Japa

srila-prabhupada-chanting-japa

This is such a beautiful picture of Srila Prabhupada with his japa bag, that we thought we would do a short post on ‘japa’.

When a mantra or hymn is chanted softly and slowly, that is called japa. The same mantra, when chanted loudly, is called kīrtana. For example, the mahā-mantra (Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare) when uttered very softly only for one’s own hearing is called japa. The same mantra, when chanted loudly for being heard by all others, is called kīrtana. The mahā-mantra can be used for japa and kīrtana also. When japa is practiced it is for the personal benefit of the chanter, but when kīrtana is performed it is for the benefit of all others who may hear.

In the Padma Purāṇa there is a statement: “For any person who is chanting the holy name either softly or loudly, the paths to liberation and even heavenly happiness are at once open.” (Nectar of Devotion Chapter 9)

Of all the sacrifices, the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare is the purest representation of Kṛṣṇa. (from purport; Bhagavad-gita 10.25)

In the Nāradīya Purāṇa it is directed: “One should not accept more than necessary if he is serious about discharging devotional service.” The purport is that one should not neglect following the principles of devotional service, nor should one accept the rulings of devotional service which are more than what he can easily perform. For example, it may be said that one should chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra at least 100,000 times daily on his beads. But if this is not possible, then one must minimize his chanting according to his own capacity. Generally, we recommend our disciples to chant at least 16 rounds on their japa beads daily, and this should be completed. But if one is not even able to chant 16 rounds, then he must make it up the next day. He must be sure to keep his vow. If he does not strictly follow this out, then he is sure to be negligent. That is offensive in the service of the Lord. If we encourage offenses, we shall not be able to make progress in devotional service. It is better if one fixes up a regulative principle according to his own ability and then follows that vow without fail. That will make him advanced in spiritual life. (Nectar of Devotion Chapter 7)

and this from the Bhagavad-gita As It Is

maharṣīṇāṁ bhṛgur ahaṁ
girām asmy ekam akṣaram
yajñānāṁ japa-yajño ‘smi
sthāvarāṇāṁ himālayaḥ

maharṣīṇām—among the great sages; bhṛguḥ—Bhṛgu; aham—I am; girām—of vibrations; asmi—I am; ekam akṣaram-praṇava; yajñānām—of sacrifices; japa-yajñaḥ—chanting; asmi—I am; sthāvarāṇām—of immovable things; himālayaḥ—the Himalayan mountains.

TRANSLATION

Of the great sages I am Bhṛgu; of vibrations I am the transcendental om. Of sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy names [japa], and of immovable things I am the Himalayas.

PURPORT

Brahmā, the first living creature within the universe, created several sons for the propagation of various kinds of species. The most powerful of his sons is Bhṛgu, who is also the greatest sage. Of all the transcendental vibrations, the “om” (omkara) represents the Supreme. Of all the sacrifices, the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare is the purest representation of Kṛṣṇa. Sometimes animal sacrifices are recommended, but in the sacrifice of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, there is no question of violence. It is the simplest and the purest. Whatever is sublime in the worlds is a representation of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore the Himalayas, the greatest mountains in the world, also represent Him. The mountain named Meru was mentioned in a previous verse, but Meru is sometimes movable, whereas the Himalayas are never movable. Thus the Himalayas are greater than Meru.

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