What Is Japa?

Dee Saale
Dee Saale

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 tantric form of Japa meditation is often recommended for beginners.
The tantric form of Japa meditation is often recommended for beginners.

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.

Although Japa incorporates mantras, it can be practiced silently.
Although Japa incorporates mantras, it can be practiced silently.

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.

A silent Japa practice is said to be a difficult meditative technique.
A silent Japa practice is said to be a difficult meditative technique.
Dee Saale
Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to wiseGEEK.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


When a mantra is repeated in a loud voice, that is called kirtan. So I think that japa is when it is spoken more softly.

Japa is good for when you are praying for yourself individually. But if you are praying for a group or leading a mantra, then you would do kirtan so that everyone will hear the mantra and benefit from it.

But of course, there is no restriction. If you want to do it loudly when you are by yourself that's fine. I think the point of a quiet japa is if you want to pray but do not want to disturb other people.

This is practiced a lot in meditation centers. Some meditations are done as a group. Some are done individually but in the same rooms. Then, you are required to do japa softly and quietly.


I like to use rosary beads when doing japa. It makes it easier for me to concentrate and also gives me something to do. Otherwise, I cannot sit idle, my attention is distracted by something or the other.

I do this before I go to bed most of the time. It's very relaxing, helps me unwind from the day and fall asleep more easily.


Japa may seem as a simple meditation. But I have been told by my yoga teacher that it can be used to reach a higher level of awareness. It may not happen right away. I know it takes a lot of practice and dedication. But it's really an open journey. You can go as far as you would like with it.

Post your comments
Forgot password?