Mala beads – the story
A Japamala, more commonly referred to as a mala, is a string of prayer beads used in religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikh. Traditionally, there are 108 beads in the mala which are used to count mantras and gain a feeling of peace and serenity during meditation.
Over the years, malas have gained popularity in circles wider than religion thanks to their calming properties. People looking to gain control over their emotions and find peace and quiet in times of emotional stress often use malas to focus their energy and spirit. They are also often used in yoga as an aid for concentration during meditation. When placed at the top of a yoga mat, a mala can help to focus the mind and become charged with energy during the meditation.
The history of the mala
There are several theories why there are 108 beads in a mala. It is thought that there are in fact 108 reasons. Some of these reasons include; there are 108 goddess names, the diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of Earth, there are 108 Scriptures of the Vedas, the 12 zodiac houses multiplied by the 9 planets is 108 and there are 108 energy lines which converge to form the heart chakra.
When strung into a necklace, a mala is usually finished by a 109th bead to which a tassel or gemstone can be attached. This 109th bead is called the Guru bead. It is said to symbolise the relationship between student and the guru from whom the student received their mantra. Traditionally crafted mala features overhand knotting between each bead. Not only does this make the mala much stronger, it provides the perfect amount of space between each bead for those using the mala for traditional Japa Meditation where each mantra is counted.
If using a mala for counting mantras, this is done between the index finger and thumb. It is deemed disrespectful to count through the beads using the middle finger as this finger is associated with the ego. Therefore, the mala is usually draped over the top of this finger during meditation to cut it out of the process. When worn as a necklace or bracelet, the mala allows the wearer to manifest the power of the gemstone it features. It often makes wearers feel calm or protected, especially in times of crisis or high emotion when the counting of the beads and utterance of a mantra can help to focus the mind.
How to choose your mala
As malas have become more popular in recent years, thanks to their calming auras, there are a plethora of styles to choose from. Choosing your mala may feel overwhelming at first as you are confronted with a range of materials and styles. It is important to remember that you want to connect with your mala emotionally and spiritually for you to benefit from its energy.
When choosing your mala, both the necklace and yourself will be emitting spiritual energy and emotion which will be searching for connection with each other. Open your mind and let your intuition take over. Don’t be surprised if you feel attracted to a mala which you may not find aesthetically attractive. Malas help us spiritually and so this connection is the most important factor in choosing your necklace.
The connecting of energy is a beautiful thing so if you find yourself second guessing your first feeling, let your intuition take over to find the mala that speaks to you.
Certain stones and materials represent different energies and intentions and so if you are looking for a mala to help in a specific area of your life, there are specific stones you could look for. For example, rose quartz is the heart stone and so if you are struggling to give or receive love or feel as though there is a spiritual block in the way of you and your heart’s desire then a mala incorporating rose quartz might be the ideal necklace for you. Similarly, mala made from lava are said to offer strength during difficult times. Native American warriors wore lava bead during battle and they are said to offer protection and clarity; perfect for those facing personal struggles. Malas made from turquoise or clear quartz promote healing and communication between the physical and spiritual. They can help to release negative energy and promote health and purification of the spirit.
Any new mala should be worn for 40 days for the spirit to get used to connecting with the energy and aura of the mala so that the wearer can feel the benefit of the beads throughout the day.