What is the original purpose of a Gemstone Mala?
A Mala (necklace in Sanskrit) is a string of prayer beads often used in Japa Meditation. We recite a mantra as we pass beads through our fingers. While practicing mantra doesn’t require a mala, it is a helpful kinaesthetic counting device, making sure we complete 108 cycles. It also adds a tactile dimension to our practice, with the sensation of beads between the fingers, keeping us awake and present. Bead by bead, like steps on a stairway, walking us up and taking us closer to god.
Why do Gemstone Malas have 108 beads?
The number 108 is held to be a very important number in a lot of spiritual practices. The ancient yogis believed by implementing the number 108 in their spiritual practices, they could align themselves with the rhythm of creation.
In nature as well as in ancient architecture, time and time again, the number 108 is found. For instance, the distance between the Earth and sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun. Hindu deities have 108 names and the circle around Stonehenge has a diameter of 108 feet. In Yoga, often breathing exercises are done 108 times. Sun Salutations are repeated in 9 rounds of 12 poses (together 108).
Traditionally a mala has 108 beads plus a larger guru bead. A wrist mala often has 27, or 54 beads. They all divide into each other and all have digits that add up to nine. The 108 beads in a mala help the practitioner to repeat a specific mantra 108 times.