A Bit about Malas
How to Use a Mala
A mala is a string of beads, used to chant the names of God. It’s the same thing as prayer beads, or a rosary. A Hindu mala typically has either 108 beads (108 being considered a sacred number in Hinduism) or 27 beads (which is one-fourth of 108). In addition to the 108 or 27 “counting beads,” a mala generally has an additional bead, called the “guru bead,” which hangs perpendicular to the circle of counting beads.
A Hindu mala is usually worked with by using the right hand. The mala is held resting over the third finger of the right hand, and the beads are brought toward you, one by one, using the thumb. Each bead counts one repetition of the mantra. When you get around to the guru bead, you don’t count it, and you don’t pass it; you stop there, mentally bow to the guru, flip the mala around, and start going back the other way. Each time you come to the guru bead you awaken once more, and then you turn around and go back the way you came.
Now for those of you who are left-handed: In India, you would be inclined to use the right hand anyway, because of certain cultural traditions. The Tibetans, on the other hand, have no such rules; they use their malas in either hand, and with any finger. In the Hindu tradition, you can use any finger of the right hand to hold the beads, except for the first finger, which is the pointing or “accusing” finger; you don’t use that one. The reason most people use the third finger is that there is a nerve on the inside of that finger which is connected to your spine in such a way that you’re getting a little added benefit from the practice. It’s similar to an acupressure point, and it adds a little extra energy rush to the process.
Why 108 beads?
The number 108 is significant for so many reasons.
Some believe there are 108 stages on the journey of the human soul, while others associate the possibility of enlightenment with taking only 108 breaths a day, while in deep meditation.
No matter who you ask, the answer will most likely be different each time.
The truth is — the significance of 108 beads on your mala is open to interpretation. Which I love.
As mala beads were traditionally created to be used as a tool in meditation, we like to associate it with the ideals of meditation.
However — I believe mala beads are also beautiful mediums to set intentions, manifest, and generally feel good. You don't have to meditate on the beads, although that's what they are made for in a practical sense.
My malas are hand knotted between each seed and gemstone.
My mala necklaces all have 108 beads. I often use place holders in the form of silver beads and these are not counted in the 108.