What is a mala?

What is a Mala?
Malas have a history of going back several thousand years. A mala is a string of beads used to assist in prayer and Japa meditation. Mala is sanskrit for "meditation garland," and Japa means "repetition of God's name." A traditional Hindu mala has 108 or 27 "counting beads," as well as a "guru bead" which hangs at the end of the strand. 

How do I use a Mala? 
The mala is hung over the third finger of the right hand. Starting with the first bead, the beads are brought toward you using the thumb of the right hand. Each bead counts for one repetition of a mantra. Once you arrive at the guru bead and have finished your 108th Japa, you would bow to the guru, then flip the mala and go back the in the direction you came from. You do not count or pass the guru bead. Stepping over the guru bead is liken to stepping over the guru, a sign of disrespect.

Holding your mala.

What is a Mantra? 
The earliest mantras were composed of Vedic Sanskrit by Hindus in India. Sanskrit is a vibratory language, and verses or chants are melodic and mathematically structured meters. The word mantra translates to "instrument of thought" in Sanskrit. Mantras are a deeply personal ritual. A mantra can be chanted out loud, or repeated in the mind as an internal practice. It can be a phrase, or sequence of words to be meditated upon, that represents the intentions of the person meditating. 

How do I choose a Mantra?
I took an aromatherapy class several years ago. One of the students in class asked the instructor, "How will we know which oils to use for each client?" The instructor replied, "They will know." I'm going to apply that knowledge here as well. Use your intuition. Be creative. Any spiritual practice should be one of inquiry, trust, and exploration of the Self. There is no greater wisdom than your own. When choosing a mantra, let it be one that resonates with you. 

What is the meaning behind 108? 
So much wisdom can be offered here. Vedic Sages were mathematicians and they are the inventors of our mathematic system. 108 is a Harshad number, an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. Harshad translates to "joy giver" in Sanskrit. 

There are many references to the number 108 online. One that stood out to me is the natural division of a circle, or "Harmonic 360 of The Circle." Please reference the links provided for further study. 

Here are a few of the mantras I use often.

Om Sahana Vavatu:
Om Sahana Vavatu
Sahanau Bhunaktu
Saha Viryam Karavavahai
Tejasvi Navaditamastu Ma Vidvishavahai
OM Shantih Shantih Shantihi

May he protect us both (the teacher and the student).
May he nourish us both.
May we both work together with great energy.
May our study be enlightening and fruitful.
May we not hate each other.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

Om, Sarve bhavantu sukhinah: 
Om, Sarve bhavantu sukhinah
Sarve santu niraamayah
Sarve bhadraani pashyantu
Maa kaschit dukha abhaag bhavet
Om Shaanti Shaanti Shaantihi 

May happiness be unto all,
May perfect health be unto all,
May all see what is good,
May all be free from suffering,
Om, peace, peace, peace.

Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya: 
Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya
Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya 

Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih 

Lead us from the unreal to the real,
Lead us from the darkness to the light,
Lead us from the fear of death,
To the knowledge of immortality.
Om, peace, peace, peace.

Gayatri Mantra:
Aum Bhuh Bhuvah Svah
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yo nah Prachodayat

"We meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this universe; may He enlighten our minds."

Om Mani Padme Hum:
Om Mani Padme Hum
Taken from Wikipedia:

"It is very good to recite the mantra Om mani padme hum, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast... The first, Om [...] symbolizes the practitioner's impure body, speech, and mind; it also symbolizes the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha[...]"

"The path is indicated by the next four syllables. Mani, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factors of method: (the) altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love.[...]"

"The two syllables, padme, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom[...]"

"Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable hum, which indicates indivisibility[...]"
"Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha[...]"

Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu:
Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
"May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all."

Malas, Mantra, and Meditation have a rich history and should be practiced with respect to their lineage. If you have further questions, or would like a commissioned piece, please feel free to contact me. I am happy to assist you in your journey.

I bow in reverence to the divine wisdom within all of us.