Buddhist malas are an aid in the counting of the number of times we recite a mantra while meditating. Sometimes referred to as “Buddhist prayer beads,” malas are similar to prayer beads of other religions, and are occasionally called the “Buddhist rosary.”
Malas for Meditation
The Sanskrit word “माला” (mala) translates to “garland.” Used in both Hinduism and Buddhism, neck malas are almost always 108 beads. Wrist malas are often 16 or 27, or 21 or 28 in Tibetan Buddhism. Malas are used primarily to count mantras while meditating. The number 108 is sacred in many eastern cultures, including Buddhism. It is believed that reciting 108 mantras counts as reciting 100, with the extra 8 for any mistakes we may have made. In many Buddhist traditions, mantras are an important part of meditation. Wrist malas also help us count our recitals of mantras.
Other Benefits of Malas
Furthermore, malas are often made of stones, seeds, and wood that are believed to have the power to transmit and affect energy. Different materials have different meanings, and may aid in different types of meditation. For this reason, malas are personal, and can often be seen worn around a Buddhist’s neck or wrist. When it comes time to meditate, they may utilize it for meditation, but throughout the day, keeping it in contact with the skin creates benefits for the wearer.
History of Buddhist Malas
The exact history of malas is not known, as they have been used by Hindus in India for thousands of years. Developed as a religious tool in India to aid in meditation, Buddhist malas are essentially the same. It is believed in the “Thread of Knowledge” Sutra that the Buddha actually instructed followers to utilize prayer beads. The story goes that a king prays to the Buddha asking for a practice to help ease his suffering, and the Buddha tells the king to string together 108 seed beads and recite mantras upon them.
Buddhist malas were originally especially utilized by laypeople. They provide a fantastic way for lay Buddhists to dive deeper into meditation. With the help of a mala, Buddhists may focus on the recital of the mantras rather than counting.
Meaning of Buddhist Malas
The meaning behind malas vary. Traditionally, malas were made of seeds and wood. Popular materials included bodhi seeds, rudraksha seeds, sandalwood, and rosewood. Stone malas are commonly made of tiger’s eye, lapis, turquoise, jade, jasper, and agate. Also, malas are sometimes made of bone. Traditionally, bone malas were made of the skeleton of holy men, in order to remind the wearer to live their lives in hopes of attaining a higher level in the next life. Now, bone malas are commonly made of yak bone. Read more about the Meaning of Buddhist Malas.
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