The techniques of Japa meditation are an informal form of repetitive prayer. Chanting or repeating words or phrases is common throughout the world, and Japa is the general name for this type of praying or spiritual connection.
Understanding Techniques of Japa Meditation
The word japa, in its original form, means "in a quiet voice." People who use this form of meditation tend to either repeat their sayings in a very small voice, so that it is barely heard, or they repeat the word or phrase silently, often with eyes closed.
The words or phrases uttered depend on the individual. It could be something as simple as "om" or a longer prayer.
The most common reason people chant meditations is to gain a spiritual high point. In both Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as in Transcendental Meditation, the spiritual advisor of the practitioner may assign a meditation to reach a certain personal goal.
The use of repetition in religious services is a way of getting connected to one's own spiritual existence. It is a common practice in Buddhist meditations when an individual is seeking a sense of calm, or as a way to connect with a higher spiritual being, such as in Christianity.
Catholic prayer rituals frequently incorporate repetition. During services, Catholics repeat various prayers to indicate praise, the desire for forgiveness, and hold conversations with God. In a similar fashion, Hindus repeat one word or phrase continuously during meditation to offer thanks or to ask something of various deities.
Counting is very important in many meditation rituals. Catholics use a rosary to count the number of prayers, and penance often results in a set number of prayers to be recited. In a similar fashion, people who use Japa meditation often count the number of times they repeat their meditation. The Japa Mala is a necklace of beads that people, primarily Hindus, use to count the number of times they have said a prayer or chant. The beads look like necklaces, and many people wear them as such. They allow the wearer to use fingers to go around the necklace throughout the day repeating a meditation.
Krishna.com demonstrates how to do a counting meditation with the phrase "hare krishna."
The number 108 is significant for followers of the Hindu sects Vaishnava and Shaivite. Someone using the techniques of Japa meditation makes it a goal to repeat the meditation 108 times. The idea is that this number is the optimal point at which the chanter reaches spiritual balance.
Meditation for Daily Harmony
Many people use meditation as a way to achieve harmony and banish stress. The most popular meditation, "om," is associated primarily with yoga in the West. The yogi may start by sitting in Lotus Pose. The hands in this posture typically come up in Anjali Mudra, and the meditating yogi repeats the mantra until he or she feels comfortable and de-stressed. Others who want daily harmony will use similar devices throughout the day. They may close their eyes and try to focus or center themselves by repeating a saying out loud quietly or as internal dialogue.
Focus, Focus, Focus
Medical science has research to confirm the power of meditation. The idea behind why repetitive phrasing and chanting has a powerful physical effect is that people's lives are so full of thoughts.
"The children must get to practice."
"Church asked for a pie."
"I have a doctor's appointment."
These types of everyday activities fill our lives and minds. Yogis who use meditation know that focusing the mind on the repetition at hand keeps one from concentrating on the outside world and its demands. The result is better breathing, which leads to relaxation, and an ability to clear the mind. A cleared mind makes better decisions, and the yogi can gain great perspective from allowing all of the daily clutter to leave your head.
There is no secret to beginning Japa. Simply choose a phrase and beginning chanting it. Try it out once daily or whenever stressed. While counting is great, it is not necessary when you are a beginner. Do what makes you comfortable.
Try the following resources to help you get started:
- Getting in the Gap: Making Conscious Contact with God Through Meditation by Dr. Wayne Dyer.
- A Woman's Book of Meditation by Hala Kaur Khalsa.
- The website Big Shakti offers a variety of helpful books and CDs.