How to practice Mantra Japa
Mantra without Mala beads is a potent form of practice
Japa is the repetition of a mantra or mystic syllable. Japa is often practiced with a mala or rosary. A mala has 108 beads. One bead is larger that the others, this is called Meru. Meru is the guiding bead that indicates that you have completed one round or 108 beads of a particular mantra.
How to use a japa mala
There are three ways of practicing japa:
- Vaikhari Japa is the loud verbal repetition.
- Upamsu Japa is whispering or humming of the mantra.
- Manasika Japa is mentally remembering your mantra. This is the most potent and powerful way of practicing japa. If this is too difficult, alternate with Upamsu or Vaikhari japa.
Japa the practice of repeating the mantra with a rosary or mala is also called Nama Smarana. Nama means name; smarana means remembering
Thus japa or Nama Smarana is nothing other than remembering the name of the Divine
Tips for Mantra japa
- Do not cross the Meru bead. When you come to the Meru bead, turn back and this last bead becomes the first bead of the next round.
- When using a mala the thumb and the middle finger should be used to roll the beads.
- Keep the mala near your heart.
How to count mantra japa
- Using the mala beads may be a useful practice to start with. Counting mantras with a mala however remains an external practice and the sadhaka becomes dependent on the mala.
- There are other ways of keeping a count of the mantra. You can also use your fingers to keep a count of the mala. However, this method is cumbersome.
- You can roughly time how long you need to do a round of 108 beads. If you are doing the Gayatri mantra and need 10 minutes for a round then you can do 10 minutes of mantra japa whenever you want to do a round of 108 beads. This method of keeping a count of the mantra is more effective because you are not using your fingers that keep you at the body level. This method also prepares you for the next stage of mantra meditation that is called Ajapa Japa.