Japa is a form of meditation wherein words are repeated. It can entail a repetition of a single word, such as “om,” or it can be an entire sequence of words or a prayer. Japa can be tantric, written, or silent. Its practice is thought to clear the mind and help people set aside their worldly worries. Although it can be practiced with any religion or in any country, its practice is most popular in India. As a result, many times the mantras are in Sanskrit.
The words or mantras that are chanted or written typically bring calmness, quiet, and inspiration to the practitioner. Most practitioners engage in Japa by sitting with the legs crossed on a mat on the floor. The chant, whether spoken, written or silent, must be done with focus and dedication. If done properly, it should relieve stress and create a calm environment in the practitioner’s mind.
If the tantric form of Japa is used, the word or words are repeated for a specific number of times. It is considered the easiest of this form of meditation and is often recommended for beginners. The mere creation of outward noise in this form of Japa tends to shut out any other sounds, allowing the person to focusing on her prayer or mantra. The practitioner can vary her chants from loud to a whisper as well. In addition, it is often performed in front of a fire.
When a person uses written Japa, the mantra, the name of the God to whom the practitioner is offering her chants, and even a drawing of that God may be written on paper, bark, or other parchment. Those who practice written Japa believe that it allows the practitioner to focus on the deity and the mantra by looking at the words, but not saying them. As a result, the words that are written down on paper receive the practitioner’s full attention. In some cases, the person will participate in repetitive mantras as well. In those cases, the words are written down hundreds or thousands of times in a row.
Some people perform silent Japa. This is done in the practitioner’s mind, without any audible noise. Generally, the person may start with loud tantric noises and then decrease her noise level until she is finally saying the words in complete silence. This is believed to be among the hardest forms of meditation since complete focus on the words within the practitioner’s head is essential. Some people believe it is the most spiritual of the meditative practices, however.