What are mala beads?
what are mala beads?
Malas are necklaces that are traditionally used in a form of meditation called Japa, found in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. When practicing Japa, one recites a mantra (either vocally or internally) 108 times. The number 108 holds a great amount of significance in many aspects of Buddhist culture, including the section of the Lankavatara sutra in which Bodhisattva Mahamati asks Buddha 108 questions, the 108 earthly temptations to overcome in search of Nirvana, and the 108 feelings it is believed a person can experience.
Traditional Tibetan malas have 108 beads, as well as three marker beads and a guru bead. The marker beads are not counted in the meditation, and are usually made from a different material than the others to introduce a tactile difference and assist the user in tracking their progress while meditating. The 109th stone, referred to as the guru bead, or sumeru, represents the relationship between student and teacher. Traditionally, meditations are started to the left side of the sumeru, with the beads held between the thumb and either the middle or ring finger. The index finger should be extended outwards, as it represents ego. Working clockwise, the user recites their mantra once on each bead, completing the meditation on the other side of the sumeru. It is important to note that the sumeru should not be crossed over during the course of meditation.