Jani Jaatinen is an incredible Finnish yogi who lives in Malaysia and teaches yoga around the world. As a fellow practitioner of mantra meditation, something he recently posted on his Facebook page really caught my attention, and inspired me to get in touch with him to get his insights and experience on his practice:
Action (karma) is recorded as mental imprint (samskara) and this mental imprint produces reaction (karma). Meditation on a pure, spiritual object (a mantra, for example) burns the karma.Jani Jaatinen
How long has mantra meditation been a part of your life, and would you share some of the milestones or major realizations you’ve gained along the way?
I started yoga with mantra meditation and I have been chanting now more than 15 years. One thing I have realised along the way is that it is the foundation for the rest of my practice. It kind of gives direction to everything else I do. So in that sense it is the most important and most essential part of the whole practice. What comes to asana [postures] and pranayama [breath control], mantra meditation helps to keep mind more clear and focused. It also helps in developing a more systematic approach to the practice. These are of course more external benefits of mantra meditation.
The more important thing that I have learned from mantra meditation is that yoga is more giving than taking. That it is not only about me and what I get from yoga. It has helped me to understand that I should rather serve yoga and its goals and ideals than try to use it to build my own ego. I have learned that I am just tiny part of bigger whole and to make best out of this situation, I should align my will and desires with my Source. Mantra meditation has also taught me that yoga is a gradual process, it gives time, when done right, but it also takes time and effort. Nothing good comes easy.
What are your dearest mantras to meditate on, and why?
The mantra I regularly chant is maha-mantra (also known as Hare Krishna mantra). This is basically the first mantra I learned and now I can say that I also can relate to it the best way. When doing mantra meditation, I think, it is good to know what it means and where it leads you. To understand philosophy behind the mantra (of course some mantras, like this one, purify consciousness even if you don’t know the meaning). This makes chanting more full and effective and a conscious act. It is also good to have or develop an emotional connection to the mantra. This Hare Krishna mantra felt right for me from the beginning, so I kept working with it. One thing I learned, is that the relationship with a mantra is like any other relationship, it takes time to ripen. That’s why one has to keep on chanting, repeating the same thing, over and over again.
Through your online presence, we see you Seriously practicing yoga and innovating wild asanas. What does yoga mean to you?
Haha! Asana practice is basically a hobby for me. I find it interesting but I don’t think that it has much spiritual value by itself. I just do what I can do in healthy limits. For me yoga means more of a method to connect with reality, to try to make sense of this all. I take yoga as a process to get reconnected with my true self and with the ultimate source of everything.
For many of us who find it hard to stick with our practices – where do you find the willpower and persistence to stay with your practice day after day, year after year?
Well, my mind has always been quite strong, in good and in bad, so it is karma. If I can direct that mental energy in progressive way, it is a quite useful tool. My yoga teacher and Gurudeva (I’m initiated in the Hare Krishna movement) have been great help in this issue, helping me to build firm foundation, so big thanks goes to them. From my point of view, the ability to balance, regulate and plan things beforehand are the keys for successful, systematic and strong practice. And good teacher of course is important in order to learn the culture of learning, right methods and to keep one’s ego in control – sometimes it is difficult to see yourself in an objective way, we need help inside and outside.
What’s the most important tip, advice or piece of wisdom you’ve ever heard/been given to inspire your spiritual practice?
One good comes from Satsvarupa Goswami: “Do service to others and mind your own business.” I don’t know if it is the most important but at least it is often very useful advice. Also my yoga teacher Janne Kontala said once (or twice or many times) that “good is the enemy of the best”. I understand this one at least two ways: One is to try to always make progress – one can always improve! And the other way is that don’t let so called good or sattvic life to take you to the side from the spiritual path.