Meditation Beads: What They Are and How to Use Them

Meditation beads are also referred to as mala beads by yogis and Buddhist practitioners. You will find that they will come in sets of 108 beads with 1 larger bead called the ¨Guru¨ bead. This guru bead is technically the 109th bead.

This guru bead is your guide, to tell you when you have completed a full set of your repetitions. Have you been interested in finding out how to apply the use of meditation beads into your meditation practice?

Maybe you´re curious about how to properly use the mala beads for meditation and what all of it really means? I´ve been there. I´ve also been sitting on the hard concrete of a Buddhist Temple in Rishikesh, India sitting next to an elderly Indian man who was following in chant with the Dalai Lama while slowly moving his set of mala beads through his fingers.

So! We are going to get you fully set up to receive the benefits of practicing with mala beads. You will recognize these benefits in the form of noticeably improved focus, concentration, and discipline.

meditation beads

The Origin of the Mala Meditation Beads

It is difficult to trace the origin of many spiritual practices that have been integrated and evolved through modern culture over time. One ancient story, that is fun to entertain, details how the Buddhist Siddartha Gautama was told by King Vaidunya that the king´s people were dying.

The Buddha responded by advising the king to take 108 Bodhi seeds and string them into a necklace. The king was then told by the Buddha to repeat the mantra ¨I take refuge in the Buddha¨ and he was to count one bead on the necklace for every 3 repetitions of the mantra.

So, I suppose the practice of meditation beads would have had to have come about in this way. The meditation practice has a similar effect of having a physical and tangible element of your reality to focus on like creating the perhaps more stimulating and exciting DIY Meditation Glitter Jar.

Items you May Desire to Acquire

Meditating with mala beads is pretty simple to get set up with. Because, well, all you need is a set of mala beads. There are other things that you may want in general to help improve your meditation practice like a simple Buckwheat Meditation Cushion. It´s also worth it to check out the Useful Gear for Meditation to help get your meditation space set up and energized to your personal frequency.

As far as the bare bones necessary for getting started with your meditation beads today…here is what you will need:

  • Mala beads

Surprise! Surprised? No? No. Ok. Fair enough. But hey! That´s all you need.

Everything else you would acquire for meditation is to improve your comfort and essentially remove elements that would otherwise cause distraction. Like how using a meditation timer allows you to relinquish the responsibility of being conscious of Time.

Ya, but give me the Details!

I´ll be honest, there´s a bit more to it as far as getting a set of mala meditation beads. Each set will be made of different stones or wood and each color holds a different significance and meaning. If you are into it, then it might be a good idea to check out the meanings and spiritual significance of each color and material used with mala beads.

You can also use these authentic Bodhi Seed Mala Bead Necklace to use the same material that the Buddhist Gautama advised King Vaidunya to use. The word Bodhi translates from Sanskrit to the word ¨enlightened¨ or ¨awakened¨ in English.

The Bodhi tree holds a special place in the hearts of Buddhist monks. It is said that the legendary Buddhist Gautama meditated under a Bodhi tree for 6 years before achieving enlightenment.

How To Meditate with Your Meditation Beads

To learn the practical aspect of meditating with meditation beads is pretty straightforward. Essentially, the 108 beads on a mala necklace are used to keep track of the length of your meditation practice.

However, a full set of repetitions is considered to be completed when you reach a count of 100 beads. This accounts for the mind wandering while you are practicing so you do not have to worry about keeping an exact count.

You can follow with this video to see a visual representation of how to use your mala beads:

You´ll notice that while he uses the mala beads he does not use his index finger. The index finger is said to represent the ego and is not recommended to use when you are moving from bead to bead.

Now, we will break it down step by step!

Step 1: Prepare for Meditation

First, you will want to sit or lie down in your preferred meditation position. You can review our Beginner´s Guide to Meditation to obtain clarity on the proper way to sit for meditation. Essentially, there is no wrong way. It is best to put your body in a position that is most comfortable for you. But to keep your spine straight and your shoulders back will be useful for you in the long run.

However, there are certain poses and yoga mudras (ḧand poses) that are known to open up energetic pathways in your body and be conducive to achieving positive or perhaps more dramatic results with your meditation.

Step 2: Choose Your Mantra

You will want to find your own mantra. There are mantras you can use like the list found in this article on mantra meditation. A traditional mantra for mala beads you can use is one used commonly by Buddhist monks:

¨I take refuge in the Buddha.¨

The mantra I personally use is more of an affirmation:

¨I am happy, healthy, and strong.¨

I have found this mantra to prompt and stimulate my mind into visualization experiences that show myself being happy, healthy, and strong. But find what works for you!

Step 3: Position the Necklace

Now, you will want to hold the necklace in a way that will allow you to easily count each bead. You will hold the meditation bead necklace over your ring finger so your ring finger acts as a hook on a coat rack.

Then, your middle finger will rest over the beads to hold them in place. You know…so they don´t slide off your ring finger. Next, with each repetition of your chosen mantra, you will use your thumb to pull the next bead over your ring finger.

Repeat this motion as you count from bead to bead after each successful repetition of your chosen mantra.

Step 4: Repeat…or Stop?

After you complete your count of 100 (or the exact 108 if you´re super focused!) you will reach the guru bead at the end. When you reach the guru bead it is tradition to not pass over the guru bead. This means you will need to turn the necklace around in your hand and continue back the way that you came if you are going to continue your mantra meditation.

To reposition the mala and return in the other direction you will want to pinch the final bead with your middle finger and your thumb. Then, pull out your ring finger so it is now on the outside of your middle finger, thumb, and the necklace.

Slide your ring finger back through the loop, but from the other direction, to again act as a hook on a coat rack for the necklace. Now, the last bead becomes the first bead. You can repeat the same action of pulling the next bead towards you with your thumb and continue your mantra meditation.

Step 5: End Your Meditation

When you have completed the number of repetitions you set out to complete then it is now time to end your meditation. There is nothing special to do here. Simply place your mala beads down.  

Then, I prefer to place my hands into the Namaskara Mudra which is performed by placing the palms of your hands together and then over the center of your chest with your fingers outstretched, and touching one another, with your fingertips pointing towards your chin.

Essentially, each part of your left hand will touch the symmetrical part of your right hand in this mudra.  

The Namaskara Mudra opens up your heart center to express your divine Love to the universe. It is also used as a gesture of salutation, commonly associated with the Sanskrit word of greeting ¨Namaste¨. Namaste means ¨I see the Divine Light in You¨ or simply ¨I see You¨. It is related to the concept of seeing all of humanity as a mirror. As your Self.

In the words of Om Baba:

¨When you look into the eyes of another, and you see yourself…you see correct.¨

Place your hands in the Namaskara Mudra and bow to the divine energies of our universe. Thank the universe for your practice and the healing that you will receive from it.

So, Now You Know!

At this point, you should have a pretty solid foundation on utilizing and practicing with your meditation beads. This resource here will give you the practical knowledge you can apply today while understanding the mala bead meanings will help guide you towards the correct mala bead material that fits your vibrational frequency.

I hope you thoroughly enjoyed this tutorial of practical knowledge on meditation beads! Please feel free to share your experience or any questions in the comments. I look forward to hearing from everybody!

Meditate well, my friends.

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