The mala, or prayer beads, contain 108 beads, or a division of, such as 54 or 27. Why the number 108? One explanation is that 1 represents higher truth; 0 stands for emptiness or completeness, and 8 represents eternity or infinity. The single larger, guru or meru bead, represents the Eternal & is an additional bead. The contrasting additional spacer beads aid the heart & mind in focusing to become still & receptive & helps in keeping count. Malas can be used for spiritual practice or worn around the neck. The repetition of a mantra or prayer becomes a direct, active meditation. Held in one’s hands, a mala can help create a peaceful focus. They have been used for centuries by many great spiritual traditions. In the end, they are as universal as the loving heart.
How to Use a Mala
Hold your mala in your right hand and use your thumb to count each mantra recited by touching the bead. Then lightly pull the bead towards you on completion & move on to the next bead. The index finger is extended & should not touch the mala. The large Guru bead should not be counted or touched by the thumb. It is used as a starting and ending point of the recitation. When chanting a mantra, stop at the guru bead, turn the mala around and continue chanting. This reminds us that breaking the cycle of birth & death is possible. To empower the mala and the mantra, japa (mantra meditation) should be practiced daily for 40 continuous days. When the mala becomes empowered, it can be worn or lightly placed on oneself or another to transmit the energy of the mantra as well as the energetic qualities of the mala.
How to Pick a Mantra
You can be given a mantra by a spiritual teacher, but you can also choose your own. Use a mantra with some personal meaning, one that reflects your spiritual beliefs. You can choose a traditional mantra, such as the name of God, representing a calling on the name or attribute whose assistance you seek, or a Hindu or Buddhist mantra of your choice. The Sanskrit word “Om” is probably the best known mantra. Om represents the unity of everything in the universe merged into a sound. It includes the unity of mind, body & spirit, the heart of yoga. You can use a personal prayer as well. A mantra is a word that will keep you focused, but needs itself to be effortless. It needs to feel as comfortable as your own name. You will know when you’ve found the right word; it will stick to your mind as though it has come home to roost!
Choosing a mantra and regularly practicing mantra meditation, you will learn to associate and produce instant relaxation at the mere thought of your mantra. So you can call upon your mantra in stressful situations and relax. Calmer and more focused, you also increase your mental endurance, your determination and productivity. Wishing you peace & enlightenment in your mantra meditation.