Malas are a traditional tool that have been used in Buddhism and Hinduism for centuries. In Sanskrit (the ancient script of India), the word mala means garland or wreath. Malas are used to count the number of times a mantra is recited, the number of breaths taken during meditation or to count other recitations. They are typically made with 18, 27, 54, or 108 beads, depending on their use, and may be adorned with a tassel and other beads or charms.
Buddhist malas are often made of different types of wood, such as sandalwood and rosewood, and Hindu malas are usually made with rudraksha, which is considered a very holy and protective seed. The material may vary with the use of the mantra.
Malas are also used in traditional jewelry, where they may be made of pearl or crystal.
Why 108 Beads?
There may be as many as 108 reasons why there are 108 beads, and all of them open to interpretation. The number 108 is significant in both Buddhist and Hindu traditions and, in Japan, a bell is rung 108 times at Japanese New Year services.
You will also see explanations such as the 108 is related to the chakra points on the body, where it is said 108 energy lines connect to form the heart chakra. And, if you choose to recite your mantra in sanskrit, there are 54 letters, with each letter having a feminine and a masculine form – so 108 characters. There are also 108 goddess names, and the diameter of the sun is approximately 108 times the diameter of the earth!
Modern Use of Malas..
In recent years, it has become increasingly fashionable to wear malas, often made from semi-precious stones. Although they may not have a religious significance to many people who wear malas, they encourage meditation, setting and follow through of intentions and, ultimately, a calm mind and body.
If you meditate, or recite affirmations, you can use the beads in the same manner as your religious counterparts.
Which Stone Should I Choose?
Similarly, as different materials were originally used depending on the nature and objective of the mantras, you can choose the gemstone with which you feel a natural affinity. Choose a stone for your intent – such as rose quartz for love, or a blue stone for help with communications.
Alternatively, choose a stone that appeals to you, and then learn about the meaning of the stone. You may find it’s just what you need!
And then wear your mala as a bracelet or necklace to remind you of your intentions (see Setting Intentions With Crystals). By setting your intent on your mala, you are also reminding yourself of your dreams and goals. Whenever you feel that you lack focus, motivation, or you forget your goals, just holding your mala will help boost your intent and help you carry out the tasks you need to get closer to your goal. And the more methods you use the better! Research has shown that if you confirm your intent in different ways, such as journaling, recording your goals and listening daily, or holding the intent in something such as a mala, the neural pathways in your brain grow stronger. And stronger is good – it’s so easy to drift back to old habits if you don’t have those constant little reminders of what you really want to achieve.
In this way, a mala may represent something different to different people. It can be a tool for meditation, a reminder of an intention, a piece that inspires you, or something you just love to wear.
As an example, if your goal is to meditate, study, or exercise on a daily basis - or you have bigger goals such as changing career - and if you set your intent in your natural stone mala, then each time you pick up your mala, you will be reminded of your goal. And it becomes difficult to ignore constant reminders - so ultimately, meditating, studying, or exercise, or the steps to changing career become part of your daily tasks.