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About Mala Beads

about mala beads

108 bead malas


108 Bead Gemstone Malas

Sakura Designs hand makes all of these 108 Bead malas here in the US, by Buddhist Practitioners. We use the sturdiest bead cord, real three holed "guru, parent or mother bead" finished with a Tibetan Snake or (Blessing) Knot. See Snake knot Close up


108 Bead Tassel Malas

These traditional 108 bead tassel malas are also made by Sakura Designs, in the USA, unless otherwise noted. We use select natural gemstone materials, the sturdiest bead cord, real three holed "guru, parent or mother bead" finished with a well crafted cotton tassel. See Tassels Close up

These Full sized malas, made by Sakura Designs, are offered a complimentary silk pouch and 30 day craftsmanship guarantee.

wood malas

Natural Wood and Seed Malas

Sakura Designs hand makes all of our Sandalwood, Bodhi and Lotus malas here in the US, unless otherwise noted. Tibetan Malas or Japa Malas are Buddhist, Hindu and multi-faith prayer beads or rosaries crafted from various sandalwoods and natural materials.


wrist malas

Wrist Mala Bracelets

Sakura Designs and imported wrist mala bracelets. The most common wrist malas are known as "mala bracelets" and have approx. 21 beads on stretchy cord. The more formal hand malas or travel malas are imported from Japan, and are gift boxed. We are pleased to offer these select imported malas, directly crafted from Fair Trade artisans in Tibet, Nepal, Hong Kong and India. Please remember to include a mala bag to store your beads in when not in use.

These smaller, handheld malas are often used for daily wear or travel. These recently entered popular culture and were known as power beads or wrist malas. These are usually made from semi-precious stone or wood and have about 21 beads, strung on a stretchy cord to be worn around the wrist. 

imported malas

Imported Malas

We are pleased to offer select imported malas as well, directly crafted from Fair Trade artisans in Tibet, Nepal, Hong Kong and India. Proceeds directly support developing countries, and we are honored to help! These malas are economical, and lovely. They have not however, been "remade" by our designers, so the materials and design are not as precise as ones manufactured by Sakura Designs. Imported Malas are offered mala bags separately to safely store your beads in when not in use.

mala bags

Mala Bags

Protect your precious mala with a silk satin brocade mala bag! We offer Silk and Rayon Satin mala pouches and formal Japanese Obi brocaded pouches. Counters: Recite a certain number of mantras for specific Buddhist and Hindu Meditation practices. Counters are often attached to your mala or used on the side to record mantra recitations. Counters are used to count one full mala completion, and when ten (1000) mantras are completed, the second strand is used.


Malas are prayer or rosary beads used for reciting repetitions of prayers or chants called "mantras,"  and help to facilitate ritualized meditation practice. They have been used for thousands of years in Tibetan, Indian, Chinese, Japanese  Buddhism and Hinduism. Prayer beads in different forms are used in Christianity and Islam as well. 

Buddhist prayer beads, traditionally called malas, first developed as a religious tool on the Indian continent. "The use of beads in prayer appears to have originated with Hindu religious practices in India, possibly around the 8th century," writes the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Missouri. "B.C.E. Buddhism, which developed from a sect of Hindu culture, retained the use of prayer beads as it became established in China, Korea, Japan, and Tibet."


What is a Mala?

A full mala is usually 108 counting beads with a formal three holed special finishing bead called a "guru" bead, "mother/parent" bead or "Buddha" bead. They are oftentimes additional marker beads that may or may not be counted that divide the mala into quadrants, constituting a sum of 108 counting beads.  We, at Sakura Designs, use 108 counting beads, with three additional marker beads. One marker is placed at number 21 on either side, as many mantra practices require 21 recitations, and at one marker 1/2 way through at number 54. The malas are then fastened with guru bead and tassel or with some styles, tied into knots.

How to Use a Mala

Care for Your Beads


Recitation of Mantra Prayers

Mantras are spiritual syllables or prayers and are usually repeated many times. In Tibetan Buddhism, one mala constitutes 100 recitations of a mantra. There are 8 additional recitations done to ensure proper concentration. One holds the mala with the left hand and begins to recite from the guru bead, clockwise around the mala.


Mantra Counters

Once one has completed one entire mala, a 10 bead mantra counting beads called counters are used. One bead is moved to equate to 100 recitations. When one stand of counters is complete, another strand of counters is used, and one bead is the moved to account for 1000 recitations. Many mantra recitations can be counted, using a "jupshe."


Islamic Tasbih or Worry Beads

In Islamic culture, a 99 bead rosary, called a Tasbih, is used for daily prayer. The Tasbih is divided into thirds with a placeholder marker after each 33 bead. The Tasbih are finished with a cylindrical shaped finishing bead and tassel. These are known in popular culture as "worry beads," and are held as "good luck" charms. 


Hand or Prostration Malas

In Tibetan Buddhism , a hand mala is most commonly used for prostrations, which is an active meditation form of bowing.  In Chinese or Pure Land Buddhism, the 27 or 36  beads mala called a Juzu is most common. In Japan the 27 or 36  bead handheld mala is called a Juzu or Ojuzu, and is used in prayer, wrapped around hands in prayer and bowing called "Gassho." Gassho is the gesture of closed  praying hands, held at the heart. 


Jodo Shin Shu

This 27 or 36 bead Juzu of the Jodo Shin Shu has 2 marker beads and the parent or 'Buddha Bead'  In prayer, the beads can be placed over the fingers of the center hand (or both hands) - letting them rest between the fingers and the thumb, while bring the hands into "Gassho."


Juzu or Ojuzu

The formal Juzu has 108 main beads and two parent beads, and are most common in Nichiren or the SGI community. There are markers after #7 and #21 on either side. Each parent bead has two large tassles hanging from it. There are also 5 additional beads on the tassle- strings of one of the parent beads. In prayer, the doubled loop of beads can be placed over the fingers of both hands - letting them rest between the fingers and the thumb, while bring the hands into "gassho."


Why 108 Beads?

Most Buddhists normally utilize mala consisting of 108 beads, but the number may vary in different sects of Buddhism. Just like the Hindu variety, Buddhist mala consist of a strand of 108 beads (not including marker beads, decorative beads or guru bead), each a symbol of impurities and flaws that an individual must overcome.

108 beads is said to represent the  following formula:
6 x 3 x 2 x3 = 108
6 senses of a human being: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought
3 times:  past, present, future
2 conditions of heart, mind or intention: pure or impure
3 disturbing emotional states or "kleshia":  like, dislike, indifference


Zen Shu, or Zen Buddhist Prayer Beads - 108 Beads In Zen

Number of beads- 108 plus 4 plus 1. The formal Juzu has 108 koshu 'children' or main counting beads, plus either one or two larger boshu 'parent' beads at the beginning or end. There are markers after  #7 and #21 on either side. The 108 koshu represent the 108  earthly desires, worldly & or confused  passions which the follower of the Dharma seeks to overcome.

Soto & Rinzai Zen use a Juzu with a single loop of 108 children beads and one boshu parent bead, from which hangs a single or double tassle. It also has 4 'segment' or 'marker' beads after #7 and #21. In prayer, the Juzu is placed in a double loop on the center hand.;


The Buddha himself is believed to have instructed followers to utilize mala. "There is a Sutra (Buddhist Text aka. "thread of knowledge") in which a King prays to the Buddha for a simple practice to help ease his suffering from various difficulties and the Buddha responded by telling him to string 108 soapnut seeds and recite the three part refuge prayer upon them."


The word mala, also referred to as jap mala, is derived from the Indian Sanskrit phrase for garland. The English word rosary, the western term for prayer beads, owes it's etymology to Roman miscommunication. "When Roman explorers came into India and encountered the mala, they heard jap mala, and jap for the Romans meant 'rose,'' according to The word "rosary" eventually evolved from that translation as Romans carried the prayer bead concept back to the western world. (Courtesy of EHow)

Bali Malas

Yoga Japa Malas

A Japa mala or mala (Sanskrit:माला; mâlâ, meaning garland[1]) is a set of beads commonly used by Hindus and Buddhists, usually made from 108 beads, though other numbers, usually divisible by nine, are also used. 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.

In Sanskrit, the word mala itself means necklace. Japa malas are usually worn around the neck when not in use. Hindus will recite mantras semi-audibly with their Japa Mala, holding the mala with the right hand. Hindu malas are usually made from earthy, natural materials including "Tulsi" (basil), Sandalwood, Lotus, Bodhi Seeds or Rudraksha beads.

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. One repetition is usually said for each bead while turning the thumb clockwise around each bead, though some traditions or practices may call for counterclockwise motion or specific finger usage. When arriving at the head bead, one turns the mala around and then goes back in the opposing direction. There are typically knots between each bead. This makes using the mala easier as the beads will not be so tight on the string when you use them.

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. Often, practitioners add extra counters to their malas, usually in strings of ten. These may be positioned differently depending on the tradition; for example some traditions place these strings after every 10th bead. This is an alternative way to keep track of large numbers, sometimes going into the hundreds of thousands, and even millions. The 109th bead on a mala is called the sumeru, bindu, stupa, or guru bead. Counting should always begin with a bead next to the Sumeru or Guru Bead. In the Hindu, Vedic tradition, if more than one mala of repetitions is to be done, one changes directions when reaching the Sumeru or Guru Bead, rather than crossing it.

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.

In Hinduism Hindu tradition holds that the correct way to use a mala is with the right hand, with the thumb flicking one bead to the next, and with the mala draped over the middle finger. The index finger represents ego, the greatest impediment to self-realization, so it is considered best avoided when chanting on a mala. (Wikipedia)


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