About the Malaby Admin | Apr 2, 2018
We started designing our Malas a few years ago and since we’ve seen a lot of interest in the use and history of the Mala. We enjoy educating and sharing the knowledge that we have learned through the years and below is some of the information gained.
What is a Mala?
A Mala translates as a “Rose” or “Garland” and has usually has 108 prayer beads. A more direct translation is “Garland from Above”, or “Heavenly Garland”. In accordance with the active practice of Buddhism, this material object is used as a tool for progression on the path to enlightenment.
Traditional Mala Parts:
Guru Bead – the larger, more decorative bead at the mala’s end to where a pendant would be.
Mala Bead – beads used for counting scared mantras, intentions or affirmations, they make up the majority of beads in the necklace.
Spacer – separates the marker bead from the mala beads. Sometimes used between Mala Beads to add length to a necklace.
Marker – separates the four sections of 27 Mala beads & assist keeping track of where you are in your meditations.
Counter – ten counter beads are strung on the side marker sections. These beads are slid to one side of the counter tassel as the counter tassel is passed, counting the times you pass.
1. The 108 prayer beads represent the 108 times that you would recite a mantra, affirmation, or intention. The are spacers and markers in the necklace used to keep track of where you are in your meditations in four parts, each part consisting of 27 beads. Spacers between the Mala beads are also used to lengthen the necklace or bracelet to the desired size. Mala bracelets are usually made up of 27 Mala beads and are passed through four times completing the 108 recitations.
2. A Mala is a tool for assisting us in reciting a mantra, affirmation, or intention. We bless all of our Mala beads which gives added strength and power to protect us, cleanse us, provide tranquility, and to drive away negative energy.
3. To use your Mala: pass the beads through your fingers one by one with the left hand starting with the first bead after the “Guru” bead. With each Mala bead you pass, recite the mantra, affirmation, or intention, then continue the next bead and repeat the mantra until you have recited through each bead on the entire necklace. The spacer beads are there to assist in knowing where you are in the process of your practice.
The more you wear your Mala and the more you use it, the more powerful it becomes, as it remembers the energies and love that it is surrounded with! I wear mine everyday and take them with me on my hikes, travels, ceremonies and of course during meditation. The more I wear them in these practices the more I can feel the strength, protection and positive energy that they provide.
As it is with most things, I also like to share the fact that there is no wrong way to use your Malas or practice your meditation. The main thing is that you get to a space of peace, tranquility and love: ultimately arriving at Satori. The beads worn regularly can remind us of these things on a daily basis and resinate with our energy to assist us in a happy peaceful life. Even just setting an intention like “love” and then going throughout your day will assist in carrying the vibration of love. So as long as it works for you, then that is the “right way” to do it! The main thing is that we practice being our true authentic selves and progressing on our path to enlightenment .
History of the Mala:
Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, paid a visit to king Vaidunya directed him to thread 108 seeds of the Bodhi tree on a string, and while passing them between his fingers to repeat the Hail to the Buddha, the law, and the congregation’ (2,000) times a day (Dubin).
Another interpretation of this prayer is “Om Mani Padme Hum.” During recitation, this phrase is repeated over and over again according to how many beads are on a person’s strand of mala beads.
Traditionally, there are 108 beads on a strand of buddhist mala prayer beads. The origin of is the sacred number related astrologically to the 12 astrological houses, multiplied by the 9 planets in our solar system. This number is significant because it represents the number of mental conditions or sinful desires that one must overcome to reach enlightenment or nirvana. Monks usually have mala beads with 108 beads, where as a lay person may have a strand numbering in 30 or 40 beads. This difference in length may possibly be explained by understanding each person’s distance traveled on the path to enlightenment. Commercial sellers of mala beads have also suggested that individuals just beginning this prayer ritual begin with a shorter strand of beads. Just as variety exists for the number of beads, variety exists for the style, color, and material composition. Differences in the popularity and use of mala beads also exist cross-culturally. Typically, monks’ mala beads are made of wood from the Bodhi tree. In Tibet, mala strands often contain parts of semi-precious stones. In this culture, the most valued strands are made of bones of holy men or lamas. Typically there are 108 beads divided by 3 large beads. The end pieces on these strands are dorje (a thunderbolt) and drilbu (the bell). These end pieces represent the Three Jewels, or Buddha, the doctrine, and the community.
Although the structure of mala beads may vary among individuals or groups of Buddhists, the overall purpose of all mala beads is to create a sense of tranquility and inner-peace for not only the individual, but for the community as a whole. In reciting the prayer, ‘toxins’ will leave and a sense of peace will enter making an individual that much closer to reaching nirvana.
Beside Buddhist prayer beads, wrist malas is also used in buddhism. Writs Malas with 9, 22 or 27 beads, sometimes called “power beads” in the press, with development for doing prostration.
Prostration’s are performed to purify oneself of karmic obstacles during Ngondro Practice, acknowledging the place and value of the Three Jewels(the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha). Performing prostration’s is a way to open oneself up more deeply to the teaching while cutting through the mind’s tendency to habitually ego cling (selfishness, expressed as pride, anger, jealousy, hatred, lust and grasping.) A wrist Mala doesn’t dangle or get in the way like a full sized 108 bead version would while going from standing to prostration position. The wrist Mala was created out of necessity to have a more easy to use Mala for prostrations, and for convenience when traveling. Hence, a wrist Mala can be safely held in the hand while doing a period of prostration’s. You can imagine how a long necklace or Mala would flop around during prostrating, so wrist Malas are a natural solution to this dilemma.