Likhita (or likhitha) japa (Sanskrit: लिखित जप) is a Hindu sadhana (devotional practice) where the practitioner repeatedly writes a mantra (mantra likhita japa) or the name of a deity (naama likhita japa) at the same time as reciting the mantra.[a]
Likhita (लिखित) is a Sanskrit word that means writing. Japa (जप) is a Sanskrit word meaning repeatedly utter a prayer.
Reason for practice
Aside from likhita japa being a spiritual practice engaged in to attain moksha (liberation), people may undertake it in order to gain some boon. For example, followers of Shirdi Sai Baba may write down a blessing they desire and then undertake forty-eight days of writing one-hundred-and-eight repetitions of "Om Sri Sai Ram" in order to secure this blessing.
Proponents claim that likhita japa is more efficacious than other japa as it involves the hand, the arm, the eyes, the mind and the voice at the same time thus engaging more faculties whereas chanted japa uses touch less (japa practice commonly uses a mala (prayer beads)) and does not require explicit use of the arm or the eyes.
Some proponents advise a practitioner to wash the body and wear clean clothes, or at least to wash hands, face and feet, prior to practise. Then a set of prayers to appropriate deities (such as Ganesha, the practitioner's guru, the deity associated with the mantra, etc.) are said.
Likhita japa can be done with any suitable materials though it is often done in a book intended expressly for this purpose. Often pages of the book are printed with vertical and horizontal lines to create a grid of cells. Depending upon the intended mantra, the width of the cell may be lesser or greater as each cell is intended to contain just one instance of the mantra. For example, cells for writing "Rama" are much narrower than those for "Om Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram". As well as keeping the writing neat, this allows a practitioner to easily count the number of repetitions and to make patterns (see below).
Even a modest-sized writing book can fit several hundred (for shorter mantras like "Om Sri Sai Ram") to nearly a thousand (for the very short name "Rama") repetitions on each page and so contain over 20 000 or even over 60 000 repetitions.
As well as using the book only for the likhita japa and not as a general writing book, some practitioners will use the pen for only for this single purpose. The book and pen may then be considered as sacred objects.
Images and patterns
Some practitioners use multiple pens with differently coloured ink and carefully choose a colour for each cell. With a short mantra this can create a decorative effect similar to covering a footpath or a courtyard with several colours of paving tiles. Two-page spreads allow for a larger pattern. Patterns may be simple or ornate geometric figures, may be a representation of a sacred symbol such as the character Om (ॐ), may spell out the mantra in larger letters, etc.
Sometimes on unlined paper a practitioner may use one or more colours of ink with the mantra written at irregular sizes, positions and angles to create an image, perhaps an image of a deity associated with the mantra. This is in effect colouring or shading an image using the letters of the mantra.
There are different practices regarding vocalisation of the mantra during likhita japa. Common variations include:
- reciting the mantra mentally;
- reciting the mantra aloud before each instance of writing;
- reciting the mantra aloud while writing it.
Amount of practice
Practitioners may be advised by their spiritual teacher, or choose to undertake, practice for at least a fixed duration or a number of repetitions each day. Vows to write a million or a crore (ten million) mantras are known. However, while even rote and/or imperfect japa recitations are said to be of some benefit, proper recitations are said to be more beneficial. More important than the number of repetitions is the degree of devotion with which the practice is undertaken.
Copy-pasting on a computer, mechanical duplication of writing, using carbon paper and other similar techniques to multiply the amount of writing are advised against as they are not likhita japa.
Uses of completed likhita japa books
Once completed, likhita japa books may be used for a variety of purposes including:
- Retained by the practitioner as a sacred object
- Donated to a temple where it may:
Religious groups planning to erect a new building or perform a yagna will sometimes request a certain number of repetitions to be provided as a sadhana from the religion's adherents.
- Sutra copying—Buddhist practice of copying sutras, or paying for them to be copied, by hand in order to gain merit
- Novena—a Christian practice of repeating a prayer for nine days or nine weeks in order to gain some boon
- While a name is always a word, a mantra need not be a word or a series of words, it can just be a sound. To avoid repeatedly writing "when writing mantra or name" the rest of this article will use "mantra" and it is to be understood than this doesn't exclude "name".
- "Sai Likhita Prarthana". Retrieved 2020-02-09.
- "How to Practice Likhita Japa (Mantra Writing) And Dissolve Stress Instantly". Retrieved 2020-02-09.
- "Japa Yoga". Retrieved 2020-02-09.
- "Sri Ramakoti Likhita Japam". Retrieved 2020-02-09.
- "18. Manifest Divine Qualities". Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 28.
- "Sadhana 13 - Likhita Japa". Retrieved 2020-02-09.