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Japa” means “chanting.” In spiritual context, the japa means “private chanting.” While one may chant nicely and loudly during temple kirtans or outside chanting, per tradition, one must chant the mahamantra privately. Chanting privately will help one develop personal love for Krsna. Not only Gaudiya Vaisnavas accept the notion of japa, but various Hindu groups, Buddhists, and Christians have their own renditions of chanting japa.



In order to do this, a rosary set of one-hundred-nine beats is used. The beads, known as the mala (mālā), consist of one-hundred-eight beads known as the chanting beads. The remaining one bead, the head bead, is known as the Krsna bead.




1)     One would place the loop of beads handing around the middle finger. The thumb will act as the counter. Place the thumb on the first bead adjacent to the Krsna bead.

2)     When beginning japa, one will chant the Panca Tattva mahamantra on the first bead.

3)     The thumb will push (or pull) the bead away from the head bead or the Krsna bead. For the remainder of the beads, until reaching the other end.

4)     Completion of the chanting on every bead, except for the Krsna bead, is known as a round. Complete the first round by chanting the Panca Tattva mahamantra.

5)     To do the next round, one may not cross the Krsna bead. Therefore, one may do the following.

a.      Change the direction. That is, if you were you pulling beads for the first round, then you push beads away for the second round.

b.     Flip the beads in such a way that you do not use your index finger and you continue chanting in the same direction. (i.e. flipping the orientation of the beads will allow one to keep the direction.. keep pulling beads towards, or pushing beads away).




-         As “cleanliness is close to Godliness,” it is important to keep your japa beads clean. To achieve this, japa bead bags are provided. They are unique bead holders, for they have a unique hole, which allows one to stick the index finger out. As the index finger is considered the impure finger, the japa beads are not counted or touched when chanting japa.

-         According to what your spiritual master orders, you must chant that number of rounds on a daily basis. For ISKCON devotees, sixteen rounds are the recommended number.

-         Although one can chant the japa rounds anytime within the day, it is optimal to chant them in the morning around the auspicious time known as Brahma muhurta (around 4:30 AM). If you have a Gaudiya Vaisnava temple nearby, you may attend their morning program, where around 5:30 AM to 7:00 PM, most devotees who are not engaged in any special temple service will chant their rounds. Morning japa is more preferred than night, as one tends to feel sleepy in the night and may fall asleep through chanting their rounds. It is considered offensive to do that.

-         Do not chant while engaged in another activity, such as service, driving, or even listening to someone speak. Japa is personal meditation linking one to Krsna. The goal of chanting japa, in conjunction with other spiritual rules and regulations, is to make our chanting sincere, true, and pure. Therefore, all of our attention must be given to Krsna.

-         If the round was disturbed for any reason, one must return back to the bead next to the Krsna bead and start that round again.

-         Be practical in giving goals for rounds. It is important to gradually increase the rounds to whichever number your spiritual master requested. Therefore, try to maintain however many you can. Do not carry rounds over for the next day.

-         After completion of the rounds, place the beds back into the bead bag and place the bag properly.


UPDATED: April 1, 2009