I’ve long been fascinated by the myriad uses and celebrations of beads – whether they be used for beauty & ornamentation, décor, prayer & worship, communication, currency, magic, and more. One use I sat down to learn more about this weekend is the Mala string of beads used to count mantras (Sanskrit prayers), a chanting of the type used as a spiritual tool in virtually every cultural and religious tradition.
Mala beads can be necklaces, bracelets or meditation garlands, and have been worn for thousands of years by yogis and spiritual seekers from all over the world. They were first created in India 3000 years ago, and have roots in Hinduism, Buddhism and yoga. Originally, they were used for a special style of meditation called Japa, which means “to recite”.
During a Japa meditation, you repeat a mantra softly, 108 times, using your mala beads to keep track. (Something like the practice of saying a rosary.) A mantra is a word or sound repeated during meditation to help you concentrate. The number 108 is an auspicious and spiritually significant number, for several reasons:
- There are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra;
- It is believed that there are 108 Upanishads, texts of wisdom from the ancient sages;
- Some say that 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity;
- There are said to be 108 earthly desires;
- Some say there are 108 feelings – 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and the 36 related to the future;
- In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108;
- There are said to be 108 Indian goddess names; and finally,
- The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
Believers say that Mala beads can be used in a variety of ways to help you manifest and achieve your dreams and desires. They suggest giving your mala an intention or mantra. If you’ve never done this before and you’re interested, you can check out this article on the subject. Simply put, setting an intention is just consciously being clear and expressing what you want out of life in a particular moment or period of time, whether it be spiritual, physical or material. Once you’ve given your mala an intention you can use it during your meditation practice to keep you focused and on track. You may wear your mala around your neck or clasp it firmly in your palms as you tune in and focus on your breath.
Often, malas are made of seeds, sandalwood or rosewood, and some incorporate a crystal or healing stone. The beautiful mala featured at the top right of this post is from a cool site called Tiny Devotions. It is made of: a) Amazonite, which some believe inspires true peace and freedom; b) Moonstone, which they say carries the energy of strength, wisdom and intuition; and c) Rudraksha seeds, known for their protective and healing elements.
Even if yoga and meditation aren’t your thing, simply wearing a mala can help you feel good and manifest what you’re looking for – in the same manner as visualizations and the power of positive thinking. And no matter what, there’s no denying the beauty in some of the other beautiful Mala creations I found from some of my favorite Etsy colleagues. Shown here are: 1) (to the right) a Red Tiger's Eye and Swarovsky crystal Japa Mala, from AmanoBella and 2) (to the left), a Mala necklace with quartz point and Amazonite, from Garden of Earthly Delights.
Until Next Time - Sheila