Mala beads have become very popular as a way to adorn the body, and you will frequently see people wearing them as a cool necklace or bracelet, but did you know they are actually a sacred tool for prayer or meditation?
A mala is an effective way to keep the mind steady during longer meditation, especially when used as a way to keep track of a mantra. A mantra is a sacred word or sound such as OM or Shanti that is repeated throughout the meditation. Malas typically have 108 beads which can be made from gems, stones or seeds. They always have a tassel and a “guru” bead as a way for you to know you have come to the end of your meditation. The guru bead represents your teacher so you should always turn around and reverse directions when you reach the guru bead – as way never to cross your teacher.
The number 108 has many different references, but these are a few of my favorites
- The distance between the Earth and the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
- 108 is a number known to be referring to spiritual completion,
- Hindu deities have 108 names
- In some schools of Buddhism, it is believed that there are 108 defilements.
And the list goes on…
I am often asked how to choose the right one. I have always felt that a Mala chooses you. Pick the one that stands out to you, and you can’t go wrong.
To use them:
- Take your normal meditation seat
- Pick your mantra
- Using whichever hand is most comfortable, drape the beads over either your middle finger or ring finger.
- Repeat the mantra in your mind, drawing the mala toward you with your thumb. One bead equals one repetition.
- When you reach the guru bead, it counts as 100 repetitions. Remember not to cross the guru bead! If you want to continue your meditation, turn the beads and go back in the other direction.