सनातन धर्म भूमिका

Meaning of "Japa"







In General

Japa is meant by chanting of divine mantras for spiritual purpose. The word japa is derived from the root ‘jap’, meaning: to utter in a low voice. Repeating of divine mantras increases the spiritual potency besides providing mental peace. The Japa can be performed while sitting in a meditation posture, while performing other activities, or as part of formal worship. Counting of the beads of a japamala (rosary) along with chanting increases mental concentration. A continuous recitation of 108 times makes a course; it can be a multiple or division of 108 as well.

Generally, as per tradition the mantra is given to aspirants by the guru, after some form of initiation. A Mantra is Divinity. So, with each mantra the Divine Power manifest itself in the sound body of mantra. Mantra got Nama (name) and rupa (object) which are inseparable. With the chanting of mantra the imagination of divinity is required. The spiritual aspirant should endeavor to realize his unity with the Mantra or the Divinity. To the extent the Sadaka does so, the Mantra-Sakti supplements his worship-power (Sadhana-Sakti). Morning and evening during the twilight are the ideal time for recitation. Various mantras are prescribed for various time and purposes. But there are no hard and fast rules for japa; everybody can perform it with any mantra, at any time during day and night, and for any number of times. The repetition of mantras silently or under breath with mental imagination will lead to a state where the breath get controlled by the mantra and further into a state of dhyana.

There are two kinds of Mantra’s, the Tantrik Mantras and the Vedic Mantras. Tantrik mantras are the ones we call Beeja Mantra’s (eg: Hrim ) whereas Vedic Mantra’s are the ones that are followed under the Vedic system ( eg: Tat_tvam_asi ). The Bija mantras correlate to the 7 chakras and to the main Hindu deities. Vedic mantras follow Vedic representation of deities in symbolic form. Another classification of mantras divide them into Saguna (with form), and Nirguna (without form) mantras. The Saguna mantras invoke the forms of the individual deities or personalized aspects of God. It is said that the recitation of the Saguna mantras gives rise to the actual form of the particular deity, thus manifesting its power. The Nirguna mantras originate from the Vedic texts and are thus the oldest mantras. As no deities or personalized aspects of God are invoked with these mantras, they are very difficult to interpret. These mantras are said to have their identification with all the creation, and contain the fundamental truths in yogic philosophy. For example, ‘ Soham ‘ is one such Mantra of a Vedantic nature. It means: "I am He". This signifies the identity of Jiva and Brahman. It is said that the mind must be very strong to be able to concentrate on the abstract Nirguna mantras, and thus they are not recommended for beginners.

The three kinds of Japa according to Sandilya Upanishad are Vaikhari , Upamsu and Manasic Japa. The Vaikhari Japa is the loud pronunciation which is recommended for beginners. The Upamsu Japa is whispering or humming which cannot be heard by any one. This method is more subtle than the Vaikhari Japa. The Manasic Japa is the chanting as a mental activity and it is the best recommended Japa by all Texts.


Cleanliness is to be practiced before any practice of spirituality. Taking a bath or at least cleaning the leg, hands, face, mouth and such body parts are to be carried out before sitting for Mantra Japa. Sandhya, the early morning and evening are the ideal time for Japa. Two other best time are noon and just before going to bed. Few Pranayama steps also can be practiced to keep body fit. Invoking the devata of the mantra before beginning japa will elevate the spiritual mood and open spiritual aspirant to receiving divine help. Never begin Japa immediately after sitting on asana. By discrimination first draw the mind back from its external pursuits and lock it up within, at the sacred feet of Ishta devata. Then begin the Japa.

The beginner to Japa may utter the holy name clearly with proper pronunciation in an audible voice (vacika). After practicing this for few days the mind will become fixed on Ista devata. Then Sadaka can move to the next step by moving the lips inaudibly (upamsu) and after few minutes he can ponder the meaning of mantra. This is followed by the silent recital of mantra with no movement of the lips (manasika), which is the preferred form of Japa. Japa should neutralizes lower thoughts, allowing aspirants to rise to higher spiritual planes of consciousness in meditation. If it is not achieved at any instance, then the sadaka can go back to Vacika, and slowly come back to Manasika form of Japa.

CWhen the period of japa is over, aspirants should continue to sit quietly contemplating the ishta devata, reflecting on the infinite love of God or praying silently for few minutes. Devout prostration or salutation to the Lord helps aspirants retain the spiritual vibrations awakened by japa. These observances make it easier to keep the mind on God while doing all worldly activities.

Things to remember

The practice of japa should be done when alone, and should not be practiced for vanity or as a show piece to convince others. With each repetition of the Mantra, have the feeling or mental attitude that the Lord is seated in the heart, that purity or Satva is flowing from the Lord into Sadaka’s mind, that the Mantra is purifying the heart, destroying desires, cravings and evil thoughts. It is very important that sadaka should adhere to one particular mantra and not to change them. Regular practice is required and sadaka should not overdo japa. The purpose of a mantra is to make an impression on the psychic superstructure of the mind. To get the right effect, the pronunciation should be perfect. The correct articulation will create the exact sound vibrations in the unconscious mind. Likewise, Sadaka should not change the pitch or intonation of the mantra without valid reason. Perform Mantra Japa with Alertness, and never Mechanically. Stand up when sleep or drowsiness tries to overpower at any instance. Chant the Japa mentally at all times, whatever be the activity in which one is engaged. Carry on your Sadhana with tenacity and perseverance, without a break. Realize the glorious goal of life and enjoy supreme bliss.

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