by Swami Sivananda
An Ishta-Mantra is selected first. The object of Anushthana should be within the limits of the Mantra chosen, viz., one should not do Japa of Hanuman in order to get a son. Foolish desires should not be cherished when performing Anushthana. One should not do Anushthana for destroying or harming other beings. This is a great blunder. This will lead to the destruction of the performer himself, in case the other party is more powerful than the performer. Generally a sublime spiritual desire should be kept in view when any Anushthana is practised.
The Japa-Sadhaka should start his Anushthana in the early morning at Brahmamuhurta on an auspicious day. He should take a bath in a river or even in the water of a well if other water is not available. He should observe Mouna all along until the break of the day's Anushthana. The major portion of the day should be utilised for Japa. The Sadhaka should offer prayers to the Sun and his Ishta-Devata of the Mantra he is going to take up in Anushthana. He should offer his daily prayers and perform Sandhya. Then he should sit on a clean place facing the east or the north with a Mala in his hand. His mind should be concentrated on the deity of the Mantra. The purpose of the Anushthana should be borne in mind all along. Complete Mouna should be observed. The eyes should be shut. The senses should be withdrawn. There should be no other thought except that of the Ideal before him.
The Sadhaka should not approach his wife at any time until the whole of the Anushthana is over for the prescribed period. There should not be any thought of wife, children and property during the performance of the Anushthana or even at period of rest at night. These are all hindrances in the attainment of the object desired out of the Anushthana.
It is better to feed at least one person daily until the end of the Anushthana. On the last day a Havan should be performed with Ahutis equal to one-tenth of the total number of Japa done. On the last day also a poor-feeding may be conducted for the satisfaction of one's self. Water-libations may be given equal to the number done in Havana or else (if it is found to be inconvenient) the number of Japa may be increased by that number.
To put it in a nutshell, Japa-Anushthana is performance of Japa for a protracted period with concentration of mind and without any thought of the external world. This leads to the achievement of the object of desire.
Generally as many Lakhs of Japa as there are letters in the Mantra are done. But it is better to do more than this prescribed number if the actual fruit of the Japa is to be acquired. The mind of man is generally very impure and it requires much labour to purify it in order to make it fit to concentrate on the Mantra and its Deity. Generally many Purascharanas are required to get the ideal in mind. One Purascharana does not bring the desired object, because human mind is ever distracted and is filled with Rajas and Tamas.
The Sadhaka takes up the study of the Vedas, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, or the Bhagavata for reading. In the case of the Bhagavata it is called Saptaha. In the case of the Vedas it is called Adhyayana. In case of the other two it is called Parayana. The Anushthatri should observe the same disciplines as enumerated above. Arghya (libation), Havan, etc., should be performed as in Japa-Anushthana.
All Anushthanas can be performed on the same lines with slight changes according to the necessity of the occasion. A woman-Anushthatri will have slight changes in the rules regarding performance. She should not start the Anushthana during the time of her menses. Nor should the menses occur in the middle of the Anushthana. Generally it is better for them to take up Anushthana only for a period of less than a month. They should not suckle their children during the time of Anushthana. Even women should observe Brahmacharya during the performance of Anushthana. They also should take daily bath as in the case of men. All other rules are just like those of men. Women should not take to Anushthana of Gayatri-Japa or Veda-Adhyayana.
Generally by Anushthana the Sastras mean only Japa and Svadhyaya. Meditation is not considered as an Anushthana. It is a higher step where the word Anushthana loses its meaning. Worship also can be considered as an Anushthana, though it is not included in the orthodox conception. The rules for all Anushthanas constitute the central idea that there should be exclusive occupation in the performance of Anushthana to the total detachment from all family engagements or worldly activities. Even worldly thoughts should not enter the mind of the Anushthatri. Anushthana is great Tapas or austerity and should be performed with great reverence, faith and carefulness.