What is a Mala and the Significance of 108 Beads

What is a Mala and the Significance of 108 Beads

What is a Mala and the Significance of 108 Beads

In Sanskrit, the word mālā means garland, wreath, a string of beads, a row or line. In spiritual traditions across the world, mālās have been used to enhance focus and concentration during the practice of mantra Japa and meditation. Mantra japa is the practice of repeating a sacred name or word given by the Guru.

In India, mālās are usually made of seeds from holy plants or trees like rudraksha, lotus or tulsi. Mālās are also made from crystal beads that have unique vibrational qualities. They are available as necklaces or bracelets. The necklace mālā has 108 beads and an extra bead, called the guru bead; the bracelet mālā has 54 or 27 beads and the guru bead. The guru bead marks the point where the practice of Japa begins and ends.

A] Significance of 108 Beads Mālā

The number 108 is considered a powerful and auspicious number in the Vedic tradition. The significance of the number has been interpreted in many ways and across various fields of study such as mathematics, astronomy, astrology, human anatomy etc. Here are some examples:

1. It is believed that 108 subtle energy channels or nādis converge at the heart chakra. According to Ayurveda, there are 108 pressure (marma) points in the human body.

2. The diameter of the Sun in 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance between the moon and Earth is 108 times the diameter of the moon.

3. In astrology, there are 9 planets and 12 houses; 9 x 12 = 108. Also, there are 27 constellations and 4 directions; 27 x 4 = 108.

4. Mathematicians have noted that 108 has elegant geometry that lends itself to create many patterns. For example:

  • 108 equals the sum of the first nine multiples of 3 i.e. 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21 and 24
  • 108 is the product of the first three numbers raised to themselves 11 x 22 x 33 = 108
  • 108 is sandwiched between 107 and 107 which are twin primes

5. 108 is also a harshad number, an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. In Sanskrit, harshad means ‘great joy.’

To use the mālā, hold it in your preferred hand and draped over the ring finger. Starting at the guru bead, move one bead towards you with the thumb for every repetition of the mantra. After you have moved through all the beads and have come back to the guru bead, pause, turn the mālā around and begin the next round of japa.

B] Types of Mālā Beads

    • Lotus mālā: The lotus flower is regarded as a symbol of purity, good fortune and enlightenment. Just as the lotus flower rises above the muddy waters to bloom radiant and beautiful, so too the lotus seed mālā imbues our practice with its virtues of inner strength, clarity, and purpose.
    • Rudraksha mālā: The word rudraksha means the eyes/tears of Rudra, a form of Lord Shiva. Rudraksha seed mālās are considered to be a treasure trove of spiritual blessings, bestowing healing and protection to those who use them for their spiritual practices.
  • Gemstone mālā: These semi-precious stones, also called crystals, are found all over the world in myriad colours and forms. They have been revered for thousands of years, for their beauty and healing properties. Each crystal has its own unique properties and energy. To select the right beads for you and your practice, follow your intuition (inner voice). Notice which mālā you are drawn to or what resonates with you.

C] Benefits of Using Mālā Beads for Meditation

    • The primary purpose of mālā beads is to keep track of the japa (mantra chanting) during meditation.
    • Tracing the mālā beads with your fingers during the meditation is also calming and induces positive thoughts. It also lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.
    • Semi-precious Mālā beads made from natural stones also emit specific energies and have healing properties. For example, moonstone japa mālā is known to enhance creativity and intuition. Whereas, ruby onyx stone mālā is known to bring forth joyfulness, warmth and represents the Sun God.
    • Meditating on the mālā beads regulates your body’s respiratory function, which helps alleviate stress and promotes overall general well-being.
    • It helps improve attention, focus and concentration, thereby enhancing self-awareness. Tracing the mālā beads during meditation also helps increase mindfulness and is known to delay cognitive decline in old age.
    • Using mālā for japa can help re-direct your focus from the worries of daily life, clearing away negative thoughts and helping you get rid of anxiety, fear, and self-doubt.
  • Meditating on the mālā beads is also known to channel inner peace and self-empowerment. It helps enhance emotional stability and soothes the mind, body, and soul.

Read this guide to know more about how to choose, use, and cleanse the mālā beads.

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