You may be wondering what Japa Meditation even is. Well in Sanskrit Japa means muttering and Japa Meditation is the act of reciting Mantras whilst meditating. Seen within Vedic teachings this meditation has been practices for a long time and it is believed to do wonders for our mental state.
We live through repetition and habits and this is why making healthy positive habits is so important. During Japa Meditation we can choose to repeat single syllable or multiple syllable mantras.
Mantras are believed to:
To understand the power of Japa Meditation we must first understand the power of mantras. Traditional Japa and Mantric recitation is based on an esoteric understanding of the Sanskrit alphabet. The sacred Sanskrit language is fundamental to psychocosmic energies.
The word mantra comes from the root "man" which means "to think" - this wonderfully expresses the essence of mantra, being a spiritual tool that we can use to control and protect our thoughts.
Traditionally mantras are believed to contain the essential Goddess power Shakti. They are believed to protect the mind by calling upon transcedental energy which is the counterpart of transcendental consciousness (Shiva).
Mantras represent a doorway to higher realms and allow our mind to tap into this energy. It is the intention that we use our mantras with that matter. No matter which mantra we are using it is our intent that awakens the energies.
Following this traditional mantras do not have to be used. With the power of intention any mantras can bring benefit to your meditation. To get the most out of your mantras it is always best to study and learn about the mantra you are using, this can really help to enforce your intent. It is advised to use one mantra at a time during your practices, this will help to strengthen the energies and really focus on them.
During you meditation it is important to feel comfortable and at peace. Many individual have a dedicated meditation space or chose a location where they will not be disturbed. The location itself again is not the important factor as transcending into meditation allows you to leave this location. Many individual choose to meditate outside, within a quiet room or even in their office.
The most important thing is to make sure that you are in a space where you will not be distracted or disturbed for the length of your meditation.
If you do not have a specific meditation room or place within your home it can be useful to have a small ritual for setting up your space, getting your mind ready and grounding your energies. This is particular important if you are meditating in a room that is full of other energies, such as a busy family home or your office space. Take the time to place out some fabrics, crystals or statues that help you to feel relaxed. Allow some time for deep breathing and really get yourself into a meditative state.
Japa can be practices in a few different ways. You can speak the mantra aloud, whisper the mantra or say them mentally. As long as you are using the mantra with strong intent you can use which ever method suits you. Beginners will often say the mantra aloud or whispering and then move on to reciting them mentally. Reciting your mantras aloud can be particularly useful as the brain is able to hear the mantric sounds. This feedback loop is helpful for your brain to create strong connections and really confirm your intentions.
Have you ever been reading a book and only at the end of a page realise that you did not take any of the page in even though your eyes were tracing the words? This occurs when we are begin mindless, if your mind begins to wander during meditation then be sure to bring it back to your place of focus and mindfulness. If you begin to mindlessly recite mantras then they will not have any energy behind them, there will be no intention and it will be a waste of your time.
Japa meditation can include single syllable or multiple syllable mantra. Here are some great examples:
Om is a powerful syllable that represents wholeness within the universe, it encompasses all that is and is believed to be the sound from which all came from. This is a great mantra to begin with as it helps you to awaken and connect with your true essence.
So Hum translates into "I am that". This is a great mantra to try out as it can be linked to your inhale and exhale. On your inhale produce the Om and on your exhale produce the Hum. Use this mantra to help bring focus into your life.
This powerful mantra resembles oneness and peace. As you know Om resembles all that is within the universe; Shanti means peace and it is repeated 3 times to resemble peace within our mind, body and speech. Use this mantra to help bring a deep state of peace.
Throughout history this mantra japa has been completed with the use of rosaries, which are also known as malas. These spiritual tools have been used within Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism,, Christianity and Islam.
Use your intuition to pick malas that are best for you. Many individuals will often have different mala beads to connect with different. They are often made with a variety of different materials such as woods, seeds, nuts, shells and crystals.
Traditionally mala beads will consist of 108 beads but they can also be found with fewer beads. For ease many sets of mala beads contain decorative beads as separators. They will also have a meru, semeru or guru bead that is often much larger. Tassels, charms and lucky knots are often attached as extra decoration and inspiration but they are not required.
The mala beads are usually held in the right hand but you can hold them however you find comfortable as it is best to not distract yourself from the main purpose of meditation. The beads should be draped over the middle finger or the ring finger and moved down with your thumb.
It is important to note that the index finger is often thought of as the threatening finger and it is never used during mala japa.
Mala beads should be treated with upmost respect and our intention comes from our heart so it is best to hold them at heart level, making sure that they do not drag along the floor.
After each mantra is recited you will move onto the next bead. Mala beads will include a number of different beads, traditionally there are 108 beads but you may come across beads with a lot less beads. As you recite your mantras many practitioners will deduct a few beads from the final count to allow for slips and any moments of inattention. So for example a traditional 108 may be counted as 100 mantras, so ten rounds of this mala will equal 1,000 mantras.
After you have completed one full round of your mala beads you will find yourself back at the guru bead. One should never count or cross over the guru bead, instead you should turn the mala beads around and begin a new round. Your new round will begin with the bead that ended your last bead. This is done in order to respect the guru and keep a humble nature whilst on your spiritual path.
Mala beads are thought of as sacred spiritual tools and for this reason they are treated with respect. Mala beads are often kept in separate boxes, bags or wrapped in cloth and kept somewhere safe when not in use.