The Origins of Mala Beads

Mala is a Sanskrit word which translates to "garland". Mala beads, also known as prayer beads, are known for its association with Buddhism right from the beginning. They have since been used for reciting mantras, prayers and meditations by monks, venerable and devotees.

King Vaidunya once consulted the Buddha: “In recent years, disease and famine have swept my country. The people are distressed, and I worry about this night and day without interruption. Ours is a pitiful condition. The totality of the dharma is too profound and extensive for us to practice, given these circumstances. Please teach me just the main point of the dharma so that I may practice it and teach it to others.”

The Buddha replied: “King, if you want to eliminate earthly desires, make a circular string of 108 bodhi seeds and, holding them always to yourself, recite, ‘I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha.’ Count one bead with each recitation of these three.”

Since then, the use of 108 Mala beads has been spread worldwide.

Now, you might be wondering why do Mala beads consist of 108 beads? There are no right or wrong answers to this. Some of the more common explanations include:

  1. In Buddhism, one must overcome exactly 108 mortal desires to achieve enlightenment. Each bead represents a type of temptation. Reciting mantra with the Mala beads is a reminder to vanquish these desires in order to end all suffering.
  2. Sanskrit is the main language used in Buddhist scriptures. There are a total of 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each letter is both masculine and feminine, namely Shiva and Shakti. When 54 multiplied by 2, the resulting number is 108, indicating that each bead represents a Sanskrit letter. 
  3. The numbers 1, 0, and 8 each have their own meanings. Number 1 represents the higher truth. Number 0 represents emptiness, while number 8 symbolizes eternity. When combined, it becomes a reflection of the entire universe. This helps to remind us that the universal self is omnipresent.  
  4. There are 6 types of delusions which we can encounter via sight, hearing, scent, taste, touch and the mind. They can happen in the past, present and in the future. These delusions can be experienced with three types of sentiments, dislike, like and neutral, as well as with two conditions of  the heart, pure or impure. All these scenarios multiplied together will result in 108 different possibilities for delusions.

Today, Mala beads have started to gain traction amongst the non-religious individuals, whom uses it as a fashion accessory. Whether it is for spiritual advancement or riding a fashion trend, there will be a Mala beads that suits your need. Shop with us here.



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