I.28 तज्जपस्तदर्थभावनम्

taj-japas tad-artha-bhāvanam
tad-japaḥ tad-artha-bhāvanam

“The repetition of that [OM] brings a realization of its meaning.”

Japa is a repeating prayer, said in a low voice or inwardly. Patañjali tells us here that the repetition of the sound OM brings the experience, the feeling, the realization of iśvara. Vyaas Houston describes the chant of OM as vibrating the field of one’s consciousness. One enters a state of feeling, listening, in which sensitivity is increased.

Geeta Iyengar has described āsana too as a practice of japa. We take the action of repeating the poses, again and again, not for repetition’s sake, but to realize (bhāvanam) their essence.

The word bhāvanam derives from bhu, “to be”; it means causing to be or become. It can refer to a feeling or a contemplation–it suggests embodiment, bringing to life. Artha is the end, the purpose, the meaning. Artha-bhāvanam might be translated: Be the meaning.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” –Gandhi


“The very utterance of the Word must bring about an attunement with the very content of it. But this is possible only when the mind is in a state of attention. In the attunement one is communing with the Timeless in time, for Om is indeed the symbol of the Eternal in the process of time sequence. Such attunement is a vitalizing spiritual experience which gives to man a strength and a vision to face the situations of life.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, p. 51

“Even without your repeating it, the basic sound is always vibrating in you. It is the seed from which all other sounds manifest.” –Sri Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, p. 45

Āsana has to be repeated again and again, day after day, year after year; this  is … japa. It is karma mārga [the path of action].” –Geeta S. Iyengar, A Gem for Women, p. 70

• When you repeat the sound of OM, where is it? Who is the listener? What is the sound made of?
• Do you use mantra (a repeating verbal phrase) in your practice? In life? Are there affirmations that you repeat to yourself?
• How important is repetition in practice?
• How do you balance keeping to a routine and keeping practice sensitive, with feeling (bhāvanam)?



pronoun in compound

of it


masculine noun, 1st case singular

repetition, vocal repetition (from jap, “to utter in a low voice, to repeat internally”)


pronoun in compound

of it


masculine noun in compound

meaning, purpose


neuter noun, 1st case singular

feeling, realizing, apprehension (from bhū, “to be”)


2 thoughts on “I.28 तज्जपस्तदर्थभावनम्

  1. Repeating is something I’ve come to consciously do much more than used to be my normal. For some stuff, we needn’t be so aware. I think we all repeat, until we stop, that is. I think it starts with our hearts. And breathing, and all the other amazingly complex and beautiful parts of our bodies. There’s also the less attractive kind, and I’m certain we learn especially, but not exclusively, from those as well.

    It helps me a great deal to reflect on things like japa, and those to which I’ve given more complex form, like fear, just as an example.

    As I was walking literally amongst hundreds of thousands of people last Saturday I thought of the wonder that could have been a different response if anger had been the only expression obvious. My first thoughts though were about how striking it was that we’d come together for the purposes we had, that they were peaceful, and caring. We comforted each other, each step, waiting for space to progress, conveyed by each of our neighbors, each breath powering ourselves and likely on occasion others.

    As I wrote earlier, it was a special day. And it meant much to me your speaking of Carrie’s patterns observations. Made me also think of her balance teaching. Partly due to my over 10 years Iyengar practice, I’m grateful to having gotten so much better at being clearer about my choices, some part of which undoubtedly I was also prepared for in almost two decades of Al-Anon life.

    There’s also mystery for me in thinking that there is a way that japa never entirely repeats in me because I’m different each time through, for having made my way through last time. Maybe not so obvious, and yet always a practice. Was brought to think of japa hearing live transmission of human cries of “we are alive!” from downtown to up on 5th Ave in the 50s. I felt so much alive being part of that, repeating my steps, and breath, and love. It was also every bit prayer.

  2. Hi Marc, Thanks for sharing this powerful feeling of japa on the Women’s March. For those who do not receive my e-mails, I am including the message of mine that you are responding to:

    “Dear friends,
    The new year has brought tumultuous shifts in our collective political life. I am trying to stay informed and to find right action for this moment in history.

    This past Saturday I marched in Helena, MT, to protest what I see as an agenda of fear, hate, and greed. It was cheering to be in a crowd of concerned and caring people, who, in freezing temperatures, were there to send a message of love, nurturance, care. One man held a sign that read: I march for my granddaughter.

    As I return to the study of Patañjali’s sūtras, I am also cheered…and I find support. The topic this week is japa, or repetition. Japa is essential to–might even be considered the basis for–practice. Practice, in a way, is repetition.

    My friend and teacher Carrie Owerko has often said that, in life, we practice the patterns we are not aware of, such as how we climb stairs or get up and down out of a chair. We repeat these patterns and make them deeper. Yoga calls us to bring awareness–to make a choice about our actions, to choose what we repeat. It calls us to be aware of what we do, to live according to our values, to make a new thing.
    Om shantiḥ
    Love and peace,

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