What are Japa Mala Beads?

Japa Mala Beads

What are Mala Beads?

Japa mala, often known as a prayer bead or rosary, is used for meditation and reciting the divine name. This spiritual practice involves counting mantras as they are repeated on the bead string. A mantra is a syllable or sound spoken repeatedly to help with concentration during meditation. Hinduism, Catholicism, Buddhism, and many others employ this spiritual exercise. Mala beads are frequently created using a variety of natural gemstones, crystals, seeds, wood, and other materials. Some beads have talismans or amulets connected to them as well as a common tassel. 

For instance, worshippers of Lord Vishnu utilize beads made from the Tulsi plant's wood, whereas Shiva's devotees employ the seeds of the Rudraksha tree. On the other hand, Buddhists favor the roots or wood of the Bodhi tree, which symbolizes the spot where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment.

Moreover, mala beads can be worn as a necklace or bracelet to support meditation practice and spiritual development. Bracelets may consist of 18, 21, or 27 beads +1 guru bead. The Tibetan mala, for instance, has 108 beads plus three additional spacers and one guru bead. Some mala include spacers; these are extra beads added for aesthetic reasons, personal reasons, or, more traditionally, for keeping track when practicing mantras. Usually, full-size malas or necklaces comprise 108 beads plus one guru bead.

History Of Japa Mala Beads 

The Mokuganji Sutra is a collection of literature that dates back to the 4th century B.C. and narrates the tale of an individual. A king by the name of Haruri sought a means of imparting to his subjects knowledge of the Buddha's teachings. The Buddha retorted as recorded in the scriptures: O monarch, if you want to put a stop to your suffering and erase your ills, have a necklace with 108 beads in a circle made from Kogenji tree seeds, and recite "Namu Buddha - Namu Dharma - Namu Sangha." and count each bead with every recitation. The mantra roughly translates to "devotion to awakening (or enlightenment)," a commitment to living the right way and dedication towards the community (or all beings).” 

How Many Beads Are Present In Japa Mala?

Beads in Japa mala

There are 108 prayer beads in a japa mala, according to the Mokugenji Sutra. The number 108 has different symbolisms in Hinduism and Buddhism. 

108 in Hinduism 

There are several ways to interpret this number, which has significant ramifications. This number can be expressed in a variety of ways mathematically. Vedic cosmology mathematicians think that 108 is the foundation of creation. The ultimate consciousness is that we are all the same, representing the entirety of the cosmos and existence. There are 108 divine life force locations in the body and Vedic literature. A mantra is chanted 108 times using the mala because each chant symbolizes our spiritual journey. Each of the 54 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet chart has the essence of two elements Shakti (feminine) or Shiva (male). Fifty-four times two equals gives108. Vedic astrology states that his horoscope has 12 houses of zodiac signs and nine planets equal to 108, harmonizing our entire system, nature, and soul. The Anahata or Heart Chakra is thought to be connected to the 108 energy channels, or nadis.

108 in Buddhism 

In Buddhism, 108 refers to the number of defilements one strives to set an end to. It includes abuse, aggression, anger, arrogance, hypocrisy, ignorance, sadism, sarcasm, seduction, self-denial, self-hatred, sexual lust, shamelessness etc. It is believed that there are 108 different emotions, being connected to the past, present, and future. There are six senses and sensations—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and the mind. These sensations have three categories: neutral, pleasant, and unpleasant (6 x 3 = 18). These 18 sensations are applied to 3 timelines, past, present, and future (18×3=54). There are two ways to deal with the overall timeline: household life and renunciation (2 × 54 = 108).