Question 23. In this connection one is reminded of such terms as Guru (teacher), Sishya (disciple), Ishtadevata (the favourite deity for contemplation), Mantra (divine mm or the spiritual formula), Pranava (the syllable Om), Diksha (initiation), Dhyana (contemplation) and Japa (repetition of divine name or spiritual formula). What do they mm?
Guru is one who dispels the darkness of ignorance and bestows the light of knowledge. Spiritual life is. impossible without the guidance of a Guru. As regards his qualification, he is expected to know the essence of scriptures and be established in God. He should have infinite compassion and sympathy towards the disciple.
A Sishya is one who is fit to be trained and disciplined. His chief qualification is an intense desire to learn the spiritual truths. Willingness to undergo any amount of hardship in the process, great faith in and devotion to the Guru and humility are other essential qualities he should possess.
Ishtadevata is that aspect of God which a follower of Bhaktiyoga chooses for worship and contemplation. Once chosen either willingly by oneself or at the. behest of the Guru it should not be changed. The name of the Ishtadevata is 'Mantra'. The Mantra usually includes Pranava (Om) and often has additional letters called Bija (seed letters) also. These Bijaletters are different for different deities.
Pranava or the syllable `Om' comprising the three basic sounds a, u and m is considered as the origin of all sounds and all words, and hence of all created objects, by Our scriptures. That is why it has been given the status of the, highest or best symbol of God. Apart from Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism also have accorded it a special place. The Mantra concerning the Ishtadevata has to be received by the disciple from the Guru is a ceremonial way, the rite itself being known as Diksha.
When the mind is able to flow in a constant and continuous stream like the oil that is being poured from one vessel into another towards the Ishtadevata, it is called Dhayana. Japa is the repetition of the divine name or sacred formula, received from the Guru through Diksha. However, this repetition should be done with full faith and knowledge ,of the Mantra.