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Japa or repeating mantras, shlokas, Bhagavan’s names, etc is in fact a form of yajna supposed to be highly effective as per the Puranas and Agamas. In fact even the dharmashastra, Manusmriti is in concordance with such a view. While describing so, It goes a step further to say as follows:

The offering that consists in the repeating of mantras (japa) excels the enjoined (ritualistic) offering ten times; the inaudible (repeating) excels this latter a hundred times; and the Mental (repeating) excels it a thousandfold.—(Manu 2.85)

However this statement has created a doubt when read together with the yuga dharmas. As per the Manusmriti itself:

In the Kṛta Cycle, ‘Austerity’ is the highest; in the Tretā ‘knowledge’ is described as such; in the Dvāpara they call the ‘Sacrifice’ the highest, and ‘Charity’ alone in the Kali-Cycle—(Manu 1.86)

The above statement is a little different from that expressed in the Puranas (here) wherein japa gives great benefits in the kaliyuga.

Questions:

  1. Between yuga dharma for treta (dvapara as per Manu) and Manu saying japa is the highest universally higher or the highest dharma. What should one follow? The yuga dharma or the highest dharma?

  2. If the answer is the yuga dharma, then to what extent must the yuga dharma be followed and to what extent japa?

  3. Why should one perform fire Yajnas in other yugas (yes people do)?

  4. If fire yajna is the highest in treta and japa gives the same benefit in Kali where people are less capable, does that mean that as the yuga passes, benefits from the same anushthanam reduce?

    That is to say if fire yajna is the yuga dharma giving 100 level of benefit in Treta, by Manu’s words, japa yajna will give 1000 level of benefit. The Puranas say that the same level by doing yajna that one gets in treta, one will get in Kali by only japa. That is in Kali japa will give 100 level benefit - a reduction from 1000 in treta to 100 in Kali.

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