How to use your mala

Recite one mantra;
move your thumb and forefinger
along the next bead of the strand;
then repeat.

Mala Basics

The mala is held with gentleness and respect, generally in the left hand. One bead is counted for each recitation of the mantra, beginning with the first bead after the "guru" bead—the larger, more decorative bead at the mala's end. The first bead is held between the index finger and thumb, and with each count the thumb pulls another bead in place over the index finger.

After completing a full circuit of the mala, the practitioner flips the mala around 180 degrees (this takes practice to accomplish) and continues as before, in reverse order. One aims to avoid passing over the "guru" bead, as doing so is symbolically like stepping over one's teacher.

According to the Office of Tibet, the official agency of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in London, the guru bead signifies the wisdom that cognizes emptiness. Surmounting it is another, usually cylindrical bead that symbolizes emptiness itself; together, these two beads symbolize having vanquished all opponents.

To aid in mantra counting, on many Tibetan malas there are divider beads of a different color, spaced equally along the mala's length. All mala's created by Manaleja have counted marker beads at 7 and 14 on both sides when counted up from the guru bead.


Why 108?

A mala of 108 beads is used for general purposes by most practicing Tibetan Buddhists. 

A variation of the standard 108-bead mala is the wrist mala of 27 beads—four circuits total 108 mantra repetitions. This number 108 is abundant in significance.

"The sacred number of 108 predates Buddhism, being the classical number of the Hindu names assigned to a deity or god. As a multiple of 12 and 9, it represents the nine planets in the 12 zodiac houses. As a multiple of 27 and 4, it also represents the four quarters of the moon in each of the 27 lunar mansions or constellations. Nine is also a 'magic' number. A number multiplied by 9 results in a number the sum of whose digits is also a multiple of 9. In Pranayana Yoga it is calculated that a human being takes 21,600 breaths in a 24-hour cycle consisting of 60 periods of 360 breaths; a 12-hour 'day' cycle therefore equals 10,800 breaths. The 108 beads also ensure that at least a hundred mantra recitations have been completed in a full rosary turning."

How to Choose Mala Beads

Lets start with what mala beads are. Mala beads are meditation garlands that have been worn for thousands of years in traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, yoga and meditation. They have a way to draw you into their uniqueness and energy. Some may feel this as an unexplainable attraction.

Mala beads are traditionally used for japa meditation – reciting a positive affirmation or mantra along each bead to come into a more calming, connected and spiritual state.

Our mala beads take these elements of the traditional culture of mala beads and add an intention to the mala bead. We have infused the healing qualities of crystals and given each mala bead necklace or stack their own intention. There are crystals for love, strength, prosperity, healing, break-ups, focusing, letting go, spirituality, grounding, protection and so on.

Choosing an intention is only half of the process. It is just as important to choose a mala that you are visually and aesthetically drawn to. The things we find beautiful are just as important in our healing as what they are meant for – whether it is art, a beautiful beach or a set of mala beads.

The big thing that can create a blockage when people go to choose their mala bead is figuring out what the intention they want to bring in their life. It is important to listen to your gut in these moments to learn what you really want and not what you think you should want.

There is something powerful about wearing your intention. It makes your goal tangible at every moment of the day. Every time you look at your mala or feel it, you are reminded to stay on your chosen path. Distractions that are coming at you from all directions are averted when you have a physical object to touch and see. Often we hold our mala beads during a conversation or gaze at them in front of our mat during yoga and they remind us why we are here. It is also giving us a power to share with others our intention and create that affirmation in our life.

Here are several factors that you should be mindful of when choosing mala beads:

  • Beauty - things that you are attracted to are integral in your healing whether it is a beautiful landscape, a cute animal or a gorgeous mala. Surrounding yourself with beautiful and uplifting things is powerful.
  • Color - what is your favourite colour? What colour of clothing do you wear often. You want to choose a mala that you will use and wear often so choose something that you can see being a staple.
  • Shape - Find a mala with a shape that you connect with. Ever heard of sacred geometry? Choose something that you are drawn to.
  • Intention - what do you want to create in your life? What are you working on? What do you want? What are you struggling with. Ask yourself these questions and see if they guide to what you want to create as your intention.
  • Energy - every crystal we use in our mala beads as its own individual energy. Make sure that this energy aligns with your intention! A lot of malas will assist everyone on some level – see if you can find something that you connect with individually.
  • Intuition - what was the first mala you were originally drawn to? – This is most likely the perfect mala for you! Remember listen to your gut. Just like in an interview you know if someone is right for the job within 15 seconds, look for this feeling when choosing a mala bead.

Choosing a mala is a combination of all of these factors – most importantly follow your intuition and follow your heart. Once you have your mala bead wear it and be proud of the intention you are now wearing in your life and can be reminded of in every moment to stay aligned with your true nature.