Japa meditation is a powerful technique for focusing the mind and harnessing the subtle energies in completing the yogic path of self-transformation. According to the Kularnava Tantra: “Japa is so-called because it removes the sin accumulated in thousands of lives and because it reveals the Supreme Deity.” By the greatest “sin,” it means ignorance of our own true nature.
Japa meditation helps to produce positive mental tracks, helping us to gradually overcome spiritual darkness and reach enlightenment.
In this article, we will share with you what Japa meditation is, what its benefits are, and how to properly and effectively practice it.
What Is Japa Meditation?
Japa is a Sanskrit word which means the meditative repetition of a mantra or a divine name. This practice found in Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Shintoism.
The goal of Japa may vary depending on the mantra involved and the spiritual philosophy of the practitioner. In both, Buddhist and Hindu traditions, mantras are given to aspirants by their gurus, after some form of initiation. The stated goal could be moksha, nirvana, bhakti, or simple personal communion with divine power.
The repetitions of the mantra are counted using a string of beads known as a Japa mala. Many different types of materials can be used for Japa. The number of beads in the Japa mala is generally 108. Some people wear Japa beads around their neck, although some practitioners prefer to carry them in a bead-bag in order to keep them clean.
After long use of a mantra that is intended to achieve self-realization or connection with divine power, an individual may reach a state of ajapajapam when the mantra “repeats itself” in the mind.
Japa meditation is one of the most popular and basic techniques of meditation which is suitable for all beginners. However, it is recommended to start chanting mantras in the presence of a spiritual mentor.
Degrees Of Loudness In Japa Practice
Japa may be performed in different degrees of loudness:
- Vaikhari Japa is spoken loud enough so that, although this is not why it is so loud, nearby people can hear it recited. It may be useful when there are other sounds nearby or when concentration is difficult.
- Upamshu Japa is said quietly, at a whisper. During such practice, the practitioner’s lips should barely move so it is difficult for an observer to see that anything is being said.
- Manasika Japa is recited in the mind. Such practice is difficult to practice for those who are not already grounded in Vaikhari Japa practice.
As you can see, Japa can be practiced aloud, by whispering, or mentally. Mental recitation is considered to be the most powerful. Most beginners are taught to start with Vaikhari or alternate between loud and whispered recitation. Hearing the mantric sound gives the brain helpful feedback for staying mindful and focused. Mindfulness is the key to successful Japa meditation. Mindless recitation is unproductive and considered to be a waste of time.
The Essence Of Japa
All the systems of our organs are closely connected to each other, just as our soul is connected at one end to the brain and the material body, and at the other end to cosmic consciousness.
Certain words cause vibrations in matter and space that coincide with our own vibrations, so a person after meditation finds peace and harmony. Harmony is the main goal of meditation.
The term “harmony” came from music where multiple voices singing at the same time, create secondary vibrations – harmony. The same thing happens during meditation – the spirit excites vibrations that are close in frequency to those in its body and soul and forms a symphonic aura around itself – streams of energy.
Here is the simplest example of how vibrations can change our state. The sound of a bell or music box is soft and warm, and you can fall asleep to it, gradually dissolving into your thoughts. The sound of a car horn is sharp and disturbing because it’s based on dissonance – two incongruous sounds.
Every day we face the dissonance around us.
When a person in high spirits runs into an energy vampire or a negative person, a negative vibration that a negative person radiates does not hurt him, since his warm positive vibrations do not resonate with cold negativity. This is the dissonance that the Japa meditation practice helps to smooth out.
Stages Of Japa Journey
According to practitioners and mentors, Japa practice is a fascinating journey, like a colored dream. Let’s examine this mysterious process in stages.
The first part of the journey is like a dream. Your consciousness gradually leaves the body, while the muscles still hold the pose.
The second stage occurs when the mind draws images. You can see silhouettes, colored clouds, and the shapes of animals or birds that often appear to newcomers after diving into practice.
The third stage is a deep dive. An adept of Japa clearly sees the difference between the material world and the spirit world. Contact with higher forces is established. There is no barrier between the mind and the astral world. You can travel through space, communicate with spirits, friends, or be in a deep trance, completely ignoring everything around you.
The fourth stage is the truth. Many beginners confuse it with spiritual awakening. All the impressions, emotions, and experiences of a person are imprinted inside him at one moment. This feeling fills him and gives him strength and calm. After receiving the Truth, you can either leave the spirit world or stay in it. The truth only visits a person once in a single session.
During the Japa meditation, a person with closed eyes reciting mantras. His focus is so strong that he cannot hear any extraneous sounds.
Scientists are puzzling over the answer to the question: who comes to people during Japa meditation? Why do rosaries work this way? Why do different types of wood provide different effects? But not everything lends itself to science and cold analysis. But Japa can only be understood by practicing it, fully believing in it, and being purified.
Who Can Practice Japa Meditation?
Japa meditation is suitable for both men and women, people at any age, regardless of whether they have any health problems and the kind of lifestyle they lead.
For some, it will be an unusual feeling, for some – salvation from the daily hustle and bustle. If you follow all the recommendations of the mentor, it will definitely not cause harm.
Japa Meditation Benefits
There are many benefits of Japa meditation you’ll discover once you start practicing it. Here are 6 of them:
- Improves concentration and focus – it utilizes multiple points of focus, such as the breath, the mantra, and the touch, and movement of the mala beads;
- Reduces stress and calms the mind by activating the slower brainwave states of Alpha (focus and learning), Theta (creativity and intuition), and Delta (healing and calming);
- Reduces blood pressure, slows down the heart rate, and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke;
- Cultivates positive emotions, such as kindness, compassion, and empathy by activating the areas of the brain associated with these emotions;
- Reduces negative thoughts and improves mood – by reciting sacred Sanskrit syllables you replace negative thinking with new positive patterns in your mind;
- Increases shakti, inner power, and inner strength – by reciting mantras you establish a deep spiritual connection with your higher self and activate shakti energy.
When practicing Japa you need to be fully concentrated on the essence of the chosen mantra.
For your practice, you will need Japa Mala beads, preferably made of Tulasi or Neem trees (Shaivites use Mala beads made of Rudraksha). Hindus believed that these trees have a special energy and supernatural power.
The most common mantras used for Japa practice are:
This is a sacred sound that signifies the essence of the ultimate reality, consciousness, or Atman. The OM Mantra chanting produces the vibration that reduces stress and relaxes your body, normalizes your blood pressure, and slows down the heart rhythm. It purifies the environment around you and creates positive vibrations.
OM NAMAH SHIVAYA
This is a very powerful mantra dedicated to Lord Shiva. Shiva mantra brings changes in all spheres of human life, activating the energy of the Universe. Its practice has a beneficial effect on health, it purifies the aura and space around the person, and attracts positive energy.
The very process of chanting “OM NAMAH SHIVAYA” calms the mind, stops thoughts, leads to Samadhi, and gives liberation. Unlike other mantras, giving temporary wealth, prosperity, siddhi, love, etc., Shiva Mantra bestows eternal good – Satchitananda (being/truth, knowledge/consciousness, bliss) and liberation.
OM MANI PADME HUM
It is usually translated to mean “The Jewel Is In The Lotus”. The “jewel” is a pure state of mind, or enlightenment, while the “lotus” is a symbol for wisdom. This mantra reminds us that wisdom leads to enlightenment.
According to Buddhist traditions, reciting this mantra can help aid you on the path to enlightenment. The Dalai Lama consistently praises its power to purify the mind and cultivate inner wisdom.
Other important benefits of the Hare Krishna Mantra are:
- it takes away all worries;
- gives joy, happiness, harmony, and positive energy;
- destroys evil and ignorance;
- opens up new knowledge and wisdom;
- takes away sorrow, sadness, and misfortune;
- awakens love for all beings;
- illuminates with light;
- helps in the treatment of heart disease;
- has a rejuvenating effect;
- relieves addictions to intoxicating and narcotic substances.
The Text Of The Hare Krishna Mantra:
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA
KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARE RAMA
RAMA RAMA HARE HARE
If there are people who are close to you in spirit, they can practice Japa meditation with you.
For a successful group meditation, all participants need to prepare properly. If even one person in 10 will be unprepared that will reduce the overall effectiveness of the session.
It is not necessary to be in the same room while practicing Japa group meditation, since physical contact is not a fundamental factor in this practice.
When practicing Japa group meditation, it is better to do it all together. However, if your group meditation includes experienced and beginners – you can try to chant in turn.
Do not be afraid – if your intentions are pure and your mind is open – the spirit and higher powers will certainly notice this and eventually will respond.
Despite the fact that Japa meditation is absolutely safe, there could be negative spiritual and karmic consequences if you use this practice for:
- selfish and egoistic interests or profit;
- causing other people harm/evil.
If you have any difficulties in setting your intention for the practice or choosing the correct mantra, consult with a mentor, perhaps he will reduce the complexity of your mantras or advise easier practice.
How To Perform Japa Meditation
Do not listen to music, read books or magazines, or have serious conversations a few hours before a Japa meditation session. There is nothing wrong with the information itself, but the impressions it leaves can interfere with the process of clearing the mind or establishing contact with the higher consciousness.
To prepare for Japa meditation you need:
- to relax;
- turn off the light in the room;
- take a comfortable pose;
- fully focus your attention on the lightest moment in your life – in this state, the soul is maximally open and prepared for contact.
You can start reciting mantras by turning the Mala beads in your hands.
After completing the rite, do not break the connection abruptly. You need to say goodbye to the spirits and smoothly return to the material world. If you accidentally ended the session, it is better to go back and end it according to the rules.
Return to the next meditation only when the impressions of the previous one have faded, so as not to disturb the spirits too often. They also need rest.
If you’re chanting mantras out loud, make sure the sound of your voice will not be mistaken for aggression by the spirits. Your voice should express sincere joy and pure intentions.
Before practicing Japa meditation, consult with your mentor for compatibility of Japa with your astral body or with diseases that you have;
Do not rush and do not chase results. Keep your focus on practice and your feelings.
Mantra Chanting Rules:
- do not touch the Mala beads with your left hand during mantra practice;
- make sure your right hand is clean;
- your index finger should not touch the Mala beads;
- before performing the mantra chanting, you should take off your headdress;
- you should not be distracted when chanting the mantra;
- you can’t recite the mantra naked.
The Bottom Line
Just like for any spiritual practice you should commit to a few weeks of regular Japa meditation practice so you can experience the full results. Japa meditation can greatly build-up your life force with the help of the mantras but it also requires regular practice for the results to last. It is advisable to stay with one mantra, rather than jump from one to another, which would only dissipate the mantric energy. Keep your focus on your pure intention and remember that self-transformation is a journey rather than a final goal. Focus on the joy it brings and don’t chase the results!