There are various practical aids to progress in japa
meditation that have been tested for thousands of years and are
based on sound psychological and natural principles.
The telling of rosary beads is the form of japa most familiar
to Western experience. A japa mala, similar to rosary, is
often used in Mantra repetition. It helps to foster alertness,
acts as a focus for the physical energy and is and aid to
rhythmic, continuous recitation. It consists of 108 beads.
An additional bead, the meru, is slightly larger than the
others. It is the signal indicating that with one Mantra
recited for each bead, japa has been done 108 times, or one
mala. The fingers should not cross the meru. When it is
reached, the beads are reversed in the hand; one continues
reciting the Mantra, moving the mala in the opposite
direction. The thumb and the third finger roll the beads;
the index finger, which is physically negative, is never used.
The rosary must not be allowed to hang below the navel, and
should be wrapped in a clean cloth when not in use.
An appropriate prayer before beginning induces purity of
feeling. Wit eyes closed and concentration focused either
between the eyebrows on the ajna chakra or on the anahata
chakra of the heart, one should invoke the aid of his chosen
deity and guru. The Mantra must be pronounced distinctly and
without mistakes, for it and the deity itself are one and the
same thing. Repetition must be neither too fast nor too slow,
and thought must be given to its meaning. Speed should be
increased only when the mind begins to wander. Because the mind
will naturally try to drift away after a time, it is necessary
to keep alert throughout the practice.
Variety in japa is necessary to sustain interest, avoid
fatigue and counteract the monotony that can arise from
constant repetition of the same syllables. This can be
provided by modifying the volume. The Mantra can be repeated
aloud for a while, then whispered, and then recited mentally.
The mind needs variety or it becomes tired. However, even
mechanical repetition that is devoid of feeling has a great
purifying effect. Feeling will come later, as the process of
Audible repetition is called vaikhari japa, while that done
by whispering or humming is termed upamsu japa. The Mental
repetition, manasika japa, is the most powerful; it requires
keener concentration, for the mind tends to shut off after
a period of time. The advantage of loud japa, which should
be used with discretion, is that it shuts out all worldly
sound and distractions. One should alternate when necessary,
particularly when drowsiness sets in.
Unaccustomed to this kind of activity, the beginner at
first may find himself giving up too soon, after five or ten
minutes of repeating the Mantra. The syllables in this case
may sound meaningless--mere syllables and nothing more. But
by persevering for at least half and hour without interruption,
he will give the Mantra time to work itself into his
consciousness, and benefits will be felt in a few days.
Meditation on the image of the chosen deity while the
Mantra is being repeated adds tremendously to the efficacy of
japa. Sound and form correspond and reinforce each other.
Sound vibrations alone, if made with care and devotion, are
capable of producing the form in the consciousness of the
aspirant. The process can be greatly facilitated by
visualizing the deity in the heart area or the space between
the eyebrows. With the visualization, there should be
awareness of the various attributes of the deity. Feel that
the Lord is seated within, emanating purity to the heart and
mind, and manifesting his presence by the power of the Mantra.
Thus, in meditating on Siva, the physical energy is focused on
rolling the mala beads. The image of the deity, with the third
eye and the symbolic crescent moon, serpents, trident, drums,
etc. occupies the mind on one level. The Mantra OM Namah Sivaya
is simultaneously being repeated, and on another level is being
embedded in the consciousness. Repetition of Mantra has a
cumulative effect, and with continued practice it gains in power.
It should be evident that japa meditation is far more than a
verbal exercise. It is a state of complete absorption.
Concluding prayer and rest are important. When japa
practice is finished, it is advisable not to plunge
immediately into worldly activity. Sitting quietly for about
ten minutes, one should reflect on the Lord and feel His
presence. As routine duties are commenced, the spiritual
vibrations will remain intact. This current should be
maintained at all times, no matter what one is engaged in.
When doing manual work, give the hands to work but give
the mind to God. Like a woman who continuous knitting while
talking to her friends, one can sustain mental japa. With
practice, the manual work will become automatic. When the
Mantra can be repeated throughout the day, God consciousness
will permeate one�s life.
Mantra writing, likhita japa, is another, supplementary
form of japa. The Mantra should be written with a special
pen and notebook, which have been set-aside for this purpose.
It should be done for half an hour, during which time
complete silence and concentration are observed. While
writing, simultaneously repeat the Mantra mentally so that
the impression made in the consciousness will be intensified.
Likhita japa may be done in any language or script. It
greatly helps the aspirant to concentrate and leads to
meditation. This practice helps to set up a continuous
vibration of divine energy that guides and protects,
regardless of what one is doing.
Advanced meditation should not be attempted without the
guidance of guru. Bija Mantras and certain mystic Mantras,
such as the Sri Vidya, should not be repeated by those who
are not well acquainted with them and with the Sanskrit
language. When improperly repeated, they can actually bring
harm to the psychic system. Those who are not qualified, and
who do not have access to a guru, who has broken the power
of these advanced Mantra, should concentrate on their own
Deity Mantras are used for purascharana, which is
concentrated japa meditation extended over a long period
of time. When performing a purascharana, the aspirant sets
aside a number of hours each day for japa. The Mantra is
repeated 1,00,000 times for each syllable of the Mantra.
The Mantra is repeated with feeling, and in a particular
manner with the right observance, until the fixed number
of Mantras has been recited. Slow repetition of Maha
Mantra may take as long as three years to finish. The
practitioner must observe certain rules and regulations
lay down in the scriptures in regard to purascharana and
must observe perfect dietary discipline in accordance with
Anushathana is the practice of religious austerity for
the sake of obtaining some object or goal, the highest
being spiritual. For the success, the desire should be
spiritual, and it should be kept in view throughout the
practice. The rigor of the austerity, which may be various
kinds, depends on the constitution and health of the
For japa anushathana, a deity Mantra should be selected
in accordance with the desired goal. Although his
personal deity might be Krishna, if one wanted to compose
sublime music, he would repeat the Mantra for Saraswati;
if he wished his spiritual obstacles to be removed, he
would select a Ganesha Mantra. Japa meditation is then
performed for a protracted period, with intense
concentration of mind and no thought of the external
world. This leads to achievement of the desired goal.
There may be other types of japa meditation, but the
broad theory and techniques do not greatly vary.
Approached with faith and devotion, and carried out
with perseverance, japa is the most direct path to God-