A mala is a string of beads that are used during meditation to help the wearer count repetitive mantras and chants. Malas have a long and rich history. While they have become synonymous with Buddhist traditions, they're also a powerful tool for meditation newcomers or anyone seeking a more intentional lifestyle.
Malas are now making a comeback. They've been seen as part of an intentional living fashion statement on celebrities and cultural influencers. They are also the latest trend of an ancient practice, in the form of wearable yoga. These are said to contain powerful and symbolic tools for prayer, meditation, and healing that are then transferred to the wearer.
What are Mala Beads?
The word "mala" comes from a Sanskrit word that means "garland", as in a garland of beads. Malas originated in Tibetan Buddhist communities of the Himalayas, but their influence and usage spread to other countries and religions. Malas are still an essential part of the Buddhist monks' wardrobe today, and they are commonly worn around their wrists.
Malas are not only works of art but they also have spiritual significance, and each is unique in its design, often with a deeply personal meaning for the wearer.
The repetition of mantras and chants is a common ritual among Tibetan Buddhist monks, and the malas and rosary-like pearls they use are a sort of “spiritual abacus” to keep track as they recite them. It is said to help sharpen the focus of the mind, and to allow a sense of calm to spread throughout the body.
What are Mala Beads Made Of?
Malas are often made from traditionally crafted materials such as plant seeds, exotic wood, or animal bones. These materials are usually hand-carved and shaped into perfectly rounded marbles.
They can also be made from precious or semi-precious gemstones, long believed to have their own individual properties, energy, and healing powers. So, every stone and color has a personal and specific meaning for its wearer.
- Amethyst encourages emotional and mental clarity.
- Rose quartz radiates compassion and love.
- Blue lapis lazuli exudes calmness.
In some traditions, the beads are also inscribed or painted with special mantras and ancient symbols.
How Many Beads Do Malas Have?
The necklaces used by Buddhists, Hindus, and some Sikhs traditionally contain 108 beads.
However, in later years, various Buddhist sects could either retain all 108 beads, or divide them into consecutive twos and fours, for brevity or informality, so that they would then consist of 18, 27, 54 or the full 108. A decorative tassel, talismans, or amulets are also added sometimes, depending on local traditions.
What is the Significance of 108?
There are numerous explanations for why there are specifically 108 beads, because the number 108 carries special religious significance in several Hindu and Buddhist traditions, including Tibetan Buddhism.
Various traditions and some intriguing facts about the number 108 include:
- 108 refers to spiritual completion.
- Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence.
- It is believed that there are 108 earthly desires in humans.
- The number 1 represents God, the universe, or a person’s highest truth; 0 represents humility in spiritual practice and emptiness, and 8 represents timelessness or infinity.
- 108 forms the layout of sacred texts that are central to eastern philosophy and yoga. The Rig Veda consists of 108 chapters, as are the primary Tantras and Upanishads.
- These sacred texts are written in Sanskrit, which is comprised of 54 letters. Each letter has both masculine and feminine forms, for a total of 108 letters.
- 108 also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: the average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters.
- Mathematically speaking, the number 108 is valued for its countless patterns and potential divisions. For example, it is divisible by the sum of its parts and most of its proper divisors, making it semi-perfect.
- In Ayurveda, there are 108 marmas, or pressure points, in the body. These points are said to identify the intersections of matter and consciousness. It is also said that marmas can awaken and align vital energy by being manipulated.
- In the Vedic tradition, the number 108 denotes the wholeness of the universe, with the number one representing the solar masculinity, zero representing the lunar femininity, and the number eight representing the infinite nature of all things.
- It is believed that 108 energy lines converge to form the heart chakra.
- In astrology, there are 12 houses and nine planets, which when multiplied equals 108.
- Concerning time, it has been said that humans have 108 feelings. Of these, 36 are related to the past, 36 are related to the present, and 36 are related to the future.
- A mala evokes a circular, continuous form. In practice, a mala is the devoted offering of repeated cycles (typically in divisors of 108) of mantra Japa or yoga asana. Within a mala, there is always a sense of beginning, continuing and completion.
Significance is in the Wearer
A mala may be defined as a string of beads used in meditation practice to help direct focus and keep track of counting mantras. Malas can make a bold fashion statement as well. But they can also be a powerful and beneficial tool for emotional and spiritual healing. When a person wears a mala bead necklace, it offers them a wearable reflection of something in their journey. The mala, therefore, becomes whatever the person wearing them intends for it.
As the 108 beads comprising malas have roots in the concepts of wholeness, order, and completion, we are reminded of our interconnectedness with all people, everywhere. We offer an intentional and creative lifestyle at Woman Shops World, with our incredible selection of strikingly beautiful malas handcrafted by artisans in Africa and India.
At Woman Shops World we are proud to offer exquisite 108 bead malas that are ready to wear or use, as well as mala making materials, tassels, and other handcrafted products to create your own intentional magic. If you are looking for world-class DIY supplies that have been ethically and sustainably sourced to craft your own jewelry, we can help with that, too!
We provide only the finest artisan-made bone beads, tassels, and other jewelry-making supplies.