Seven years ago, in Montreal, I was introduced to mantra meditation in a most unexpected way. A friend took me to a festival called Ratha Yatra, where I noticed a boy chanting the Hare Krishna mantra on the stage. As soon as that sound vibration reached me, I experienced a deep sense of peace and entered a meditative state without any conscious effort on my part. I had never felt such satisfaction, happiness and, perhaps above all, harmony with life; the confidence that I was worth and enough, as well as everyone else, and that we are meant to experience true wholeness.
A few days later, the discovery that I could replicate that experience on my own, anytime, was truly life-changing. All I needed was a set of meditation beads to engage in japa, a form of mantra meditation where the practitioner softly repeats a mantra while focusing on its sound.
Japa, translated from Sanskrit as “muttering”, refers to the practice of repeating sacred mantras found in different traditions. It is usually done using with a mala, or “garland”, a series of beads strung together in what looks like a necklace. An extra bead, bigger than the others, serves as a reference point for counting the number of mantras chanted.
In any practice, it is helpful to use tools for keeping track of our development. For mantra meditation, it is recommended to chant a consistent number of mantras daily, so we can better measure our progress and the quality of our experience. A japa mala allows us to focus on the sound and not on the number of mantra repetitions.
But it is actually more than a counting device: It engages our sense of touch, promoting focus, and constitutes a sacred item in itself that supports mantra meditation. Often made from a sacred material such as Tulasi or sandalwood, they traditionally have 108 beads, considered a significant and universal number: Hindus, for instance, have 108 Upanishads as part of their sacred scriptures, the Vedas. This reference to the number 108 emphasizes the divinity within creation and reminds us of the spiritual nature of meditation.
In a world increasingly aware of the powers and benefits of mantra meditation, it is never too much to be reminded of the spiritual goal of meditation. The Hare Krishna maha-mantra, in particular, is a request for awareness of our true, spiritual self, and to be reinstated in that consciousness as divine sparks of the Supreme.
For a demonstration on how to meditate using a japa mala, watch our video.
I sincerely wish you the best in your japa and look forward to hearing about your experience on our facebook group!
Click on the following link to watch the video: