JAPA meditation: how to use your japamala
JAPA Meditation is a simple and effective technique to introvert the mind and lead it to meditative states. Anyone who takes their first steps in meditation realizes how turbulent and difficult the mind is to control. When we want to be quiet, a whirlwind of thoughts appears. JAPA precisely helps to keep the mind focused, instead of lost in thoughts or else drowsy. With the maintenance of this concentration, meditative states are spontaneously achieved.
JAPA meditation: 3 methods of practicing it
1. Baikhari JAPA – Verbal Repitition
The easiest technique and the recommended one for the beginners.
2. Upanshu JAPA – Whispered Repetition
Where the lips move, but there is no sound.
3. Manasik JAPA – Mental Repetition
Without lip movement, considered the most subtle and powerful means of concentration.
Benefits of JAPA Meditation
Several scientific studies prove that regular japa practice considerably reduces blood pressure, stress levels, heart rate and brain wave frequency. Its regular practice allows the systematic and gradual attainment of the highest states of consciousness, bringing a feeling of deep peace and relaxation. It is an excellent alternative to keep the mind in balance, away from common psychosomatic illnesses such as stress crises, anxiety disorders, depression etc.
What is a Japamala?
The mala or japamala is similar to the Christian rosary used for prayers. It has been used by Hindus and Buddhists for thousands of years as an aid in meditation, helping to maintain concentration during the repetition of mantras (technique known as JAPA).
Japamala can be made of various materials and those traditionally used by yogis are rudraksha, tulsi or sandalwood.
Each suitcase has an extra bead that is called a sumeru (junction or summit) and is located at the junction of the first with the last bead. The sumeru helps the practitioner to maintain concentration during the practice of JAPA, in addition to allowing the counting of the number of mantras.
How to use a Japamala
Among the various ways to hold the Japamala, the traditional way in Yoga is to hold it with your right hand between your middle and thumb fingers. The thumb is used to move the suitcase. The index finger does not touch the suitcase as it usually represents the ego in the yogic tradition.
The practice begins on the first bill of the suitcase, located next to the sumeru (extra main account). With each repeated mantra, the fingers move to the next account, until the last account before the sumeru is reached. The sumeru is never exceeded. In order to do more than one lap, one must traditionally proceed in the opposite direction.
Choosing a Mantra
There are countless mantras that can be used, from simple and universal mantras like Om, Amen, Shalom, So hum, as well as more complex mantras like Gayatri, Tryambakam, Poornamadah, Om Asatoma, Om mani padme hum etc.
When choosing a mantra for your JAPA Meditation, listen to the signals of your body, mind and soul.
For the average practitioner, it is recommended to use simple mantras that are very effective for controlling the mind and breathing.
Where to practice JAPA Meditation
You can practice at any time, many people carry the suitcase on their neck, wrist or in cloth bags to practice wherever they are.
In India and Tibet it’s common to encounter people on the streets in different situations practicing JAPA.
In some sacred places in India a mantra is chanted without pause for years. An example is the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, where since 1943 the Hare Rama mantra has been chanted 24 hours a day in a hall open to everyone.