An Introduction to Japa Malas

Posted by Timmy Wong on 7/7/2014 to Product Spotlights

What are japa malas?

In literal translation, japa means repetitive prayer and mala means garland. These sets of beads (also known as prayer beads, meditation beads, power bracelets, yoga beads or worry beads) are commonly used in meditation exercises and activities. Malas aid in focusing the mind on a single task such as reciting a mantra, timing meditation or repeating an exercise. By letting the body do the counting, it allows the mind to focus. Mala bracelets and garlands also make beautiful pieces of sacred jewellery and should be worn as a reminder of mindfulness throughout the day.

Significance of numbers

The number of beads on a mala can be very important to some, for instance, 108 bead malas have long been embraced by Buddhist, Hindu, and Sikh traditions. Garlands or bracelets may consist of beads in numbers that are easily divisible by 108 (such as 54, 27, or 18 beads). More information about the significance of this number can be found here:

Another significant number is 21; it has been found that a person who is relaxed and calm is likely to take 21 breaths every 2 minutes. Therefore, these mala bracelets can be used to time a meditation session without looking at a clock. One can begin training the mind with a two minute meditation and work their way up.

Most malas have an additional “Guru” bead which is different and often larger larger than the other beads. It signifies both the teacher and the teaching we keep returning to each cycle.

Bead materials

Most people keep a number of malas with different bead colours and materials, which signify different meanings and intentions. For example, white or clear beads are often used for appeasing mantras. Rosewood strengthens the aura, and repels negative energy; sandalwood promotes tranquility, and brings positive forces into the meditation space. Rudraksha brings peace of mind and protects against evil forces. A mixture of semi-precious stones can also be used. Most importantly, a mala garland or bracelet should hold meaning for the user and be comfortable to wear.


Mantras are recited for different purposes linked to working with the mind. While mantras and prayers can be very personal, a popular one to start with is Om Mani Padme Hum – a Sanskrit mantra associated with universal love and compassion. Here are two links containing mantras that can be recited in a meditation session:

Holding and using a mala

Hold the mala in your left hand, draped over the middle finger. (The index finger is extended out and should not touch the mala bracelet.) Use your thumb to count by touching the bead while you recite the mantra - once you are done each repetition of the mantra, lightly pull the bead towards you and move on to the next bead. The guru bead (the large center bead) should not be touched; it is merely a starting and ending point for the meditation cycle. If you need to do more repetitions, simply turn the mala 180 degrees and continue (this takes some practice).

There is much more to tell about the mala and further individual research is encouraged. Keep in mind that specifics will vary from tradition to tradition so be sure to consult with a knowledgeable person in your tradition about matters of ritual if that is of importance to you.

We invite you to visit our meditation section to find mala products that will appeal to you and your customers!

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