The Hare Krishna devotees follow a method of meditation called japa meditation where the practitioner chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare on beads.
The japa mala consists of 108 beads strung together, with one larger bead, known as Krishna bead, in the centre. The beads are either carved from Neem or Tulasi wood. Anyone can engage in this meditation using Neem beeds but Tulasi beads are reserved for those who are also following the other processes of bhakti. The beads should be kept very respectfully that is why the Hare Krishna devotees keep their beads in specially made bead bags.
The best time for japa meditation is early morning before the sun rises. This time, brahma-muhurta is tranquil and conducive for spiritual practices. Preferably one should sit upright to chant, but he may also walk. Chanting near a Tulasi plant increases the spiritual potency of the meditation. One may also chant with a recording of Srila Prabhupada chanting japa, playing softly alongside. You may listen to and download a file of Srila Prabhupada chanting one round of japa here.
Lord Krishna demands full surrender from His devotee but Lord Chaitanya is so merciful that he does not see anyone’s faults or limitations. Before chanting each round of japa take shelter of Lord Chaitanya by chanting the pancha-tattva mantra and pray that that the Lord forgives any offences committed while chanting.
The panca-tattva-mantra: jaya sri krishna chaitanya, prabhu nityananda, sri advaita, gadadhara, shrivasadi gaura bhakta vrinda
Start chanting on the first bead after the Krishna bead. Holding the bead between the middle finger and thumb of your right hand, chant each mantra on each bead. Chant softly but audibly and distinctly. The essence of japa meditation is concentration on the sound vibration. When you have chanted 108 mantras you will reach the Krishna bead. You have chanted one round! Do not cross the Krishna bead but after chanting the pancha-tattva-mantra, reverse the beads and chant in the opposite direction to which you started.
In the beginning it may take 10 minutes or more to complete one round but as you gain practice the speed will increase. But don’t forget to pay attention to correct pronunciation and concentration.
You may chant as many rounds as you feel like. Initiated devotees chant a minimum of 16 rounds daily. But what is important is that your chant the same number of rounds every day, and try to increase that number.
The mood of the practitioner is very important. One should chant in a prayerful mood, and with all humility beg the holy names to cleanse one’s heart so that one’s spiritual realizations can increase and the full potency of japa meditation can be experienced.
A serious practitioner must also avoid the ten offenses against the holy name.
Japa beads and bead bags are available at our temple gift shops.