Mala beads are essential for any Buddhist practitioner. These beads are useful for counting mantras, prayers, and intentions.
These beaded necklaces are not just prominent in Buddhism but even throughout other cultures such as Christianity (Rosary), Islam (Misbaha), and Hinduism where they are believed to have originated (Japa).
Malas are so widely spread and accepted because of what they symbolize and how they help one focus on prayers and good intentions. Each religion has a different standard for what makes up a Mala, but since we are Tibetan Buddhists we are going to explain what makes a 108 Tibetan Mala Bead. Well as the name suggests our malas have 108 beads, a guru or master bead, and some form of a tassel.
The Number 108
The number 108 is significant because it represents the universe, and completing 108 mantras completes the cycle. 108 is also significant because the "1" represents a higher being, the "0" represents emptiness, and "8" represents infinity or harmony. The guru bead represents the relationship with your guru or teacher. This bead represents the beginning of your mantra and you should start at this point.
The tassel represents your path towards enlightenment, your progression to improving towards your goal. Every gemstone has a different meaning and energy, and can be utilised to make up a mala bead. So long as your mala maker has good intentions when making your mala and uses 108 beads any gemstone is ok to use. Every person is unique and so are their circumstances so picking the correct gemstones to help you is very important since you are going to be pouring your prayers into your very special mala bead.
Rose quartz is a gemstone of love, Jade is for good luck, and bone is a reminder of impermanence , just to name a few.
How to use
- Find a spot and sit comfortably with your back straight, don’t be slouched over
- Take a few deep breathes and begin to relax
- If you have a specific mantra in mind you may say it aloud or within your mind. If you don’t have one that’s ok, you don’t need one. Om Mani Padme Hum (ohm-mah-nee-pe-meh-hung)is a common mantra tibetans use.
- Hold the mala in your right hand and begin at the first bead after the guru bead. Have the mala draped between the space of your thumb and index finger. Now place your thumb on the first bead and spin the bead clockwise and pull it towards you after spinning it.
- Recite your mantra at the same time while spinning the bead. Now do this 108 times until you complete a cycle and reach the guru bead again.
- If you want to continue the meditation, instead of passing over the guru bead, simply reverse direction and begin again.
Which malas are helpful for beginners
When just beginning choosing a mala can be difficult since there are so many options. When starting your spiritual journey it is best to start off with something simple and not too fancy to help you relax and concentrate. I would recommend any of our natural beads, like wood, sandalwood, lotus seed, or rudraksha. These simple beads help simplify your choices from all of the shiny stones and start you off on your path.