Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram
Today is Ram Navami, the birthday of Sri Ram, the avatar of Lord Vishnu. Traditionally on this day there is recitation of theRamayana in Sanskrit, or the Ramacharitamanas in Hindu, the epic story of Sri Ram. There is also the chanting of Ramnam (also called Rama Nama), or the name of Ram, a sacred name of Godin the Hindu tradition (pronounced Rahm, rhymes with Tom).
Reciting mantras is an important remedial measure in Vedic astrology. It can be done by anyone, at anytime, it costs nothing, and is incredibly effective. The word mantra means to protect the mind. "Manas" means the mind and "Tra" means to protect. Mantras are one of the many tools for spiritual transformation, like hatha yoga, that is a gift to the world from India.
Sage Parashara, considered to be the father of Vedic astrology, frequently recommends mantra recitation in his classic text,Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra. However, many of the mantras he recommends are quite long stotras or hymns of praise, like theVishnu Sahasranam or thousand names of Vishnu, which are often difficult for Westerners to pronounce correctly. Fortunately, there is a famous verse that is often sung after reciting the Vishnu Sahasranam:
Sri Rama Rama Rameti, Rame Rame Manorame,
Sahasranama Tattulyam, Rama Nama Varanane.
This basically means, "Chanting the name of 'Sri Rama' is equal to reciting the entire thousand names of Lord Vishnu."
The reciting of Ramnam, also called Ramnam Japa or Rama Nama, is a very popular and common practice in India. It became even more popularized by Mahatma Gandhi for whom Ramnam was a constant practice. When he was assassinated his last words were 'Rama, Rama.' Just a few months before he died he said,"Even if I am killed, I will not give up repeating the names of Ram and Rahim, which mean to me the same God. With these names on my lips, I will die cheerfully."
The practice of Ramnam is an effective tool, but is not necessarily the best mantra for everyone. Gandhi said, "One may repeat any mantra one pleases. I have suggested Ramanama as I have been familiar with it since childhood, and as it is my constant support in my struggles. One must be completely absorbed in whatever mantra one selects. The mantra becomes one’s staff of life and carries one through every ordeal."
There are many Rammantras that are used. Perhaps the most common is 'Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram,' which means, "Om, Salutations to Sri Ram, victory to Ram, victory victory to Ram."
Recently, I spoke with Dr. Ramdas Lamb, Professor of Religion at the University of Hawaii, and author of "Rapt in the Name" a book about the practice of Ramnam, and the Ram Bhakti tradition in India. He explained that repeating the name of Ram balances the masculine and feminine energies in our being. "R" represents the Sun (Ravi) or masculine energy, which is radiated light. "M" stands for the Moon (Chandra) or feminine energy, which is reflected light. "Ah" represents Agni or fire that is within the individual soul (jivatma), which is internal light. The "Ah" sound is also considered to be the sound of the heart in various sacred traditions. Reciting Ramnam increases courage (masculine) and compassion (feminine) and balances these qualities in the heart. The Sun, Moon and fire are also the sources of light in the physical world, so by chanting the name of Ram we are increasing light in our being. Please see the article The Mystical Power of the Name of Rama for more info about this.
He also shared a famous quote by the mystic poet Kabir:
Ek Ram Dasharath ke beta - One Ram is the son of Dasharath.
Ek Ram ghat-ghat mein baitha - One Ram resides in the heart.
Ek Ram sab ke pyara - One Ram is the Beloved of all.
Ek Ram sab se nyara - One Ram transcends everything.
There are four levels to Ramnam practice. The first level is the physical form of Ram that can be depicted in a painting or statue. The second level is Ram that resides within our innermost being, our heart. The third level is Ram that resides everywhere. The fourth level is Ram that is transcendant. When we recite Ramnamwe connect with all four levels at once, according to Lamb.
Traditionally it is recited at least 108 times as a daily practice, or one mala (prayer bead neclace), since the number 108 has special significance.
Unborn, wisdom incarnate, abode of all strength.
Pervading and pervaded, infinite and eternal,
Whole and perfect Lord of unfailing power.
Formless, spotless, immortal, imperceptible,
All-seeing, flawless, and invincible. . .
Untouched by matter but lives in every heart,
Desireless Brahman, dispassionate and endless.
from the Ramacharitamanas by Tulsidas
Happy Ram Navami!!