As we all know, meditation is a healthy practice that helps calm your mind and spirit. You can meditate actively by taking a brisk walk and allowing your mind to wander, or you can meditate while sitting quietly, using mala beads and mantras. In this beginner’s guide to a Japa meditation, we’ll cover topics like what Japa meditation is, how to practice Japa meditation, and how it can help you in your meditation practice.
Japa meditation is practiced worldwide by various religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Shintoism. Christians have a similar practice, counting prayers with a rosary.
Some characteristics make Japa meditation different from other mantra-based meditation practices or prayer-counting practices. We’ll have a look at some of those differences now.
What is Japa Meditation?
According to Wikipedia, “The Sanskrit word Japa is derived from the root jap-, meaning “to utter in a low voice, repeat internally, mutter.” It can be further defined as ja to destroy birth, death, and reincarnation and pa meaning to destroy one’s sins.”
Japa meditation is different from regular meditation because you use mala beads and recite a divine name or sound while meditating. You might know this practice as chanting.
Some cultures consider chanting to be an offering to the gods.
When you are practicing Japa meditation, there are 3 volume levels for chanting mantras:
Vaikhari Japa or speaking out loud: This level is considered to be suitable for beginners.
Upamshu Japa: is a quiet whisper, barely audible to anyone except the meditator. This level is said to be much more effective—100x, in fact, than Vaikhari Japa.
Manasika Japa: is recited in mind and is considered to be an advanced version of chanting. Manasika Japa is said to be 100,000 times more effective than Vaikhari Japa
Pronunciation is essential. Serious Japa meditation practitioners urge you to make sure you are pronouncing the mantras correctly when chanting them to make them more powerful. In fact, it is recommended that you repeat a mantra if you mispronounce it.
Tracking your repetitions using mala beads
When practicing Japa meditation, you use a set of beads, known as mala beads or Japa-mala. Mala beads are a string of 108 beads, stones, or pieces of sacred wood strung together, plus one guru bead that is often larger than the other beads and has a tassel.
You use mala beads to count your repetitions and as a form of controlling your breath.
When repeating your mantras, you track each repetition by touching a bead on your mala string. You can use your thumb and middle finger to roll the beads toward you as you say your mantras. Avoid using your pointer or index finger when working with your mala beads because it is associated with your ego.
Practicing mindfulness when using your mala beads
When you are using your mala beads, you should hold them at the level of your heart or your third eye. You should cup your non-dominant hand above your navel to “catch” your mala beads when you are meditating. This is to prevent them from falling into your lower energy centers.
Your mala beads should be kept clean and treated as a sacred tool. You may want to purchase a mala bag to keep your beads in when you are not using them.
There are plenty of different types of mala beads on the market. You can either choose one that looks nice to you or powerful to you. You can also choose one that is designed with stones specific to your intentions and goals.
What do you chant during Japa meditation?
The divine names or sounds used during Japa meditation are not something you make up to focus on your own internal work. There are specific phrases and prayers used in Japa meditation.
Aum, You likely already know one mantra used in Japa meditation: a simple OM or Aum, which is considered to be the sound of the Universe or of creation.
There are also other common mantras used in Japa meditation, like:
Soham, or I am that I am. This is a meditation that connects you with your own soul. It is a common chant for yoga teachers to help their students focus on their own life and practice.
Om Namah Shivaya is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, representing the cyclical theme of death and rebirth, a universal force and theme.
Hare Krishna is another powerful Japa mantra you might be familiar with. Hare Krishna can have several meanings or translations and represent the removal of illusion for the mantra’s chants. It can even be tied to transcendental meditation, where the chanter is reconnected with their own consciousness.
Suppose you are interested in finding out more about working with Japa mantras. In that case, you can either find a Japa meditation guide near you or check out this site: Japa Mala Beads.
Top 5 Tips for performing Japa meditation.
- If you would like to get the most out of your Japa meditation, make sure you set aside enough time to repeat your mantra 108 times without rushing through the process.
- If you get distracted while meditating, shift your focus back to the beads and correctly repeating your mantra.
- Think about what the mantra means to you as you recite it. There will be energy or outcome associated with the mantra you choose to use.
- If you want to really get the most out of your Japa meditation, make sure you face East or North when meditating. These directions are associated with the Seat of the Gods.
- And, if you can commit to it, try to meditate an hour and a half before sunrise, at sunset, or noon. These times are the most powerful for meditation practices.
To Sum It Up
Japa meditation can be a powerful way for a person to connect with the Universe and their own consciousness by repeating specific mantras and counting their repetitions with mala beads. This beginner’s guide to Japa meditation has listed the essential components of Japa meditation, which are primarily a particular mantra and a set of mala beads.
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with Japa meditation. Have you ever practiced Japa meditation? Let me know in the comments below.