Japa is actually a training of the mind. It is focusing one’s wandering mind, making it act in one single beat, concentrating on one train of thought. The Japa Meditation is known to work better than any other forms of meditation. It will teach one to brush aside any distracting thoughts.
A mind trained with Japa can reach the goals of meditation in a very short time. This is possible because in Japa, one is mede to chant a mantra, making one focus and concentrate on a single thought.
So what is a mantra? A mantra is traditionally a specific combination of Sanskrit letters arranged in a fashion to bring a particular result. Each of these letters represents a sound or vibration which is said to affect the mind. Other sources say that the mantra need not be Sanskrit letters. They can just be ordinary sounds or words that you chant or say during your meditation. However the usual mantra sounds used in Japa meditation are those words taken from the Sanskrit letters.
Why use a mantra? Mantra sounds are said to open one’s heart and mind. These are believed to be responsible in freeing your mind from its current thoughts and raising it to another state of awareness.
How to go about doing the Japa meditation: choose a spot for meditation; sit cross-legged on a plain sheet; hold a mala (rosary) with 108 beads; chant your mantra with focus and concentration.
The use of the mala beads or japa mala is quite similar to the use of the rosary. The mala has 108 beads, representing the 108 times the mantra has been chanted. The additional bead which is bigger than the others is called a meru. When the chanting of the mantra has reached 108 times, the fingers are not supposed to cross the meru. Chanting can be done again with the mala reversed in the hand, going through the beads in the opposite direction using the thumb and third finger. The index finger, considered physically negative, is never used. The mala beads should not reach below the navel. When not in use, it should be kept wrapped in a clean cloth.
Japa Meditation needs variety in terms of its mantra. To avoid monotony, one should recite the mantra in different volumes; chant loud one time, whisper the mantra the next, and even mentally recite it a few times. Disinterest will result if mantras are chanted on the same tone and volume the whole time.
While the mala beads and the mantras help the mind to focus, the Japa meditation is a mental activity that will only succeed if a person has total commitment to it.