Linguistic Meaning and Types of Japa


The word japa in the Sanskrit language is defined as – japa vyaktayam vaci and japa manase Ca; meaning: enunciate clearly and also say it mentally. Repeated rhythmic enunciation of a mantra with unperturbed mental concentration is defined as the japa of that mantra. The agni purana explains this as below-

Jakaro janma vicchedaha pakarah papa nasakah !

Tasyajjapa Iti prokto janma papa vinasakah !!

Meaning: ‘Ja’ implies the transition of birth (life) and ‘pa’ means – calling for thee through the inner heart. Thus ‘japa’ is equivalent to be the spiritual endeavor that destroys all sins and the bonds of birth and death.

Swami Ramkrishna Paramhansa explains it more perspicuously as – ” japa means recalling thou name in silence, by some scholars as the procedure for the realization of the almighty and is therefore also defined as – ‘consistent illumination of the deepest inner self’.

The practice of japa can be performed in several ways. The different types of japa suitable for everyone are described below in brief:

1      Nitya japa: The regular practice of japa is as essential for the daily exercise of the subtle body as the processes of bathing and eating etc for the healthy sustenance of the physical body. The Nitya japa is performed as a necessary part of the daily routine. The specific mantra as guided by one’s spiritual master is enunciated everyday for specified number of times, while meditating upon the devata of that mantra. The time slot and the place for performing this daily spiritual exercise should also be regular. The sitting posture during the japa is also supposed to be the same every day as prescribed under the japa – disciplines. Sukhasana with erect spinal cord is supposed to be a universally suited posture for this purpose. In the state of physical illness or during travelling….., etc, these disciplines are relaxed as per the circumstances and the japa is performed mentally during the specific time period every day.

Consistent practice of Nitya japa gradually wanes out the evils existing in the sadhaka and prevents the entry of the new ones. Simultaneously, it strengthens the subtle power of the sadkaha at a steadily increasing pace.

2      Naimittika japa: This type of japa is performed with the noble aim of expressing gratitude towards the ancestors or the relatives and friends or great saints or dedicated social reformers etc – who are no more specific mantras, as quoted for this purpose in the Vedas and the related scriptures, are recited during the period of Pitra Paksa. The type of the mantra and the methods (disciplines) for its japa depends upon the type and the emotional level of the gratitude. The effect of this japa offers peace to the concerned departed sould(s). The Naimittika japa is also performed to offer prayers with a feeling of gratitude to thy power on some auspicious days/time periods like Amavasya, ,Purnima, Ekadasi, Sivaratri, Navaratra etc.

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