Sometimes referred to as a Japamala (meaning garland in Sanskrit) or Buddist prayer beads, a mala is a string of hand-knotted beads that are worn like a necklace. It originated in India over 3000 years ago and was traditionally used as a tool to count the number of mantras or prayers recited. It can also be used during meditation to count the number of breaths or intentions.
Locate the large guru or marker bead that sits at the bottom of the mala right above the tassel if there is one. If not then you would use the large crystal or pendant. This is your starting point. Drape your mala over your right hand and beginning with the bead to the right you move your thumb in a clockwise motion over it while reciting the mantra. You continue for a total of 108 repetitions until you reach the guru bead again. The intent is that you can focus on its meaning rather than mentally counting the number of times it’s recited.
In the Hindu and Buddist cultures the number 108 holds many special religious significances such as:
- 27 constellations x 4 parts = 108
- 12 Astrological houses x 9 planets = 108
- Scriptures of the Vedas = 108
- In Hinduism the god Shiva was known to have 108 attendants
- Number of letters in the Sanskrit alphabet
- Number of sacred holy sites in India
Caring for your mala is very important. You should avoid wearing it while sleeping, swimming or playing intense sports that cause sweating. Also, keep it free of chemicals and perfumes. Because the gemstones are delicate you can use a dry microfiber cloth to polish them. Store in a pouch or lay flat in a jewellery box to avoid dust and picking up negative energies. You may wish to charge or clear your mala from these stagnant energies from time to time by placing it the moonlight, on a selenite wand, in a singing bowl or smudging with palo santo or sage.