If you´ve come to understand mala beads and their use in meditation you may find yourself wondering about what each mala beads meaning by color is. Maybe you’ve come across mala beads, or prayer beads, and are curious about the specifics of each color behind each set of beads? Perhaps you are wanting to find the best stone and color of mala bead that has familiar energetic characteristics that synchronize well with your own?
After you and I are finished you will have a solid understanding of why a particular stone and color is used for each set of mala beads. You will also have a better idea of what you would want to choose for your own mala beads!
An authentic mala bead necklace consists of 108 beads and is traditionally used in mantra meditation to track your sets of mantras in repetitions of 108. Each foundational color of the mala beads holds its own meaning behind it. However, also understanding the energetic qualities and characteristics of the different stones and wood that are used to create the beads will make your experience much more personalized and effective. Each set is, of course, beautiful and visually stimulating. But, as you build your knowledge and respect for the raw material that the necklace was sourced from you will find that having a clear understanding of what you are holding is much more valuable.
History of Mala Beads
Following the mala beads back through history has proven difficult in regards to finding the exact origin. An ancient Buddhist story says that the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama was told by King Vaidunya that feast and famine were sweeping through the king´s lands. The Buddha responded by telling the king to take 108 bodhi seeds and to place them on a string to form a necklace.
The king was then to repeat ¨I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Buddha.¨ and to count 1 bead for every 3 repetitions. There are countless stories of the Buddha being asked to perform miracles in which he always responds with the gift of meditation.
The beads are also popularly known as worry beads as they are universally used in meditation to relieve yourself of your earthly worries.
The term ¨mala¨ is a Sanskrit word that translates to ¨garland¨. Sanskrit is regarded as the ancient language of Hinduism and is where the 720 dialects of India stem from. The mala beads themselves have always been made of organic material that has been found.
This includes animal bones, wood, stones, and clay. In today´s era, it´s very common for businesses to substitute synthetic materials to save on cost and sell more products. Finding authentic mala beads like these ones with natural stone and wood material is worth it when you come to use and meditate with your mala beads.
How to Use Your Mala Beads
In meditation, the mala beads are most commonly used with mantra meditation. The mantra you choose will be significant to you and is usually better and more effective if kept simple. I personally use the mantra ¨I am happy, healthy, and strong.¨ This mantra reminds me that I am happy and also what I need to be doing to remain healthy and strong as I grow older.
Our Beginner´s Meditation Guide will help guide you through finding your mantra. It is ok to simply choose something to use now and allow it to change and evolve as you progress.
Once you have chosen your mantra you will want to settle into your meditation space in your desired sitting pose. Now would be a good time to light your incense stick or meditation candles if you have them. You will be holding the mala beads in your right hand, in whichever way is most comfortable.
Then close your eyes and allow your breath to flow naturally. You do not need to try and breathe deeper or exhale faster. Just breathe. Then focus your attention on your mantra. You will start with the necklace hanging over your middle or ring finger and use your thumb to move on to the next bead by pulling it towards you.
You will start on the guru bead, which is traditionally a larger bead that signifies you´ve completed your prayer or mantra. When you complete your mantra just move to the next bead and start again. Repeat this process until you come all the way back around to the guru bead.
You aren´t required to complete all 108 repetitions. It just simply helps you keep time with your breathing and mantra repetitions. Some people prefer to use a meditation timer when they are doing other types of meditation that don´t utilize the mala beads.
If you don´t do the complete 108 repetitions of the mantra you can still break it down into any amount that you want, you will just have to count the number yourself. If you do reach 108 repetitions you may find that you want to continue your meditation further.
At this point, it is generally considered good practice to reverse your direction and go the other way as opposed to passing over the guru bead and continuing the same direction.
Beads of Color
Each mala bead is made of different material and every material is going to shine a different color. Cultures associate with colors in different ways all over the world and have different relationships with colors. We will primarily focus on understanding the meanings behind the colors from the Buddhist culture that mala beads originate from.
Red represents power and courage as well making it a popular color for rituals. It is said that meditating on the color red will turn your attachment and delusion into discriminating wisdom. Or ¨keen discnernment¨ so to say. The color red is believed to have protective qualities and is often used to paint sacred buildings.
Yellow was previously the color of clothing that criminals wore until Buddha Gautama chose the color as his robes. He did this to represent his humility and ultimate separation from a materialistic society. The color now represents renunciation, desirelessness, and humility.
It is also the color of earth and sun and recognized as a symbol of connectedness with the earth.
Green is in the middle of the spectrum of colors that are visible to the human eye. This is why green is naturally associated with balance and harmony. It is the color we also relate to Mother Nature in trees and in plants. It is represented of youthful life ready for anything and productivity.
In Buddhism green is the color of action!
Blue – Light & Dark
Blue is associated widely with qualities like tranquility, ascension, the infinite, healing, and wisdom. Light blue, most commonly represented in turquoise, is said to bring the meditator to the limitless heights of ascension while simultaneously holding the user humbled with the earth and the sky. The earth and the sky is said to be held within the opaqueness or ¨lightness¨ of the blue.
Dark blue is generally represented by lapus lazuli. The darker color of blue is said to have intensified healing effects as compared to light blue in terms of spirituality.
The color purple is a mysterious, imaginative color. It relates to the unknown and spirituality. Purple is meant to be a color that helps guide you to your purpose in life and to bring balance between your spiritual and physical beings. It is a soft, embracing color that calls you to the realms of higher consciousness.
White is the color of purity. Purity and longevity – or long life! It is also the color of extremes – associated with the white-hot metal of smelting and the ice cold white of snowcaps. The color is also a representation of learnedness and knowledge.
Black is very much a dark color. Imagine that, huh? It is most closely connected with darkness and hate. Meditating upon this color may seem counter-intuitive towards finding peace but it is about coming to an understanding and a peace with oneself of your own stored hate and anger.
During meditation, sometimes violent episodes arise in our thoughts that we seek to understand. The color black is intended to help us reflect, learn, and grow from this experience.
Beads of Stone
Each color by itself holds its own important qualities in regards to the mala beads as a whole. The remaining qualities and spiritual characteristics lie in the different types of stone or sometimes the wood that is used to create the mala beads. There are many many different types of rocks that are used in making mala beads and it can be overwhelming so this list will help you keep it manageable.
I have found that the spiritual benefits of gemstones are almost always entirely reciprocal to your level of belief in them. The more you personally understand about the stones you are working with the better you will be able to identify, isolate, and amplify the energies each stone is producing.
The rocks are all real pretty, too.
Agate is all about balance and harmony. The stone is said to vibrate at lower frequencies which promotes energies of strength and stability. This stone helps maintain stability in the balance of positive and negative. Agate creates a strong and soothing foundation for you to confidently and surely progress in your spirituality.
Amethyst is a vibrant, purple crystal that is worn as protection, to help quiet the mind, and it is also said to help control addictions. The word amethyst itself comes from the Greek word ¨amethystos¨ which translates literally to ¨not drunk.¨ The Greek mythology behind the stone is rather beautiful involving a woman named Amythest who is transformed eternally into quartz crystal by a god.
Bacchus, the god of agriculture and wine, then poured his grapes over the crystal statue and this is where the purple color is said to come from.
Carnelian is a stone of endurance, motivation, courage, and leadership. This beautiful red stone was a sought after by fierce warriors and was believed to bring one good luck in battle. The ancient Egyptians aptly named this stone ¨The Setting Sun.¨
Citrine is actually quite a rare gemstone that holds a truly natural yellow color. The bright, happy yellow stone is meant to encourage free will and provide clarity in seeing your hopes and dreams. The yellow of the sun also reminds us of the comfort and warmth that the sun brings.
Diamond is a stone that is essentially the hardest form of carbon, nicknamed by man as ¨The Invincible Stone¨. Because the stone is so hard it has been known for bringing about courage and fearlessness in people. The diamond itself is considered a gem of penetrating insight and helps clear our mind to allow us to ascend to higher states of consciousness.
Fluorite is nicknamed ¨The Genius Stone¨ as it is known to help the user connect and understand existing knowledge. It is a stone of manifestation that helps us see our own truth and wisdom in which to create our reality around us with. Fluorite is said to enhance our mental activity and bring both left and right hemispheres working together to retain and comprehend new knowledge.
Jade has been around for thousands of years and has been a prized gem that was used in jewelry and also in crafting Buddhist meditation statues. The gemstone is known to work closely with dreams and also spiritual rituals that one might perform. It has also been used in carving talismans due to the belief that jade brings one long life and a peaceful passing into the next.
Quartz crystal is the base of many stones and is considered a strong enhancer of all elements related to Mother Earth. The crystals are meant to energize other crystals that have more specific healing abilities or benefits. Quartz crystal will appear in nature as a 6-sided crystal which has earned it the nickname ¨The Perfect Jewel¨.
Howlite is said to help us accept ourselves and to listen to our hearts. It brings a calming sense to the mind to prepare and open it up for attunements of wisdom and knowledge. In a general sense, people will work with howlite to help relieve daily anxiety, tensions, and stress.
Jasper is a stone that comes in many different vibrant and beautiful colors. The heart of the jasper stone´s spiritual purpose is said to vibrate at frequencies that induce healing and fortitude. This has earned the stone the nickname ¨The Great Nurturer¨. You can check out the details of the spiritual elements of the different colors of jasper here if you´d like!
Moonstone has been used throughout the centuries to craft figurines and talismans and jewelry, too. It is a beautiful stone and can be clear and reflective or solid and opaque. It also has less common variants of peach, blue, gray and yellow. The moonstone you most commonly see at a gem store would be the variant that includes the trademark rainbow iridescent sheen that reflects off the stone.
The moonstone is most directly connected with, you guessed it, the moon! She speaks to the natural rhythms of the earth and tides. Moonstone is great for meditating as she will help return you to your natural earthly rhythms away from your over-stimulated daily life.
Selenite is a wispy, milky white cloud-like stone and has been known for cleansing, healing, and protection. It is another crystal that helps us connect to the consciousness of the higher realms. The stone itself relates most with balance and harmony which is most likely where the cleansing ideology stems from. When we are cleansed and pure we are balanced and harmonious with the rhythms of the Earth.
Lapis Lazuli is one of my personal favorites. The stone is absolutely beautiful with a dark blue and twinkling yellow stars. It has been said to help with communication between people as well.
The stone is based on inner truth, honor, wisdom, and vision. Lapis has been known to help clear out negative energies and thoughts and guide you towards your inner peace.
The stone is also helpful in problem-solving and encourages increased cognitive function. This attributes as to why your communication is strengthened by this stone!
Obsidian is a mineral that is formed from the cooling of lava. It comes out a beautiful, glossy jet black especially when it is polished but even raw! Because obsidian itself reflects light so well this has also turned into its fundamental spiritual characteristic of the stone.
The stone is said to reflect truths back into you to cut through illusions and allow you to see the reality as it is. The glossy, reflective surface has also been used for scrying purposes and communicating with higher beings.
The obscure smokiness existing within the quartz gives us another healing crystal called Smoky Quartz. The stone is also well known for its strong grounding and purification energies. It is a very welcoming stone that brings us closer to earth and our reality as we find the inner strength to begin manifesting our reality around us.
Rose quartz is a beautiful semi-precious stone that you will find being a beautiful red or pink color. This color of the crystal is also known as ¨The Love Stone¨ for this reason. The stone itself is connected closely with the heart and has been helpful in mending the heart from extreme trauma or extreme grief. In Greek mythology, the god Cupid used Rose quartz to impart love and passion and warmth across the world.
Turquoise is considered one of the oldest gemstones that we know of. The gemstone was known to bring protection and was thus used by soldiers and travelers who believed the stone would help protect them. It has been known across cultures to connect closely with wisdom and immortality. It is also a stone of good luck, nicknamed ¨ The Lucky Stone¨!
Tiger’s Eye is another stone that is vibrantly beautiful existing with deep brown and golden brown colors. The benefits of tiger´s eye are related to that of a tiger. The stone is believed to bring an unwavering focus and also subtle patience.
You will find yourself more at ease as your mind allows you to sit and calmly assess your reality to gain greater insight and clarity before making a decision. The sense of balance and harmony is also not lost upon this stone as you will see in the fluid cohesive colors. It is said to bring you closer to union with Mother Nature.
Black Tourmaline holds subtle vibrational healing energies, like crystals, but is more well known for its protective qualities. It is said to repel bad energies from you and cleanse the environment of negative energies around you. The stone is one that isn´t required to be cleansed through a moon ritual if you do that. I personally carry black tourmaline with me everywhere I go. Currently, it is in the form of a necklace to keep it convenient!
Beads of Wood
It is good to remember that mala beads can be made out of just about anything. Some are available for you in beads that are created from wood. You could, of course, make the beads out of any type of wood or stone but we will cover the types of wood that hold the closest spiritual relationship with the mala bead practice.
Sandalwood is regarded as a sacred herb in India and is used in various forms for Ayurvedic healing. It is said to promote clairvoyance or foretelling and helps in connecting with our past lives. Sandalwood helps clear and calm your mind and brings about ample space for healing. Outside of using the wood in mala beads, it has many other uses including a paste to cool your skin or as incense that soothes the senses and relaxes the mind.
In the ancient language of India, Sanskrit, Bodhi translates to ¨enlightened¨ or ¨awakened¨. It is also used in text or in chanting or I suppose in conversation, in general, to relate to the Buddha´s understanding of the true nature of things. The Bodhi seed is what the Buddha used in the story of giving the king the first set of mala beads, effectively creating the Buddhist prayer bead practice.
The bodhi beads hold special significance to Buddhist monks as it is said that the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama became enlightened while sitting under the bodhi tree for 6 years. You can try your meditation with a genuine Bodhi seed mala here if you are wanting to.
Now you will have a pretty deep understanding of each mala beads meaning by color and also by type. Should we go the reverse way and cover it all again? It will probably be different the second time.
No. We won´t. But! As you practice with your new mala beads you will find that reaching the 108th bead will be the first benchmark in your practice. After this, you may find yourself reversing backward and repeating the 108 beads as you go deeper in your meditation practice. You can also find raw cuts of these stones or wood or use them in other forms if you feel like you want to combine multiple characteristics of these energies into your meditation space.
Enjoy! Meditate well.