What are Mala Beads?
The word Mala is Sanskrit for garland and the history of the mala as we know it, is a long and interesting one...
A mala is likely one of the oldest spiritual tools known. It dates back to around the 8th century BCE when the ancient seers of India began to use beads to help them during meditation. These strings of prayer beads, were called japa malas, because of the style of meditation they were practicing - which involved repetition of prayers. Japa literally means repetition so what we know today as japa meditation (even if we didn't know the term) is where we repeat a mantra, affirmation or prayer to a set number of repetitions.
From Vedism (the early Hinduism), the use of mala beads spread to other cultures and religions including Islam and Buddhism. When the Roman Empire was trading with India, it is believed that the Romans mistook the word japa for jap, the Latin word for “rose.” So when these prayer beads found their way back to ancient Rome, they were called rosarium, or rosary in English. Today, more than two-thirds of the world's religions use mala beads, prayer beads, rosary beads or worry beads to aid in their spiritual practices.
Malas traditionally have 109 or 112 beads - 108 'counting beads', sometimes three marker beads placed at intervals of 27 - and a guru (or meru) bead, anchoring the energy, sacred purpose and intention of the mala.
The beads of a mala can be made from a number of substances, including wood, bone, seeds and semi-precious gemstones. Different spiritual practices have historically favored different substances: In India malas are made of sandalwood, tulasi and rudraksha seeds, while in Nepal and Tibet, malas are more commonly made from bodhi seeds, lotuis seeds and bone. Western adoption of malas in spiritual and asana practice has seen more semi-precious gemstone beads used - incorporating the energy of the crystals into the mala work.
Whatever the materials used - malas have evolved with specific tie patterns and distinct parts that each work toward your end goal - of directing your prayers, energies, thoughts or intentions to your higher self, the Universe and the Divine.
They serve as a tactile reminder during meditation, affirmation, or yoga practice to focus, to breathe and to remember your intention and the commitment you have made to your spirituality, your higher self, your consciousness...
Our Product Page can give you more information on 'non stone' mala beads: