Many sacred traditions and religions use strings of beads as an aid to prayer, chants, or meditation. This symbol, when used in spiritual practice, may be seen as an aide on the pathway to enlightenment, a sacred object that acts as a carrier of the soul.
A Japamala or mala – Sanskrit for ‘garland’ – is a string of prayer beads commonly used in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Shinto, for the spiritual practice known as Japa.
Japa – to recite – is the meditative repetition of a mantra or a divine name.
Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or prayer.
Beads, which may be gemstones, rudraksha seeds, or sandalwood.
Hand knotting is a beautiful, meditative process that creates a small space between each bead, which makes it easier to move through the mala during meditation. On one level, the string represents the connection between humans and the divine.
The Guru – a bead, gemstone, or tassel – is not used for counting mantras but is the place where we stop… pause, and reflect. It is there as a symbol … of our Teacher, our understanding of the Divine. It is set apart from the 108, reminding us that our Teacher is beyond the Universe and us.
The tassel is symbolic of the roots of a lotus flower. The lotus flower is a representation of growth, as its journey is one through mud… ultimately developing into a beautiful flower. Tying the last knot of the mala to the tassel symbolizes our recognition of this growth and our important connection to Divine inspiration.
Every mala, as unique as the wearer, may represent something different to each person – a tool for meditation, a reminder of an intention, a piece or gem that inspires you, or a beautiful manifestation of a feeling.
Each Shanti Malas is created to be a beautiful, functional meditation tool, to assist the spirit on its journey, and help the wearer align with their highest self.
Silk is biodegradable, non-toxic, and even has anti-bacterial properties.
It is spun from the long threads which make up the inner cocoon of a silkworm. These little critters keep a raw, gluten-free, dairy-free diet that consists entirely of mulberry leaves – the product of a hardy tree that is resistant to pollution and easy to cultivate.
While silk is not a good choice for vegans, for others, silk can be a very ethical, sustainable fabric, due to the fairly low environmental impact of the production process. When done well, silk manufacturing can be a harmonious and low-waste process.
Malas, from the most humble to those crafted from precious gemstones, are beautiful touch pieces… physical representations and reminders of your energy and intentions.
USE YOUR MALA in a comfortable, quiet space,
ideally one dedicated to meditation.
Place the bead closest to the guru bead between your thumb and index finger of your dominant hand. Roll the bead between your fingers, repeating your intention, mantra, or prayer – either to yourself or out loud – using the rolling motion to move on to the next bead. By stating your intentions, desires, and aims, you are imbuing this energy into the beads and into your life. You are working on manifesting your intention.
Continue this until you have circled back to your ‘guru’ bead.
Just as with physical exercise, your strength in the beautiful practice of mala meditation – and the intention you choose to manifest – will only grow from here!
A traditional Japa mala is made with 108 beads.
108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga. … Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence, as it mirrors the various stages of the world’s development.
This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters.
Each bead represents one – one breath, one recitation of a mantra, one prayer – but is connected to the whole strand … as we individuals are connected … to our family, to each other, to the world. We are all living beings together … one cannot exist without the other. This connection to life, to all life, is the Buddha-nature.
In the Vedic Age, the era in which the most ancient Hindu scriptures were composed, renowned mathematicians regarded 108 as the number of the wholeness of existence with the 1 standing for God or higher Truth, 0 for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 for infinity or eternity, representing the ultimate reality of the universe.
why the number 108?
for God or higher truth
for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice
for infinity or eternity
traditionally there are 50 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, but some teachings claim 54 letters. each has masculine and feminine, Shiva and Shakti.
54 times 2 is 108.
the chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra.
one of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to self-realization.
108 is a harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits.
108 is a multiple harshad number as the process ends at 1.
108/9 = 12; 12/3 = 4; 4/4 = 1
harshad is from Sanskrit, and means “great joy”
marmas or marmasthanas are like energy intersections called chakras, except have fewer energy lines converging to form them.
there are said to be 108 marmas in the subtle body.
the sacred river ganga spans a longitude of 12 degrees (79 to 91), and a latitude of 9 degrees (22 to 31).
12 x 9 = 108.
the pre-historic monument Stonehenge is 108 feet in diameter.
planets and houses
in astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets.
12 times 9 equals 108.
there are said to be 108 Indian goddess names.
sun and earth
the diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the earth.
the distance from the sun to the earth is 108 times the diameter of the sun.
moon and earth
the average distance of the moon from the earth is 108 times the diameter of the moon.
-the angle formed by two adjacent lines in a pentagon equals 108 degrees
-the first manned space flight lasted 108 minutes
-there are said to be 108 human delusions or forms of ignorance
-according to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas or sacred sites throughout India
-some say there are 108 feelings, 36 related to the past, 36 to the present, and 36 to the future
-in astrology, silver is said to represent the moon – the atomic weight of silver is 108u
-in Islam the number 108 is used to refer to God
-in Japan, Buddhists ring a bell 108 times to celebrate the new year – each ring represents one of the 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana
-in the neo-Gnostic teachings of Weor, an individual has 108 chances (lifetimes) to eliminate their egos and transcend the material world before ‘devolving’ and having the egos forcefully removed in the infradimensions (hell)
All things hold energy… and gemstones, crystals, and rocks have the remarkable ability to absorb, amplify, and transmit energy and vibrations.
To ensure your experience with the healing stones in your mala is a beautiful and transformative experience, each mala is offered ‘clean’ – having been cleansed by sage or palo santo smoke, sound vibration, or bathed in moonlight.
Before wearing your mala for the first time, set an intention. Your intention may be inspired by the mala’s gemstone properties or it may be a reflection or manifestation of what your soul needs.
be very clear on your intention … the universe is listening and ready to support you
Transmit your intention and energy to your mala by simply holding it… turning the beads with your fingers, while concentrating on your focus or intent. Imagine a strong light surrounding and supporting your intention.
Charge your mala beads with vibrational sound energy by reciting and repeating your intention… maybe while listening to mantra music or Tibetan singing bowls.
Close by sitting quietly, focusing on the strong energy of your intentions… sealing with the sound of tingshas or a singing bowl or with sacred smoke.
embody the intentions you want to manifest
Observing physical changes to your mala that happen with time and use is a reminder of the nature of impermanence.
Our malas are precious to us … often a reminder of a personal aspiration or part of a mediation or mindfulness practice … and should be tended to accordingly.
Caring for your mala can be a reminder to be mindful in all that you do and can serve as a prompt to care for and nourish your body.
Your mala may need occasional physical and energetic cleaning to keep it looking its best.
The metals and porous gemstones of your mala should not be cleaned or treated with harsh chemicals. While wearing your mala take care that is not exposed to excessive sweat, perfumes, or other chemicals.
Remove your mala while exercising, swimming, and showering. Water will cause the 100% silk thread of your mala to break down.
Polish your mala beads with a soft cotton cloth or a special jewelry cleaning cloth only.
Be careful that your mala isn’t exposed to excessive sweat and harsh chemicals such as bleach and cleaning detergents.
Sunlight can fade gemstones including amethyst, citrine, smoky quartz, aquamarine, rose quartz, celestite, and sapphires. Opals, pearls, and fluorite can dry out and crack with prolonged exposure.
Avoid wearing your mala in the shower or while swimming. Getting your mala beads wet can shorten the life of the knotting cord.
Unless you’re wearing a wrap mala that’s specifically designed to be worn in multiple ways, avoid wrapping the mala around your wrist, as it can shorten the life of your mala.
When not wearing your mala, you can keep it safe by storing it in the protective pouch it came in.
Some recommend keeping malas closed up in a container, the idea being to retain the stones’ energy and intention. My preference is to revisit their power and purpose each time I hold or wear this most beautiful, sacred garland. I believe a home altar is an excellent place to keep your mala.
The elastic cord will wear down with long exposure to hot, cold, and salt water. Take your bracelets off before showering, swimming, washing the dishes, spending time in a jacuzzi or spa – any prolonged water exposure.
Keep your stretch bracelets away from cleaning chemicals, extreme temperatures, lotions, perfumes, soaps – anything that will react with the elastic.
Remove your bracelets gently … if you stack your wrist malas or stretch cord bracelets, put them on and take them off one at a time. Best to ‘roll’ stretchy cord bracelets on and off.