Mala Beads - More Than Just an Accessory
When browsing at a store featuring handmade jewelry, you may have come across a type of long, beaded necklace with a tassel or unique stone pendant. This is more than just an ordinary necklace- this is a mala, or a special string of beads used in Japa meditation practices. The spiritual connection and ancient origins of mala beads
make them among the most fascinating and significant pieces of jewelry one can wear, as it bears a great deal of meaning for the wearer's personal beliefs, spirituality, and values.
Mala Bead Basics
"Mala" is a Sanskrit word meaning "meditation garland." Similar to other collections of beads used to keep track of prayers, mala beads are used as a counting tool for mantras recited by practitioners of certain meditation traditions. A tassel, stone, or other meaningful pendant is attached to the guru bead, bringing together both ends of the string and representing our connection to the Divine, as well as to one another. Mala beads can be made from a number of materials, including sandalwood, gemstones, or rudraksha seeds. Between each bead, an overhand knot is tied by hand. Some mala beads are hand-tied and blessed with each knot by Buddhist monks or nuns for additional meaning and significance.
History of Mala Beads and Japa Meditation
Mala beads date back as far as 3,000 years ago, for use with practice of Japa meditation. Japa itself is a practice used in multiple religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. The word "Japa" means "to recite," as this style of meditation focuses on the recitation of a mantra or divine name. This recitation may be spoken softly aloud, or within one's mind, while using the mala to keep count. As a mantra is recited, the individual holds a bead between his or her thumb and forefinger- never a middle finger, as this is a sign of disrespect. When a Japa meditation devotee reaches the guru bead on the mala, he or she is finished with the meditation for the day.
Popularity of Mala Beads
Because of their beauty and spiritual significance, mala beads have become something of a fashion accessory in recent years for those who are devoted to the practice and want to showcase their dedication and belief. However, simply wearing a mala as a necklace is something of a faux pas, as it is in fact a sacred meditation tool that carries a great deal of weight and meaning. Those who follow the teachings of Japa meditation wear their mala beads throughout the day to help calm their minds and stay centered and focused. A mala can also serve as a type of spiritual armor to be worn each day to promote self-confidence and ward off negative thoughts and energy. It is said that a mala should be worn for 40 days straight in order to form a connection to the beads and increase the flow of positive energy that radiates from it. Also, it is recommended that the wearer of a string of mala beads should perform a daily ritual every morning to connect with its aura and strengthen its protective bond.
In addition to being worn, mala beads may also be placed at the top of the mat during an asana practice in yoga. The presence of the mala can serve as a reminder to the yoga practitioner of his or her intention throughout the vinyasa flow.
Choosing Your Mala Beads
If you have recently begun practicing Japa meditation or yoga and wish to purchase a mala to guide your practice, you may be overwhelmed by the wide selection of mala beads available. In order to choose the right mala for you, it is essential that you have a clear idea of the intention you are trying to manifest. Because each string of mala beads carries with it a unique intention, it is important that you have an idea of what you are trying to achieve in your personal and spiritual life. Are you searching for greater connection to the Divine? More love, both from yourself and from others? Whatever your intention, your mala must reflect it.
You may find yourself drawn to a particular mala, and want it for a reason you cannot name- don't resist the feeling! This means it is likely the mala you are meant to have. Whether you admire it for a certain feeling of energy or power that you experience when holding it, or simply for its beauty and style, your mala will make itself known when you see it.
It is also important to know whether you are planning to use your mala for meditation, or whether you want to wear it as a daily reminder of your intention. Of course, you can use it for both, but if one use of the mala is more important to you than another, this can have an impact on the string of mala beads you choose.
Whatever your intention, a mala is an extremely powerful totem to carry with you on your life's journey. Crystal Joys carries an impressive selection of beautiful handmade mala beads, each with its own unique intention and energy to guide you and protect you throughout the day. Visit one of our three northern Colorado locations today for help selecting your first set of mala beads, or contact us at (970) 840-5889.