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Japa Meditation and Mantras | How to Get Started

japa meditation

When it comes to meditation, Japa Meditation is what I turn to again and again.

How many times have I gone to a 12 step meeting and heard—or either said myself in some form—“I’m no good at meditation,” or, “I just can’t seem to sit still,” or, “I just don’t know how to meditate.”

I am writing this to share my experience with the most effective meditation tool I’ve ever found: Japa Meditation.

Chanting mantras is a practice that can be traced back to India and Tibet. Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions make use of countless mantras.

If you seem overwhelmed with the idea of starting a meditation practice but are open to some suggestions, then you’ve come to the right place.

The Hare Krishna Movement Introduced Me to Japa Meditation Mantras

I will give you a bit of background on my spiritual influences throughout my life that have led me to where I’m at today with my beliefs, and more importantly, my practices.

When I was about 15 years old, a good friend introduced me to the book “Be Here Now” by Baba Ram Das.

This book resonated with me stronger than anything I’d ever read or heard from anyone. I was raised Catholic, and nothing ever resonated with me in the church. This book was talking about enlightenment, saints from India, and evolving past egoic identification and thinking.

I also first tried LSD during this time, and that actually was beneficial. Reading this book and experimenting with LSD led me to some profound spiritual experiences and a feeling that I can only describe as direct communion with God.

I was, from that point on, interested in spiritual practices—not beliefs.

I wanted to do what the enlightened sages did. How did they quit their egos and merge completely with the universe? Well among the many practices I would be introduced to, chanting mantras was one of them that really stood out and stuck with me.

A saint by the name of Neem Karoli Baba was said to have constantly repeated the name Ram over and over again during his life. Ram is the name of God in the Indian epic called the Ramayana.

Saying Ram is the equivalent to saying God, and so he repeated this one name constantly; a one-word mantra, if you will. 

So I eventually found a group of people that were chanting the names of God all the time: the Hare Krishnas. Their famous mantra is as follows:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama

Rama Rama Hare Hare

How to Chant Japa Mantras

Here’s how I like to chant Japa mantras.

First, you should get a mala. You can find many malas online. A mala consists of 108 beads strung together. It is similar to a rosary.

In your left hand, you hold a bead with your middle finger and thumb. In your right hand, you move through the beads one by one with your middle finger and thumb every time you recite a mantra.

So, the entire mantra I gave above would be one bead.

Every time you get through all the beads, that is considered one round.

Here is a video of how the Hare Krishnas do it.

This video shows the formal way the Hare Krishnas do it. The man uses a bead bag for the mala, so he doesn’t use two hands. You don’t have to be this formal as you can just do it the way I’ve described in the first paragraph of this section.

There is also another way to experience the power of chanting mantras, and that is called kirtan. Kirtan involves setting the mantras to music.

A leader sings the mantra, and then the congregation sings the mantra in response. It is a constant call-and-response song and dance using a mantra or mantras. If you want to experience some crazy good energy, then I suggest you experience this for yourself. Kirtans can go on for hours, and it is a really beautiful experience.

Here’s a cool video of kirtan.

Chanting Japa Mantras Give You Immediate Results

Touching on what I mentioned at the beginning of this post, maybe you feel you don’t know where to start with a japa meditation practice.

Many people say they have too many thoughts that they can’t stop, and so they give up on their meditation endeavors. Chanting mantras on beads gives you a physical thing to do. It gives your mind and body something to play with.

Mantras calm the mind down, and in doing so, can easily send you into a meditative state.

It doesn’t matter if your mind is racing! If you live in the hustle and bustle of a city, then you are probably going to have an extremely overactive mind. Mantras are there to address this issue!

Your mind can be racing all over the place, but you just continue to chant whatever mantra you choose anyhow. You will still get immense benefits right from the jump.

I invite you to get a mala and just chant an entire round on 108 beads and tell me your experience. I think I can guarantee that you will notice a sort of inner shift immediately.

These are some things that people notice once they take up the practice of chanting mantras daily:

  • A calmer mind with fewer negative thoughts
  • The desire to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet
  • Feelings of gratitude
  • Noticing things in your life you usually take for granted
  • A feeling of being connected to other humans on a deeper empathic level
  • Feelings of being connected with a deeper part of themselves that results in positive changes in career, lovers, acquaintances, and daily activities

Sadhguru says some cool things about mantras here.

Find Mantras or a Mantra that Resonates with You

There are so many mantras out there. Check out some Buddhist mantras like:

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and Om Mani Padme Hum.

These 2 are popular and create a lot of healing energy and positive vibrations. Vibrations affect physical reality, and we are made up of mostly water, which is immensely affected by sound vibrations. This is not some hocus pocus stuff—this is a real, practical approach to starting a meditation practice and transforming your life.

You won’t have to look far to find a mantra that feels like it fits you. You can mix and match them. The practice is flexible and is perfect for busy people with busy minds in a chaotic society.

The saints of the past knew this, and that’s why many of them prescribed this practice for the modern era—they knew it might be the only practice that a person in today’s society could undertake.

You don’t have to become a yogi in a cave on the mountains. A practical spiritual practice that will give you insight and lead into feelings of ecstasy is right here at your fingertips!

Again, I invite you to give this mantra business and Japa meditation a real shot and to let me know what you experience and if it is helpful or not.

Learn more about other types of meditation that can help with addiction and alcoholism here.

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Michael Palma

Michael Palma is a drug addict in recovery who is passionate about recovery and recently has taken to writing about his own experience, strength, and hope and hopes to share this with as many people in recovery as he can. He has been a professional jazz pianist for over 20 years. He has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Cobb (drummer for Miles Davis), Daniel Platzman (drummer for Imagine Dragons), Robert “Sput” Seawright (drummer for Snoop Dogg and Snarky Puppy), Greg Osby, and Terri Lynn Carrington to name a few.