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Mala beads are a string of beads used to count mantras (Sanskrit prayers) in sets of 27, 56 or 108 repetitions. The large meru (mountain) bead provides a starting and ending point on the mala for counting the repetitions. Mala beads are an ancient tool that was developed to keep the mind focused on the practice of meditation.
Mala beads are seen in other cultures and religions and are also known as prayer beads, rosary beads and worry beads. Over two-thirds of the world’s population employ some type of prayer beads as part of their spiritual practice. The use of beads in prayer appears to have originated around the 8th century B.C.E. in India.
Mala beads are typically made out of different materials, and the properties of the beads are said to have specific energetic effects. Different spiritual practices and religious traditions historically have used beads of a specific material.
Mala is a Sanskrit word meaning garland. Japa means recitation, and it is traditionally used as an adjective and combined to form Japa Mala (prayer beads for meditation). Japa mala was adopted into other languages as the use and popularity of prayer beads spread. When the Romans invaded India, they mistook japa for jap, the Latin word for rose. Upon returning to Rome, mala beads were referred to as rosarium and later became known as rosary beads in English.
Using a Mala
A Mala is a string of beads used to count mantras (Sanskrit prayers) in sets of 108 repetitions.
A mantra is a word or series of words chanted aloud or silently to invoke spiritual qualities. Chanting is used as a spiritual tool in virtually every cultural and religious tradition. In the yogic tradition a mantra is a Sanskrit word that has special powers to transform consciousness, promote healing or fulfill desires.
The practice of chanting a mantra is used as a form of meditation. Sitting in a comfortable position, with the eyes closed, the mantra is repeated silently or aloud. The mind is focused on the mantra, the thoughts are let go of and the breath is slow and deep.
Hold your mala in your right hand and use your thumb to “count” each mantra by touching the bead during the recitation and then lightly pushing the bead away on completion and moving to the next bead. The index finger is extended and should not touch the mala. The large meru (mountain) bead should not be counted or touched by the thumb and is used as a starting and ending point of the recitation. If you have a wrist mala of 27 beads you will need to repeat this 3 more times. Continue by pulling the beads and going backwards until you again end at the meru and continue until you have done 108 repetitions, or multiples of 108.
To empower the mala and the mantra used, japa (mantra meditation) should be practiced each day for 40 continuous days. When the mala becomes empowered it can be worn or lightly placed on oneself or others to transmit the energy of the mantra as well as the energetic qualities of the mala. When you use a new mantra with a mala, this energy becomes replaced, so it is recommended to use a new mala with each mantra if possible.
When not in use, store your mala in a special, clean and preferably sacred space.
This Japa mala is made of Neem. Read more about Neem: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azadirachta_indica