What is a Japa Mala
The Sanskrit word 'Japa' means chanting a Mantra repetitively or repetitive recital of Mantra. Japa also means meditation performed with the focus on an object of divinity. The practice of Japa gives mental peace, increases focus, liberates self and helps to achieve goals.
A 'Mala' is a string of beads. The Mala used to practice Japa (repeated chanting of mantras) is called a Japa Mala. It is a spiritual rosary. of The Japa (chanting) is done in a set of 108 at one time, so a Japa Mala is mostly made of 108 Beads or Seeds. The Japa Mala is ultimately a tool to meditate by concentrating and focusing on the repetition of the Mantra, rather than keeping count of the number of chanting. The Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains have different methods of chanting on the Japa Mala.The repetition or japa should be dutifully slow. It should not be thoughtlessly mechanical or the hurried or rapid-fire japa. Japa being ucchahi loud recitation is less effective. Japa being upamshu soft recitation is more effective. Japa being manasikam within the mind is most effective.
Benefits of Japa:
Physical: Energizes the central system (to tone up the system).
Mental: Removes depression/obstacles/mental blocks.
Spiritual: Helps attain self-development/specific areas growth. (It strengthens the inner-personality by projecting positive powers inwards; over-coming/eliminating negative traits).
Why are there 108 Beads in Japa Mala
The number 108 has a very powerful significance in the science and spirituality of India and therefore the 108 Beads Japa Mala is used. Mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. In the yogic tradition, we find 108 sacred texts of the Upanishads. In the Bhakti yoga tradition stories are told of 108 gopis dancing with Shri Krishna in Vrindavan, and there are 108 names of the Divine Goddess.
The Japa Mala has one main Bead in the centre, which is actually the 109th. Bead or Seed, that indicates the start and the end point of the Japa Mala, this is called the Sumeru/ Guru, Bindu, Stupa bead. Mostly this Bead is larger in size than the other 108 Beads.
Types of Japa Mala
The Sadhana (spiritual practice) of doing Japa has different types of Japa Malas to attain or achieve different goals. Japa Malas are made from different Beads, Seeds, Herbs and Gemstone. The most common and best ones are Rudraksha (a seed), Tulsi (made from dried Tulsi plant barks), and Sandalwood (made from Sandalwood tree bark). Each of the beads have their own unique power, like, the Rudraksha beads denote Lord Shiva and practicing Japa on a Rudraksha bead Japa Mala helps to heal illnesses, enhances spiritual growth, makes one fearless, among many other benefits. The Tulsi Japa Mala is used mainly for the chanting of Mantras of Lord Vishnu, Lord Ram, Shri Krishna. There are other types of Japa Malas too, like, Rosewood Mala for Ganesha, Quartz (Sphatik) beads, Coral bead etc.
The Japa Mala gains in power with continued daily Japa on it. A minimum of 40 days continuous Japa on a Mala energises it with the power of the mantra and thereafter when it is worn or placed on a person, has its healing effect on mind, body and soul.
There are three main types of Mantras, Bija (seed) Mantra, Saguna (with form) Mantra, and Nirguna (without form) Mantra. The Bija mantras are usually one syllable like "Om" and “Ram.” These can be used individually, but are most often incorporated into Saguna Mantras to empower them with their special “seed” energy. The Saguna mantras invoke the forms of the individual deities like “Om Namah Shivaya”. The Nirguna mantras originate from the Vedic texts and are thus the oldest type of mantras, like, “Aham Brahma Asmi,” "Sat, Chit, Ananda" etc.
Although the single purpose of using a Mala is to focus one’s mind on the sound vibrations of the mantra being chanted during japas, there are different malas made of different materials. Each of them has distinct features and healing energies. There are basically five types of malas namely Rudraksha, Gemstone, Parad (Mercury), Herbs and Yantra.
It is made of Rudraksha beads having different mukhas (faces) such as One Mukhi (One faced), Two Mukhi (Two faced), Three Mukhi (Three faced) etc. These beads possess natural healing powers that act on your mind and body. These beads when used correctly can align your mind and the energy around you to specific outcomes in health, happiness, spiritual upliftment, prosperity, creativity, intuitive ability, desire fulfillment, harmony, attraction and self-empowerment.
There are different Mukhi Malas with different properties. 5 Mukhi Rudraksha Japa Mala is extensively used for wearing and chanting mantras. It removes malefic effects of planet Jupiter and enhances one's intellect and self-awareness. 7 Mukhi Rudraksha Japa Mala is best for chanting Lakshmi mantras for 7 Mukhi bead is ruled by Goddess of fortune Lakshmi, removing miseries, bad luck and misfortune. 9 Mukhi Rudraksha Japa is best for chanting Durga mantras for it is ruled by Goddess Durga blesses energy, powers, dynamism and fearlessness.
There are two types of Rudraksha Malas; one made of Nepali beads and the other of Java beads (Indonesian). The only difference is their size. Nepal beads are characterized by their large surface and clear lines where Java beads have smaller size but offer ease of wearing. Nepali Rudraksha beads owing to their bigger size have more frequencies and the results are experienced a bit earlier. However, in terms of healing, both equally respond to your use in the long run. A Rudraksha mala can be worn or used for chanting (japa meditation).
Gemstone Japa Malas
It is made of natural gemstones. Each gemstone (precious or semi) has its own distinct vibrant energy and healing property. Plato believed in the correspondence of gems with the planets of our solar system. These stones reduce the malefic effects of the planets on our lives with healing properties that can benefit us when used in the right way. A Gemstone mala can be worn or used for chanting (japa meditation).
Popular Gemstones Japa Malas include Black Jade Mala, Blue Jade Mala, Navratna Mala, Pearl Mala, Agate Mala, Hessonite Mala and more.
Crystal (sphatik) gemstone can retain the energy of mantra chanting. When you do japas on this mala, crystals harmonize the aura around us and remove the negative energy. As a result, it gives peace of mind and cools down the intense heat in your body. Wearing a crystal mala gets you a sound and undisturbed sleep. Sphatik mala is best for Japa of Goddess Laxmi.
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Lotus Seed Mala
A Lotus Mala is used for chanting the mantras of Goddess Lakshmi. Devotees often wear this mala around their neck. This mala is made from lotus seeds, the lotus being a symbol of growth, as it blooms beautifully even in the most unlikely, difficult environments, and is a metaphor for our own growth.
This mala is made of fragrant sandal bead made from sandalwood one of the most precious and ancient herbs in India. Doing japa on this mala brings a higher level of concentration and consciousness. Sandalwood Mala produces a cooling effect on the mind and body, and balances Pitta.
Putra Jeeva Mala
A Putra Jeeva Mala is made using with the seeds of the Putrajeeva tree. This pure mala is also known as Putra Prapti Mala. In the Vedic literatures such as Ayurveda, the Putrajeeva tree is known to possess medicinal, Sattvic properties related to conceiving a child. Doing Mantra Japa of Jupiter, Sun or Santan Gopal using a Putra Jeeva Mala is believed to help one conceive a child.
A Tulasi mala is regarded as the highly auspicious, scared item for chanting the holy names of Lord Vishnu, Lord Rama and Krishna. All the avatars of Lord Vishnu can be remembered chanting on this mala. A Tulasi bead is very useful in the purification of the body. It also maintains ritual purity, wards off evil, gives peace of mind and reduces stress.
This mala is used for attraction and Meditation. In the ancient scriptures it is mentioned that Vaijanti seeds comes from the heavenly forests the gods and their damsels enjoy each other’s companies. Vaijayanti Mala dear to Lord Krishna and doing japa on this mala invokes the grace of the Lord.
Rudra Centre has a large collection spiritual malas made for japa meditation. Anyone irrespective of their caste, religion, color or ethnicity can use these malas. Doing japa on these spiritual malas purify the mind, body, heart and soul. Check our collection of these beautiful malas.
How to Use Japa Mala
As per the Hindu tradition the Japa Mala is always held in the right hand as the left hand is considered to be not so pure. The thumb and the middle finger are used to count, by touching each of the beads or seeds when chanting. Start from the first adjacent bead to the Guru/Sumeru (central bead). After finishing one recitation of mantra, move to the next bead by gently pulling the bead towards yourself. The index finger should not be used for counting, as it represents the ego self, neither should it touch the beads, so keep the index finger extended away from the hand. The Guru / Sumeru bead is not to be counted in the Japa or touched by the thumb.
Do practice on the Japa Mala by choosing a particular mantra which resonates with you and then continue to chant daily choosing a specific Japa Mala. If there is a mantra you have received from a spiritual teacher or Guru, then chant that mantra on the Japa Mala as per advice of the Guru.
What do you Pray or Chant using Japa Mala?
Meditation can be fairly a complicated practice because the mind is like a mischievous child, by its nature, the mind tends to stroll off during the meditation perform. If ones power is low at the time of meditation, falling asleep can be consequence. If the power force is too high, desire and interruption become the barriers. At such period, the mala provides the much needed anchor.
Japa Mala is mainly used for mantra chanting or meditation. Japa Mala Mantras become effective with the use of a mala. With the mala, one can count mantras with one bead as the peak bead called sumeru. Japa on a mala keeps your mind focused on the sound of the mantra. Mantra Jaap means repeating the mantra 108 times that completes one cycle. Repeating the mantra helps you realize and tap the potency of mantras.
Japa Mala Meditation Process
- To practice Japa it is ideal to sit on the ground or floor with your legs crossed in a comfortable manner, on a small rug or cushion. Japa Mala practice can also be done standing or sitting on a chair. If sitting on a chair, ensure that both feet are placed flat on the floor/ground. You can also do the Japa practice on River banks, Mountains, hills, in the garden etc.
- It is best to allocate a particular time of the day and a particular place to practice Japa
- Facing the East or the North direction is the best while chanting. Keep the intention or goal of the Japa in your mind.
- It is best to practice Japa in a serene atmosphere without distractions. Switch off your phones, computers. It helps to do Japa in a low lit room. Just be present in that moment with your Japa Mala, the intention of Japa and immerse in the chanting.
- It is advised to keep your eyes closed or half closed while doing the Japa Mala chanting. Brining your focus to the middle of the eyebrow is ideal. This helps to focus completely on the chant.
- Maintain a steady pose. You can sit in Padmasana, Siddhasana or Sukhasana. Resolve to complete a certain minimum number of malas before leaving your seat.
- You can choose to keep the idol or picture of a God or Goddess in front of you.
- If your mind goes for a stroll, bring it back to focus on the Japa. Silence your mind.
- Think of the meaning of the Mantra while repeating it.
- Observe silence and avoid distractions, calls and engagements. It is important not to leave the place at once after the Japa is over and mix with everyone or get into worldly activity. Be in the Divine energy which has been created to keep spiritual vibrations intact.
- When you finish the Japa Mala chanting you can bow down to the Divine with gratitude.
Traditional Rules of Using the Japa Mala
- Keep the Japa Mala beads clean. It is best to keep it in the puja alter or in a cloth bag kept exclusively for the purpose. Special Japa Mala bags are available for this purpose.
- It is advised not to let anyone else touch your Japa Mala as you are the one practicing on it and building the energies by chanting a particular mantra with a particular intention or goal.
- Develop a rhythm/tempo of chanting the mantra. Too fast a chanting will disturb the mind and too slow will make it monotonous and tiresome. The mantra should be chanted with clarity, for the words to have its effect.
- The Japa Mala should not be held below the Navel. Keep it at the level of your heart or Third Eye.
- The mantra can be said aloud or silently, in your mind. If there is any mistake in words that you make while chanting, then it should be repeated.
Which Mala is best for Japa?
Since every mala has its own distinct properties and associations with different deities, one cannot establish a comparison between them. Different malas are used for japas of different gods and goddesses. For instance, Rudraksha Japa Mala is mainly used for chanting Shiva mantras. It can also be for japas of all Gods, Goddesses and the nine planets. Examples include 9 Mukhi (ruled by Durga) can be used for chanting Durga mantras. If any particular mala is not available, except for mantras of killing others (maran) and Yakshni Siddhi, Rudraksha Japa Mala is regarded as the best. Tulsi Japa Mala is used for the japa of Gayatri mantras. It is also used for chanting mantras associated with Lord Vishnu and all of His incarnations such as Rama, Krishna, Narasimha and the like. Red Sandalwood Japa Mala is used for chanting the healing and powerful Goddess Gayatri Mantra and Surya (Sun God) Mantras.
For japa, Rudraksha and Gemstones malas are used. Of them, a Five Mukhi Rudraksha mala can universally be used for any japa. It can be used for chanting Shiva mantras, Vishnu mantras or any other deity mantra.