What is a mala?

Mala, Japamala (Sanskrit) or Threngwa (Tibetan), is a string of beads commonly used to keep track of mantras and focus the mind during contemplative spiritual practices. Mala beads have been used for thousands of years in both India and Tibet. Practitioners use the mala to keep as a tool to keep the mind focused on the meditation, visualization, or mantra itself rather than focusing on the number of recitations. Yoga practitioners also use malas to calm and balance the mind.

You may wish to use your mala only during meditation, or you may wear it as a necklace or wrapped around the wrist several times to serve as a reminder of your practice. You can use your mala anytime you wish to recite mantras throughout your day. Anybody can benefit from adding a mala to their daily practice! There is no requirement to be a member of any faith. Though we draw inspiration from Vajryana teachings, we support logical and secular approaches to meditation and mindfulness Each component of a mala holds special significance.

A traditional mala is made of 108 beads used to count mantra recitations. Depending on tradition, a mala can include additional beads called 'markers' and a larger, more distinct bead called the guru bead. Marker beads are used to orient the user of their position on the mala while reciting mantras. The position of the marker beads varies between traditions or may not be used at all. Mala of Merit positions marker beads positions in the Tibetan style, dividing the mala into quadrants.

The guru bead is not counted and indicates both the beginning and end of the mala. Some believe the guru bead represents the Buddha or the teachings of one’s guru. Buddhists consider it disrespectful to step over one’s teacher, depictions of the Buddha, sacred objects, or texts. Therefore, one does not pass over the guru bead when using a mala; instead, you may mentally bow to your guru, teacher, or your own higher state of consciousness when you reach the end of your mala, then turn the mala over and begin again; the end of the mala will now be the beginning.