Practising Japa

Repetition of any mantra or name of the Lord is known as japa. Japa is an important anga, limb, of yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita (10:25), it has been said:

Yajnanam japa yajnosmi.

Among yajnas, I am japa yajna.

Japa checks the force of the thought current moving towards objects. It forces the mind to move towards divinity. Whenever the spiritual aspirant shows lack of vigour in his sadhana, the mantra shakti, power of the mantra, reinforces the sadhana shakti, power of practice, of the aspirant. Constant and prolonged repetition of the mantra for some months cuts new grooves in the mind and the brain. Eventually it helps to have darshan, vision, of the Supreme Reality.

In this age, when the bodies of the vast majority of people are weak, rigid hatha yogic practices are very difficult to perform. Japa is the easiest, quickest, safest, surest and cheapest way of attaining realization. Here are some helpful hints for practising japa.

  • Japa is of three kinds: manasic, mental; upanshu, whisper; and vaikhari, audible. You have to start with audible repetition of the mantra at first and then practise it in a whisper. Only after practising japa in a whisper for at least three months will you be able to do mental japa. Mental japa is more difficult. A beginner with a gross mind will find it difficult to do mental japa, but after some time the method will appear easy. When all other thoughts subside, there will be pleasure in mental japa; or else the mind will be brooding over sensual objects. Mental japa prepares the mind for deep meditation on the Lord.
  • When you are able to practise all the three kinds of japa, combine the three methods: mental, whispering and loud japa to the best advantage. Just as the mind wants variety in eating, it wants variety in japa also. When it gets tired of mental japa, when you notice that it has begun to wander about, take to loud repetition. The ears will also hear the mantra. Use your common sense in the practice.
  • Do japa in the throat or kantha for one year. This is verbal or vaikhari japa in a loud tone. Do it in the heart or hridaya for two years. This is mental or manasic japa. Do it in the navel or nabhi for one year. This japa is associated with the breath.
  • It is always better to take to medium speed in japa. It is not the speed, but the bhava and mental concentration that bring about the maximum benefits through japa. Every word must be pronounced very clearly. This is very important. Of course, if the mind is wandering wildly, you can keep a very high speed for fifteen or thirty minutes.
  • There can be meditation with japa or without it. In the beginning, you should combine japa with meditation, by repeating the mantra and at the same time, meditating on the form of the Lord. While japa is repetition of a mantra, meditation is a continuous flow of thought on the form of the Lord and His attributes. As you advance, the japa will drop away by itself and meditation alone will remain. This is an advanced stage. You can then practise your concentration separately. Do whatever you find easiest in this respect.
  • Practise japa at brahmamuhurta, at 4 a.m. There is a spiritual influence and mysterious silence in the early morning hours. All saints and yogis practise meditation at this period and send their spiritual vibrations to the whole world. You will be highly benefited by their vibrations if you practise japa at this time. You will not have to exert much; the meditative state will come by itself. As there may be some drowsiness, practise some asanas and pranayama, at least for five minutes, to drive off the drowsiness. You can do a full course of asana and pranayama after the japa, and finish the session with another short sitting of japa and meditation.
  • Repeat a prayer and then sit for japa. The mind will then be elevated. You will find it pleasant to rotate the beads.
  • There must be discipline in japa sadhana. You must do it systematically and regularly. Form a strong habit of repeating the name of the Lord. Japa should become habitual. Even during sleep, you should be doing japa. Then only it will be easy for you to remember Him at the time of death.
  • Record your progress in japa sadhana in your spiritual diary.
  • The vibrations set up in the mind by japa purify the mind substance. Therefore, even mere mechanical repetition of a mantra has a very good effect. If an aspirant repeats the mantra for six hours daily, his heart will be purified quickly. He will be able to feel the purity of the name.
  • Visit holy places like Rishikesh, Haridwar, Varanasi, etc. and practise japa on the banks of the Ganges there. You will find a marked improvement in your practice. The mind is free from worldly worries at such places and you can have good concentration.
  • Take to japa seriously and with full faith. The chanting of the Lord’s name is the same as serving Him. You must have the same flow of love, respect and devotion in your heart while thinking of Him or remembering His name as you naturally have when you actually see Him. Do japa sincerely. Understand the meaning of the mantra. You should have full faith and belief in the eternity of the name. The right mental attitude and sattwic feeling will come slowly as the process of purification goes on.
  • When you advance in the practice, every pore in the skin, every hair on the body, will repeat the mantra forcibly. The whole system will be charged with the powerful vibrations of the mantra. You will be ever suffused in the love of the Lord. You will get inspiration and insight.