Posted by Jay Suthers on October 22, 2014
Meditation malas, or prayer beads, are strings of beads that can be worn as a necklace or bracelet. They are made with various types of wood, seed, stone, or other material, but are generally smooth and strung in a manner that allows meditators to roll the beads over the fingers.
There are usually 108 beads on a mala and a 109th bead referred to as the 'head bead' or in some cases the 'guru bead'. Bracelet malas are oftentimes made with 27 beads and a 28th 'head bead'. The 108 beads represent the 108 worldly sins in the Buddhist tradition. The number of beads is always a multiple of '9', which is considered a sacred number in the Hindu tradition. While one would meditate on all 108 beads of the necklace, one would go around the beads of the wrist mala 4 times to achieve a meditation on 108 beads.
The 'head bead' allows us to meditate through the beads without watching as we can feel when the head bead is reached. Generally, we never cross over the head bead, but turn the mala around at that point and begin counting in the return direction.
Typically, a meditation session with a meditation mala looks something like this. To begin with, we can decide whether we want to count breaths, mantra repetitions, or repetitions of a prayer or some other sacred phrase. We would then prepare for meditation whether it be in a sitting meditation posture, kneeling, sitting in a chair, or even performing japa, which is a slow, gentle walking meditation.
The illustration to the left is from The Sanatan Society and demonstrates how to hold the mala for counting. Note how the beads are laid over the middle finger. The index finger rests comfortably out of the way and the thumb is used to roll each individual bead over the middle finger.
For each bead, you can count the in and out breath, the mantra repetition, prayer, or sacred phrase. Gently roll the bead over the middle finger with each repetition. When you reach the head bead, you can hang the hand down and gently turn the necklace or bracelet around. It's okay to grasp the head bead with the index finger and thumb to rotate the necklace or bracelet.
If you are using a meditation timer to time your session, it's best to set a time that will allow you to make all 108 repetitions at least once, but if you don't have time to make all the repetitions, don't worry. You never want to get anxious about anything related to meditation. It is there to serve you and to make your life calm, relaxed, and better. Allowing anything to induce anxiety into your life simply will not serve you. There is no "sin" or "wrong" in meditation, and no God or other being is going to punish you for not completing 108 repetitions.
The same is true for the type of meditation bead you use. There are many types of materials used for beads and some will claim to have certain meanings. On our web site, we suggest the following meanings for each type of mala:
In some cases, you may simply prefer to choose the type of meditation mala that appeals to you by its appearance. But, it's also nice to hold the idea of the meaning of the beads in mind while meditating. In either case, using meditation malas during your meditation practice can help to increase focus during meditation.
I hope these thoughts are helpful to you.
Thank you for reading,
If you would like to comment on this blog or have any questions, please feel free to Contact Sage Meditation Customer Service.
There are really very few chairs designed specifically for meditation. The reason is that most meditators prefer to use a simple meditation cushion such as the Zafu. However, even though cushions can provide a comfortable sitting platform, some meditators prefer a chair that that can provide back support during meditation. Any chair with a padded seat can [...]
The Zenergy Meditation Chime is quickly becoming a popular tool for yoga instructors and teachers seeking to maintain organization in the classroom. Children can become distracted and energetic in a group setting and teachers are looking for a way to recover order in the classroom that saves them from having to shout above the childrens' [...]
In part one of this series, I introduce you to meditation through definitions and by dispelling some of the myths about meditation. In part two of this series, I discuss the benefits of meditation and why I think we should all be practicing some level of meditation every day. In part three of this series, I [...]
Meditation is a personal experience. It should be relaxing, stress reducing, and above all, it should be enjoyable. In part one of this blog series, I discuss what meditation is and what it is not. In part two of this blog series, I discuss the benefits of meditation and why we should all be meditating. In this third [...]
Meditation has many benefits for mind, body and spirit. While much of the evidence is anecdotal, more and more scientific and medical research is proving that meditation does good things for us individually and as a society. As I stated in my first blog on How to Meditate, meditation helps to reduce stress, improve health (reducing stress improves [...]
Meditation is the hot new buzzword in the United States. Everyone seems to have heard about it in one context or another. It is oftentimes associated with Yoga, Buddhist monks, the Far East, and long-haired Gurus. For the most part, meditation is viewed positively and, based on the fact that you've landed on this article, [...]
You may have been looking for reviews from customers who have purchased the Tush Cush orthopedic cushion. But, how many reviews have you read with comments like, "It took too long to get here", "It arrived broken", "The actual color wasn't anything like the picture", or "Don't buy this, it's not worth the money"? None [...]
Wind Chimes have been around since the dawn of ancient civilisation. The gentle tinkling, chiming, or gonging sound of wind chimes is produced as the gentle breeze passes through the wind chime. We hang them on porches, from tree limbs, next to windows inside the house, or wherever they will catch a breeze. The gentle [...]
The Cosmic Cushion Meditation Cushion is the most comfortable meditation cushion available. It has a built-in slope that promotes proper pelvice and spinal column alignment for sitting meditation. It additionally has a cut out in front so that the feet can be positioned close to the body without interference from the cushion. The side extensions [...]