Japa

A Bhutanese Buddhist woman doing Japa, with prayer beads.

Japa (Sanskrit: जप) is the meditative repetition of a mantra or a divine name. It is a practice found in Hinduism,[1] Jainism,[2] Sikhism,[3][4] Buddhism,[5] and Shintōism.

The mantra or name may be spoken softly, enough for the practitioner to hear it, or it may be spoken within the reciter's mind. Japa may be performed while sitting in a meditation posture, while performing other activities, or as part of formal worship in group settings.

Etymology

The Sanskrit word japa is derived from the root jap-, meaning "to utter in a low voice, repeat internally, mutter".[6] It can be further defined as ja to destroy birth, death, and reincarnation and pa meaning to destroy ones sins.[7][8]

Monier-Williams states that the term appears in Vedic literature such as in the Aitereya Brahmana (Rigveda) and the Shatapatha Brahmana (Yajurveda).[9] The term means muttering, whispering or murmuring passages from the scripture, or charms, or names of deity.[9] Often it is the repetitive singing of a verse or mantra, sometimes counted with the help of a rosary which is called Japa-mala.[9] A related word, Japana appears in Book 12 of the Mahabharata, where muttering prayers is described as a form of religious offering.[9]

The concept of Japa is also found in early Buddhist texts, and is very common in Tibetan Buddhism literature.[10]

According to Sage Patanjali (400 CE), Japa is not the repetition of word or phase but rather contemplation on the meaning of the mantra,[11] this definition sometimes persists across different sources.[12][13]