A mala or japa mala is a set of beads commonly used by Hindus and Buddhists for meditation. Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally preparing a mantra. This practice is known in Sanskrit as japa. Malas are typically made with 18, 21, 27, 54 or 108 beads. There are numerous explanations why there are 108 beads, with the number 108 bearing special religious significance in a number of Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Some say that 1 stands for God or higher truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity.
A mala is used for reflection, yoga practice or as part of your bohemian style. They can be worn by anyone who wants a more mindful, peaceful life.
Anyone can wear mala beads, whether you meditate or not. Often, people are drawn to the necklaces for their believed healing qualities of calming the mind and providing inner peace.
You can wear them around your wrist, your neck, hang them at your altar, or meditate on them.
If you choose to meditate on your mala, you will most likely use a mantra. A mantra is a word, sound, or phrase repeated to aid in your concentration. It can be as simple as the word 'love,' something you are thankful for, or a sanskrit phrase such as 'om shanti, shanti, shanti' which represents all encompassing peace.
To count your mantras, hold your mala in your hand and turn each bead with your thumb and middle finger. (The index finger is believed to represent 'ego' and is not recommended to turn the beads.)