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Meditation is an intricate part of any spiritual culture. Regular meditation practice has many benefits yet it can be challenging to maintain your focus and stick with it. The Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist cultures created one of the world’s most popular meditation tools: mala beads. These prayer beads can help you increase your concentration and focus while you practice meditation.
What are malas?
Mala is a Sanskrit word translated as “garland” or “string of beads.” In context, they stand for prayer beads that are used in religion. Every single religion has its own version of prayer beads—from the japa malas of India to the rosary of the Catholic faith. The original malas come from the Tibetan Buddhist monks that have been using these tools for meditation and prayer for centuries now.
Mala beads can be made out of various materials today. Traditionally, mala beads are carved and rounded out of bones to signify the evolution of life. Other materials used for mala beads historically include plant seeds and exotic woods. Today, mala beads can be made out of various gemstones. They come in an array colors, and each gemstone has a particular healing property that’s different from the next. Some others have created mala beads out of shells, metals, and even plastic.
Parts of a mala
A mala bead can be broken down into different parts. Perhaps the most notable parts of the mala bead are the tassels, which are oftentimes colorful or striking. The guru bead or head bead is bigger than the rest of the beads. It’s symbolic of a student’s relationship to his or her guru, and it serves as the starting point of the mala. Some malas may also have counter beads, which splits a longer mala into 4 sections of 27 beads.
Japa malas are the most popular form of mala beads. They are made out of *108 beads, which signify something important in eastern religions. The number 108 has long been considered sacred in the Hindi culture, and there are also different explanations as to why.
One of the more popular reasons why the Japa mala has 108 beads is related to the chakra. It’s been said that there are 108 energy lines that connect to the heart. Some others claim that the number 108 is representative of the Sanskrit alphabet, which as 54 letters. Each letter has a masculine and feminine representation, which totals to 108.
Others still claim that the Japa mala has 108 to account for errors in meditation and chanting. You’re supposed to chant your mantra for 100 times, and any unused out of the additional 8 beads can be used as an offering to your guru.
Meditating with mala beads
Before you choose your mala beads, it’s important to know that there’s meaning behind every color and material used to make them. Mala beads are powerful prayer tools, and prayer and intention are what’s really important during meditation.
Make sure to spend some time to understand the deeper meaning of stones and materials used in creating your mala beads, so you can understand how your mala can help you in your journey towards spiritual awakening.
Each bead, except the guru or main bead, in the strand of mala prayer beads are touched as one says the mantra or prayer. Touching each bead helps to focus the mind and also keep track of the number of mantras.
A Japa mala student with a predominant tamasic or heavy and grounded temperament should chant his or her mantra quickly, while a student with a rajasic or energetic and fidgety temperament should take his or her time and chant slowly.
Meditating with mala beads has tremendous benefits for healing and wellness. Japa mala meditation can help you lead a more stress-free life. It helps you develop your inner strength and resilience. A commitment to Japa mala meditation is the only way to bring forth the Shakti energy that’s contained within the mantras you’ll be chanting.