Buddhist prayer beads or Buddha Mala (Sanskrit: mālā “garland”) are a traditional spiritual device used by Hindi, Buddhist and Yoga spiritual practices. Prayer Beads Mala, are usually made of 108 beads and used to
a) Count the number of times a mantra or breaths are taken during meditation or
b) Used as magical jewelry to remind of spiritual intention or carry blessings
So.. What are Buddhist Prayer Beads?
Prayer bead Necklaces or Monks beads are similar to other forms of prayer beads used in various world religions and therefore the term “Buddhist Rosary” is also used. The Buddhist Mala derived from the Hindu ‘Japa Mala’ used in meditation, consisting of 108 beads, and used as a counting device for reciting Mantra. Over time and with the spread of religion the method of prayer beads was adopted and used by almost all sects of different types of religion. When answering the question What are Buddhist Prayer Beads? we will focus mostly on the Buddha Necklaces type.
Buddhist tradition also adopted the Prayer Beads, keeping the number of the beads at 108. While there are different reasons for this number within each tradition, the original reason for 108 remains largely speculation. Buddhist Mala most common explanation for the use 108 beads is
1) Signifying the 108 mortal desires of mankind
2) Allows for 100 Mantas plus 8 mistakes in counting.
3) 27 Constellations x 4 Padas (parts) = 108
4) 12 Zodiac Houses x 9 Planets = 108
5) Upanishads or the Scriptures of the Vedas = 108
Thus, when we recite or recount number 108, we are actually remembering the entire universe. This reminds us of the fact that the universal self is omnipresent, that is the innate nature of the self
As Buddhism spread and was influenced by various cultures, each Buddhist sect would develop their own traditions associated with the Mala. Some forms of Buddhism and Yoga practitioners also use the Buddhist Prayer Beads as a protective charm and talisman.
Uses of Buddhist Prayer Beads Necklace Mala
1) Japa Meditation
The most common form of Meditation in both Hindu and Buddhist forms is the called Mantra Meditation or Japa Meditation. Mantras are a slogan or statement used to focus the wandering mind to a central theme or baseline position. Using a Meditation Mantra is called Japa Meditation and each Mantra is repeated hundreds or even thousands of times during a Japa meditation practice. Focusing on the Mantra, allows the person performing meditation to zero in on just one thought and aids in the purpose of stilling the Mind.
The purpose of meditation is to still the mind, and keeping track of how many mantras you recite during your Japa meditation requires concentration and active conscious thinking. The mala is used so that one can focus on the meaning or sound of the mantra rather than counting its repetitions. One repetition of the mantra is usually said for each bead while turning the thumb around each bead.
This process is repeated and when arriving at the head or guru bead, the person meditating turns the mala around and then goes back in the opposing direction. Typically one cycle of Mantras is about 100, (sometimes 108) but generally what ever philosophy of Japa you are using, by the time you reach 108 counts you start a new cycle.
If more than 108 repetitions are to be done, or the style of mediation requires suggested numbers of mantra repetitions then counting devices can be added to the Mala.
The 109th bead on a mala is called the sumeru, bindu, stupa, or guru bead. Counting should always begin with a bead next to the Guru. In the Hindu, Vedic tradition, if more than one mala of repetitions is to be done, one changes directions when reaching the Guru Bead rather than crossing it.
2) Amulet of Devotion and Personal Protection
A largely forgotten about traditional use of Mala Prayer Beads is the use of them as a sacred and blessed object and used as a charm of talisman. Especially popular with local peoples of many Asian cultures including Thailand, the Mala is blessed by a Monk and worn as not only a reminder to live a good life, but as a magical source of luck and protection.
Modern Yoga practitioners have also started to use the Mala as a personal devotion jewelry to be worn. They have adapted the the traditional simply Monk Mala into what is referred to as ‘Inspired Jewelry’ incorporating gemstones and objects from a variety of philosophies that each individual Yoga practitioner decides is a right fit for them.
At Monk Mala, we provide authentic Buddhist Mala that have been blessed by Monks and made with simple, native and natural materials found in the local area.
Resource to What are Buddhist Prayer Beads? wikipedia