- “Mala” means garland.
- A mala, also known as a rosary, is a string of knots or beads for keeping count of prayers.
- A mala has 108 beads plus one bead that is different from the rest, called a guru, meru, Mount Meru, or sumeru bead.
- The beads are passed between the fingers as the sound of the mantra is repeated.
- The mala is traditionally held in the right hand between thumb and middle finger.
- Traditionally, the index finger and little finger should not touch the beads. “The ring finger, not actively used, may contact the beads.” (Russill Paul)
- Once the mantra is repeated 108 times and the meru bead is reached, the mala is turned around, beginning with the bead just finished.
- Malas are said to have vibrations related to the mantras for which they are used. Therefore, traditionally, the same mala is not used for all mantras.
Dr. David Frawley on The Energy of Malas
Malas are important tools of both worship and healing. They relate to different deities and have their specific powers that can be used to hold the energies of mantras in different ways. When we use a mala with our mantra recitation, the power of the mantra enters into the beads of the mala, which become energized at a subtle level. The more often we use them, the greater their power becomes. The mala gathers and magnifies the power of the mantra forming a sphere of energy and protection around us. – Dr. David Frawley
The mind is constantly moving, using energy unproductively by creating mental background noises that are mainly concerned with past or future events. Life can be an endless chain of cause and effect. The beads of the mala are also an endless chain, and with each bead the endless thoughts are given a specified, significant meaning relating to the particular mantra… Mount Meru symbolizes God-Realization and each time you reach it you have a reminder that you do not have to continue the chain of cause and effect. – Swami Sivananda Radha
The Meru Bead Represents Divine Presence
The sumeru is never used because it represents Divine Present itself… We keep moving toward the sumeru as we recite our mantra; having arrived at our goal we turn around and work our way toward it again from the other direction. The sumeru bead helps maintain a conscious awareness of ultimate Divine presence throughout the recitation. – Russill Paul
I like to hold my mala in front of my heart to bring forth as much feeling into the practice as possible, using ujjayi breath to amplify the inner resonance of the mantra. – Girish
See also: Different Types of Rosaries