Being a modern human that is super jacked into technology and smartphone culture, I was intrigued with this ancient technology and looking for a way to tune out to tune without the use of electronics or an app. A mala is the original mediation timer! As I started to study this dharma art form as a part of my devotional practice, I became intrigue by the mystical history, the mathematics and materials used in these beautiful devices.
The mala is also called a japa mala which is used to keep count when chanting mantras and prayers during sadhana (personal practice). Japa means repeat. This technology is used in many spiritual practices such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and of course in Catholicism it is called a rosary, in Islam it is called misbaha and Greeks use prayer beads called a komboloi.
The word MALA in Sanskrit means garland which we also wear around our necks or our wrists to be a physical manifestation of our prayers and intentions. It is a believed that the mala is also protective to the devotee for negativity.
The word BEAD comes from the old english word bede which means a prayer. Prayer beads and other sacred adornments have been part of our human civilization for millennia. Here is an example from a Minoan fresco called the “Adorants” in old Thera.
The number of beads used in malas does vary from tradition to tradition but the one people are most familiar with is the 108 mala. The 108 mala is made up of 108 beads of precious woods, seed, stones or crystals that each end meets at a larger middle bead called the GURU bead. The practitioner mediates, chants or prayers on each bead to do a full round from end to end and the final closing prayer is done on the guru bead.
It is said that each prayer done on a mala bead is amplified 10,000x! This makes our time praying for all of the good things in our life very efficient!
More about the sacred mathematics in the next blog post….