For centuries, people have used mala beads for meditation and religious ceremonies. Eastern religions commonly use mala made out of organic materials in neutral colors for general purpose prayer and meditation. Western meditation practitioners have tended to be drawn towards more colorful mala beads to help focus on specific meditations and intentions. If you’re wondering how to use mala beads for meditation, then you are most likely at a higher level of understanding than a novice who is just learning how to meditate. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll go over the basics really quickly to get everyone on the same page.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a form of relaxed and ‘effortless’ thinking. The notion of meditation being effortless is easier understood if you are experienced in its practice. For people new to it, it can be very challenging to let all other thoughts go and focus on specific intentions (mantras). Basically, meditation is a way to promote clarity, focus, positive emotion, and a connection to nature and the universe. There are several different forms of meditation, but they all revolve around the idea of becoming less concerned with the daily stresses that occur in our lives.
Meditation in Religion
Any form of focused thinking that is concentrated on one or two ideas can be considered a type of meditation. In this line of thinking, saying a prayer can also be considered meditating. They mean the same thing and have the same desired outcomes. Religions throughout the globe use prayer and meditation to thank their god(s) and to bring blessings to themselves or their loved ones. In this sense, it is connecting a person with something larger and grander than themselves.
Meditation as a Practice
Even people who don’t consider themselves religious by the common sense of the word practice meditation. Oftentimes, people who think of themselves as being ‘spiritual’ prefer to center their ‘religious’ practices around meditation and connecting to the universe and nature. In Yoga, which could also be considered a religion, yoga practitioners use meditation to align their chakra (energy points).
What are Mala Beads?
Mala beads have several different labels. They can be known as Tibetan prayer beads, meditation beads, mala beads, Buddhist rosary, or Buddha beads. Mala is Sanskrit for ‘garland’ and is traditionally made of Bodhi seeds, Rudraksha seeds, or sandalwood. Mala beads are often adorned with tassels and a gemstone (the guru bead) which both have significance in religion and meditation. View our collection and learn more about meditation beads on the next page.
Mala Beads Function and Structure
Mala beads are made from organic materials that can either be symbolic themselves or not. Traditional Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads are made primarily from Rudraksha seeds or Bodhi seeds. The trees these seeds come from plays an important role in the religion of Buddhism. Western mala beads are often made from substances more easily found, like sandalwood, stone, or plastic. The tassels at the end of the mala beads serves to not only hide the knot that is made after stringing the beads together, but to also signify a connection to the universe and everything. The guru bead, which comes right at the end of the beads, before the tassel, is used to remind the bearer of their connection to their meditation teacher (guru). The guru bead differs in size and shape than the rest of the beads.
Mala beads have been used in religious and meditation practices for ages. They can be used to help focus intentions during prayer and religious ceremonies and can be used to help count the number of times a person repeats their mantra in meditation.
How to Use Mala Beads in Meditation
- With your mala beads in your dominant hand, sit in a comfortable position suitable for meditation.
- Align your body and mind with your mantra (intentions).
- State you mantra aloud while focusing on the meaning of each word as it relates to the meaning of the mantra as a whole.
- As you say your mantra, rotate the first bead of the mala by moving your thumb and forefinger around the bead. Do this slowly.
- When you are done stating your mantra for the first time, move to the next bead in the set of mala and repeat the process until you come to the guru bead.
- At the guru bead recognize your meditation teacher (guru) and the teacher student relationship.
- End your meditation.
Mala Beads as Symbolism
The above steps illustrate precisely how to use mala beads for meditation, but you can also intensify your focus by identifying with the colors and materials used in the mala beads creation. Different colors and materials mean different things and each person identifies differently to each. Focus on this for a few minutes before starting your meditation and you may experience an enhancing effect.
Mala Beads for Counting Meditation Repetitions
Mala beads are made with 108 beads. That means that by the time you are done using your mala beads in meditation, you will have stated your mantra at least that many times. Typically, meditation gurus state that you should state your intentions at least 100 times and the extra beads are there to allow room for error. If you are wondering how to use mala beads for meditation sessions that last for more than 108 repetitions, the answer is simple. You can use the same mala, but just repeat the process as many times as desired. You may want to enlist the help of a mantra counter or Tibetan chime to help you keep track of the sets of repetitions.