Why do Malas have 108 Beads?
The Significance of 108 has incredible meaning throughout many cultures and religions, but we only speculate when we try to answer the question: why do malas have 108 beads?
Here are a few reasons I have been able to find in my personal search:
- In the ancient Vigyan Bhairav tantra book, by Shiva Rae (a devoted yoga and tantra scholar) there are taught 108 forms of meditation techniques to Ma Parvati which is a book that meditations worldwide have been based upon
- 108 is also the architecture of sacred texts: Upanishads, Primary Tantras and chapters of the Rig Veda
- In Aryurveda, there are 108 sacred places or marmas (energy centers where life force connects and flows) on the body
- The number of letters in the Sanskrit language are 54 while having both a feminine (shiva-consciousness) and a masculine (shakti-energy) creating 108 in total.
- Perhaps the reason is found in the distance between the Sun and the Earth 108x the sun’s diameter or the distance of the Moon to Earth is 108 x the moon’s diameter or the diameter of the sun is about 108 x Earth’s diameter
- There are countless mathematical patterns in the world that show up as having the number 108 and repeatedly so for this it is a number loved by mathematicians
There are more reasons that I am sure, but these are a few that resonated with me on my journey and so I felt they were significant enough to share with you.
Why do malas have 108 beads? Do you have your own ideas? Please let me know in the comments! I don’t claim to be an expert and hope to become more enlightened on my journey.
I feel though, that there is so much more to learn on the topic of malas, that I wanted to go a bit deeper with you.
What are Malas?
A mala is a type of necklace, a simple string of 108 beads (or radraksha seeds), a guru bead and a tassel, that are used in a meditation practice. It is a beautiful tool that helps you count mantras and while using the sense of touch, it acts as a silent guide during your practice.
What is a Mala used for?
It is worn to help keep away negative energy and used as a shield to the wearer to protect them from being bombarded with negative energy, but even more so, it is used as a traditional tool in prayer, mantra and meditation. It allows a person to repeat their desire over and over 108 times. It helps you stay focussed as well as create a connection with what you desire.
What does the word Mala mean?
The word mala is from a Sanskrit word, meaning garland, this word embodies circular motion or continuous form; however, there is a beginning, a middle and an end to each mantra, or meditation using malas. It is also believed that each mala has its own sacred meaning, find your mantra for your mala and use it in your practice. I have many malas for different mantras or prayers that I engage in.
Malas have many names: prayer beads, buddha beads, buddhist beads (buddhist beads is what I grew up knowing them as), buddhist prayer beads, mantra beads, meditation beads, and even yoga beads. These are several but not all the names for Malas, but they are some of the more common names used today.
What is a Mantra?
According to Wikipedia:
1. (originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.
2. a statement or slogan repeated frequently.
-A mantra (Sanskrit: मन्त्र, romanized: mantra, English pronunciation / ˈ m æ n t r ə, ˈ m ɑː n-, ˈ m ʌ n-/) is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, syllable, word or phonemes, or group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and/or spiritual powers.
Mantra Examples for Meditation:
You can create your own mala mantra, receive or purchase a mala that already has a mantra with mindful intentions already set or created for it. You can use one word or create a mantra in a sentence.
One word mantra examples for meditation would be:
-Love, Love, Love
-Peace, Peace, Peace
-Blessed, Blessed, Blessed
Examples of a mantra in a sentence would be:
-I am blessed, I am blessed, I am blessed
-I am calm, I am calm, I am calm
-I am enough, I am enough, I am enough
Choosing a Mantra for Meditation
How do you know how to choose a mantra for your meditation? It is rather simple actually. You might be gifted a mala which was created with mindful intentions already set and a mantra already made for it, or you might personally purchase a mala with mindful intentions and mantra already created, like any of these at I Am Blessed Mala created by my friend and beautiful soul, Hayley Lowen. However, if you are choosing a mantra for meditation, for a mala you are creating on your own or with someone, you can create it either by understanding the crystal meanings you are using in your mala or feeling the energy that the mala is radiating out to you.
Finding Your Personal Mantra
The process all on its own, in finding your personal mantra, might come easily or take some time through prayer and soul searching. It is after all, something that has to resonate with you and your personal experience on this journey of life.
Gemstones in Malas
You can find a variety of gemstones in malas, otherwise known as crystals, you can also find both wood and rudraksha beads depending on who is making it and where it is found. Being an absolute crystal lover, I, of course, love all gemstones in malas. Crystals bring their own meanings into a mala which can help you form a mindful intentions bond with your mala if you have one that didn’t have an intention already created for it.
My personal favorite at the moment has long strands of Howlite (it keeps anxiety at bay and has been doing the trick for some time) mixed with wood, its mantra is: I am one with the Universe.
I also have another with howlite, garnet, labradorite and hematite, this one is amazing for releasing blocks, connecting with the celestial, bringing luck, and is also very grounding. I use the mantra: I am connected. I have to admit that my favorite malas made by Hayley Lowen at I Am Blessed Mala are: I AM ABUNDANT, I AM ALIVE, and I AM WEST COAST although, everything she creates is stunning!
You may want to use crystals for protection or gemstones with other distinct properties when you create a Mala so that it is one of a kind for you and has the stones that you need in your life.
What is the Meaning of Rudraksha?
Another item that some may be unfamiliar with are the rudraksha beads. They are actually the seeds of the Eliocarpus ganitrus tree that are used as a prayer bead in Hinduism. The beads are used in creating malas for prayer, mantras and meditation and are associated with the Hindu deity, Shiva. They are most commonly worn to induce a sense of calm, give protection and chant mantras (example of a chanting mantra: Om Namah Shivaya). In sanskrit, the word Rudra is another name for Shiva and ksha means ‘teardrops’ so the word Rudraksha can be translated as teardrops of Shiva It is said that the Rudraksha beads help to protect against negative energies and those who wish one ill will as though it forms a cocoon, like a shield, around you. I really love the stories and information about Radraksha beads found on this site, I recommend having a read through for yourself: https://vedicfeed.com/types-of-rudraksha-beads-and-benefits/
Guru Bead Meaning
The Guru Bead is the bead at the end of your mala, usually followed by a tassel. It is the 109th bead where you both begin and end your mantra or meditation. The guru in Sanskrit translates to ‘bringer of light’ honoring the relationship between the student and the teacher. I could not find an actual guru bead meaning, other than its translation and it also being the place where you create the intention in your mala.
Meditating with Malas
The last thing that I would like to leave you with, is for you to learn how you can begin meditating with malas. I find it to be one of the easiest meditations to follow as it helps to keep my mind focussed while at the same time allowing me to create intention and repeat positive affirmations over myself, others or the world in general.
Sit in a comfortable position, with eyes closed, breathing rhythmically, and holding the guru bead in between your thumb while the mala is resting with over your pointer or middle finger. Beginning at the guru bead by creating your intention for the meditation practice, then start with your mantra at the first of the 108 beads. Repeat your mantra at every bead until you get to the guru bead. You can end there or turn your mala around and continue your meditation while moving in the opposite direction. A mantra example: I am enough, I am enough, I am enough.
Prayer Bead Necklace and Prayer Bead Bracelet
If you would like to own your own prayer bead necklace or prayer bracelet, but don’t want to create it yourself, you can head on over to I Am Blessed Malabeads to find the perfect fit or to have one custom made for your desired mantra or specific need. Hayley Lowen is an incredibly intuitive mala creator and gifted woman, she will connect with you and your needs. Affiliate link to I Am Blessed Malabeads: http://www.iamblessedmalabeads.com?aff=6