Affirmation and Chanting
(Excerpts from BHAKTI YOGA By Brother Mokshananda)
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There is another form of Bhakti Yoga that takes this attitude of faith and confidence a step further—the practice of affirmation. The difference between a prayer-demand and an affirmation is this: In prayer we ask for something and wait to see whether or not our request will be granted. In affirmation, we assert our conviction that what we need or desire has already come to pass. For instance, instead of praying to God, "Lord, help me to know that I am Thy child," affirm the truth that you are His child, and always have been.
The law of affirmation is very scientific,
for it is based on the unlimited power of thought.
Everything in creation originated as an idea in the Divine Mind, and was condensed into material form by God's will. Being made in God's image, we too can apply this same law. If we take a statement of truth and revolve it in our consciousness with continuous will and deep conviction, eventually it gains enough force to manifest outwardly.
First, choose an affirmation appropriate to your need—physical healing, prosperity, self-improvement, spiritual progress, or whatever else may be necessary in your life. [Affirmations for a variety of uses may be found in Scientific Healing Affirmations, Metaphysical Meditations, and the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, all by Paramahansa Yogananda and published by Self-Realization Fellowship.] It should not be a long thought; just a sentence or two that clearly and vividly conveys the state you are striving to bring about.
(a) Begin your practice of affirmation by repeating that thought aloud for a period of time.
(b) Gradually let your repetition become softer and softer, until it becomes a whisper.
(c) Then go on repeating it mentally, with ever-increasing concentration, allowing it to sink deep within.
If you continue this, not just for a few moments but for a long time in meditation and whenever you have a chance during the day, that affirmation becomes very powerful. When you firmly plant a truth in the conscious mind through affirmation, it will take root in the subconscious and come back later to influence your thoughts and actions. And if you go even deeper with your repetition of that truth, continuously revolving it in your mind with devotion, concentration, and will power, it reaches the superconscious mind, and eventually manifests in one's meditation or at another time as a divine experience of healing or realization.
One may ask, "When experiences come during my meditations, how can I know if they are genuine spiritual perceptions and not just my imagination?" This is an important question, because it is easy for the subconscious mind to manufacture imaginary "visions" and thrilling sensations — especially if one is emotionally excitable. Such phenomenal experiences have no real spiritual value; they bring a state of restless excitement or stimulation, but quickly fade away. Superconscious blessings are attended by great calmness—peace or joy or a profound sense of well-being. They have a lasting effect; when you recall them to mind you immediately feel the same upliftment of consciousness that accompanied the original experience. Most important, a true response to prayer or affirmation brings some tangible positive change in your life — such as freedom from a bad habit, victory over illness, healing of a negative emotion or inharmonious relationship, greater love for God and desire for His presence. These transformations come through right practice of prayer, affirmation, and devotional chanting.
When a prayer or affirmation brings superconscious response, we say that it has been spiritualized. That is, we have spiritually experienced the truth in those words. A very effective way to spiritualize prayer-demands and affirmations is through devotional chanting. Music has a profound effect on our emotions. When we repeat an affirmation or a demand to music that is spiritually harmonious, it is easier to bring the energy of feelings into it, thus facilitating our ability to concentrate on it deeply. [See Cosmic Chants by Paramahansa Yogananda for the chants and explanation of the art and science of devotional chanting.] Spiritual services in many religions include hymns or devotional songs. Over a period of years these melodic prayers take root in the subconscious mind, and often return as memories that uplift the thoughts and feelings. But we have not yet fully spiritualized in our own consciousness a hymn or prayer or affirmation until we have made it our own through continuous devotional practice—until it has come back to us as a superconscious experience.
Chanting is a wonderful practice to include in meditation. One can chant for five or ten minutes at the start of one's meditation as a way of channeling the mind from outward distractions into an interiorized state. Then later in one's meditation, one may want to chant as a means of awakening devotion.
Paramahansa Yogananda wrote:
Singers of these songs who want the best results should chant them alone or with true devotees of God. After the notes are learned, one's undivided attention should be given to repeating them with deeper and deeper devotion, striving fully to understand the meaning of the words in the chant, until one is immersed in the bliss of singing. This joyous feeling is the first perception of God....
He who chants these songs with great devotion, in solitude or in congregational singing, will later discover that the chants are repeating themselves in the subconscious background of his mind, bringing an ineffable joy even while he is in the thick of the daily battle of activity.
Gradually the subconscious repetition will change into superconscious realization, bringing the actual perception of God. One must chant deeper and deeper until the chanting changes into subconscious and then superconscious realization, bringing one into the Divine Presence.