Is meditation a struggle or a challenge for you?
Do you have trouble focusing, concentrating, stilling your “monkey mind,”
or staying the present moment?
Mala beads can help.
Mala beads, also called japa malas or simply meditation beads, have been in use since around the 8th century BC. With origins in India, the word “mala” means garland in Sanskrit, and “japa” means repetition. Japa mala beads were the predecessor to the Catholic rosary and many other types of prayer beads.
A mala piece is traditionally comprised of 108 beads and is intended to serve as a reminder of your spiritual practice. While mala beads can be worn as a necklace or adornment (wearing a mala may reduce the life of the mala), simply having them nearby can serve as an edifying reminder of your commitment to spiritual practice.
Why 108 Beads?
The practice of making malas with 108 beads dates back to ancient Vedic culture, where practitioners believed that 108 was the number of existence. There are 108 Vedic Upanishads (sacred texts), 108 marma points (sacred sites on the body), and 108 energy lines converging at the heart chakra.
There are also 108 sacred sites located throughout the country of India, and there were said to be 108 gopis dancing in Vrindavan with the Hindu deity Krishna. The number 108 also has significance in Islam, the Jewish culture, and other spiritual traditions. Some Tibetan Buddhists use mala beads to count the repetition of mantras thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of times.
Not Just for Formal Meditation
To enhance a Buddhist practice, mala beads can be placed on an altar, on your desk at work, in the car, or on a dresser or nightstand. Put them anywhere you might need a reminder to recite a mantra, chant, or become the Watcher of your thoughts and emotions. In this way, malas anchor you to the powerful present moment and deepen your connection with Buddha Nature.
A Range of Stone and Material Options
Mala beads can be made of different stone types and materials to bring a variety of different energies to your Buddhist practice. For example, rudraksha beads are associated with clarity and calmness. They are said to quiet the mind and keep it free of negativity. Their slightly rough surface helps brings awareness to the present moment.
Mala beads made of lapis lazuli enhance the intellect while opening you up to insights and epiphanies. Lapis stone is said to have stress-reducing qualities as well, enhanced by its lovely blue color. The natural variations in bead shape, size and color serve to enhance a connection with the natural world and Buddha Nature.
Mala beads are also made from lava stone, lotus flower seeds, jade, turquoise, mother of pearl, malachite, black onyx, wood, metal, bone, and numerous other materials. With so many options, there’s a perfect mala for every practice and aspirant.
Read more about the mala beads and how to use them