WHAT IS A MALA BEADS? Why are there 108 beads specifically on a mala?

Agarwood
The traditional Buddist malas have 108 beads – Mala Bracelets, the number of beads can vary depending upon the particular sect of Buddhism, the guru beads and markers are not included in the 108 beads. People often ask why 108? Well the most commonly stated and accepted reason is as follows: 1 represents the Source, the higher truth or the universe, 0 stands for humbleness, emptiness, and the willingness to learn. Finally the number 8 is related with infinity, eternity and timelessness.

108 mala beads is said to represent the following formula: 6 x 3 x 2 x3 = 108 6 senses of a human being: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought 3 times: past, present, future 2 conditions of heart, mind or intention: pure or impure 3 disturbing emotional states or “kleshia”: like, dislike, indifference.

Mala Bracelets
108 beads is said to represent the following formula: 6 x 3 x 2 x3 = 108 6 senses of a human being: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought 3 times: past, present, future 2 conditions of heart, mind or intention: pure or impure 3 disturbing emotional states or “kleshia”: like, dislike, indifference.

WHAT IS A MALA BEADS?

Many ask, really, what are mala beads? The word mala was derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Garland’ which is a set of beads used by Buddhists and Hindus. Traditional mala beads consist of 108 beads strung on durable material, finished with a tassel or knotted ends. Malas are used during meditation, where the practitioner has to count the number of times he or she repeats a chant, mantra or intention. Mala beads are made up of different materials such as wood, seed, precious or semi precious stones. These are worn around the neck or wrist. A mantra can be repeated hundreds or thousands of times depending upon the type of prayer, meditation or intention.

ANATOMY OF A MALA BEADS

The mala necklace is made of a string of prayer beads often with the traditional 108 beads. 108 beads can be divisible by that number such as 27 or 54 beads. The beads are strung on a durable bead cable, or nylon thread, with enough space to slide beads for counting or knots in-between. There is also a larger bead that is known as the ‘guru bead’ that has a natural cotton or silk tassel at the bottom. The tassel is considered a symbol of one thousand lotus petals.

Some examples would be for spiritual aspects, for relaxing, for healing and calming the mind, and even fashion considering so many different shapes of beads and stones become more readily available.

HOW TO USE A MALA FOR MEDITATION

Using beads mala for your meditation is an invaluable tool in meditation, yoga and a deep meditative practice. The mala is used by holding it with either hand even though traditionally it is held using the left hand. You start just after the Guru bead and do your mantra meditations while holding every single bead between your thumb and the index finger. Drape the mala over your finger after you have recited a mantra; this allows the bead to pass over the finger towards you. When you are through with a complete circle of the mala you come back to the Guru bead. You continue over the Guru Bead as it’s not counted, nor are the markers. The use of a mala helps to ground and stabilize attention.

So why are there 108 beads specifically on a mala?

In ancient Vedic tradition, 108 was the number of existence itself. This sacred number is seen all over Indian culture, from 108 sacred yogic texts to 108 sacred sites throughout the country, and 108 marma points (or sacred sites within the body). Highly attuned to the chakra system, the ancient Vedics also identified 108 lines of energy converging into the heart chakra. The Vedics calculated the Sun’s diameter to be precisely 108 times that of the Earth’s diameter. So the next time you meditate with your 108 mala beads, keep in mind the universally sacred origins of this number, and allow that to infuse into the power of your mindful experience.

Malas have become a popular accessory for the increased spiritual practice of meditation and self-reflection in the modern age. Mala Beads and Mala Bracelets are usually two similar but different items that people use and wear.

Mala Beads
As times develop, so do the use of age-old instruments. In the past, Mala Beads were strictly comprised of 108 beads and were primarily used only by Master Yogis, or Monks in order to count prayers or prostrations.

However, as Buddhism grew, an easier method of carrying these beads was born in the shape of Mala Bracelets or Buddha Bracelets. With this change, even more, people began using these Malas in ways they were never used before.

Some examples would be for spiritual aspects, for relaxing, for healing and calming the mind, and even fashion considering so many different shapes of beads and stones become more readily available.

read more: More about the agarwood mala (or japamala)

Traditional 108 Mala Beads

As a tradition started thousands of years ago, monks have used beads strung in a circle as a powerful spiritual symbol.

Mala beads are referred in different cultures as Rosary or Prayer beads, and other names such as Malas, Japa Malas, Tibetan Beads, and the more traditional 108 bead mala – the last name is very important as the number 108 is a sacred number in Hinduism the origin of the traveling yogi.

There is also saying that the number 1 stands for ultimate enlightenment, or the universe. 0 stands for emptiness and humility, and 8 stands for infinity.

108 Mala Beads
Laos 108-bead Agarwood Bracelet

Throughout time these beautiful 108 bead necklaces have been used in meditation to keep count of mantras, prayers, or wishes.

108 Mala Bead Necklaces have grown to become a symbol of Buddhism due to the belief that they carry special power and energy depending on what’s it made of. The consisting gemstone, seed or bead are believed to have individual strengths and properties that aid one to live a balanced life.

From protection, healing, to cleansing and creativity it is believed to bring the wearer a vast variety of benefits. It also can be used a memento to remain balanced, humble and grounded as one traverses the unpredictable path of life.

READ MORE: 108 MALA BEADS AGARWOOD AND IT’S INTERESTING MYSTERIES

About Mala Bracelets

Beaded mala bracelets have many names. Wrist malas, energy or power bracelet, Buddha bracelets, prayer bracelets and many other similar variants. However, they are all mostly one and the same.

Originally made as a convenient alternative to the 108 malas, wrist malas have now come into their own and become very popular among meditation and yoga lovers. Furthermore, mala bracelet has even become one of the most fashionable accessories for those who enjoy peace and nature in everyday life.

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