The Mala Beads
If you are into meditation practice, you probably know what Mala Beads/Meditation Beads are. It is also commonly known as the Prayer Beads which have been used for centuries by various religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Catholicism. But nowadays, they are sometimes used as a mindfulness aid without any religious affiliation or simply as an accessory when donning as a necklace.
Whether you are a beginner or have been practising meditation for years, Mala Beads are an excellent tool to help focus your attention on achieving a more mindful, grounded meditation practice. The action of counting these beads allows you to bring your attention back to them whenever your thoughts start drifting. If you are new to using Mala Beads in your meditation or praying session, you might find it quite difficult to coordinate your hands and mind, but things will improve over time as you use it more often. The clumsiness will lessen and you will attain the full benefits of using this tool.
To help you get the most out of your 108 mala beads, here is a comprehensive article that describes how to use your beads for meditation.
Why Do Malas Have 108 Beads
There are many theories behind the significance of the number 108, which has long been considered sacred in many spiritual traditions. Especially both Hinduism and Buddhism, believe it represents a road map of the human soul and the number 1 represents God. The number 0 is symbolic of humility, while the number 8 represents timelessness and infinity.
The Mala is often used to represent a spiritual journey through meditation and can signify anything from breathing 108 times a day to the 108 stages of the human soul. In Indian spirituality, 108 is a special number that has deep roots. The Sanskrit alphabet contains 108 letters and another interesting fact is that there are 108 sacred holy sites and texts in India.
Vedic mathematicians measured the diameter of the Sun as 108 times larger than the diameter of Earth; the distance between the Moon and Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon and coincidently there are 12 Zodiac and 9 planets (12 x 9 = 108). This number is incredibly significant and appears in many spiritual, astronomical and religious contexts.
Parts Of Your Meditation Mala
A Mala can be made of a variety of materials, including wood, stone, and gemstone. However, Gemstone Malas are the most common and are often associated with certain energies and meanings. Traditionally, a Mala Necklace consists of 108 identical beads and a Guru Bead which is larger than the rest of the beads and often has a tassel. These are called “meditation beads” and can be made of many different materials. They are an incredibly beautiful and useful tool for meditation.
Meditation Malas are designed in a way that there is a space at every 27th bead, which is every one-quarter of the complete mala while necklaces might have these beads placed halfway through, at the 54th bead instead and they are called “spacers.” When you are using the mala and reach the “Spacer”, take a moment to check in with yourself and refocus your mind if you’re getting distracted.
The 109th bead which is slightly bigger than the rest is also known as the “Guru Bead” it is the centre of a Mala. This bead allows a mediator to receive guidance during the meditation process and is imbued with potent energies and sacred power from your practice. It also represents the connection between student and teacher and the expression of gratitude and appreciation.
The tassel is the root of the Mala. A big part of the meditation beads’ meaning is based on the tassel. How the different pieces of the string come together to form the tassel is said to represent oneness, like each person on Earth coming together to create one collective unconscious.
Meditation Sessions With Mala
Before starting your Mala Meditation, it is essential to know how the Mala Beads work so that they don’t get in the way and become an obstacle to your meditation practice instead.
Next, decide on what kind of meditation technique you want (For example, mantra repetitions, sacred phrase repetition, prayer repetition, or counting breaths.) and choose a comfortable meditation posture for yourself. (Kneeling, Sitting in Position, or Relaxing in a chair). You may even perform Japa (a gentle stroll meditation). For each bead, you repeat your mantra/prayer or utter your sacred phrase, gently roll the bead over the middle finger with your thumb.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to handle the beads during mediation:
- Hold the mala beads in your dominant hand with the tassel facing your direction
- Begin your practice with the mala bead to the right of the Guru Bead
- Move from one bead to the next, rolling them through your fingers as a way to physically direct your attention and energy
- Focus on the knots between each bead, as the knots are meant to slow down the meditation and ease the process of turning from bead to bead
- Don’t move the beads with your index finger, as this displays ego. Move the beads using your thumb where it represents the universal. Do this 108 times, travelling around the mala, until you once again reach the Guru Bead.
- If you want to continue the meditation, simply reverse the direction and begin again. Do not pass over the Guru Bead.
You may face some difficulties initially, however, with regular practice you will get comfortable and will no longer get distracted by the movement.
Mala beads might be pretty to look at and soothing to touch, but these simple necklaces are more than just trendy jewellery. They’re powerful tools that can help guide and enhance mindfulness practices. Many people who use mala to meditate find that they help increase concentration and promote a more beneficial meditation experience.
Remember, a Mala doesn’t need to include gemstones or other expensive materials to work well for you. Just choose (or create) one that feels right to you.