Himalayan Yoga Academy

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What is Japa ?

21 Feb 2022 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy

japa and mantra

Introduction of Japa :

The traditions of yoga, Vedanta and Tantra consider japa to be the most effective way of invoking concentration of mind. The purifying power of japa cannot be overemphasized. Japa can be practiced either as part of mystic worship or as an independent spiritual discipline. The Bhagwat Gita extols japa as the highest form of mystic worship.’ In the sacred texts of Tantra, japa is accorded an equal place to meditation. Vedanta prescribes different modes of worship for different seekers: first is worship of the Divine through symbols and images; higher than this is japa; higher than japa is meditation; and the highest is the realization “I am He.” Maintaining an unawavering awareness ( in thought , word, and action) that everything is Brahman, or God, is the highest form of worship. Those who are not able to dwell on that height are advised to meditate on Brahman or on some form of personal God. Those who find meditation difficult are advised to practice japa, and worship through symbols and rituals is suggested for those who are not able to concentrate on japa.

The second word, phrase, or mystic syllable used in japa is known by the Sanskrit word mantra. This word literally means “that which, when repeated with reflection upon its meaning, gives liberation and saves the seeker.” The mantra is the sound equivalent of the Divine; the external image or symbol is the material for of the mantra. The sound vibration is the very first manifestation of the divine and nearest to it.

Tantra regards vibration and illumination as two parallel manifestations of the same cosmic energy, and teaches that both lead to realization of the Divine. It is the sound-vibration created by utterance of the mantra that enables the seeker to attain to the blessed state of God- realization. The mantra and the deity, the name and the named are one and the same . According to Tantra  the mantras are not mere words coined and popularized by some persons, and not every word can be a mantra: Mantras are mystic words of concentrated thought endowed with great spiritual potency that were revealed to seers and saints in their hour of illumination. Often these mantras were seen in flashes of light or heard reverberating in space.

To the novice, the vibration created by the utterance of a mantra is merely a physical sound and the mantra itself nothing but a word. But to the adept, the mantra itself is the besttower of illumination. Illumination remains hidden in the mantra like an oak tree in an acorn. To the unilluminated, a mantra and its japa may appear as meaningless jargon, just as to the uninformed, the formulas, equations, and notations used by the physicist , mathematicians , or chemist may seem insignificant. The formula E=mc^2 would make no more sense to the ignorant than would a mantra such as Om or Hring to the uninitiated.

Mantras & Japa :

Tantra claims that mantras have power, that the deities invoked are responsive, and that illumination is real. A mantra that has its root in Sanskrit cannot be translated into any other languages, for this  would cause it to lose its power. Different mantras represent different aspects of the same Supreme Godhead. Some are indicators of the transcendental aspect of the Godhead and some of its personal aspects. Each mantra is thus a seed word or a code of a specific aspect of the Divine. As the personality of an individual us the expanded version of a particular genetic code, so in the same way , the spiritual realization that results from the repetition of a particular mantra is the manifested version of that mantra.

The mantra used  by the seeker in the practice of japa is generally imparted by the spiritual teacher after it has been charged with spiritual power. The saving power of the mantra is not in the word itself but in the spiritual power. The saving power of the mantra is not in the word itself but in the spiritual power transmitted to it. This transmission of a spiritual power is known as mantra-chaitanya. It makes the mantra a potent force, alive with spiritual consciousness. The mode of mantra initiation varies depending upon the spiritual heredity and competence of the teacher, and also upon the fitness of the seeker. Mantra inititiation id often given with the use of elaborate ceremonies and rituals. But these formalities become secondary where the teacher is competent and the mantra is an awkward one. When such a mantra is repeated by a seeker with faith and fervor, it releases a purifying power that is tangible and transforming. About mantra and mantra-chaitanya, Swami Vivekananda says:

The Mantra –shastris ( upholders of the mantra theory) believe that some words have been handed down through a succession of teachers and disciples, and the mere utterance of them will lead to some form of realization. There are two different meanings of the word Mantra- chaitanya. According to some, if you practice the repetition of a certain mantra, you will see the Ishta –Devta who is the object or deity of that mantra. But according to others, the word  means that if you practice the repetition of a certain mantra received from a Guru not competent, you will have to perform certain ceremonials by which that mantra will become chetana or living, and then its repetition will be successful. Different mantras, when they are thus “living,” show different signs, but the general sign is that one will be able to repeat it for a long time without feeling any strain and that his mind will very soon be concentrated.

During our 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training and 500 Hour Yoga Teacher Training in Himalayan Yoga Academy, you will learn how to chant mantras and hence also will learn how to perform Japa. Japa will be taught by the professional yoga teacher trainers in Himalayan Yoga Academy. During your yoga teacher training course, you will successfully learn different methods of Japa (Chanting).

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