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 and have become synonymous with Buddhist traditions and meditative practices.
Malas are now making a comeback. They've been seen as part of a fashion statement on celebrities everywhere you look today. They are also the latest trend in an actually ancient practice, in the form of wearable yoga. These are said to contain powerful and symbolic tools for prayer, meditation, and healing that are imparted to the wearer.
What are Mala Beads?
The word "mala" comes from the Sanskrit word which means "garland." Malas originated in the 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.
They are not only works of art but they also have spiritual significance, and each is unique in its design with a highly individual meaning for the wearer.
Repetition of mantras and chants is a common ritual among the Tibetan Buddhist monks, and these malas and rosary-like pearls are used as 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 have traditionally crafted materials such as plant seeds, exotic wood, animal bones, and other materials that are hand-carved, shaping them into perfectly rounded marbles.
They can also be made from precious and semi-precious gemstones, long believed to have their own individual properties, energy, and healing powers. So, every stone and every color in the rosary has a very specific meaning for its wearer.
- Amethyst encourages emotional and mental clarity.
- Rose quartz radiates compassion and love.
- Blue lapis lazuli exudes calmness.
And in some traditions, these are inscribed or painted with special mantras and ancient symbols.
How Many Beads Do They 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 is sometimes added, along with talismans or amulets depending on local traditions.
What is the Significance of 108?
There are numerous explanations for why there are 108 beads, but the number 108 carries special religious significance in several Hindu and Buddhist traditions, including Tibetan Buddhism.
Various traditions and some intriguing facts include:
- The number 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 a human being.
- The number 1 represents God, the universe, or a person’s highest truth; 0 stands for humility in spiritual practice and emptiness, and the number 8 represents timelessness or infinity.
- The number 108 forms the layout of the sacred texts that are central to eastern philosophy and yoga. The Rig Veda consists of 108 chapters, likewise the primary Tantras and Upanishads.
- Their sacred texts are written in Sanskrit, which is comprised of 54 letters, each letter having both the 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, which purportedly identify the intersections of matter and consciousness. It is said that the various points can awaken and align with the vital energy when they are 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 simply a string of beads that are used in meditation practice to help you focus and count mantras. Malas can make a powerful 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 who wears them intends for it.
As the 108 beads comprising a "rosary" have their roots in the concepts of wholeness, order, and completion, we are reminded of our interconnectedness with all people, everywhere. We offer a lifestyle at Woman Shops World, both spiritual and intentional, 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 as well as materials and other handcrafted products. 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 quality finished products as well as bone marbles, tassels, and other jewelry-making supplies.