, and the prayer beads that have since been modeled after them, are tools that have been used by a wide variety of different faiths all over the world for the purpose of counting mantra or for prayer repetition. These days, it seems that many people have begun to confuse the mala with jewelry, and mala-influenced jewelry can be found in all sorts of different shops. However, traditionally, these beads are used for the purpose of keeping track of the number of mantras one has recited without expending a great deal of conscious effort, allowing the practitioner to put the majority of their focus on the mantra itself.
The number of beads on a mala vary from faith to faith. Buddhist and Hindu mala generally contain 108 beads, or 27 beads which can be counted four times to make 108. This is meant to corresponds to the 108 klesas, or afflictions which people on the earthly realm are said to suffer from. Alternately, Vajrayana Buddhists chant 100 mantras, and then do an extra eight in order to make up for any errors that were made. Many 108 bead mala also contain three beads made from a different material that divide intervals of 27 beads for easier counting. Finally, Buddhist mala generally contain an end piece which represents the thunderbolt of enlightenment, while the tassel at the end symbolizes enlightenment itself.
In Tibet, mala have been used for as long as four or five thousand years. Traditionally, to use a mala one holds it in the right hand, and moves the thumb from bead to bead, reciting a mantra for each bead. The mala is traditionally draped over the middle finger, as the index finger represents the ego, the most powerful impediment to Self-Realization, and must be avoided when reciting mantra.
According to Hindu and Buddhist tradition, if you want to empower your mala with the mantra that you intend to practice, you must recite the mantra using that mala every day for forty days. At this time, it can be worn or used to transmit the energetics of that particular mantra to others. It is said that a different mala should be used for each mantra you practice in order to avoid replacing the energy of one mantra with another.
Whether or not you choose to use a different mala for each mantra, or simply use one as a tool for prayer counting, it is interesting and important to note that, at least in the Tibetan tradition, the materials that the mala beads are made out of have a significant influence on the energetic qualities you will access when using that mala. Here at Spiritual Scents we currently only carry traditional Tibetan mala, but we have a number of different styles. Therefore, the following will discuss a few of the styles they carry and the influence that their materials will have on your practice.
Our rosewood mala is interspersed with three bodhi seeds to demarcate intervals of 27 beads. Rosewood is used primarily for magnetizing and bringing positive forces in to one's space. Bodhi seeds are neutral beads and therefore only contribute positively to the energy of the mala. In Hinduism, rosewood is a symbol of Brahma and brings prosperity.Red Bone Mala
These beautiful mala are hand-made by Tibetan nuns living in exile. Bone is used for taming the energies in your life for the purpose of improving yourself and helping all sentient beings. Bone mala can help us to subdue harmful energies with a compassionate outlook. The red color of these mala is a very attractive energy, and is associated with strength, intuition, love and healing. Purchasing this mala will support education, projects and essential needs within the Tibetan nun community.Sandalwood Mala
These sandalwood mala are made from fair-trade sandalwood and their sale goes directly to the Buddhist community that hand-crafts them for us! Sandalwood is used for bringing strength and peace, and the fragrant wood also helps us to release attachments. In India, sandalwood is considered to be a fairly masculine energy and is associated with Ram and Vishnu.Lotus Seed Mala
These Lotus Seed mala are hand-strung in Dharmsala, the home of the Tibetan community in exile. They are fair trade and all proceeds go directly to the community that creates them. Lotus seeds, also known as Rudraksha seeds, are actual seeds and are particularly treasured by devotees of Shiva, and they are said to be the tears of Shiva. Like bone, lotus seed mala help to tame negative energies. A lotus seed mala is very auspicious and helps one to maintain health and to achieve all ambitions.Tibetan Bodhi Seed and Turquoise Mala
The bodhi tree was the tree that the Buddha was said to have been meditating under when he achieved enlightenment. The bodhi seed is a hard, ivory colored bead that eventually turns a deep golden brown with use. These beads are fairly neutral energetically and are considered auspicious in all practices. This beautiful mala includes turquoise dividing beads, which bring a powerful healing energy to the mala. This particular mala features traditional counters which include ten metal beads and bell and dorje counters.
As you can no doubt tell, the variation of materials and styles of mala is absolutely endless, so no matter what focus you would like to have for your practice, you are sure to find a mala that suits you. Mala are a wonderful tool for prayer counting and you will definitely find that using a mala helps you to focus more fully on your meditation and will bring additional power in to your work!