What are the factors for Japa (mantra repetition) to be successful?
The first is your connection with your Devata (god) - how intense is this connection and how much faith you have. The Devata can be your Ishta Devata (favourite deity who you pray on all occasions) or a 'functional' god who you pray to based on your situational goal (Example, you may pray to Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity today, and to Shiva for long life tomorrow). The mantra you chant can be related to your favourite deity or the functional deity - please remember that these two are equally beneficial and one method is not superior to the other. You may even have multiple deities in your favourite list. Second factor is your clarity on your goal.
What is it that you want to accomplish with Japa?
It could be relief from a challenging situation or achieving a goal or even attaining knowledge. The third factor is the method of chanting: one may chant loudly, softly or silently (mental). Each of these methods serve different purposes and hence it is important to know the difference. Please note that chanting mentally is usually followed when one is focused on developing a sharp mind ready to receive divine knowledge. The fourth and probably a very important factor is observance of values and ethics in ones life. The fifth one is a pursuit to know more and learn from scriptures. Continued learning deepens one's faith and brings clarity to the mind.
The other set of criteria is more of procedural guidelines and is a sequence of steps to be followed:
1. Prepare yourself: The preparatory step is to get the body relaxed and present. The mind needs to settle and be calm. Breathing exercises performed in a suitable seating position is meant for this.
2. Declare the goal: This step is meant to attribute the chanting towards a specific goal. The clearer the goal, the better it is.
3. Chanting: With a focused mind, one starts to chant the mantra. It is normal that the mind gets distracted. The practitioner recognises this and joyfully brings the mind back to focus whenever this happens.
4. Seeking forgiveness and voluntary submission: This last step is to acknowledge any shortcomings that might have crept in the practice and to recognise that every action is an act of voluntary submission to a higher purpose, done in humility and devotion.
Chanting is a daily practice that develops strength within and without. It is one of the very important practices recommended by scriptures as described in Bhagavad Gita. As this is a practical exercise, please do contact us in case you want to learn more.