Japa (Sanskrit: जप) is a spiritual discipline involving the meditative repetition of a mantra or name of God. The mantra or name may be spoken softly, enough for the practitioner to hear it, or it may be spoken purely within the recitor's mind. Japa may be performed while sitting in a meditation posture, while performing other activities, or as part of formal worship in group settings. The practice of repetitive prayer is present in varied forms within most religions in the world, although the religions of India generally give more emphasis to it as a specific discipline.
The Sanskrit word japa is derived from the root jap-, meaning "to utter in a low voice, repeat internally, mutter".
Varieties of Japa
Beads. In most forms of japa, the repetitions are counted using a string of beads known as a japa mala. Within Hindu traditions Vaishnava devotees commonly chant on beads made from the Tulsi plant (Holy Basil), held as a sacred manifestation of Tulsidevi; whereas Shaivites use Rudraksha beads. The number of beads in the japa mala is generally 108, which has great significance in both traditions. It is not uncommon for people to wear japa beads around their neck, although some practitioners prefer to carry them in a bead-bag in order to keep them clean.
Mental repetition. Independent of all beads or prayer devices, many Hindus will recite mantras, either under their breath or in mental introspection, at any given time of the day. This sort of casual chanting is said to be a way of inspiring reflection on either the self or God at all times, thereby attaining a life which, though interrupted by daily chores and concerns, is a constant flow of prayer. Frequent mental repetition of a mantra (or "mantram") was also recommended by Eknath Easwaran, as the second point in the Passage Meditation program that he developed.
Analogues in other traditions. Some Catholic prayer forms that involve repetition of prayers, such as use of the Rosary or one of various chaplets, could be classified as forms of japa, as with other Christian prayer forms (see Hesychasm). Mental methods of repeated short prayers, very similar to japa are also used in Christian traditions. The practice of dhikr by Sufis and some other Muslims is also similar to japa, as is the practice of nembutsu in Pure Land Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhists include japa meditation as a large part of their religious practices.
The stated aim, or goal of japa may vary greatly depending on the mantra involved and the religious philosophy of the practitioner. In both Buddhist and Hindu traditions mantras may be given to aspirants by their guru, after some form of initiation. The stated goal could be moksha, nirvana, bhakti, or simple personal communion with God in a similar way to prayer. Many gurus and other spiritual teachers, and other religious leaders, especially Hindu and Buddhist, teach that these represent different names for the same transformed state of consciousness. However, this claim is not made about mantras that are not intended for spiritual growth and self-realization.
After long use of a mantra that is intended to foster self-realization or intimacy with God, an individual may reach a state of ajapajapam. In ajapajapam, the mantra "repeats itself" in the mind. Similar states have been reached by Christians using the Jesus Prayer, as well as by adherents to other major faith traditions, using prayers from their own traditions.
Popular Japa mantras
- Hare Krishna
- Aum Namah Sivaya
- Om Mani Padme Hum
- Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
- Om Namo Narayanaya
- Om Sri Ram Jay Ram Jay Jay Ram
- Om Tare Tuttare Ture Swaha
- Eknath Easwaran (1977/2008). Mantram handbook (5th ed.). Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press. ISBN 1586380281
- Shankar Gopal Tulpule (1991). The Divine name in the Indian tradition. New Delhi, India: Indus Publishing Company / Indian Institute of Advanced Study. ISBN 8185182507
- Hanumanprasad Poddar (1975). The divine name and its practice (13th ed.). Gorakhpur, India: Gita Press. ASIN: B0007ALM2S
- ↑ V. S. Apte. A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary. p. 447.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Eknath Easwaran (1977/2008). Mantram handbook (5th ed.). Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press. ISBN 1586380281
- ↑ Doug Oman & Joseph D. Driskill (2003). Holy name repetition as a spiritual exercise and therapeutic technique. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, v22 n1, pp5-19.
- ↑ Per-Olof Sjögren (1966/1996). The Jesus prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me] (3rd ed.) London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. ISBN 0281049572
- ↑ For example, when used for magical or occult purposes.
- ↑ Anonymous (1884/1991). The way of a pilgrim. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
- Ajapa japam
- Hail Mary
- Japa mala
- Jesus Prayer
- Maha Mantra
- Pranava yoga
- Svayam bhagavan
- 'Hare Krishna' Japa Meditation
- Japa Group - Daily discussion on all aspects of chanting Hare Krsna
- Japa Room - A friendly and constructive way to improve your Japa online in an audio/visual chatroom environment
- Japa Yoga by Swami Sivanandapt:Japa