Amma offers us guidelines for our spiritual practice, chanting Japa, and Puja, or Archana. These teachings are directly from Amma and are available at amma.org.
They are offered here for satsang members and those interested in a deeper understanding of Amma's spiritiual practices that we share together in satsang and in our personal lives.
Puja and Japa
Japa is the vocal and mental repetition of the divine name or sound (mantra). Amma says that "the purpose of mantra japa(chanting) is to lead us to the ultimate silence of the Self, from where all sounds and forms arise. Further, in the present age of materialism, chanting the mantra (japa), is the easiest way for us to obtain inner purification and concentration. Japa can be done at any time, anywhere without observing any rule regarding the purity of mind and body. Japa can be done while engaged in any task.
Actions that help develop japa chanting
It is always advisable to obtain a mantra from a Self-Realized Master (Sat-Guru). Until then we may use one of the mantras of our beloved deity like "Om Namah Shivaya", "Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya", "Om Namo Narayanaya", "Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare", "Hari Om", "Om Parashaktyai Namaha", "Om Shivashaktyaikya Rupinyai Namaha" or even the names of Christ, Allah or Buddha. Deciding to chant the mantra a certain number of times daily will help foster the japa habit. We should always keep a rosary (mala) with us for doing japa. A rosary can be made of 108, 54, 27, or 18 beads of rudraksha, tulasi, crystals, sandal, gems, etc., with one Guru (main) bead. We should resolve to chant a certain number of rosaries daily. Children, we should always chant the mantra in our minds while walking, traveling or working.
The importance of repetition
Try not to have any break in chanting the mantra even for a moment. Continue repeating the mantra while engaged in any task. Chanting in the mind may not always be possible at first, so in the beginning, practice japa by moving the lips incessantly, like a fish drinking water. If japa is maintained, no useless talk during work will be possible. The mind will always remain peaceful. Modern day diseases are mostly psychosomatic. Japa will bestow good health to both mind and body.
If chanting is not possible during a certain task, then pray before starting it: "Lord, give Your blessings so that I may do this work in a manner that pleases You!" At the end, pray again to the Lord for forgiving any mistakes we may have committed during the task consciously or otherwise.
Constantly repeating God's name will diminish the ego
"I am an important person; I hold a high position in society. How can I go to the temple and worship in the jostling crowd there? How will I bow down before the Lord? Isn't that demeaning?" Thoughts like these arise from the ego. Be ready, always, anywhere, to repeat the Lord's name and to pay homage to the Lord and the guru. We don't gain anything from a certificate of greatness from society; what we need is a certificate from God. With constant effort, we will be able to repeat the mantra in our minds even while doing any type of job.
Don't forget God for even a second
If we lose our money while traveling, think how frantically we search for it! In the same way, if we are unable to do japa even for a brief moment, we should grieve: "Alas, Lord, I have lost so much time! " If there is such anguish, even the time we spend sleeping will not be wasted. Children, even if we lose a million dollars, we can recover it. If we lose one second, we cannot get it back. Every moment that we are not remembering God is lost to us. Chanting replaces other thoughts with that particular mantra. Just as saline water loses its salty taste by constantly adding fresh water, through constant repetition of a mantra, the number of thoughts can be reduced. In due course, all thoughts can be eliminated excepts one, that is God. Love will spring through japa if one has complete faith and intent to reach the goal. Mantra japa, done with the proper understanding of this principle will ultimately take us to the Source. At this point, the seeker realizes that the form he has been meditating on, as well as all other forms that exist within himself, are the manifestations of the Self.
Write the mantra daily
It is a good practice to write at least one page of mantra daily. Many people get better concentration by writing than by chanting. Try also to inculcate in children the habit of chanting and neatly writing the mantra. This will help to improve their handwriting, too. The book in which the mantra is written should not be thrown around; it should be carefully kept in our meditation or shrine room.
Puja - Archana of the thousand names of the Divine Mother
Chant the divine names with devotion
Children, if we can do archana of the thousand names of the Divine Mother daily with devotion, we will grow spiritually. There will never be lack of life's essentials, food and clothing, in a family that chants the Lalita Sahasranama with devotion.
Children, we should consider every name as the name of our beloved deity. Imagine that He is the one that appears in all the different forms. If our beloved deity is Krishna, then while chanting the names of the Divine Mother, imagine that Krishna has come before us as Devi. We should not think that since we are chanting Devi's names, Krishna might not like it. These differences exist only in our world, not in His.
Visualization before beginning archana
It is useful to place a picture of our beloved deity in front of us during the archana. Meditate for five minutes before starting the worship. Visualize the beloved deity clearly from head to foot and then again from foot to head. We should imagine that the deity from within the lotus of our hearts comes to sit on the special seat placed in front of us. We should imagine that we are offering flowers at the feet of our deity as we chant each mantra. Visualize in the heart a tree in full bloom and imagine picking and offering those white flowers from this tree. Whenever real flowers are not available or not sufficient, we may do archana with such mental flowers (Manasa Pushpam) of the heart. Such flowers, offered with devotion, are dearest to the Lord. The flowers of the heart are humility, devotion and an attitude of surrender.
Whatever binds us most, whatever is dearest to us, that is what we should offer the Lord. Doesn't a mother give her child whatever she thinks is the best?
Pranayama (breathing exercise) before beginning archana
Doing some pranayama (breathing exercises) before archana helps us gain concentration. Sit erect, close the right nostril, inhale through the left nostril, then exhale through the right nostril while closing the left. Now inhale through the right and exhale through the left. This makes one round of pranayama. This may be done three times. While inhaling, we should visualize that all good qualities are filling us. While exhaling, imagine that all evil qualities, bad thoughts and evil vasanas (tendencies) are leaving us in the form of darkness.
At the end of archana
Do not get up immediately at the end of the archana. The beloved deity should be brought from the seat in front of us back into our hearts and reinstalled there. Seeing the form of the deity seated in the heart, meditate a little longer. If it is possible, it is good to sing two or three kirtans (hymns). After taking an injection, a patient is asked to rest for a few minutes to let the medicine spread throughout the body. Similarly, to obtain the full benefit of the mantras, we should keep the mind calm for a while after worship.