I have been creating malas for some time, and about once a year I will offer a half-day workshop on how to make them and how to meditate using prayer beads. I find the process to be very peaceful and effective for calming the mind and the creative process feeds my vitality.
The most challenging part I have personally found in making a mala is deciding what beads to assemble together! It’s certainly not for lack of options! I have a Pinterest board of ideas to share with you that I’d love to try some day.
Malas are sacred Hindu or Tibetan prayer beads and should be treated with respect. They should be “placed,” not draped (except on the body), or kept in a treasured piece of cloth or tied bag when not in use.
Malas can be worn as a necklace, of sorts, usually falling slightly lower than the sternum in the center of the chest or wrapped several times around the left wrist.
Their traditional use is as a meditation tool to count mantra repetitions. Malas are held while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a positive word or phrase. This practice is known in Sanskrit as “japa.”
Parts of a Mala
The malas we make when I present a workshop are made with 8 mm size Rudraksha beads. They are the seeds of the fruit from Rudraksha trees found mainly in Indonesia, Nepal, and India. They have been used traditionally by Hindu, Buddhist, Japanese, Chinese, and Zen followers for controlling stress, overall healing, meditation, and engendering positive changes.
You may choose to make other malas using gems or stones you are drawn to.
The spaces of thread created between the beads are known as the “knot of creation.” Knotting also makes the thread of the mala stronger.
The large bead at the end of the strand of beads is the meru or guru bead, believed to represent the student/guru relationship.
The tassel is believed to represent enlightenment or a lotus. There are also several ways to make tassels and one of my favorites is to incorporate pieces of ribbon with the threads.
What is “Mantra”?
(Below is an excerpt from the Daily OM 08/27/16)
Broadly speaking, every speech is a kind of mantra. It’s used to communicate and to get something done. A meaning is delivered.
The most valuable mantras have been chanted since ancient times and have been found to help attract and realize valuable gifts in one's life. The ancient sages, who received these divine mantras after great meditation and prayers believed in the power of the mind.
Each one of us has the ability to attract and create what we want in our life because all we perceive lies within. Through mantras, we can unlock the potential to attract our desires.
Mantra Using a Mala
Why 108 Beads (or Dividends of 108)?
There are many, many varied explanations for why the number 108 is auspicious and they are all open to interpretation. For example:
A very simple mantra that you may already know and probably have heard is "OM" the simplest Hindu mantra, and yet it generates huge energy and beneficial vibrations within and outside you. The energy you gather as you chant this mantra can be diverted to reap powerful benefits and blessings for almost anything you desire. The mantra devoted to the universe and the glory of its creator is OM.
OM is the primordial sound and it always exists in the entire cosmos. It is said that when this Universe was first conceived and created, a sound was heard – OM. The sound of OM generated and created the entire universe and everything in it. Most mantras begin with the sound OM.
Other mantras and general meaning:
- Om Namah Shivaya: “I bow to the inner self.”
- Om Shanti Shanti Shanti: “Peace Peace Peace” or “May there be well-being for all; may there be peace for all; may there be wholeness for all; may there be happiness for all.”
- Om Mani Padme Hum: “In dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha.”
- Om Gam Gana Pataye Namah: Used at the beginning of a new venture to help remove obstacles in our path
- Om Vakra Tundaya Hum: Powerful mantra for straightening out negative and scattered energy and bringing minds into clarity and focus
- Om Gam Ganeshaya Namah: A devotional mantra for opening up to Ganesh, the remover of obstacles
- Sat Nam: “Truth is my name.” *Sat is extended eight times longer than Nam
- Neti Neti: “Not this; not this.” The phrase is a way to rebut something—be it harsh words or a situation in your life you would like to change.
I hope you are as excited to learn about malas as I am in creating them and sharing what I know about them with you! Watch this site in the future for any mala workshop offerings.
Essentially Yours ~
Michele Duncan King