Repeating a mantra with or without a counting device is known as ‘japa’. It is a practice used by aspirants of all religions- Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Zoroastrians- as a powerful tool to control the mind. In Tantra, japa is used with some additional tools to make its effects more positive, durable, and powerful (i.e., offering the five elements, homa, yantra). The Gayatri mantra is a popular universal mantra used by many different yogic practitioners (see our blog post on Dhyana to learn more about mantra meditation). Through each repetition of the mantra, the practitioner moves from the physical/material to the spiritual/higher self. Silent japa (repeating the mantra inside), known as upanshu japa, is more powerful than japa said aloud. One way to practice silent japa is to perform japa aloud for a period of time so that the ears will hear the mantra and the brain will register it. The practitioner should gradually decrease the volume of sound and begin repeating the mantra inside.
A mala is made of 108 beads that correspond to the 108 life force energy points in the body. There is always an extra bead hanging outside the row of beads, whose total number is usually 108. This 109th bead is called sumeru, or the “guru bead”. When doing japa, the mala should be used in the right hand. The beads should be held by the middle finger and ring finger and should be turned with the help of the thumb (the index finger and little finger should not touch the beads). The sumeru bead should never be passed (starting at the first bead next to the sumeru and ending on the last bead before the sumeru). If continuing japa after one mala is finished, turn the mala and make the last bead (the one which ended the first round of mala) become the first bead for starting the second round of mala.
Besides being a counting device, a mala is a good centering device. Through engaging the fingertips, we engage and embody consciousness. Thus, mala practice creates a habitual state of consciousness. The material that the beads are made of has a positive effect on the body chemistry. The different materials include: tulsi wood, sandalwood, lotus seeds, rudrakshas, coral, pearl, quartz or crystals, shell, and silver. The mala beads in this photo are made from howlite, selenite, and clear quartz. Each of these stones have properties which have healing effects on the energy systems in the body. Howlite is known to help with insomnia, memory, stimulates desire for knowledge, and is a calming stone. Selenite clears blocked energy, promotes peace and calm, and boosts intuition and clarity. Clear quartz absorbs, releases, and regulates energy. This master healer amplifies the effects of other crystals, acts as a cleanser for the soul, and enhances psychic ability. These three stones are associated with the Sahasrara, or crown chakra- the highest chakra and our crown of connection to cosmic consciousness. When one uses a mala, it becomes charged with energy (siddha). By wearing one, the aspirant gets energy from it; it is in fact the same energy one has put into it while doing the japa. Also, the mala conditions the brain, so that each time you see it, it reminds you of your mantra. Naturally, you raise your vibration. If you are interested in mantra meditation, we offer monthly group Gayatri mantra meditations every second Saturday of the month (next class on 1/8/2022 at 4:30 pm). We believe in giving everyone the tools to heal themselves and raise the vibration of the planet. Join us and learn how to step into your heart-centered energy and live from a place of peace.
“Tools For Tantra” by Harish Johari
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