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Shrila Prabhupada in the Nectar of Devotion:
“When a mantra or hymn is chanted softly (but audibly) and slowly, that is called japa. The same mantra, when chanted loudly, is called kirtana. For example, the maha-mantra (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) when uttered very softly (but audibly) only for one’s own hearing is called japa. The same mantra, when chanted loudly for being heard by all others, is called kirtana. The maha-mantra can be used for japa and kirtana also. When japa is practiced it is for the personal benefit of the chanter, but when kirtana is performed it is for the benefit of all others who may hear.”
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