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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 tradition.

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 well.

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 materials.

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 different effects.

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 upon here.

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 27 beads.

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 years.

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 too.

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 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 with.

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 accumulated magnetism.

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 meditation.

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 benefit!

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.

Prayer Wheels

Prayer Flags 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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