Is there any difference between doing japa by chanting a Sanskrit mantra, and doing it in our own language? Is it true that you need to recite specific mantras for specific purposes? Even if you don’t know the meaning of the mantra, you are supposed to get the benefit by reciting it. How does that work?
Answer: Let us understand the purpose of doing japa. Japa means reciting the names of the Lord or a mantra of the Lord. So, one aspect of japa is the repeating of a given name in remembering the Lord. The idea is that when I remember the Lord, the remembrance is meant to invoke the devotee in me and evoke a spirit of devotion, bhāvanā, in me. This is the second aspect of japa. This is very important. If I find that instead of chanting a Sanskrit mantra, chanting a mantra in my own language invokes devotion in me, I would consider it to be better. A mantra is not for its own sake; it is meant to invoke devotion. It is the spirit of devotion that ultimately heals or purifies my mind.
It is true that in itself, a Sanskrit mantra also has an effect. This is why we are told to repeat the Vedic mantras even if we do not understand their meaning. Any mantra, recited properly, exerts a positive influence upon us. Thus, when we recite a simple, “Rama, Rama, Rama” or any other name of the Lord, it does have an influence upon us.
This is because when we utter a word or even a sound, the air originates from our navel or the region of the heart, slowly travels upwards, strikes our skull, comes down through the various regions and ultimately emerges from our lips. Whenever we utter a name this process takes place, impacting even the skull. This is the reason why the names or mantras, which are prescribed by the scriptures or our teachers, have a positive effect that influences our personality, when we recite them.
If you do not know the meaning of the mantra, it is a good idea to chant the Sanskrit mantra with the proper intonations. But knowing the meaning is always better than not knowing the meaning. A mantra that creates a feeling of devotion in me would be more effective than a mantra that does not. But, to answer the question, reciting a mantra in the Sanskrit language definitely has an effect because it does influence one’s
personality. Sometimes we hear priests chanting Vedic mantras and you can feel the effect.
They say that by reciting the Vedic mantras, you get brahmavarchas. This is the spiritual glow, which you can see in some people because they have been chanting the Vedic mantras for many years with devotion and commitment. The very vibrations that those mantras create have an impact upon our body and then our mind. Thus, a mantra has an effect independent of whether or not we understand the meaning of what it is that we recite, but an understanding of it will evoke a spirit of devotion in us. To that extent, whatever is chanted in that spirit of devotion is definitely more effective than chanting without devotion.
Posted by AVG Sevak