What is a mala?
A traditional mala मल  is made of 108 beads, usually natural materials, stone, bone, wood or seed. There is an additional larger bead, called a guru or meru bead. This bead holds space for you when you are chanting. It is also gathers your energy when you chant. 

Many religions use some sort of beads for prayer, recitation of verse or chanting, including Christians, Buddhists, Islam and Hindus. Using a mala does not have to be a religious practice.

How do you use a mala? 
A mala is generally used with a mantra मन्त्र, a sound or group of sounds. The beads are run through the thumb and middle finger. Why not the index finger? The index finger is correlated to the individual soul or ego. The Middle finger represent peace or satva सत्व . When you reach 108, you turn around and go the other way if you want to continue. This way the energy builds in the guru bead. The mala allows the chanter to focus on their mantra and not keeping count of how many times they say the mantra.

Japa जप  is the sanskrit word for the recitation of mantra. Most traditions believe that mantras should be given to the student from their teacher. Repeating a mantra can be a spiritual practice, it can be a meditation, it can soothe, heal and change the way you feel, think and are.

It is recommended not to share your malas with other because the more you use them, the more they are charged with your energy. I do have some that I share with students, yet these are not the mala that I use for personal practice.

Why 108 beads?
There are many reasons that the number 108 is considered sacred. SwamiJ has a substantial list if you are interested.

Desire Mapping Mala

I have heard criticism of people, yogis (someone who practices yoga) in particular, using malas in ways that take away their sacred standing in spiritual practice. My personal feeling is that people can use a mala is any way that is appropriate for them. 

How can you use a mala?
1. To keep track of chanting a mantra; practicing japa mantra. 
2. To identify and place yourself within a particular group. Some religious people where their beads, mala, rosary, etc. around their neck to identify themselves with their religion or spiritual practice.
3. As a lovely piece of jewelry. Malas are beautiful works of art, simple or intricate. They can be worn around the wrist or neck. My favorite new mala is pictured here.

So the next time you see a yogi with beads wrapped around their wrist or hanging around their neck, you will know what they are.
#mala #108 #desiremapping