Care and Use of Your Mala
In an effort to serve you better we believe reliable
educational information about Malas ,or as they are called in pop
culture, "power beads" is important. We hope you will find this
authentic information helpful. It will assist you in having a
positive relationship to these wonderful spiritual tools.
This article will be published, along with many others in
a forthcoming full length book called, "Malas and Power Beads: How
to Select and Use Malas for Prayer and Meditation," by Karma Thinley
Dorje. He is a Buddhist practitioner, teacher and student of the
Eastern Teachings and Buddhism for over thirty years. Karma Thinley
has studied with many Tibetan, Zen, Sufi and Ageless Wisdom
teachers. The brief teaching below is based on extensive experience
and research into the subject. If you would like information about
the soon to be release book, please e-mail us with your contact
information via the link at the bottom of the page.
What is the purpose of a Mala? The purpose of the Mala
from the point of view of the Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem or Christian
traditions is for counting of of sacred mantra(prayers) during a
period of recitation. For example, one might recite, "Om Mani Padme
Hum," "Hail Mary, full of Grace...", or "Om Tare Tam Soha" and keep
a count of each mantra by moving your fingers over each bead. Of
course, one can use the Mala for any sacred prayer from any
spiritual or religious tradition.
The Mala, rosary or prayer beads would be best seen as
inseparable from God, Buddha, or the Deity. It is not jewelry, and
should not be considered as such. If one treat the Mala with respect
and care, and the magnetism of it will grow proportionately.
Do not lay it on the ground or floor. If you drop it on
the ground, clean it off, and place it on top of your head as you
say Om, Ah, Hung, OR another prayer of blessing from your native
Do not let other people handle it as an object of idle
curiosity. Touching someone with it an act of blessing or healing
may be appropriate, if they allow you or ask you to. Having your
Mala blessed by a senior disciple, holy person, respected
practitioner, priest, lama or Guru is very beneficial.
What does Mala mean? Mala (ma-la) in Sanskrit, the ancient
sacred language of the Vedas, Upanishads, Rig Vedas, and great
Buddhist literature roughly means, "Rose" or "Garland." A more
direct translation is "garland from above," or "heavenly garland."
In the Hindu and, sometimes certain Buddhist traditions, it is also
called a "japamala." In the Mahayana Zen traditions they are also
called, fozhu and ojuzu, which in other languages expresses roughly
the same meaning.
Is there any truth to belief that Malas, or as they are called
in pop culture, "power beads," having powers? In and of
themselves wood and stone has a small effect on our physical,
emotional and mental nature. If you invest the Mala with your
aspiration, heartfelt desire to bring benefit to others and devotion
then it will have power equal to your love for other beings. There
really isn't any special power separate from your own true Buddha or
Christ nature to make the Mala "magical" in some way. The "magic" is
generated from your own motivation to practice and the minds ability
to connect you with the higher part of life, i.e.God or deity.
In the karmic sense, "as you sow, so shall you reap," as
Christ taught. Lord Gautama Buddha, and all Buddhist teachings,
stress the principle of cause and effect, called karma. Let's take
the example of prosperity or wealth. If you constantly think about,
pray for, desire and work for prosperity and all positive qualities
then it will eventually come to pass as long as you strive to
express these same qualities. Wealth you are planting the seed in
your mind for prosperity. Wealth and material prosperity will then
eventually come into your life. However, the Buddhist practitioner
trains their mind to think in broader compassionate terms, seeking
the welfare of all beings, i.e. "May all beings have prosperity and
happiness." Without universal compassion, loving-kindess and wisdom,
personal prosperity is fleeting.
If we are praying for prosperity, this essential an
expression of the deeper desire to be secure, to be safe, and
obtaining the freedoms that prosperity can bring. Ultimately, this
means having a peaceful and a fulfilling life. Prosperity then
includes living a life whose purpose is to unfolding your innate
virtue, or good qualities, for without these positive qualities and
states of mind, no amount of physical wealth has any real or lasting
value. If you consider this for a moment, aren't good character,
virtue and spiritual prosperity of the greatest value? When we leave
this world at death, only character, spiritual and moral
accomplishments, and the karma we create are the riches we can take
with us. Living with such goals and aspirations is the best way to
create more positive personal karma, removing suffering, clearing
karma obstacles, creating a better world for all of us. This creates
deeper, more lasting great value. So in truth, we would be wise to
wish for the happiness and prosperity of all beings.
As you well know in your heart of hearts, money or
physical things do not create lasting personal or spiritual
prosperity. If you know some very wealthy people personally, you can
observe this is truth for yourself. Most extremely wealthy people I
know personally, worry more about loosing their money and
possessions than they do enjoying them. If we have conquered
attachment, then we can be of generous heart and truly enjoy
prosperity. If we constantly feel some level of agitation, fear, and
even negativity because of the process of always maintaining a hold
on their wealth, then we are unhappy. One may well experience being
at risk of loosing these things, and thus not deeply happy or
prosperous in a spiritual sense. I am sure we all share these
experiences of fear of having and not having no matter how much or
how little we own. Finally, I always refer to the lessons expressed
in the wonderful tale of the 'Christmas Carol' and the life of
experiences of Ebaneser Scrooge which touches upon this message so
The deepest power of the Mala is in your heart's commitment,
to pray for the welfare, happiness, health and release from
Samsara ( a Sanskrit term meaning the cyclic process of suffering
which results from attachment to, and aversion for objects, things,
feelings and thoughts) of all beings. In praying thus, you are also
praying for your own welfare.
However, just wearing the Malas do not in and of
themselves have some mysterious power unless you awaken it during
sacred prayer and meditation. So, in this example, is wishing for
physical wealth/prosperity really the best purpose for a Mala or
power beads? And does having the beads really bring happiness? Or,
is it better to use the Mala to pray via mantra for a more lasting
happiness in a broader spiritual sense? Please note that we are not
suggesting that spiritual well-being, in any way excludes material
well-being. It is often true, however, that we get lost in wishing
for things as a replacement for truer, deeper, most innate levels of
happiness. My prayer is for you to find the deepest possible
fulfillment in cultivating compassion, Loving-Kindness, joy,
serenity, patience, courage and the desire to serve.
When you buy a Mala from Four Gates, ask yourself how can
I use this instrument of goodness to improve myself and others? I
believe you will tell me later what joy it brings you to step
outside yourself into the ocean of compassion and Loving-Kindness,
wishing good and performing good works for the welfare of others.
There is much more to the power aspect than this, but in
brief, it is your belief, it your faith which is the deeper secret
of the Mala. Your relationship to the Mala is based on the
motivation you cultivate through your own mind, during prayer,
meditation and while reciting mantra. Essentially, it is your heart
felt faith, good intentions and prayers are what create the power.
Do the beads have any power in an of themselves? A
qualified yes, as substances which may have electrical properties.
Yes, minerals have certain properties caused by their
colors and the naturally occurring component substances from which
they are composed. For example, crystal, which is clear quartz, is
the same basic element used in silicon computer wafers, and we know
what silicon has enormous electrical properties from a scientific,
measurable standpoint. Crystal can aid you in amplifying and
projecting positive energy. Crystal can also attract negative energy
if used improperly. It has been found to be purifying to our subtle
bodies. But, minerals do not have mental or sensing consciousness,
as do Sentient beings like us. Minerals are really neutral
The second point about minerals are the qualities and
properties of the colors they radiate. Color does reflect certain
light waves in a manner that keys into astrological influences and
devic or angelic beings. Colors are very similar to beautiful
musical notes on a delicate instrument. Each note, in composition to
other notes create cords. This is a subject too extensive to cover
here. Additionally, colors can influence the electromagnetic centers
and the corresponding bodily, etheric, emotional and mental systems
in and around the body. These electrically centers are well
documented in Oriental medicine, and Hindu, Buddhist and ancient
wisdom literature. But, simply wearing a Mala all the time does not
produce power, as it must be used with thought. Also, how frequently
you wear it and on what part of the physical body will produce
Can wearing Malas ever be harmful? Yes, a few words of
caution is in order here. The semiprecious stone Malas should not be
worn on the wrist or around the neck for days on end. It may
interfere with your own electrical system, call "Chi" by the
Chinese, Winds and Channels by the Tibetans and "Psychic Energy" by
the Ancient Wisdom students. There are many names for this, but you
must be careful how often you keep it on your body so that your
natural currents and nervous system are not constantly interrupted.
Finally, in the ultimate sense, the Mala does not have any
mysterious power in and of itself. The belief that the Mala is a
source of power is a misunderstanding. This misunderstanding
reflects a western tendency to place the source of spiritual power,
virtue and goodness outside of ourselves. It is our own intrinsic or
"divine" connection to deity, be it God or Buddhas, that produces
the power in the Mala or power beads. When we strengthen that
connection in prayer or meditation, then the power of the Mala is
activated. And, the Mala can play a wonderful part in this practice
through daily use.
Of course, there can be real power in a "talisman" if it
is charged with the magnetism of aspiration and years of prayer.
Yet, even that magnetic power had to come from a transmission from a
living being, either human or deity. However, this falls under the
principle of radiation of blessings or magnetic touch of sacred
beings when they hold an object in their hands. This is a little bit
different principle at work, which we do not have time to elaborate
Why are there 108 beads? The answer is complicated, but in
brief the origin of 108 is a sacred number related astrologically to
the 12 astrological houses, multiplied by the 9 planets in our solar
system. Malas can also have 109 beads, 108 to count mantra and the
extra Guru Bead (usually slightly larger), which is where the Mala
terminates at the tassel. The Guru Bead is added as a reminder of
the sacred bond to the teacher or guru. Wrist Malas can have 22 or
What are wrist Malas traditionally used for? Wrist Malas
with 9, 22 or 27 beads, sometimes called "power beads" in the press,
were developed for doing prostration. Prostration's are performed to
purify oneself of karmic obstacles during Ngondro Practice,
acknowledging the place and value of the Three Jewels(the Buddha,
Dharma and Sangha). Performing prostration's is also a way to open
oneself up more deeply to the teaching while cutting through the
mind's tendency to habitually ego cling(selfishness, expressed as
pride, anger, jealousy, hatred, lust and grasping.) A wrist Mala
doesn't dangle or get in the way like a full sized 108 bead version
would while going from standing to prostration position.
The wrist Mala was created out of necessity to have a more
easy to use Mala for prostrations, and for convenience when
traveling. Hence, a wrist Mala can be safely held in the hand while
doing a period of prostration's. You can imagine how a long necklace
or Mala would flop around during prostrating, so wrist Malas are a
natural solution to this dilemma.
Is a Mala sacred? We believe it is sacred if you treat is
as sacred, especially if used for spiritual practice. As a sacred
tool it will build and maintain your magnetism and last for many
How should I use a Mala? Malas are used by moving it
through your fingers beginning at the first bead after the Guru
bead. Each time you recite one compete mantra you then cross to the
next bead. Once you have gone one round across the Mala and reach
the Guru bead you reverse directions. Most people hold the belief
that you do not cross over the Guru bead as a sign of respect or
good attitude of mind towards a spiritual teacher..
You do not need to hurry when reciting mantra. It is
important that you use the sound of your voice which helps purify
speech, resonating throughout all the atoms, cells, organs and
subtle parts of your bodies. The sound of sacred mantra calms and
protects the mind from the five poisons. At the same time, mantra
awakens the creative aspect of your being. Using the Mala in this
way will purify not only your speech, but mind, emotions and body
The best use of your Mala is for the recitation of mantra
since this will benefit a greater number beyond yourself alone.
Use as often as you can with whatever time and level of commitment
to spiritual practice you now possess.
When you look at your Mala let your mind be gently
reminder of the importance of keeping a positive state of mind,
wishing good to others and opening yourself up to auspicious and
blessed states of being. The Mala then is an aid in drawing the mind
closer to the deity, the celestial and divine sources from within
you and around you. It is a tool to bridge the mind to deity.
How should I care for my Mala, whether wrist or full
length? A few suggestions on what to do with your Mala...
A Mala should be stored and used carefully. Sometimes
coiling it too tightly, or placing it in a pants of jacket pocket
will cause strain and kinking on the wire cording. Anything which is
made of metal and bent too hard will break eventually. The Mala
cording breaks because of being kinked, bent or worn by contact with
the beads. Semiprecious stones have sharpened edges which will
eventually wear against the cording.
Store your Mala in a safe place, preferably a Mala bag. Do
not crumple crush it and put in your pants pocket, as this may
damage the cording causing it to break prematurely.
Use your Mala with the intention to bring greater happiness,
joy, Loving-Kindness and serenity into the world. If you do, it
will be a source of deep blessings in your life.
The cording or wire used to string the Mala will eventually
break with use over time. Even though this is a natural process,
we like to think of this as a positive expression of the law of
cause and effect, creating good karma. The more you use the Mala to
pray and recite mantra the sooner it wears out. However, this is not
to suggest one shouldn't treat it well. When it eventually
breaks, this is a constant reminder of the Lord Buddha's principal
teaching on Impermanance...in summary, "all things are subject
to dissolution, decay and change."
The Mala should not be worn while bathing, or allowed to
get wet, as this may weaken the cording which many Malas are strung
It would be wise to remove your Mala before retiring at night
or while sleeping, as stress can be exerted on the cording which
may cause it to break. Also, the potentially turbulent or negative
mental and emotional activity during sleep may affect the Gala's
Generally, don't pass it around when you are with others who
are not Dharma or spiritual practitioners, as the Mala will
loose the accumulate magnetism developed during prayer or
Question: The tassel of may Mala gets bent to one side or
frazzled looking-what can I do about that? The easiest way to
fix the tassel is to do the follow: 1) fill a small cup with cold
water, 2) dip the tassel into the water all the way to the guru
bead, squeezing out the excess water, and then 3) hang the Mala with
the tassel facing down on a door knob until it dries completely.
This should fix a bent or frizzy tassel.
Keep the Mala off of the ground, as it true with all
sacred objects, including books and other ritual instruments of
spiritual practice. If the Mala falls on the ground, touch to the
crown of your head while reciting, Om Ah Hum, three times.
We pray that you benefit from this article on the Mala. If
you want it to be a source of sacredness and a valued spiritual
instrument, please give these notions some thought. This article is
offered as a service to our customers, and your purchases help to
maintain our ability to serve you now and in the future.
Many blessings for your happiness, and May all beings
Cultivate and learn to use a prayer wheel
for increasing daily blessings in your life. It is said to
increase positive karma hundreds and thousands of times. It is no
more difficult than turning the wheel while repeating your prayers.
How much more easily can one create a positive and happy life.
are also a source of blessings and auspicious wishes. You
may wish to acquire some for your home, school or retreat center.
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