much. And that has usually only one single result, that of quietening the person who prays, for if a prayer is repeated several times, the words end up making you calm. (p. 139)
As I kept reflecting on these words about the value of “mechanical” repetitive prayer in calming one’s nerves, I was reminded of that particular 2.5-hour-long drive home from work one late December evening in 2005.
This was when I lived in Ohio. It was snowing very heavily, a blizzard was in full swing. The roads were extremely slippery and dangerous. It was dark, very dark for 6:30 pm, and the usual drive of 35-40 minutes took me more than 2.5 hours that evening. I was driving very slowly, very cautiously, I was actually quite afraid. At least 3-4 times the car skidded badly, it was becoming very difficult to control the car on such occasions, and a couple of times I was really close to hitting the metal guardrail.
I had never driven in such heavy snowstorm conditions before that evening. And all throughout the drive I was repeating – almost mechanically – the two lines I had heard from my parents and grandmother repeatedly while growing up. These lines were actually the mantra given to my grandmother by her guru. This guru of hers was a simple lady, a neighbour, a friend, who in the ascent of her consciousness had attained some of the highest spiritual realizations but in her outer life continued to live simply as an ordinary almost-illiterate housewife. She was known to her friends-neighbours-disciples, including my grandmother, simply as Sajjan Ji, the Good One.
While ordinarily, a mantra given by a guru as an initiation is not to be shared with or revealed to anyone, this was not a mantra in that sense. This was more of a Mantra of Protection, as I understand. My dadiji had passed on this mantra of protection to all her children and grandchildren. Though I don’t think all grandchildren in the family really caught on to this family tradition but some of us did.
I have, on many occasions, just out of habit, started repeating this mantra anytime I feel a certain fear grip over me, or anytime I feel a certain anxiety. These words just come naturally on my lips, or even if I don’t hear myself repeating them, they are being repeated silently within. These words give me strength, they calm me down. On that wintry evening of the severe snowstorm, I feel it was the force behind these words that kept me going slowly, cautiously and made me reach home safely. The calmness that the repetitive chanting of this mantra within brought upon my nerves was perhaps what gave me the courage to face those hazardous conditions.
My parents’ complete faith in this mantra of protection perhaps is a key reason how I too started seeing it in that light. Even after my mother took formal “diksha” and “naam” (initiation) from another guru, this mantra is the one that would most naturally, almost mechanically, come to her lips anytime she felt any anxiety. It would make her calm and give her the strength to go on with whatever needed to be done.
And to this day, my father repeats this mantra every time he feels even a tiny bit of fear or anxiety gripping him. I have seen him silently chanting this mantra even before he puts the key in the ignition of his car. He surrenders his safety and that of others traveling with him to the power of this mantra, and the Divine invoked through its force and power.
I had written this post a few weeks ago, but was unsure as to how to ‘close’ this. That’s why it remained unfinished. Till today.
Today I found myself reminding my father (and reminding him strongly like a tough daughter) of the force and power of this mantra, something he used to speak of when I was growing up. Today I was reminded that no matter how strong we feel our faith is, there are moments in life when we need to be reminded of strengthening it further. Today I found myself praying sincerely that the force of this mantra of protection be with my father. Today I discovered that there comes a time in life when a child really does become the father of man. Or mother.