Modes Of Practice

Three Categories

In Music and Mantras, expert Girish teaches that there are three broad categories of chanting. While the same mantra can be chanted using the different modes, each “brings out a different nuance of the mantra‘s energies.”

Group Chanting

  • Includes kirtan which has a “celebratory and community-oriented” focus
  • Includes other styles of group chanting where the voices are in unison but in a more “slow, meditative style”

Japa Mantra

  • The Sanskrit word “japa” means “repetitive prayer” (Russill Paul) or “to repeat or to chant in a low voice or a whisper.” (Girish)
  • Often a mala is used to count repetitions.
  • Girish also describes Likhita Japa Practice which adds the practice of writing out of mantras by hand, either traditionally or on an inspirational image
  • “Ajapa japa,” which tends to grow from a sustained mantra practice, is the “internalpractice of merging the sound of the mantra without breath; essentially, breathing our mantra in and out.” It may happen through intentional practice or without effort.

Text Chants

  • Girish explains that these may be thought of as mantra songs or hymns.
  • They are long, from 6 to 108 verses, with each verse a mantra in itself.
  • Examples include the Hanuman Chalisa and Devi Suktam.

External and Internal Sounding

Mantras may be chanted with external sounding or only internally. They may be chanted loudly,softly, or silently. Russill Paul explains:

While the external sound is most important in Shabda Yoga recitation, Shakti Yoga emphasizes the internal sound. Internal recitation of mantras… is known as maanasa, “a sounding in the mind.” In between loud vocalization and mental repetition, there is soft utterance of whispering, upaamsu.