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What is a Mala? 

Malas become a tangible connection to the divine, ourself and others.

A Mala represents something different to each person. It can be a tool for meditation, a reminder of an intention, a piece that inspires you, or a beautiful manifestation of a feeling. 

Whether you’re just starting a meditation practice, or you're an advanced practitioner, Mala beads are a great tool to help focus your attention. 

Mala beads have been used by yogis and spiritual seekers for thousands of years to help keep their minds focused during meditation and prayer. Malas were first created in India 3000 years ago, with roots in Hinduism & Buddhism, and were used for a special style of meditation called Japa, which means, “to recite”. The term mala is a Sanskrit word for “garland.”


During meditation, practitioners pass the beads through their fingers while silently or out loud, repeating a mantra. 100 counted for self, 8 for mistakes and for those who have not the opportunity to meditate in mantra. The act of repeating a prayer or mantra while holding and passing the beads through our fingers helps anchor our thoughts and still the mind so that we can reside in the present, sacred moment, to reawaken our essential and primordial nature. 

The significance of 108, the Guru bead and the tassel 

The number 108 has a range of significance across many different cultures and disciplines. For example, this number informs the architecture of sacred texts that are central to yoga and eastern philosophy. As a devoted scholar of yoga and tantra, Shiva Rea explains in Tending the Heart Fire, “there are 108 chapters of the Rig Veda, 108 Upanishads and 108 primary Tantras.” And these texts are written in Sanskrit, a language comprising 54 letters, each with a masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) form, 54 x 2 = 108. Listed below are just a few of the many interpretation of the significance of the number 108.

 The Guru bead is the 109th bead and usually larger than the others. It is not counted as part of the 108 beads. The Guru bead is your teacher, it said to hold your prayers and intentions. Guru translates as Gu - Dark and Ru - Light. The Guru bead represents any person, place or experience that takes us from being unaware into awareness.

When using a Mala for meditation, you would start by holding your guru bead and setting your intention for your practice. Use the mala for your meditation as you breathe or count a mantra over each bead. When you finish your meditation or breathwork, you can “seal” your practice as you rest holding your guru bead and holding space for your intention.


Malas are commonly finished with a tassel. The tassel symbolizes the thousand-petal lotus flower. The lotus flower grows from the bottom of ponds or muddy streams up through the water to bloom beautifully. It closes and sinks below the water every night, then resurfaces and fully blooms brightly again. This is a powerful reminder that if we are grounded in our practice, we are able to beautifully bloom and shine in any given situation, no matter how murky, over and over again.

Ayurveda, Astrology, Yoga and Other Practices

In in the field of Ayurveda, there are 108 sacred places, or marmas, in the body, identifying intersections of matter and consciousness. When manipulated, these points can awaken and align the vital energy. Members of the Vedic tradition see this number as denoting the wholeness of the universe: one represents the solar masculine, zero represents the lunar feminine and eight represents the infinite nature of all things. There are 12 solar houses and 9 lunar houses, 9 x 12 = 108. According to traditional Buddhism, 108 represents the number of mortal desires of mankind which one must overcome to achieve Nirvana. Yogis do 108 sun salutations on solstices and equinoxes. Tai chi chuan long forms are counted as 108 postures or movements.

Mathematics and Astronomy 

Mathematicians favor the number 108 for its countless patterns and potential divisions. For example, it is divisible by the sum of its parts and most of its proper divisors, making it a semi-perfect number. Through the lens of astronomy, the diameter of the sun is approximately 108 times that of earth and the distance from our planet to its solar star is, on average, 108 times the diameter of the sun. The average distance from the Earth to the Moon is 238,800 miles, about 108 times the moons diameter.  This makes it so the moon appears the same size as the sun during eclipses.

108 is illustrative of the simplest, and yet pinnacle guide to meditation:

  • 1 for focusing on one thing, the verticality of the breath

  • 0 for maintaining zero senses or preconceptions so as to be open

  • 8 for uniting with the flow of the infinite

Here are a few ideas for mantra: 

  • "May all beings be happy, peaceful and free from suffering"

  • "I am loved, I am loving, I am love"

  • "Lokah samastah 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.)

  • "Om mani padme hum" (hail to the jewel in the lotus. This is known as the Compassion Mantra)

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