Which Name should one chant if the Guru has not imparted a Name?



Repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name

1. Definition

Chanting (japa) means repetition of some letter, word, mantra or sentence. Namajapa means repetition of The Lord’s Name and mantrajapa that of a mantra. The terms japa and the Name (Nama) are often used synonymously with chanting.

2. Importance

Continuity in spiritual practice is achieved only through chanting. The Name is both the tool and the target. The ultimate objective is to merge with the Name.

3. How does ‘repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name’ work?

‘The subconscious mind carries millions of impressions, to erase even a single one of which would take a very long time. As such, a considerable period of time would be wasted in overcoming the tendencies of the subconscious mind by following restraints and regulations (yam-niyam). It is much more important to make continual efforts to blend with The Absolute Being (Purush), rather than to try and erase such impressions from the mind, which arise from Prakruti. This is precisely what can be achieved by repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name. The mind, intellect, subconscious mind (chitta), among others, are all constituents of Prakruti and these function according to their own characteristics. Instead of wasting one’s spiritual practice (sadhana) in resisting them, one would achieve one’s goal faster, if that practice is utilized to progress towards the God principle (Purushtattva) by becoming one with the Name (of God) that one repeats (chants).’ – Saint Bhaktaraj Maharaj

4. Benefits

4.1 According to psychology

  • A. At least when chanting is going on, no new impressions about other things are created on the subconscious mind. In order to prevent the development of new subconscious impressions, repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name, is the best path to follow in the waking state.

  • B. When chanting is going on, the conscious mind does not accept impulses coming from the centres like the desire and instinct centre, like and dislike centre, temperamental characteristic centre, etc. of the subconscious mind. If this continues for quite sometime then impressions in these centres start decreasing.

  • C. The power of concentration increases.

4.2 According to Spirituality

  • A. If the Name of a deity is repeated (chanted), it gets appeased.

  • B. If one chants some bijakshar one can acquire control over a particular element like the tej (absolute fire) element and can acquire a supernatural power accordingly.

  • C. A non-action (akarma karma): If one repeats (chants) The Lord’s Name when performing any action (karma) then that action becomes a non-action, i.e. no accumulated account (sanchit) is generated from it. Since no new accounts are created, after experiencing all that is destined, one can quickly get liberated from the cycle of births and deaths. If one considers the accumulated account of an individual to be 100 units at the time of birth, then on an average in one birth 6 units get depleted by undergoing destiny which means man should be able to attain Liberation within l6 to l7 births. But this does not happen because, whilst one is undergoing 6 units of destiny, new accounts are simultaneously being created by one’s wilful actions (kriyaman karma) and the account rises by 10 units. Hence, at the time of death the accumulated account has 104 units instead of 94. Consequently, an individual gets more and more entrapped in the cycle of births and deaths. To prevent such a thing from happening the action occurring should be a non-action (akarma karma) and this can happen only by repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name.

5. Which Name should one repeat (chant)?

5.1 Repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name to eliminate distress due to distressing energies

Before commencing this spiritual practice, it is extremely essential to find out for oneself if one is afflicted by distressing energy or not and make efforts to overcome it, if present. The following explanation will illustrate its importance.

30% of people in society and 50% of true seekers are afflicted with distressing energies. Due to distressing energies, an individual experiences physical or psychological distress and / or constantly encounters some or the other obstacle in his life. Externally, though one may attribute this distress or obstacles to physical, psychological or worldly factors yet their true cause is affliction by distressing energies. No amount of gross treatment can relieve the physical or psychological distress caused by distressing energies completely. Just as fever contracted due to malaria can be cured completely only with anti-malarial drugs, so is this. Distressing energies also cause obstacles in the spiritual practice of seekers. Consequently, seekers do not reap the expected benefit of their spiritual practice as most of it is expended in alleviating the distress caused by distressing energies. For instance, if one’s vital energy (pranshakti) has decreased due to distressing energies then most of one’s spiritual practice is spent to restore it. So also, distressing energies take the benefit of the spiritual practice of seekers thus depriving them of the expected results despite undertaking a lot of spiritual practice. This shows how necessary it is to give priority to eliminate distress due to distressing energies.

Every deity is a specific principle. When we repeat (chant) the Name of a deity, its principle gets drawn towards us. Distressing energies too are of different types and possess their own inherent qualities. The seven commonly worshipped deities namely Ganapati, Shrikrushna, Datta, Maruti, Shrirama, Durga and Shiva have the ability to destroy almost all types of distressing energies. Depending on a seeker’s constitution, the spiritual practice in his previous birth and type of distressing energy, repetition (chanting) of one or more Names out of these seven prove to be more useful to the seeker to eliminate the distress due to distressing energy. First of all, one should know whether one is afflicted with distressing energy and if so, the Name of the deity which can eliminate it. The following experiment of repeating (chanting) the Names of the seven deities will assist in this. After performing the experiment of repeating (chanting) all the seven Names in a specific manner, one will know the Name with which one experiences some distress. One can conclude that the Name of that deity with which one experiences some distress is most useful to overcome one’s distress due to distressing energy. That Name should be repeated (chanted) for a maximum period of the day till the distress due to distressing energy is overcome completely. So also, one should use other remedies along with the repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name to overcome the distress. Refer to the holy text ‘Remedies to eliminate distressing energies’ for details on these remedies and the method of experimenting about repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name. After the distress due to distressing energies is totally overcome, one can undertake repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name as given below.

5.2 Name of one’s favourite deity [benevolent (ishtadevata)] or that recommended by the Guru?

The deity which is responsible for spiritual progress such as the family deity or the deity whose Name is given by the Guru as Gurumantra for chanting, is known as the benevolent deity (ishtadevata). Despite this being so, most consider the deity bestowing worldly benefits or the deity of one’s liking as the benevolent deity. One should repeat (chant) the Name imparted by the Guru instead of chanting the Name of one’s favourite deity for the following reasons.

  • A. One does not understand which Name is best suited for one’s own spiritual progress. Only the Guru is capable of providing this guidance.

  • B. Repeating (chanting) the Name of one’s favourite deity helps only to enhance one’s sattvik (sattva predominant) nature. The gurumantra however can take one upto the unmanifest state (nirgun), that is beyond the three components (trigunatit).

  • C. The gurumantra does not contain mere letters but has spiritual knowledge (dnyan), divine consciousness (chaitanya) and the Guru’s blessings as well. Hence spiritual progress is faster. This Name containing divine consciousness is called a sabija or a divya (divine) mantra. However, one has to practise Spirituality to obtain the ultimate result by chanting the sabija mantra.

  • D. Due to faith in the Guru, one repeats (chants) the gurumantra with greater faith than the mantra decided upon by oneself. Also when remembering the Guru one tends to repeat (chant) the Name given by Him and thus one’s chanting increases.

  • E. When one repeats (chants) the Name of one’s favourite deity at least some amount of ego accompanies it. On the contrary, when repeating (chanting) the Name recommended by the Guru there is no ego.

5.3 Which Name does one repeat (chant) if the Guru has not imparted a Name?

In this case one should repeat (chant) the Name of the family deity (kuladevata), which refers to both the male or the female family deity.

  • A. A family (kula) is made up of those people who are closely related to each other. Depending upon which family deity’s worship is conducive for his spiritual progress, an individual is born in that particular family.

  • B. Kula also means the Muladhar chakra, energy or spiritual energy system (kundalini). The kuladevata means that deity with the worship of which the dormant spiritual energy (kundalini) in the Muladhar chakra is activated, that is spiritual progress starts. If one has both a male and a female deity, then one should chant the Name of the female family deity because She is appeased faster due to Her closer link with the pruthvi (absolute earth) element than the male family deity.

  • C. If one is not aware of the Name of the family deity, then one should repeat (chant) the Name of one’s favourite deity or “Shri Kuldevtayai namaha.” Once that is completed one comes across someone who tells one who the family deity is. Once the chanting of the family deity is completed the Guru Himself comes into a seeker’s life and blesses him with a gurumantra.

  • D. Worship of the family deity began in the post-Vedic and pre-Puranic period.

  • E. When all the principles in the universe are imbibed into the subtle body, the spiritual practice is said to be complete. Just as the cow is the only animal which has the ability to attract the frequencies of all the deities in the universe (that is why it is said that there are 33 crores of deities in the cow’s abdomen), so also only repeating (chanting) of the family deity’s Name has the potential to attract all the principles in the universe and increase them all upto 30%. Contrary to this, repeating (chanting) the Names of deities like Vishnu, Shankar, Ganapati, Lakshmi, etc. increases only that particular principle in which one is deficient. This is akin to taking vitamin A, B, etc. as a supplement to reduce the deficiency of that vitamin in the body.

  • F. The Guru is the mother, the Guru is the father, the Guru is our family deity.

    When a prayer so intense is made unto the Guru,
    He always protects in every way.
    Let the body, speech and mind be offered at the Guru’s feet.
    Eknath surrenders to Lord Janardan and considers Lord Janardan as His Guru. – Saint Eknath

  • G. An example of one who made both worldly and spiritual progress by worshipping his family deity is Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Saint Tukaram Maharaj who attained liberation along with the physical body (sadeha mukti) by intensely worshipping Lord Pandurang, was the family deity of Tukaram Maharaj.

5.4 Repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name essential for further spiritual progress

A. For whom is it useful? : Importance of repetition (chanting) of the Name of the family deity is given in ‘5.3’. The point elucidates why repetition (chanting) of the Name of the family deity is essential for a seeker in the primary stage. The stage of repeating (chanting) the Name of the family deity may have been completed by those who have attained a spiritual level of at least 50% through spiritual practice. Generally, this stage can be completed in the present birth after undertaking the spiritual practice of merely repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name for some years (approximately 15 to 20 years) or if an individual is born in the same family then sometimes it may even have been completed in the previous birth. If one renders service and makes sacrifice in addition to repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name then this stage can be completed even in 5 to 6 years. For further spiritual progress, it is beneficial if seekers who have completed this stage, repeat (chant) the Name of some superior deity rather than that of the family deity. One can decide which Name of The Lord is essential for one from those of various deities by repeating (chanting) the Names of various deities according to the specific method of experimentation. The Lord’s Name found by this method of experimentation should be considered to be the gurumantra itself. However if one begins to experience distress due to distressing energies when repeating (chanting) it then one should stop it. Then the experiment of finding The Lord’s Name to overcome distressing energies as given in point ‘5.1’ should be performed and one should repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name found through it. After the distress due to distressing energies is totally overcome, one should carry out the experiment once again and start repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name which is essential for one’s spiritual progress.

B. What should those who have been initiated with a gurumantra do? : Those who have been initiated with a gurumantra should not decide which repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name they should undertake for further spiritual progress through the method of experimenting. Instead, they should repose faith in the Name imparted by the Guru and repeat (chant) it continuously.

5.5 Method of repeating (chanting) the deity’s Name

When addressing someone instead of simply using his name, one refers to him respectfully as Shri. (Mr.), Smt. (Mrs.), etc. Similarly, one should chant the Name of the family deity in a way which expresses respect for the same. Shri should prefix the Name of the family deity, the Name that follows should be in dative case (chaturthi pratyay) and should conclude with namaha. For instance if the family deity is Ganesh then ‘Shri Ganeshaya namaha’, if it is Bhavani, then ‘Shri Bhavanidevyai namaha’. Since it is difficult to pronounce ‘Shri Bhavanyai namaha’ one should use devyai.

When the family deity is in the form of two deities (For example Laxminarayana, Ishwarlaxmi) then 50 % of the deity principle of both, the male deity and the female deity is activated. When the family deity is as mentioned above then one should chant in the following way – The deity’s name should be chanted prefixing Shri to it, followed by the dative case (chaturthi pratyay), according to the second deity and concluding with namaha. For example, if the family deity is Ishwarlaxmi, one should chant ‘Shri Ishwarlaxmideyai namaha.’ If Laxminarayana is the family deity then one should chant ‘Shri Laxminarayanaya namaha.’

The following table shows how the dative case is to be applied. The dative case means ‘to’, i.e. ‘I pay obeisance to Lord Ganapati, to the female deity’).

  Name Form of the Name Example
The masculine gender
1. Ending in ‘a’ Rama Ramaya Narayanaya, Ganeshaya,
2. Ending in ‘i’ Hari Haraye Marutaye (Maruti), Agnaye
(Agni), Ravaye (Ravi)
3. Ending in ‘u’ Vishnu Vishnave Gurave (Guru), Bhanave
4. Ending in ‘ru’ Pitru Pitre  
5. Others Hanumat Hanumate  
The feminine gender
1. Ending in ‘a’ Durga Durgayai Umayai, Ramayai
2. Ending in ‘i’ Parvati Parvatyai Sarasvatyai
3. Ending in ‘u’ Dhenu Dhenvai/
4. Ending in ‘ru’ Matru Matre  

A. Prefixing Shri or Om to the Name: Generally Shri or Om is prefixed to the Name. The importance of this prefix is given in ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 10 – Path of Mantra (Mantrayoga) point – Parts of a mantra’. The comparison of Shri and Om is given in the following table.

  Shri Omkar (Om)
1. What is it indicative of? Divine Energy
(Shakti), beauty,
virtues, etc.
Nirguntattva (The
2. At what spiritual level % can a
    seeker use the prefix?
20-60* (Note 1) 30-70
3. Possibility of distress due to
    the energy generated by the
    pronunciation or remembrance
    of the prefix %
0 2** (Note 2)
4. Commonly prefixed to the
    Name of which deity
Almost all
Shiva*** (Note 3)

Note 1 – Beyond a level of 60% often one concentrates on Bliss (Anand) instead of the word.

Note 2 – For creation of the manifest (sagun, the Great Illusion) from the unmanifest (nirgun, Brahman) tremendous energy is required. Such energy is generated by the repeating (chanting) of Omkar (Om). Hence, repeating (chanting) of Omkar by one whose spiritual level is not adequate to do so can cause distress to him.

Generally women are more likely to be affected than men. This point will be clear from the following. The frequencies generated from Om generate a lot of energy (heat) in the body. This does not affect the male reproductive organs as they lie outside the body cavity. However, in case of women this heat can affect the reproductive organs as they lie within the abdominal cavity. Thus women may experience distress. They may suffer from excessive menstrual flow, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, infertility, etc. Hence, it is advisable for women not to prefix Omkar to the Name unless recommended by the Guru; for example they may chant namaha Shivaya instead of Om namaha Shivaya. Otherwise they should use Shri as a prefix. Women having a spiritual level of more than 50% can prefix The Lord’s Name with ‘Om’. When repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name is undertaken for a particular reason, eg. for overcoming distressing energy, it is necessary to prefix ‘Om’ to The Lord’s Name. At such times, one should not stretch the pronounciation of ‘Om’.

Note 3 – As ‘Om’ has a lot of energy, if for a specific purpose, eg. if it is necessary to repeat (chant) the Name of some other deity for overcoming distressing energies, one should prefix it with ‘Om’, eg. ‘Om Gang Ganapataye namaha’ is repeated (chanted) instead of ‘Shri Ganapataye namaha’.

5.6 One should not repeat (chant) the name of a saint

One should not repeat (chant) the name of a saint for the following reasons.

  • A. No saint has recommended the chanting of His own Name or that of another. For instance, Tukaram Maharaj has not advised the chanting of Saint Dnyaneshvar’s Name.

  • B. Our history of thousands of years records no instance where a temple of a saint or a sage has been constructed. Only temples of deities have been erected. Nowadays however, a wrong trend of constructing temples of saints has set in.

  • C. Since the law of creation, sustenance and dissolution is applicable to saints as well, Their energy persists only for a limited period of a few hundred years. Thereafter They are unable to respond to one’s call. As against this, deities are eternally present from the time of creation of the universe till its dissolution.

  • D. Saints at the spiritual level (70%) of Energy (Shakti) are born to carry out a particular mission and for that They possess manifest energy. So if Their Names are chanted then the manifest energy could possibly cause distress to some. Contrary to this, since a deity mostly has unmanifest energy, chanting its Name does not cause any distress. Besides a seeker does not want energy, he wants Bliss (Anand) and Serenity (Shanti). [Saints of spiritual levels of 80% and 90% can impart spiritual experiences of Bliss and Serenity respectively.]

6. Where should one repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name?

Since everything is created by God Himself one can chant His Name anytime, anywhere. Chanting when carrying out day-to-day activities is a superior form of practising Spirituality in comparison to chanting done seated in one place. This is so, firstly, because with the former, spiritual practice becomes continuous. Secondly performing worldly activities along with chanting of The Lord’s Name renders them as good as not being in the Great Illusion (Maya). Thus, it helps one to remain in communion with The Lord under all circumstances. This is called sahajasthiti or sahajavastha.

7. Repeating (chanting) the Name with faith and righteous behaviour

The one who repeats (chants) the Name of Lord Viththal should observe restrictions. – Saint Tukaram

Implied meaning: If the one repeating (chanting) the Name of The Lord does not observe the restrictions of righteous behaviour then the entire spiritual practice is wasted in nullifying the resulting defects. Thus no spiritual progress occurs; for instance if one abuses then 30 rosaries (malas) of chanting (japa) are wasted; if one accepts a bribe then 500 rosaries of chanting are wasted.

8. Synchronising chanting with the breath

One remains alive due to respiration and not due to chanting. Hence, one should synchronise chanting with the breath by concentrating on the breath.

The benefits of chanting with the breath are as follows.

  • A. Nowadays, due to pollution of the atmosphere with raja and tama components, polluted thoughts invade the mind along with the breath and cause mental disturbance. Similarly, other undesirable thoughts also enter the mind. When chanting with concentration on the breath, the frequency of undesirable thoughts decreases.

  • B. Concentrating on the breath means capturing that moment of the present. On the contrary, entertaining any other thought means either contemplating on the past or the future. Since, it is essential for a seeker to continuously live in the present, it is necessary to concentrate on the breath.

  • C. Whilst chanting even if one gets a vision of God due to spiritual emotion (bhav), duality persists. As against this, when chanting with the breath, due to devotion in the Name one does not get a vision of the unmanifest (nirgun) God but one marches towards non-duality (advait), that is merges with the Name.

Those whose repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name occurs spontaneously, need not synchronise it with the breath.

9. Other thoughts during chanting

Despite experiencing Bliss with the Name, why does the mind wander towards other thoughts? What should one do when one cannot concentrate on chanting? Initially, due to impressions in the subconscious mind (chitta) stray thoughts enter the mind while chanting. But with practice there is a gradual reduction in these thoughts. One should keep in mind that concentration is the target, not the tool.

10. Methods of chanting in some religious orders

We have already discussed that from the stage of mental worship (upasanakand) repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name is a superior form of practising Spirituality. Followers of all religious orders should chant the Names of their respective deities. That itself results in their spiritual progress. There is no need to change one’s religion. God chooses one to be born in that particular religious order which is most conducive for one’s spiritual progress. At a lower level the Name is related to the religious order. Later, all have the same religion – the Sanatan Dharma (Religion).

Religious order Name
1. Jain Navkar mantra (Om namo Arihantanam…)(Note 1)
2. Sindhi Shri Jhulelalaya namaha, Shri Nanakaya namaha,
Shri Sheravali Devyai namaha
3. Sikh Vahe Guru, Shri Vahe Guru, Sukhmani Saheb,
Japaji Saheb
Note 1 Om Namo Arihantanam (ॐ नमो अरिहंताणं ।) [Obeisance to the Arihant deities – ari means the six foes of the soul and hant means the annihilators]
  Namo Siddhanam (नमो सिद्धाणं ।) [Obeisance to saints (siddhas)]
  Namo Ayariyanam (नमो आयरियाणं ।) [Obeisance to teachers. The word ayyariya is the vernacular form of the Sanskrut word acharya meaning teachers. Those who are righteous in their conduct (achar) are teachers]
  Namo Uvajzhayanam (नमो उवज्‍झायाणं ।) [Obeisance to priests. The word uvajzhayanam is the vernacular form of the Sanskrut word upadhyaya meaning priests. Priests are preceptors of higher knowledge or authors of religious holy texts.]
  Namo loe savva sahunam (नमो लोए सव्‍व साहूणं ।) [Obeisance to all ascetics]
  Eso pancha namukkaro (एसो  पंच नमुक्‍कारो ।) [Obeisance to all these five]
  Savva pavappanasano (सव्‍व पावप्‍पणासणो ।) [is the annihilator of all sins.]
  Mangalanam cha savvesim (मंगलाणं च सव्‍वेसिं ।) [Of all that is auspicious]
  Padhamam havai mangalam (पढमं हवई मंगलम्‌ ।) [this chanting is the most auspicious.]
  The Digambar Jains chant the first five lines while the Shvetambar Jains chant all the nine.

Navakar means the nine openings in the body (navadvar). In the Ardhamagadhi language the word dvar (opening) was used synomymously with kar. This mantra means trespassing the nine doors, that is traversing the nine openings in the body.

11. Distress caused by repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name

The reasons for it are given below.

  • A. Repeating (chanting) the wrong Name: If a seeker of the level of the pruthvi (absolute earth) element or apa (absolute water) element suddenly starts chanting the Name associated with the tej (absolute fire) element, (the sun) then the radiance generated through it may cause him distress

  • B. Problems caused by distressing energy: If one is affected by distressing energy like spirits, black magic (karni), etc. then initially one experiences discomfort even with appropriate chanting. However, it gradually subsides and finally stops. The cause for this initial distress is the tussle between the distressing energy troubling the individual and the pleasant energy generated by the chanting.

Reference: ‘Introduction to Spirituality’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.

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