Other Mala Beads
Apart from semi- precious crystals, malas can be made with different materials for the beads – which in turn, impart different properties to the mala. Here are some of the main ones:
Wooden Beads are probably the simplest and most widely used for malas. Reasonably inexpensive, widely available and relatively easy to produce, wood is a good material for bead making. Some of the woods used impart additional properties to the mala, including:
SANDALWOOD – is a fragrant and increasingly rare wood that has long been prized for ceremonial use. Considered auspicious, sandalwood brings aroma to practice – and as such, reminds us that we are sensory beings and its calming effect can make meditation practice satisfying at many levels.
EBONY – is a dark dense wood from the heart of a tree that grows in Asia and Africa. The outer layers of the tree are light – almost white and the meaning given to ebony from this is that the surface is not always all there is – you have to go deeper to find what isn’t seen. Ebony improves with age and use (making it perfect for meditation work) and has long been used for ceremonial objects, rosaries and sculptures
ROSEWOOD – a deep rich wood known for its vibrational properties (it is used in the making of wooden musical instruments). Rosewood grows like a person with his arms stretched up to the heavens and as such is thought to impart warmth, compassion, kindness and love.
Other natural materials used in mala making can include:
RUDRAKSHA SEED/ NUT : After wood, Rudraksha Seeds are probably the next most used material for mala making. These tiny dark red seeds/nuts are thought to emit very positive vibrations. It is believed that the first malas were strung from rudraksha seeds more than 1,000 years ago and worn by Sages because of their strong spiritual significance and healing properties. According to Vedic beliefs, these seeds are Shiva’s tears of compassion for humanity – which is why they possess healing properties.
BODHI SEEDS are another seed/nut used in mala making. The Bodhi tree is a species of fig and its seeds are believed to assist in attaining enlightenment. (Bodhi is Sanskrit for enlightenment). Buddhism recounts that Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became the Buddha while meditating under a bodhi tree.
LOTUS SEED – Another speckled seed used in mala making comes from the lotus – a sacred symbol in many cultures. The sacred Buddhist mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum means ‘the jewel is in the lotus’ and encourages that transformation comes from the indivisible union of method and wisdom. The lotus symbolizes purity and birth and in sacred Chinese traditions the Buddhist goddess Kuan Yin’s name means ‘born of the lotus’ and represents rebirth to the higher plane of enlightenment.
BONE – Animal bone (these days primarily yak and cow bones) is readily available and able to be carved and used in mala making. Bone remind us of our mortality and that life on this earth is fleeting.
RED CORAL has been called the ‘garden of the sea’. Coral is a good aid for meditation or visualization, as it symbolizes life and blood-force energy. It serves to remind of change and rebirth, and that as we embrace the future some of the past remains with us as a foundation while our branches embrace a brave new world and adapt to the challenges it offers.
FRESH WATER PEARLS are cultured in inland waters and have long been considered symbols of delight and love. They also symbolize things that can be unconsciously carried – needing to be brought into the light, but their primary associations are with innocence, genuine beauty and compassion.