Tips for Mastering Long Mantras and Recitation Meditations

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 2.49.54 PMRecitation meditations are wonderful.  Letting the beautiful and poetic words flow from your tongue, and the vibrations subtly shift things in your psyche is a wonderful experience.  But when you’re just starting a recitation practice, staring down a passage in a different language can be daunting.  Your eyes may start crossing, your tongue may tie, and you might start asking yourself why you thought recitation meditation was a good idea to begin with.  Have no fear though, there are ways to make the practice easier, so you can stop worrying and start enjoying the practice sooner.

Find a good recording. Recordings are something I personally cannot do without when it comes to learning the recitations I practice.  Not only can they help you learn the pronunciation and pacing of the words you are reciting, but listening to them throughout the day can help you memorize the words faster.  A wonderful tip I got from Ramdesh Kaur of Spirit Voyage about longer recitations like Japji is to find recordings of the different pauris individually.  That way you can learn smaller portions, and have an easier time doing the entire recitation.  Her “Mantra For...” series is a great resource for that!  There are so many fantastic recordings of different shabads and sacred scriptures available, recorded by beloved artists like Snatam Kaur and Nirinjan Kaur, that you’re sure to find something you like!

Mata Mandir Singh has a wonderful recording of Japji!

Learn the So Purkh with Nirinjan Kaur’s fantastic recitation

Write it down. When I did 40 days of So Purkh, I had a small notebook that I used to write down the shabad 11 times.  Writing down the words is a great way to practice your recitation several ways at once.  You can slowly recite it to yourself as you write, and at the same time your eyes are reading the words and putting them into your memory.  If you are doing a longer practice, such as Japji, writing it out multiple times might not be realistic.  But taking the time to write it out once in a special notebook can still be a helpful way to spend time with the words.

Take Notes. If you have a copy of the text, it can also be helpful to listen to the recording separately from your meditation time, and make notes about the recording.  You can develop your own system for keeping track of tempo changes, pronunciation notes, and the way words connect with one another.  You can also make a note of lines or passages that are especially tricky, and then practice them separately.  Out of respect for sacred texts, I’d recommend doing this only if you have a hand-written copy, or have a copy printed out from the internet.

Practice! This may seem a bit too obvious, but devoting time to the practice is the best way to learn.  Particularly with long recitations, in the beginning it can feel like you’ll never get it.  But if you try some of the tips above and put your whole heart into the recitation, it will come.  Patanjali said in the Yoga Sutras that we must practice consistently and with devotion if we want to have a well-grounded and stable practice.  So don’t give up!  Enjoy the practice, mistakes and all, until one day you find yourself reciting your chosen text as easily as you’d say the alphabet.

 

3 Comments

  1. The purpose of mantra, japa or parikamma, whichever term you prefer, is simply an exercise in mindfulness of the mind. Mental recitation of a word or phase aids in keeping the mind in the here and now. It is an antidote to discursive thinking. If you are constantly aware of your mantra, japa or parikamma, when does your monkey mind have time to think about its usual nonsense. By doing recitation, you are being watchfull or mndful of the mind. You are not allowing it to wonder and get caught up in its usual storylines. This is the purpose of recitation. Simply babbling some words without complete and total awareness at every second of recitation is a complete waste of time. If there is not complete awareness, mindfulness, watchfullness, sati or whichever term you prefer, there will be no benefit to this practice. The point is to “apply the breaks; put a leash on the monkey; tame the beast” called the mind. Babbling some words for a few minutes a day will get you no where. Use your common sense. How can saying some words a few times a day, tame that chaotic, conditioned, contriving, fabricating storyteller called the mind if you only do recitation a few times a day? Now ask yourself, how can recitation tame this beast if one recites mentally, with complete awareness, when ever you remember throughout the day, everyday until the mind is liberated from defilements? If you simply use common sense you will see that constant recitation at all times of the day, regardless of your activity, standing, walking, sitting or laying down will not allow discursive thinking to arise. And when it arises, you see it immediately and bring attention back to recitation. Now how can reciting a few times a day do this. Does that make any sense to you. After you do your few recitations the mind goes right back to storytelling and dwelling on the past and future as usual. But don’t listen to me. I want you to prove me wrong. The way you can prove me wrong is by mentally reciting with complete awareness all day everyday (whenever another activity doesn’t require your total awareness). Then come back here and give me feedback from your direct knowing of this method of recitation. And explain to me how there is no difference between the two methods.

     
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  2. Fateh Singh,

    That’s a great tip, thanks for sharing! :)

    Liz

     
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  3. I’ve been reading Japji every day for about 1000 days or more… And the way I learned Japji was to recite each Pauri 11 times, one pauri per day. Since there are 40 pauri’s this works out perfectly into a 40 day sadhana. The trick to it is that on day one, starting at the beginning, you read Mool Mantra 11x. But as you progress, each day you read from the beginning (once only this time) through to the pauri you are up to, and then read that pauri 11x. This way, you are slowly growing your reading and ingraining the words from the beginning and the days before, up to the new pauri… by the last day, you read the entire Jap ji once through and read the Slok 11x and you are done! Repeat 40 days again as necessary! :) Wahe Guru.

     
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