Japa Mala - Significance, Benefits and Usage
Japa Mala also known as rosaries has a sacred significance in spiritual practices. The word ‘japa’ denotes the process of repetition of a phrase or a mantra. It is made of 108+1 bead. The 109th bead is called the Guru bead or Sumeru bead. The number 108 represents the reality of universe as being one, nothing and infinite simultaneously. The beads of the mala help to observe count the number of times a mantra is chanted during meditation. According to yoga philosophy, one can elevate their consciousness through the healing power of mantras. Japa mala helps to focus on the words and the sound of the mantra. The material of the beads also represents different Hindu deities whose name is chanted as an offering to the deity. Malas may be made of substances from the nature like Lotus seeds, Turmeric, Tulsi wood, Sandalwood, Rudraksha tree and gemstones like Clear quartz, Rose quartz, Moonstones and Corals which consists of different energies and benefits.
Significance of the number 108 in Japa Malas
108 is a sacred number in spirituality. There is immense significance of this number and is open to interpretation. Mathematically, this number may be conveyed through various ways. But each product can be explained differently. Sanskrit has 54 letters which is broken down into each alphabet with masculine energy and feminine energy which represents Shiva and Shakti. According to Vedic astrology, there are 12 houses or zodiac signs and 9 planets in a horoscope which equals to108, balances our entire system, nature and psyche. Marma therapy is an ayurvedic massage where different points in the body is stimulated to remove blockages and smooth flow of energy. The subtle body consists of 108 marma points. The distance between the earth and the sun is that of 108 times the sun’s diameter. According to yoga philosophy, there are 108 sacred Hindu texts or Upanishads. 108 lines of energy or nadis is said to be connected to the Anahata or heart chakra. These are some of the interpretations as to why the number 108 holds importance in spirituality.
Benefits of Japa Mala
- Repetition of mantra through japa meditation provides energy and divine strength to deal with the six enemies of the mind. These six enemies are also known as Arishadvargas or Shadripus which are anger, lust/desires, greed, attachment, pride and envy.
- Malas may be used to chant names or mantras of masculine deities, feminine deities, or to chant neutral mantras like Om or Gayatri mantra. For example, Rudraksha mala is used to invoke Lord shiva and Kamal Gatta or Lotus seeds mala for Goddess Lakshmi. Similarly, Sphatik mala or Rudraksha mala may be used for Om chanting.
- Meditating on japa mala brings focus and calms the distracted mind.
- Maintaining a stable rhythm in the japa meditation helps to build concentration.
- Japa meditation helps to control blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease.
- It reduces stress and brings clarity in mind while making decisions.
- It enhances mood and positive thoughts.
- It helps the individual to be present in the moment and experience positive emotions during stressful events.
- Mantra meditation helps to build resilience, and increase and balance the flow of life force energy or prana.
Japa Malas for Balancing the Doshas
Japa malas associated with different mantras also help in the balancing of doshas.
- Kapha dosha- Rudraksha mala, Red Sandalwood mala and Vaijyanti mala
How to use a Japa Mala
Japa mala is recommended to be worn around the neck touching the skin and hidden from the public view. One can also carry it in a mala bag. The best time to practice Japa meditation is during Brahmamuhurta (last quarter of the night before sunrise) or sunset. It may also be practiced during holy occasions or in full moon and new moon nights. Cleanliness practices like washing hands, feet, taking a bath, and wearing clean clothes should be performed before sitting for meditation. According to yogic philosophy, it is advised to sit facing north, east, or north east directions for best results.
- Find a comfortable, quiet place with dim lighting.
- Sit in a steady posture like Padmasana or Sukhasana. Lengthen your spine.
- Eyes may be closed or open (soft gaze) during the meditation.
- Breathe in and breathe out using diaphragmatic breathing. Bring the awareness inwards.
- Hold the japa mala in your right hand between the thumb and middle finger and slowly pull each bead with every mantra. One must be careful to not touch the beads with the index finger as it signifies the ego. The Guru bead is recommended not to be counted or touched by the thumb.
- Keep the mind still and focused on the feeling of the thumb touching the bead while chanting.
- The chanting of the mantra should be done very mindfully and not in a hurry.
Japa malas symbolizes dedication and devotion towards the supreme lord. Life is like a mala arranged in a cyclic nature. The circular arrangement denotes the life and death cycle. A single bead represents one life and moving to the next life and so on. Performing mantra japa helps an individual feel light from the spiritual weight of karma that is brought in this life. The six enemies of the mind distract an individual from their true purpose and potential. It is a way to remember the supreme lord. Mantra meditation using japa malas helps to focus on one’s action and highest purpose and deal with the unfinished karma.
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