Mala beads, also sometimes known as Buddhist prayer beads, are long necklace-type tools traditionally used for mantra practice and meditation. Mala in Sanskrit means garland, and interestingly bead has the origin bede which translates as prayer. Beads have long been associated with power, status symbols amulets for luck and spiritual and religious tools.
How Mala Beads are used
A Mala is a string of beads made up of 108 beads and 1 guru bead. The guru bead is said to represent your intention as you sit in meditation or some say the guru beads represents your teacher. When using mala beads they are held in the right hand and draped between your middle finger and index finger. You use your thumb to count each bead reciting your mantra as you go. Once you arrive at the guru bead you turn back and count the other way. Never crossing the guru bead only perhaps pausing to offer gratitude to your mantra and to your teacher.
A Mala can be worn around your neck or wrist. It could also be hung somewhere that you meditate or worship. I like to have it by my mat while I do my asana practice, or to wear when I am in need of a certain energy. It is good to keep in mind that your Mala is a sacred item as should be treated with care and respect.
The significance of Mala Beads
For many simply wearing a Mala that you have chosen due to be attracted to the particular energy that it holds will bring a sense of calm, focus and connection, or grounding. My Mala designs use gemstones and colour and are inspired by the seven main Chakras; the Root Chakra (for grounding), the Sacral Chakra (for emotions and intimacy), the Solar Plexus Chakra (for wisdom and power), the Heart Chakra (for love and healing), the Throat Chakra (for communication), the Third Eye Chakra (for awareness) and the Third Eye Chakra (for spirituality).
The history of Mala Beads
Many traditions have beads that are used within a spiritual practice, such as the rosary in the catholic tradition, in fact when the Roman Empire was trading with India they mistook the word Japa for Jap the latin word for Rose, as a result the beads as they came to be used in Rome became known as Roserium or Rosary in English.
A Mala is used in in Hinduism, Jainism Buddhism and Shinto, for the spiritual practice known in Sanskrit as Japa (reciting meditation).
The use of beads in prayer can be traced in origin to 8th Century India and are first pictured in a Bodhisattva image created in the 4th-6th century in the Wei Dynasty in China and is being held in a hand not simply being worn as an adornment.