What are Mala beads?
The origin of Mala beads
Mala is a Sanskrit word meaning garland or meditation garland. Their origins have been traced back to 800 B.C.E and they have been used as a spiritual aid in Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. Traditionally, malas have 108 beads which are strung together or hand tied and one “guru bead” which is larger than the rest. This is so that when used as part of of a meditation if the user has their eyes closed they will still be able to recognise the guru (teacher) bead when they come to it.
Malas are often worn as a reminder to the wearer of positive intentions and may be imbued with a mantra. Due to the inherent beauty of the beads, in Malas are also worn as a fashion accessories and do not necessarily have to have any spiritual importance to the wearer.
The power of 108
Why are there 108 beads in a mala? There are actually multiple answers to this question.
- Veda scriptures (ancient Hindu scriptures) see the number 108 as representing the wholeness of the universe. 1 represents the sun, 0 represents the moon and 8 represents the nature of all things.
- On review of ancient yogic texts, you’ll find that there are 108 chapters of the Rig Veda, 109 primary Tantras and 108 Upanishads. All of which are written in Sanskrit, a language which is made up of 54 letters for both the Shiva (masculaine) and Shakti (feminine) form.
- Ayurveda (traditional Hindu practices of medicine) identifies a total of 108 scared places in the body.
- There are 108 sacred sites (pithas) throughout India.
- scientifically the average distance of the sun and the moon from the Earth is 108 times their respective diameters.
Malas attract malas
There is a really lovely energy around malas and I have found when wearing mine that they naturally attract comments, either from those who do not know what they are and would like to find out more, or from those who recognise a similar soul as they wear mala beads themselves.
How to use your Mala beads
In a way the use of mala beads is similar to the use of rosary beads. Used as part of a seated meditation the user holds the mala beads in their right hand. Starting one bead beside the “guru” (central) bead, the thumb and middle finger are used to move the beads towards the wearer (and the guru away from them) one by one. Its important to take care to ensure that the index finger (which represents the ego) doesn’t come into contact with the Mala. The movement of a single bead corresponds to the recitation of one round of a mantra of the wearers choosing.
This type of meditation is called “japa” or mantra meditation. Sometimes a single “om” will be chanted as the fingers touch each bead, or short and long mantras can be chanted such as “om mani padme hum” an ancient mantra which His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama describes below:
It is very good to recite the mantra Om mani padme hum, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast …. The first, OM … symbolizes the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind; it also symbolizes the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha…. The path is indicated by the next four syllables. MANI, meaning jewel, symbolizes the … altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassionate and loving…. The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom…. Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable HUM, which indicates indivisibility…. Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha….
You can of course recite and mantra or positive affirmation that feels right for you and for more on the power of positive affirmations click here.
The benefits of Japa meditation
There are so many different styles of meditation and if it is something that interests you, ultimately you’ll be drawn to a style that suits you. Personally, I enjoy the repetitive nature of Japa meditation. It soothes my mind to focus in on a single mantra which, when added to the healing energies and simple beauty of the crystals and stones in my mala beads, provides an overall soothing effect.
Furthermore, involving yogic breathing at a slow and steady pace in combination with japa meditation helps to activate the brain states of;
- Alpha (focus and learning)
- Theta (creativity and intuition)
- and Delta (healing and calming)
Meditation is also shown to improve concentration and focus with regular practice, creating new positive thought patterns.
Shop for Mala beads
Mala beads making the perfect gift, whether you’re giving them to yourself 😉 or someone else. Please do browse a selection of mala beads in the shop or if you’d like something really special why not get in touch to find out about a bespoke set just for you with your needs as their focus.