Mala beads are a spiritual tool for prayer and meditation. The word “mala” comes from a Sanskrit word that means “garland.” Malas are a string of 108 beads, used like a spiritual abacus, to keep track of repetition of mantras, spiritual chants or breathwork. Malas originated in Tibetan Buddhist communities and are now used all over the world. These necklaces or bracelets are a beautiful way to create a sense of calm, as well as a centered presence while meditating.
Mala beads can be made from sandalwood, rosewood, rudraksha seeds, or my favorite, gorgeous gemstones and crystals! By using crystals, you can combine crystal healing properties and intention setting with your meditation.
So why do malas have 108 beads? Well, the number 108 has many spiritual significances. Truthfully, its significance has many possibilities and is open to interpretation. According to traditional Buddhism, the number 108 represents the mortal desires of mankind. These desires must be overcome to reach Nirvana. It has also been said that we have 108 energy lines in our bodies that all connect to the heart. In Pranayama (the yogic practice of focusing on breath), it is said that if one is able to be so calm in meditation that they only need 108 breaths in a day, then enlightenment will be reached. The Sanskrit alphabet contains 54 letters. Each letter has both a masculine and feminine energy. 54 x 2 = 108.
Many malas actually have another bead, located just above the tassel, called a guru bead. The purpose of the guru bead is to signify the ending of your practice when you arrive at the larger bead. The guru bead is also a reminder to give gratitude at completion.
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