There are many different definitions and stories about mala beads, with most usually associated with Buddhism and Hinduism.
They have been used in prayer and meditation within these cultures for centuries. Buddhists frequently use different types of wood in their beads while Hindus use rudraksha, which they consider to be a holy and protective seed. Although I do not practice either of these religions, I do utilize mala beads in my meditation practice.
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Mala Beads Information
If you Google or research mala beads, you will find a somewhat different explanation and description for each of the listings. It is amazing how the definitions and descriptions vary from one site to another. The overall theme of these descriptions, however, does follow a common thread. These beads are used in prayer and meditation as a focal point while saying a prayer or mantra.
Significance of 108
There are 108 beads in a traditional mala and the references to the specificity of 108 vary. One of the theories about the 108 is that “there are 108 lines of energy that converge to form the heart chakra, with one of those lines leading to the crown chakra and self-realization”.
Another belief is “there are 108 stages on the journey of the human soul, while others associate the possibility of enlightenment with taking only 108 breaths a day, while in deep meditation. Yet another meaning says there are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet and each has a masculine and feminine which equals 108. So the description or meaning of the 108 is open to interpretation, which I truly love. My thoughts on this is that you can take whatever meaning serves you and use it in a way that is most helpful to you.
A guru bead is a bead in the center of the mala. A guru is a teacher so this bead is the guru or teacher of the mala. I always choose a healing crystal for this position that has a particular healing quality that will support myself or others.
There are beads that are specifically designated as guru beads, but, just like the meaning of the 108, guru beads are also open to your own interpretation. I often choose a larger round bead or a pendant that is a healing crystal. Often a tassel is added below the guru bead, and this, like the other parts of mala beads, has different meanings. I like the meaning that says all the strands coming together represents a connection to others.
When I make malas, I put a knot between each bead for two reasons. First, it makes it easier to manipulate the beads during meditation. Second, if the mala were to break, all the beads would not go rolling and bouncing across the floor. Personally, I like the look of knotted malas too.
I always choose healing crystals that are of personal importance and support to me. Rose Quartz supports the heart and heart chakra. Amethyst is beautiful and has a strong protective quality. Agate is also beautiful, comes in many colors and soothing, calming and healing. Selenite clears all other crystals and when used can create a safe and quiet space that does not let negative energy in. These are just a few of the thousands of crystals that can be used in mala beads.