How to Use a Mala
How to Choose Your Mala
First, start by choosing a Mala that feels best to you. You can choose by Healing Property or Birthstone. You can also choose by the type of meditation mantra practice that you may have started. For Peaceful practices, you can choose crystal or lapis. Bone and Rudraksha are used for wrathful practices. If you are doing prostrations, Bodhi, Sandalwood or Rosewood work well. Most beads are full sized, standard 8mm. In general, go with what inspires... Let your mala choose you!
How to Use Your Mala for Mantra
First, light a candle and then sit down with your mala. The mala should be held with the left hand, and you start your recitation at the first bead after the guru bead. The guru bead is not counted. The Mani Mantra is the Sanskrit mantra of Avolokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. It is as follows: OM MANI PADME HUM, which literally translates as "Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus." It transliterates to: ohm manee padmae hoom. It is considered to be "the sacred six syllables."
The Mani Mantra is the most common Mahayana Buddhist Mantra, that is open for all to chant as a compliment to meditation practice. In Tibetan culture, it is common to see laypeople walking on the street, reciting the mani mantra, semi-audibly. Other mantras and meditation practices should be personally given to you by a Buddhist or Hindu teacher, and should not be recited without instruction. In general, the more ritualized or Tantric Buddhist practices come as an extension of a relationship with a teacher, and are not public. Mantras can be very powerful tools and a personal relationship with a formal teacher and or Sangha (meditation community) is always recommended.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there are considered to be six classes of beings, that take birth. Some of these beings are perceptible to an ordinary person, some are not. They are: Gods, Jealous Gods, Humans, Animals, Ghosts and Hungry Ghosts, and being who have unfortunately taken birth what the Buddhist's consider an impermanent "hell". These beings have taken birth due to the karma of believing in a permanent "self." Until attaining enlightenment, we are stuck in an endless cycle of birth and death, creating for the most part, the "8 worldly concerns," namely: pleasure and pain, loss and gain, praise and blame, and finally, disgrace and fame (these are easily remembered as they do rhyme!) Being caught up in this cycle of both having things work out for us, or not creates more suffering, attachment and karma with each day. Sitting meditation is the most expedient method to break these patterns, and open the mind and heart.
The mind, after time, becomes more controlled and still. Buddhist style meditation helps to break habitual patterns, and become more compassionate, selfless and enlightened beings. The Mani Mantra with the six syllables, correspond the each of these six classes of beings, and when it is recited, and should be done so semi audibly, it is believed to have the power to remove the suffering of all classes of beings.
A Buddhist, in their heart while reciting the Mani Mantra, will hold the feeling, "please let my recitation of this mantra help to liberate the suffering and confusion that we all experience in this life." In turn, by having this proper motivation, one can bring about qualities of being mentally clear, self rested and compassionate. Warmest wishes to all!