Thinking of getting your own mala beads? If so, don’t buy one until you’ve read this article!
Authentic mala beads have a specific composition and are designed in a particular way to help you progress in your spiritual journey. Every aspect has significance, from the number of beads to what they are made from.
So, whether you’re looking for mala necklaces to count mantras or mala bracelets to use as worry beads, here’s a thorough explanation of what an authentic mala should be like.
- 1 How Many Beads Are On A Mala Necklace?
- 2 The Significance of 108
- 3 How Many Beads Are Used On A Mala Bracelet?
- 4 What Are Prayer Beads Made From?
- 5 What Is The Guru Bead?
- 6 How Long Should A Mala Necklace Be?
- 7 Final Thoughts
How Many Beads Are On A Mala Necklace?
All authentic malas have 108 beads, along with one larger one known as the guru bead. However, it is possible to get smaller malas, known as half malas, as they have 54 beads, half the amount of the full version.
The Significance of 108
So why do mala beads have 108 beads? The reason is that 108 is a sacred number in multiple religious traditions. Let’s explore what 108 means in a spiritual, philosophical, and scientific sense.
In Hinduism, prayer beads are known as a “Japa mala.” The number 108 has several significances. The most understandable reason malas have 108 beads is that the number represents spiritual completion. It is believed if you take 108 breaths a day, you will reach enlightenment. This leads to the belief that repeating a mantra 108 times will lead you to nirvana.
There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. However, as each letter has a masculine and feminine form (Shiva and Shakti), there are actually 108 letters. 108 is also a symbolic number in ancient Hindu texts. For example, the Rig Veda consists of 108 chapters, and many believe there are 108 Upanishads.
Another Hindu connection is the 108 Pithas (sacred sites) throughout India. Pithas are believed to represent the goddess’s body on earth and are where those who follow Shaktism gather and interact.
Indian guru Sadhguru also states there are 108 chakras in the body that we can influence. Thus, by repeating a mantra 108 times, you activate each of the 108 chakras. Similarly, in the yogic tradition, there are said to be 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra (Anahata).
For Buddhists, a mala is called a Buddhist prayer bead or a Tibetan mala. The number 108 is the number of material temptations a person must overcome to achieve enlightenment.
Buddhist texts teach that these 108 mental impurities cause suffering, including arrogance, anger, delusion, deception, obsession, and violence. It is said that only when we can overcome all of them will our mind and soul become pure, enabling us to reach a state of nirvana.
Philosophical And Scientific Meanings
The number 108 has symbolism outside of religion and spiritual practice. In astronomy, the sun’s diameter is 108 times the earth’s. In addition, there are 12 houses and nine planets. Multiplying these two numbers together equals 108.
Finally, 108 represents high intelligence, creativity, and spirituality in numerology.
How Many Beads Are Used On A Mala Bracelet?
There are two different types of mala bracelets. The first is the standard prayer beads with 108 beads that you wrap around your wrist 3 to 5 times, depending on your wrist size. The second is a small 1-layer bracelet. This often contains 27 beads, but it can have as few as 18, depending on the size of the beads used.
I recommend choosing a bracelet with an auspicious number of beads (a division of 108). For example, if you have a small to medium wrist choose a mala with 18 10mm beads. For a large wrist, choose one with 27 8mm beads.
What Are Prayer Beads Made From?
Many different materials can be used to make a mala; some are more traditional, while others are common in modern-day fashion accessory malas. Here are the different materials a mala can be made from.
Sandalwood has many spiritual and health benefits, such as calming the mind, reducing anxiety, and potentially decreasing aging signs. It is also believed to help bring devotees closer to god and, thus, is a common material to use in offerings and prayer.
I love the 8mm Premium Sandalwood Mala Necklace by Meru Bead, handcrafted with hand-tied knots between each of the 108 natural wooden beads.
Rosewood has similar calming qualities to sandalwood and is known to help induce meditative states. It is also associated with the heart chakra and contains a compassionate and healing feminine energy. Thus, this is an excellent choice for anyone focusing on emotional healing.
In addition, it is said to raise your vibration. It is considered a protective wood as it is believed to protect the wearer against negative energy. Rosewood also has a beautiful natural rich red color, making an eye-catching mala. The HealthAndYoga Rose Wood Mala Beads are made in India with 108 7-8mm deep ruddy brown wood beads and a vibrant red tassel.
Rudraksha seeds are a popular choice for Japa Mala beads as these sacred seeds have a connection to the Hindu god Shiva. Known as the “Tears of Shiva,” rudraksha seeds grow in certain parts of South East Asia and carry potent healing qualities.
Rudraksha seeds are believed to have the power to stabilize the nervous system, prevent heart attacks, and lower high blood. They also have protective qualities and can ward off negative energy, accidents, and unfortunate events.
The Petrichor Certified Original Nepali Rudraksha Mala is one of the most authentic, traditional mala necklaces. The seeds are hand-picked for quality, then hand-crafted and purified by Artisans in India. It features 108 9 to 10-mm beads with knots between each one.
While Rudraksha is the preferred seed for Hindu mala beads, Bodhi seeds are commonly used in Buddhist counting beads. The Mandala Crafts Bodhi Seed Mala Beads are handmade in Nepal with 108 genuine dragon eye bodhi tree seed beads.
Bodhi seeds are considered sacred as Buddhist teachings state that Buddha gained enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree in the Bodh Gaya Forrest. Thus, using mala beads made from Bodhi seeds will bring you peace and enhance your wisdom to help you progress along your spiritual path.
Another traditional Buddhist mala bead material for spiritual use is bones. Yak is the most common, but cow and buffalo bones are also used. In Buddhism, bones symbolize impermanence, so using them as prayer beads in meditation serves as a reminder to live in the present moment.
Semi-precious stones are common in modern-day mala beads as they look stylish and eye-catching. Thus, if you want to wear mala beads rather than use than in spiritual practice, choose from the wide range of gemstones available. As each stone has unique healing properties, select the one that best matches your intention for healing.
For example, if you are looking for protection and courage, choose the Jovivi Natural Indian Agate Mala Prayer Beads. Indian Agate gives physical strength and emotional security while calming the body, mind, and soul. It can also help to put an end to bad health and turn your luck around.
Black Lava Rock
Black lava rock is one of the other materials common in mala jewelry. Lava rock reduces anxiety, promotes emotional tranquility, and stimulates creativity. Moreover, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, as lava rock is a natural diffuser.
These Adjustable Lava Rock Stone Mala Bracelets by Tatuo combine lava rock beads with gemstones. Thus, you can get the combined benefits of lava rock and stones like Tiger Eye, Resin Amber, and Red Agate.
Synthetic gemstone beads
Lastly, note that many cheap mala beads use synthetic gemstone beads instead of natural stones. These mala beads are purely for use as a fashion accessory and have no specific healing qualities.
What Is The Guru Bead?
You might notice that one bead on a mala looks bigger and different from the others. This is the guru bead, which is seen as the first bead and is attached to the tassel. It is not counted as one of the 108 beads, and you don’t use that bead as a repetition. Instead, it symbolizes where to begin and end your 108 repetitions.
The guru bead represents the student-guru relationship and is a sign of respect to the guru/teacher who taught the student how to meditate or introduced mala beads to them. In both Hinduism and Buddhism, the spiritual teacher is highly respected as they are the person who helps birth the spiritual journey and realization of one’s Self (Atma) for the student.
How Long Should A Mala Necklace Be?
As most mala beads have 108 beads, the length of a mala necklace or bracelet is typically determined by the diameter of the mala beads. Mala beads can be as small as 6mm or as large as 12mm, but most commonly are 8mm or 10mm.
6mm Mala beads will typically be about 28 to 32 inches long, while those made with 8mm will be between 36 and 42 inches.
You can use mala beads for various things, such as focusing on your breath in meditation practice, counting mantras, or easing anxiety. Still, whichever way you plan to use your mala bead, ensure it has the authentic mala anatomy of 108 beads, a guru bead, and a tassel.