Japa is a Sanskrit word that means “to utter in a low voice, repeat internally”.
The Japa can be done with affirmations, mantras, entire verses taken from sacred texts, or sacred sounds. A Japa meditation is done when you repeatedly chant the mantra while sitting in a meditative position. You have a Japa mala in your right hand and you roll the bead towards you to keep a count of the repetition.
If you have noticed, the essential aspect of Japa meditation comes out to be the words or mantra that you are chanting.
The word mantra technically means “mind tool”. It’s derived from manas means mind and tra mean instrument or tool. Therefore, a mantra is a sacred sound vibration through which you can transcend into deep meditation and make the mind still from all other activities.
It can also be said that a mantra is a musical melody with a spiritual significance.
A mantra can be of one syllable (called Bija mantra), a combination of words, an entire verse, or any positive affirmation. All of these have a special meaning and power when recited or chanted with a pure mind and heart.
Mantras for Japa meditation
In a Japa meditation, you often chant mantras like OM, Om Namah Shivay, the Gayatri Mantra, etc. The mantra you chant in Japa is generally Guru mantra (given by a spiritual teacher) or when chosen own, whichever suits you most.
While you can choose your mantra, we have created a list of commonly used but powerful mantras that you can use to start your Japa meditation.
1. OM Japa
It goes without saying that OM is a complete mantra on its own. Be it a beginner or experienced practitioner, one will come back to this basic yet extremely powerful mantra at one point in time.
It is the sound that contains the vibrations of the entire universe.
Om is said to contain the name of the trinity – Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh/Shiva. It is a representation of the cycle of life – birth, death and reincarnation and also the 3 levels of human experience – sleep, awake and dreaming.
This mantra can establish a connection to the higher consciousness, calm you down, bring positivity and inspire you towards spirituality.
So’Hum translates to “I am that”. Chanting this mantra during your Japa meditation will align your Self with everything that is present. It represents the sense of non-duality of the Self.
The mantra also acknowledges the existence of one God who is present everywhere and is infinite.
If you want to align your breath with a mantra, this is one of the best mantras to recite. On inhale, chant “So” and on exhale chant “hum”. The complete So’Hum should be counted in one bead of Japa mala. It also makes this mantra one of the best choices for beginners.
3. Sat Nam
The Sat Nam mantra is actually a Kundalini yoga kriya practised for kundalini shakti awakening. Sat means truth/honest/right and Nam means name. By chanting Sat Nam you are calling upon the divine and recognizing the truth within yourself.
It will help you flush out negative thoughts, emotions, and feelings of anxiety by nourishing and calming your mind. This mantra can also be used for aligning your breath during Japa meditation. While inhaling chant “Sat” and on exhale chant “nam”.
4. Om Namah Shivay
It is another mantra that is most commonly used by all meditation practitioners alike. Om Namah Shivay invokes Lord Shiva (shivay) to whom you offer your salutations (namah). The mantra also helps you come to realize that the Self and Absolute are the same.
Another meaning of namah shivay can be seen in the five syllables, which represent the five elements the world and our body is made of –
- ‘Na’ means earth
- ‘Ma’ means water
- ‘Si’ means fire
- ‘Va’ means the air
- ‘Ya’ is the sky or ether
Chanting this mantra can get you into a deep state of consciousness and help you in the path of self-realization.
5. Aham Prema
Aham Prema means “I am Divine Love”. Through this mantra, you will be able to calm yourself in stressful situations and align yourself with unconditional love and acceptance for yourself. The divine love that is present in you will manifest itself in feelings of purity, admiration, adoration, appreciation, gratitude, and forgiveness.
It will clear your mind and bring your mind-body-spirit in alignment. You will also feel less distracted and burdened by your past emotions. It will give you a sense of purpose or help you achieve your goal.
In the list of mantras taken from the Hinduism culture, comes a mantra from the Buddhist culture. It is one of the most common mantras chanted by most Buddhism followers. While the literal meaning of the mantra is “Hail the Jewel in the Lotus”, the meaning of each syllable is as follows:
Om – the universal sound.
Mani – ‘Ma’ removes jealousy or aspirations from the physical world. ‘Ni’ removes any passion or desire.
Padme – ‘Pad’ takes away judgment, ignorance and prejudice. ‘Me’ removes the possessive nature.
Hum – free you from hatred.
It is the ultimate mantra for compassion and love, not only for ourselves but for others as well. This mantra can take us closer to the path of enlightenment by removing our desires for worldly pleasures and bringing inner peace.
The Gayatri Mantra is known as the most powerful mantra for humankind. It is one of the most commonly recited mantras in meditation, rituals, celebrations, etc. it is taken from the Rig Veda and expresses gratitude to the Vedic Sun Goddes Savitr.
It can enhance self-control, creativity, intellect, focus, concentration and makes your mind more alert. Gayatri mantra helps in reducing stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression by cleaning your mind of negative energy and thoughts.
The Gayatri Mantra is as follows:
oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tat savitur vareṇyaṃ
bhargo devasya dhīmahi
dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt
Which means –
“Oh, creator of the universe.
We meditate upon thy supreme splendor.
May thy radiant power illuminate our intellects, destroy our ignorance and guide us in the direction of enlightenment by purifying our inner hearts.”
Picking a mantra for Japa Meditation
Before picking a mantra for the Japa meditation, you need to know the different types of mantras that you can choose from.
There are essentially 3 types of mantras:
Bija (seed) – They are one-syllable mantras (like OM, Hreem) that can be used as it is. You can also combine them with the sagun mantras to create more powerful mantras.
Sagun (with form/qualities) – Such mantras are used to call upon a deity such as Om Ram, Om Namah Shivay, Om Ganeshaye Namah, etc.
Nirguna (without form/qualities) – The mantras are derived from the Vedic texts, hence considered to be the oldest type of mantras. They do not invoke any deity and the words are open for interpretation as per your need. Some examples are So Hum, Aham Prem, etc.
If you want to chant a mantra for only its spiritual benefits then choose a bija or nirguna mantra. However, if you want to pray to a specific god of Hinduism or Buddhism, you can chant a Sagun mantra.
But if you only want to focus on mental wellness, relaxation, and personal growth, choose a nirguna mantra. This article gives a list of mantras you can choose from.
Here are a few tips to choose a mantra
- The mantra should be easy to remember and recite.
- Your mantra should match your intention so take sufficient time to think of your goals or purpose you want to achieve.
- Your mood, thoughts, emotions play a major role in the selection of the mantra. The mantra you choose should ultimately reverse the negative emotion or mood you have been feeling.
- Your intuition is the best guide for you. Chant the mantra in your mind and see if you can feel a connection to it. Sometimes even a complex-sounding mantra can be your ultimate salvation.
- After choosing a mantra, try it out for a few days and see if you can feel the positivity, energization, and calm from chanting it.
- If you have resonated with your chosen mantra, stick to it for a period of at least 40 days. It will help the mantra show its effects, you will get time to build consistency and at the end of 40 days, you and your mala will be empowered.
Choosing a mantra shouldn’t be a task that you dread. It should come from within instead of someone forcing a mantra upon you. You will never be able to gain any benefits of the mantra if your heart and mind are not into it and you do not understand the meaning behind the words.
Hence it is important that the Japa meditation mantra should be the one that speaks to you on a personal and spiritual level. We hope that this article will be a starting point in your journey of japa meditation.