Our current goals:
- Widen the horizons of our vision
- Take direct approaches to uncover the blocks that keep our vision narrow
- Lift those blocks, however briefly, in order to experience the sense of liberation that comes when the blocks are removed
- Intensify our motivation for freedom
Swami Ramdas was a twentieth century Indian saint who found awakening through the constant repetition of the name of God. Here’s what Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) wrote about Swami Ramdas and the practice of mantra:
“The first time I started to work with beads and the repetition of either the mantra in praise of RAM, “Sri Ram Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram,” or just the single word, “Ram” in 1968, I recognized the potential power of this simple devotional technique to rend the veil of ignorance from moment to moment thus allowing one to imbue one’s life with spirit.
It was easy to keep the mantra going in my room in the ashram, but as I ventured forth into the world, I found that the fascinations, seductions and slings and arrows of daily life so often distracted me from ‘remembering.’ It was hard for me to imagine how it could be otherwise.
Then in 1970 I came upon the writings of Swami Ramdas (or ‘Papa Ramdas’, as I thought of him). And there it was, so innocently presented, a testament to the possibility that by remembering Ram (God), one’s life could be transformed, totally transformed, moment by moment, into divine lila (play).”
Eknath Easwaran, translator of the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and Dhammapada, wrote this regarding Swami Ramdas:
“The very presence of Papa Ramdas comforted and strengthened us. He was visible proof that a man apparently like you and me—not an austere, emaciated monk, but a former textile technician who had lived in the midst of worldly activity—had become established in the awareness of God.”
Today’s workbook lesson asks us to spend one day in the devotional practice that Swami Ramdas followed. We are asked to spend one day repeating the Name of God, remembering that His Name is also our own. The lesson says:
“Practice but this today; repeat God’s Name slowly again and still again. Become oblivious to every name but His. Hear nothing else. Let all your thoughts become anchored on this. No other word we use except at the beginning, when we say today’s idea but once. And then God’s Name becomes our only thought, our only word, the only thing that occupies our minds, the only wish we have, the only sound with any meaning, and the only Name of everything that we desire to see; …”
The Course does not tell us what God’s name is. Maybe this is left to us, so we can use the name that feels most devotional to us.
Swami Ramdas recited, “Sri Ram Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.” If this suits your heart, you may recite this mantra today.
According to Biblical tradition, the name of God that was given to Moses is “I am that I am.” That was also the mantra that was given to me in May of 2008.
Many people have told me they do not like the mantra, “I am that I am,” because they do not know what it means. “That” is a pronoun specifically linked to identification. It refers to a specific thing already mentioned or understood, and it ascribes a specific feature to that thing, a feature that is essential to identification. For example, the table that is round or the blouse that is blue.
“I am that I am” ascribes “I am” as a specific identifying feature to “I am”. In other words, it is “I am” doubly repeated and emphasized. It is similar to how Ramana Maharshi sometimes referred to the Self as “I-I.”
Today, if you choose to use the mantra “I am that I am” as the Name of God, remember that today’s lesson says, “To call upon God’s Name is but to call upon your own.” With this thought in mind, say to yourself, “I am that I am.” Notice I am is doubly repeated and emphasized. Feel the meaning of that in your soul. Let yourself linger in that silent meaning, and then repeat the mantra again. As today’s lesson instructs:
“Sit silently, and let His Name become the all-encompassing idea that holds your mind completely. Let all thoughts be still except this one. And to all other thoughts respond with this, and see God’s Name replace the thousand little names you gave your thoughts. … Today you can achieve a state in which you will experience the gift of grace. … No prayer but this is necessary, for it holds them all within it.”
Note: You may replace today’s awareness-watching-awareness practice with this practice. You might also try watching awareness as you practice the Name of God mantra.
- If you are interested in learning more about Swami Ramdas and his practice of mantra, I recommend his book, “In Quest of God.”
- If you are interested in reading the story of Moses and the name “I am that I am,” you can read Exodus 3:1-15 at this link.