Japa is the repetition of a sacred mantra many times. On some paths of meditation, japa plays a most significant role and can help a seeker still the mind, and invoke the divine qualities of the mantra.
I follow Sri Chinmoy’s path of meditation, and japa is not the most prominent aspect. However, I do find that japa has many benefits, in addition to regular silent meditation.
1. Easy to do
In one sense, japa is easy to do. Even if the mind is busy or you feel a little stressed, you can get into a good rhythm with japa and push the irritating thoughts to the back of your mind. However, in another sense to do japa very soulfully – is not so easy. It requires patience and daily discipline. However, even if I don’t feel like meditation, I can take up japa – and it feels like a stepping stone to the next stage – which is a deeper more silent meditation.
2. Push our thoughts out of the way
I wrote an article on ‘How to control your thoughts‘. But, sometimes our thoughts are very difficult to control – like the proverbial dog’s tail that won’t straighten, as soon as we try to control our thoughts they rush back in – uninvited. But, japa is most effective. If we are repeating a mantra – there is no space for anything else to get into the mind.
3. Builds up discipline
For whatever practise of meditation we do, we need to develop discipline, and a regular daily routine. Sometimes I might do japa twice a day. First thing in the morning to help me wake up. Secondly at lunchtime because I’m too hectic to meditate deeply, but I still want to take time out from the hustle and bustle of the day.
4. Improves meditation
In a strict sense, japa is not pure meditation, because there is the simple mental thought and voice involved. But, if you meditate after doing japa, the mind is often much more co-operative. In fact, when I do mantra, I try to feel the mantra is inside my heart. I repeat the mantra in the heart, to try and feel myself in the heart centre. Meditating in the spiritual heart, is a big element of Sri Chinmoy’s path of meditation – and this helps me to get closer to this psychic centre. After the mantra stops, you are more ready to enter into stillness.
5. Fast or slow depending on mood
I think the most effective japa would be to chant a mantra slowly and very soulfully, so it takes you very deep within. Eventually the mantra may fade away outwardly, so it is just something you hear inwardly. If you can chant japa like this, that method is perfect. However, there are times, when we don’t feel particularly soulful or peaceful. At this time, we can speed up mantra to make sure those stray thoughts don’t get in.
All spiritual Teachers say that chanting a mantra with devotion and without expectation of result, will help bring purity into our system. This purity is essential for spiritual progress. Purity enters into us because whilst doing mantra – there is no room for negative thoughts, and we are invoking the divine qualities of purity and peace.
“Japa is bound to bring purity into your system. But each time you do japa, you have to feel the significance of the word you are repeating. Otherwise it will become mechanical and meaningless.”
– Sri Chinmoy 
7. The power of the sacred mantra
If we have faith in the power of sacred mantras, then definitely we will slowly and gradually invoke the qualities of the mantra so that we become part of them.
Some tips on using japa
- Japa is good, but balance is important. When I began meditating I could only do japa for a few minutes. It is important to slowly build up a practise of japa over several years.
- Don’t do japa before you try to sleep, because you will feel wide awake.
- I only like to do japa in private. If you want you can inwardly repeat a mantra whilst out running or sitting on a train, but otherwise, it would feel wrong to draw attention to yourself. Nor, should you start to feel pride because you are doing a high number of repetitions. A subtle sense of pride could severely diminish the benefits of the practise.
- I like the mantra “Supreme” and “AUM” and the Gayatri Mantra. But, if you follow a different spiritual tradition, you may be drawn to your own particular mantra.
- If you lose count, try to honestly feel in your heart, the most likely number and continue from there.
- Introduction to meditation
- Personal experience of japa – at Tejvan’s blog. This is an article I wrote specifically looking at mantra from within Sri Chinmoy’s path.
Photo: Menaka, Sri Chinmoy Centre