Author Topic: Malas  (Read 15395 times)

Jessie Fong

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Malas
« on: July 04, 2012, 03:34:02 PM »
A Mala is traditionally used to count the number of mantra recitation and there are 108 beads per mala.

Do you know that certain types of malas are used during different types of recitation?

For example:

- pacifying : white colored malas
- increasing : gold, silver, copper, amber malas
- magnetizing : different forms of wood e.g. lotus seed, sandalwood
- to tame by forceful means (subdue harmful energies) : malas made of  Rudraksha beads or bone

Would you know of other types of malas used for mantra recitation and why these specific types only are used?



DS Star

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Re: Malas
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2012, 04:01:49 PM »
Thank you Jessie for this informative post. I have a few different type of malas given to me by friends. Now I know the significant of each mala.

I have one tiny lotus seeds mala that I carry with me all time. I have one lapis lazuri that I use for Medicine Buddha mantra, one tourmaline mala mostly use for Protector mantra, one jade mal a for Green Tara mantra and sandalwood one for general use... too greedy am I?

Question: someone told me before that we should not allow other people to hold or touch our mala. Is it so? Why?

Jessie Fong

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Re: Malas
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2012, 04:14:16 PM »
Thank you Jessie for this informative post. I have a few different type of malas given to me by friends. Now I know the significant of each mala.

I have one tiny lotus seeds mala that I carry with me all time. I have one lapis lazuri that I use for Medicine Buddha mantra, one tourmaline mala mostly use for Protector mantra, one jade mal a for Green Tara mantra and sandalwood one for general use... too greedy am I?

Question: someone told me before that we should not allow other people to hold or touch our mala. Is it so? Why?


I have also heard about that - I guess it is because of the energy of different people.  But I have heard that since you have chanted a lot of mantras using that same mala, it is already so blessed so it should bless the other person and not the reverse.

If you have used your mala during your retreats (calculate how many mantras have blessed this mala) and it is so blessed, would it not be a very welcome gift to somebody?


I came across the following regarding why there are 108 beads in a mala:


Numbers and symbolism

There are numerous explanations why there are 108 beads, with the number 108 bearing special religious significance in a number of Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
Ananda Coomaraswamy holds that the numerology of the decimal numeric system was key to its inception. 108 is therefore founded in Dharmic metaphysical numerology. One for bindu; zero for shunyata and eight for ananta.
In traditional Buddhist thought, people are said to have 108 afflictions or kleshas. There are six senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and consciousness) multiplied by three reactions (positive, negative, or indifference) making 18 "feelings." Each of these feelings can be either "attached to pleasure or detached from pleasure" making 36 "passions", each of which may be manifested in the past, present, or future.[citation needed] All the combinations of all these things makes a total of 108, which are represented by the beads in the ojuzu. This same number is also used in Japanese New Year services where a bell is rung 108 times.
In addition, practitioners of Vajrayana Buddhism, use the number 108 for a different purpose. After reciting 100 mantras, eight extra mantras are done to compensate for any errors.


Tammy

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Re: Malas
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2012, 11:00:54 PM »
Thanks Jessie, I never know the material of mala beads has significant meaning behind each of them. All I look for is their various colors and the size of each beads.

I like to keep my mala to myself and not share with other people.
High lamas sometimes gift they mala to other people, I always consider the recipients extremely blessed with these mala.

One question - do we need to clean our mala or re-string them after using it for a certain period of time? And is there Anyang we should do after it being re-string? Cn we clean our mala by sop and water?
Down with the BAN!!!

Dhiman

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Re: Malas
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2012, 09:37:12 AM »
This sounds dumb but it really fascinates me to know that malas are capable of ‘storing’ the energy of the mantras we recite. Additionally specific malas also enhances the energy of the mantras i.e. crystal mala for Chenrezig mantra.

Found some additional information on the materials used to make malas that I would like to add on to Jessie’s good post:

Iron / Steel – Multiplies the virtue that is accumulated with each recitation in a general way.
Copper – Multiplies each recitation four times.
Raksha mala – Multiplies each recitation by 20 million.
Pearl – Multiplies each recitation by 100 million.
Silver – Multiplies each recitation by 100,000.
Ruby – Multiplies each recitation by 100 million.

I wonder how Gyatrul Rinpoche came up with such specific numbers but I think it reminds me of how the mala is also an object of offering in our practice – since we offer the best we could afford to the Buddhas.

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: Malas
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2012, 02:19:25 AM »
Malas also have symbolism. The crystal mala held by 4 armed chenrezig is in a figure of 8 pattern, denoting the 8 fold path to liberation. It is also an infinity sign that all phenomena is without a  beginning and an end. The mala beads also symbolise each thought moment as dependent arising . Each thought is conditioned by the previous thought in an endless stream. This arises , therefore that arises. This ceases, therefore that ceases. It holds the key knowledge to getting out of samsara.The thread that holds the beads together is the thread of mindfulness.
Counting the malas also mean that one has to apply effort and diligence to practice.Chenrezig holding it means that she attained enlightenment in dependence on such effort and that we will also achieve same results by  following her prayers and instructions.

Positive Change

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Re: Malas
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2012, 07:25:34 AM »
History and Origins

Often we use the phrase, "Knock on wood" and proceed to do just that: knock on a table or a door or whatever wood is handy. Most do not know that the origin of the phrase and practice comes from the rosary. Rosaries in the old days were made of oak wood and were fingered in time of distress or trouble. Thus, holding on to or rubbing the wooden rosary or its wooden crucifix when danger was near became a common way for Christians to deal with hardships and difficulties. The practice slipped into common use as "Knock on wood."

From "A World of Stories" by William Bausch

Prayer beads are used by: Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics among others. The earliest use of prayer beads has been traced to the Hindu faith of India. The purpose of prayer beads in these faiths is basically the same; strung beads help the devotee to count repeated devotional prayers. This custom spread from the East to the Middle East and then Europe. The superstitions associated with source materials used, numbers of beads, and religious legend and lore is unique to each faith. This knowledge came due to traveling missionaries or devotees of the organized faiths. They wrote down what they learned after observing the varied superstitions and ancient traditions of the people groups they encountered.

Often, when religions sought converts, they allowed them to retain some of their pagan ways: ceremonial garb, heathen rituals and traditions; in order to add to their numbers. This led to spiritual pollution.
Hindus: Scholars, having done the historical research, agree prayer beads originated with the Hindu faith. Using beads for devotions dates to the 8th century BC in the cult of Shiva. In India sandstone sculptures, statues ca 185 BC, show Hindus with prayer beads. The names of Hindu gods and prayers are repeated on stringed beads, called mala, separated by larger or different colored beads. Sound familiar?

There are two main branches of Hinduism.

Shivas: pray on the seeds of rudraksha trees unique to Java, an Indonesian island. The rough seeds parallel the rigid life a Shiva worshipper is required to follow. There are 32 to 108 seed beads on a prayer strand mala. Seed sections, 5 or more, are said to represent the faces or personalities of Shiva, god of terrible destruction.

Vishnus: use tulsi, holy basil tree, beads; 108. Devotional beads are important to the Hindu life; sometimes prayed for hours daily. Many Vishnus begin using prayer beads as children.
Vishnu is a god of alleged reincarnations.

Buddhist: Buddhism began as a branch of Hinduism. It evolved in India around 500 BC. Hindu converts kept their traditional use of prayer beads. Buddhist monks always carry a strand of prayer beads, or rosary, usually of 108 beads. Buddhists cite the origin of rosaries as: “Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism; on a visit to King Vaidunya, is said to have ordered the king to thread 108 seeds of the Bodhi tree onto a string. He was then told to repeat, 2,000 times a day, “hail to the Buddha, the law, and the congregation”, while passing them through his fingers. So the favorite for bead construction in India is wood from the sacred Bodhi tree. The 108 beads match the number of alleged mental conditions or sinful desires a Buddhist must overcome in order to reach nirvana, a state of oneness or universal divine nothingness. Lay people can carry strands of 30 to 40 beads.

Chinese Buddhism: Buddhism reached China in the first century AD. The Buddhist rosary was not popular with the Chinese. They were used most by rulers and hierarchy as a status symbol. They became very elaborate, and were nicknamed court chains.

Korean Buddhism: was introduced at the start of the 4th century AD. Up to the 15th century, Koreans use of rosaries had been broad. The YI dynasty, 1392-1910, banned Buddhism. This ended their prevalence.

Their prayer beads have two large beads, in addition to the 108. One of the two is decorated with a swastika, the occult symbol adopted by the evil Adolf Hitler and others. It is at the beginning of the strand, while a second middle one is plain.

Japanese Buddhism: evolved around the 6th century AD. They were introduced to Buddha and rosary beads, used most for social ceremonial events: weddings, funerals, etc.. A social place for the Japanese, the teahouse, had walls marked by a rosary strand. Most are wooden, having 112 beads.
The name of these prayer beads is Shozoikl Jiu-dsu. The most sought after ones; have been ritually blessed at a temple, over smoking incense, by a monk.

Tibetan Buddhism: was received around 800 AD. Tibetan prayer beads may contain coral, shell, ivory, amber, turquoise and other stones. The most treasured beads are made of the bones of dead holy men or lamas. (These bones would be considered official relics honored by some sacrilegious religious groups.) Tibetan rosaries contain 108 beads divided by three large beads. Three large beads divide the whole into 27 bead sections; on the main strand are two smaller strings of beads. These are counter beads, acting as an abacus, counting up to 10,800 prayers.

The end pieces are the djore or thunderbolt (a symbol of witchcraft; you may know of a fictional boy who has one as a mark on his forehead), and the drilbu or bell. These end beads represent Buddha, doctrine and community. Tibetans sometimes attach keys, ancestral beads or other personal objects. Some beads were carved into the details of the shameful activities of temple prostitutes or of skulls. This is appropriate since these practices can lead to a tendency to sin and cause spiritual death.

Eastern religions use one hand to move the beads, thinking to attain a state of oneness, a counterfeit spirituality. This is a way for false spirit guides, or devils to be able to influence people.

Islam: Muslim traders and explorers probably brought the Buddhist prayer bead tradition to Islam. They appear to have adopted the prayer beads from India in the 2nd (Islamic), 9th (Christian) century. Preferred for subhas is clay from the holy cities of Mecca or Medina. Other materials, from expensive precious stones to common wood, are used. A 99 bead strand is made of 33 bead sections broken up by marker beads. The 100th, or lead bead, means the completion of one cycle of devotion. Cords protrude from the leader bead, attached to two beads with a tassel. They believe evil spirits dislike hanging, dangly things, imagining the tassel can guard against evil. The beads represent the ninety-nine names of Allah. The name Allah is said on the 100th bead. The Muslim’s major prayers are the tahmid (god be praised) and tahlit (there is no deity but Allah).

Roman Catholic: European catholics began using prayer beads in the 7th century AD. Gertrude of Nivelles, 626-659 AD; her body was found with a fragment of a rosary in a tomb in Belgium. Twelfth century AD, beads were found in the graves of Norbert in France and Rosalia of Palermo, Sicily. The infamous Lady Godiva, died in 1040 AD at Coventry, England.

Orthodox Christian: Prayer Rope used by Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and other Orthodox Christian groups. A series of 33, 50 or 100 knots in a wool or cotton rope, anchored by a cross at one end. Wooden beads or beads of another material often are used as guide markers on the rope.
In the 11th century, church bureaucracy decided rosaries were better used for counting devotions than as superstitious pagan talismans.

Those who were unschooled in the original biblical languages Greek, Chalde, Hebrew, Aramaic; or Latin like the Romans; or were illiterate, unable to read were assigned prayers to memorize and repeat on rosaries.
Rosaries and prayer beads were intended by the Catholic Church hierarchy, cardinals, bishops and priests, for use by the ignorant.

Repeating the prayer is meant to help a person focus on the presence of God and what God is trying to say to him.


Meaning and Purpose

A Japa mala or mala (Sanskrit: meaning garland) is a set of beads commonly used by Hindus and Buddhists. Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or the name or names of a deity. This practice is known in Sanskrit as japa. Malas are typically made with 16, 27, 54 or 108 beads.

In Tibetan Buddhism, traditionally malas of 108 beads are used. Some practitioners use malas of 21 or 28 beads for doing prostrations. Doing one 108-bead mala counts as 100 mantra recitations; the extra repetitions are done to amend any mistakes.

Malas are mainly used to count mantras. These mantras can be recited for different purposes linked to working with mind. The material used to make the beads can vary according to the purpose of the mantras used. Some beads can be used for all purposes and all kinds of mantras. These beads can be made from the wood of the Bodhi tree (ficus religiosa), or from 'Bodhi seeds,' which come from the Rudraksha (Elaeocarpus ganitrus) and not the Bodhi tree. Another general-purpose mala is made from another unknown seed, the beads themselves called 'Moon and Stars' by Tibetans, and variously called 'lotus root', 'lotus seed' and 'linden nut' by various retailers. The bead itself is very hard and dense, ivory coloured (which gradually turns a deep golden brown with long use), and has small holes (moons) and tiny black dots (stars) covering its surface.

Pacifying mantras should be recited using white colored malas. Materials such as crystal, pearl, shell/conch or mother of pearl are preferable. These can serve to purify the mind and clear away obstacles like illness, bad karma and mental disturbances. Using pearls is not practical however, as repeated use will destroy their iridescent layer. Most often pearl malas are used for showing off or 'Dharma jewelry'.

Increasing mantras should be recited using malas of gold, silver, copper and amber. The mantras counted on these can "serve to increase life span, knowledge and merit."

Mantras for magnetizing should be recited using malas made of saffron, lotus seed, sandalwood, or other forms of wood including elm wood, peach wood, and rosewood. However, it is said the most effective is made of Mediterranean oxblood coral, which, due to a ban on harvesting, is now very rare and expensive.

Mantras to tame by forceful means should be recited using malas made of Rudraksha beads or bone. Reciting mantras with this kind of mala serves to tame others, but with the motivation to unselfishly to help other sentient beings. To tame by forceful means, means to subdue harmful energies, such as "extremely malicious spirits, or general afflictions". Malas for these mantras are made from Rudraksha seeds, or even human bones, with 108 beads on the string. Only a person that is motivated by great compassion for all beings, including those they try to tame, can do this.

The mala string should be composed of three, five or nine threads, symbolizing the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha), the five Dhyani Buddhas (Vairocana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi) and their wisdoms or the nine yanas or Buddha Vajradhara and eight Bodhisattvas. The large main bead, called the Guru bead, symbolizes the Guru, from whom one has received the mantra one is reciting. It is usually recommended that there be three vertical beads in decreasing size at this point: one white (Nirmanakaya) one red (Sambhogakaya) and one blue (Dharmakaya), or enlightened body, speech and mind.


Usage

Mantras are typically repeated hundreds or even thousands of times. The mala is used so that one can focus on the meaning or sound of the mantra rather than counting its repetitions.

In Buddhisms the right hand represents the religious world we walk in. The left hand represents the Buddha's pure world. That's why it is said the wrist mala should be worn on right hand when walking and on the left hand when sitting.

The mala can be used in two ways. It is traditionally held in the right hand and beads are moved towards the user one by one synchronized with each mantra recital.

In one method, the mala is hanging between the thumb and the ring (third) finger. The middle (second) finger is used to rotate the mala. The other way to use the mala is to let it hang on the middle finger with the thumb used to move the beads. (the index finger is never used to touch the beads).

When arriving at the Guru bead, Hindus traditionally turn the mala around and then go back in the opposing direction. However, Buddhists do not do this, passing over the Guru bead and continuing in the same direction.

If more than 108 repetitions are to be done, then sometimes in Tibetan traditions grains of rice are counted out before the chanting begins and one grain is placed in a bowl for each 108 repetitions. Each time a full mala of repetitions has been completed, one grain of rice is removed from the bowl.

Many Tibetan Buddhists have bell and dorje counters (a short string of ten beads, usually silver, with a bell or dorje at the bottom), the dorje counter used to count each round of 100, and the bell counter to count 1,000 mantras per bead. These counters are placed at different points on the mala depending on tradition, sometimes at the 10th, 21st or 25th bead from the Guru bead.

Traditionally, one begins the mala in the direction of the dorje (skillful means) proceeding on to the bell (wisdom) with each round. A 'bhum' counter, often a small brass or silver clasp in the shape of a jewel or wheel, is used to count 10,000 repetitions, and is moved forward between the main beads of the mala, starting at the Guru bead, with each accumulation of 10,000.

pgdharma

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Re: Malas
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2012, 06:49:03 PM »
Here are some information on the benefits of  these different types of mala.

Crystal is getting more popular as it is a wonderful healing energizer. It stimulates the brain by acting upon the pituitary and pineal glands. It balances all the energy Chakras while reciting 'mantras' during meditation. It  is also believed to be good for cellulite or cysts. Crystal protects and heals by neutralizing negative influences.

Sandalwood is naturally fragrant and exceedingly smooth. Sandalwood has traditionally been regarded as one of the purest substances and is valued for its cooling properties and its medicinal value too. It is believed to promote tranquility as an aid to meditation. It is supposed to have  therapeutic properties  that enhance  calmness and  a positive  frame of mind

The " 9-planet astrological" (Navgraha) Mala is made of 9 semi-precious stones, each stone representing a planet of our solar system. It has tremendous astrological significance and wearing this mala helps to appease any malefic tendencies in the astrology chart.

A personal mala is a wonderful accessory to meditation, which when used regularly with a personal mantra, absorbs the vibrations of the practice. Most people considered it is inappropriate to have others use or handle one's mala, to wear it while bathing or swimming, to place it on the floor, to keep it in a pocket below the waist, or to wear it while sleeping. So when not in use, it is advisable to keep the mala in a mala bag.
 

Vajraprotector

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Re: Malas
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2012, 05:27:37 AM »
This is an excerpt from my "bible" re ritual objects, The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs
By Robert Beér
:):

In the peaceful rites of appeasing, the beads should be made of crystal, pearl, mother of pearl, white lotus seed, moonstone, conch shell, or ivory. The beads should be clear or white, numbering 100 or 188. In the magnetising rites of attracting or drawing power into one's sphere of personal influence, the beads should be made of red oral, camelian, red sandalwood or saffron-scented redwood, and should number 25.

In the wrathful rites or destructive or forceful activity, the beads are made from rudraksha seeds,  human or animal bone, iron, or lead, and should number 60. alternative numbers of beads for various practices are fiven as 1008, 108, 100, 60, 54, 42, 27, 25, and 21.

For the practice of Vajrayogini, beads made from red coral and carnelian are especially prized. For the Medicine Buddha practice, beads made from lapiz lazuli are auspicious.

Fashionable beads made from amber, ruby, turquoise, amethyst, beryl, tiger's eye, onyx, rose quartz, and rock crystals are now commercially popular, but traditionally bodhi seed and red sandalwood are considered to be universally auspicious for all practices. Human and animal-bone malas should only be used by accomplished yogins, as karmic influences are believed to be inherent in ritual objects made by bone.

Q

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Re: Malas
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2012, 04:35:10 PM »
I love malas!! I can't tell you how much I'm attached to my mala lol! But it is not worldly attachment for through Padmasambhava's own words 'If your mala is repeatedly blessed by great lamas, by your own teacher and by yourself as part of your sadhana, it should accompany you like your shadow. You keep the root samaya of the vajra mala by never letting it leave your body."

Basically, on a general term, mala is merely a tool for keeping count of the mantras that we recite. However, when we look deeper, there is meaning to the form of our mala as stated by Gyatrul Rinpoche! From emptiness, the guru bead appears as the central deity in the mandala, and the other beads as the members of the entourage. With proper meditation, one's mala can practically turn into an entire mandala.

The safest and easiest material to use that accomplishes all activities is a bodhi seed mala. There is definitely more options to the different types of malas to accomplish different activities. As mentioned by Padmasambhava: "The best type to use to increase the number of recitations is a mala made from some type of jewel. A mediocre type of mala is made from the seed of a tree or fruit, and the inferior type of mala is made from wood, earth, stone or medicine."

Here is a short list of malas that can be used for a specific type of activity:

- Seashell, earth, wood, seeds : peaceful sadhana and actions
- Gold : expansive karma
- Red coral : powerful sadhana
- steel/ turquoise : wrathful activity
- dzi/precious stones : accomplish any karmic activities
- apricot stone : expansive activity
- lot ton : powerful activity
- raksha and mahogany : wrathful practices
- bodhi seeds : all dharmas
- bodhi tree wood : peaceful karma
- mulberry : powerful karma
- ivory : accomplish all concerned activity

RedLantern

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Re: Malas
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2012, 07:04:19 PM »
The meaning of the name mala is necklace,garland and the origin of the name is Indian (sanskrit).Mala was first developed as a religious tool on the Indian continent.The use of prayer beads appears to originated with Hindu religious practices in India around the 8TH century.
Mala consists a strand of 108 beads,each a symbol of impurities and flaws that an individual must overcome in order to progress to the blissful existence of nirvana.Prayer for each one of these character defects is crucial to achieving release from a failing of the flesh.
Most Buddhist normally utilised mala consisting of 108 beads,but the number may vary in different sects of Buddhism.The Buddha himself in believed to have instructed followers to utilized mala.Bodhi seed is the most prefered component.Bodhi seed is the preferred component as history maintain that the Buddha meditated under a Bodhi tree.
Additional options are sandalwood,seeds.stones or inlaid animal bones.In Tibet ,malas of inlaid bones originally included the skeleton part of a holy man ,to remind their uses ,to remain to live the lives worthy of the next level of enilghtenment.

ilikeshugden

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Re: Malas
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2012, 02:46:37 AM »
Thank you for sharing this information, Jessie. However, I do not know any additional information about Malas as I use any type of mala for any type of prayers.

DS Star, regarding your question. The answer is what I learned at a yoga class a few years ago. They gave us a stone and to not let anyone touch it. Well, it is because of the various energies that different people give. Sometimes, the energies would lower the effectiveness of the mala.

But personally, I think that sharing malas or giving malas to others is a very good thing to do as if you or a high lama had done prayers before, it would be much, much more beneficial.

Tammy, We can restring or clean our malas anytime. You can restring your mala when it snaps. You can clean it using a wet cloth.

Dhiman, can you tell me the times multiplied for Lapis Malas?

bambi

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Re: Malas
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2012, 09:24:37 AM »
I love malas. I have so many I lost count. I remember my 1st mala was made of clear crystal of which I did many mantras with but I gave it away to someone who did not have a mala. Hehe.. Well I just wanted to get new ones. Now I have a few but I got them not because of their benefits but because of the colors I like.

Speaking of malas, I have 2 questions:

- I have seen some people using their left hand and some their right hand. Any significance in these?

- Besides using the different hand, I've also seen them using different fingers. Any significance in these as well?

brian

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Re: Malas
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2012, 11:17:30 AM »
A Mala is traditionally used to count the number of mantra recitation and there are 108 beads per mala.

Do you know that certain types of malas are used during different types of recitation?

For example:

- pacifying : white colored malas
- increasing : gold, silver, copper, amber malas
- magnetizing : different forms of wood e.g. lotus seed, sandalwood
- to tame by forceful means (subdue harmful energies) : malas made of  Rudraksha beads or bone

Would you know of other types of malas used for mantra recitation and why these specific types only are used?

I do not know about this until you wrote this Jessie. Thank you for this informative mention in this thread. Gone are the days that i thought every mala is the same and do not carry specific usage. The only difference i would know is if the malas are of heavy or light in weight. If the beads are heavy, it is not suitable for us to use for our mantra retreats compared to the sandalwood malas. As far as i am concerned, i am always looking for those durable ones as i often engage in long recitations of mantras.