There is shakti in every word. If someone suddenly shouts Snake! Snake! you at once jump in fright. If someone calls you a donkey, you are annoyed and show anger. If you think of hot samosas and chutney, you will start to salivate. When such is the power of the names of the ordinary things of the world, what tremendous power there should be in the names of God.
Repeating a mantra is known as japa. Japa is an important part of yoga. It is spiritual food for the hungry soul. It is a rod in the hands of the blind. In Kali yuga, japa is the easiest, quickest, safest and surest way to reach God and attain immortality and perennial joy. Japa purifies the heart and steadies the mind. It scorches samskaras and induces vairagya, or non-attachment. Japa roots out desires and makes one fearless. It removes delusion and gives supreme peace. Japa gives health, wealth, strength and long life. It gives an exhilarating, refreshing bath and washes wonderfully the subtle body or astral body.
It is best to get your mantra from your guru. This has a tremendous effect on the disciple. The guru imparts his shakti along with the mantra. The power hidden in the mantra is easily awakened. Keep your guru mantra a secret and never disclose it to anyone. If you cannot find a guru, you can select a mantra according to your own liking and taste, and repeat it daily with faith and feeling. This also has a great purificatory effect. It is best to stick to one mantra alone.
Regularity in japa sadhana is most important. Sit in the same place and at the same time. Japa must become habitual. The most effective time for japa is early dawn or dusk, when sattwa is predominant. Face the north or east when sitting. This exercises a subtle influence and enhances the effectiveness of the mantra. Have a steady pose. This helps to make the mind steady and aids concentration.
Pronounce each letter of the mantra correctly and distinctly, not too fast or too slow. Increase the speed only when the mind wanders. Do not do the japa in a hurried manner. It is not the number of japa, but purity, concentration, feeling and one-pointedness of mind that help the aspirant.
Do the japa with feeling. Using a mala helps alertness and acts as an incentive. Variety in japa is necessary to sustain interest, avoid fatigue and counteract monotony. Repeat aloud for a time, then hum the mantra, and sometimes repeat mentally. Do not beg for worldly objects while doing your japa. Feel that your heart is being purified and the mind is becoming steady by the power of the mantra, with the grace of God.
Carry on the current of japa mentally even at other times, in whatever work you may be engaged. You can do japa anywhere. There are no restrictions of any kind in mantra japa for those who do it with nishkama bhava, without motive, for the attainment of moksha. Remember your mantra with every incoming and outgoing breath. Develop a strong habit of repeating Gods name.
Likhit japa is mantra writing. Repetition of the mantra with meaning and bhava should be practised both orally and in writing. For oral japa, the help of a mala or rosary is required. For likhit japa a notebook and a pen should be used. The mantra may be written in any language. Write your mantra daily in a notebook for half an hour. When you write the mantra, observe mouna or silence. Write the mantra clearly in ink. On Sundays and holidays write for one hour. Likhit japa develops the power of concentration and incalculable benefits. Repeat the mantra mentally while writing it in the notebook.
To help concentration, one uniform system of writing from top to bottom or from left to right should be maintained during a particular sitting. The whole mantra should be written at once in continuity. Do not break the mantra in the middle when you come to the end of the line. When you select a mantra, try to stick to it.
By constant practice the inherent power of the mantra will be awakened, which will fill your very existence with the divinity of the mantra. Besides bringing about purity of heart and concentration of mind, likhit japa gives you control of your asana or sitting position, control of the senses, particularly sight and tongue, and fills you with the power of endurance.