How to Practice Japa

Question

how to increase my concentration while i am chanting,because mere repition of any name of god is not fruitful if we are not concentrated,how to progress in japa?sometimes when we are chanting we are engrossed in other thought,please tell me how to do japa and develop emotions while chanting,only love can make my chanting fruitful,how would i achieve that?

—roby, India

Answer

Dear Roby,

To possess control of the mind is surely one of life’s most difficult tasks for a devotee. Effort, yes, but intensity of devotion is the key, and that doesn’t result only from willpower, but also from grace. However, here are some reflections:

  1. Be realistic in your expectations. Even if for two to four minutes of a chant if your mind can be focused on God and your heart filled with devotion, you will feel uplifted.
  2. As to daily japa (repeating a prayer or mantra silently), also be realistic. Try for 30 seconds; 60 seconds. Repeat three to five times a day. In fact choose the times of the day to stop what you are doing, at least mentally, and practice japa for even just one minute.
  3. Before commencing a chant or japa, stop, relax, take a breath, focus your mind and your heart’s intention before beginning.

In the wonderful medieval book The Pilgrim’s Way, an orthodox Eastern Christian sets out to practice the presence of God by repeating a mantra (presumably in Greek): “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon me.” He describes how he would start with just a few minutes (I think he counted the mantras, since in those days there were no watches. Hence the use of bead-counting.) He builds up his japa slowly and steadily until it never stops! Very inspiring.

My point is to start out with realistic expectations and let the practice guide you rather than work from strain, tension, or willpower alone. Okay? Give this a try.

Blessings to you!
Nayaswami Hriman