"It is the continuity of a mala that will tell you of your state of consciousness. If you are conscious of the mala and the fingers moving each bead, then you are aware. That night you were not in samadhi but in a state of unconsciousness. You were asleep."


In Sanskrit japa means "to murmur", while mala means "garland", so putting the two words together gives the perfect definition: 

''The garland for prayers whispering''

A mala is a garland of prayer beads used to maintain focus during the repetition of a mantra or prayer. It is traditionally worn around the neck or on the left wrist as a reminder to stay present or to bring to mind one's intentions. It can also be placed in a dedicated meditation space to bring positive energies.

The Christian rosary is likely derived from the Indian mala beads. By transliterating the Sanskrit alphabet into Latin and changing the short "a" to the long "Ā," the word JAPĀ is formed, which no longer means prayer but "rose." JAPĀ-MĀLĀ thus takes on the meaning of "crown of roses," which was then translated into Latin as "rosarium."

In Indian ashrams, it is common to see meditators holding a japamala. Its origin is ancient and is present in both Buddhist and Hindu religions. The earliest depictions can be found in the Ajanta caves in the Maharashtra region of central-western India, dating back to the 2nd century BCE. As rosaries were considered emblems of Hindu deities, they likely originated at the beginning of these religions, which have more than 4,000 years of history.

The practice of mantra recitation predates Buddha and is believed to have been used by devotees in their meditation practices.

Due to their widespread use and antiquity, malas have acquired a profound and representative significance.


The word "mantra" also derives from Sanskrit and is composed of "man," which means "mind, thought, act of thinking, intellect, breath, living soul," and the syllable "tra," which means "that frees, accomplishes, acts, protects." Therefore, a mantra represents a formula that frees the mind, a tool that frees thought. In practical terms, mantras consist of a series of words that, when repeated correctly and with the right mental intention, have the power to benefit our minds and lives.

In addition to making the recitation tangible – whether it be prayers, mantras, or sutras – mantras help focus and direct all of our attention on meditation, making us aware of what we pronounce and what permeates us, bringing us to a state of mind that transcends the normal. Repetition and rhythm provide tranquility and serenity, which humans have always sought when turning to their deities, regardless of who or what they may be, in the hope of finding certainty, protection, and comfort.

Recitation involves our entire being: the hand that moves the beads is connected to the body, the murmuring involves the voice, attention engages the mind, and the perception of divinity involves the spirit. Thus, the use of a mala is not just a practice that might seem like an empty doctrinal exercise, but a powerful connection between humans and their deities, a symbol of an infinite cycle that unites earth and heaven.

According to Swami Vishnudevananda, the japamala helps one be vigilant and acts as a focal point for physical energy. While repeating the chosen mantra, attention can be brought to the ajna chakra, between the eyebrows, or to the heart chakra, anahata. The repetition of the mantra helps develop concentration and awaken the spiritual dimension of practice. The mantra can be repeated aloud (vaikhari japa) or mentally (manasika japa). Through the japamala, it is possible to cultivate mindful attention and feel connected to divine power.


The hand with which to hold the mala is the right hand between the thumb, which symbolizes God, and the middle finger to move from one bead to another.

The little finger, symbol of inertia and laziness, and the ring finger should be grouped together and separated from the middle finger. The index finger, symbol of the ego, must never touch the mala. The symbolism of this position recalls transcending the world of illusion to gradually become aware of unity and merge with the divine.

  • Hold the mala in your right hand – even if you are left-handed – and move each bead with your thumb and middle finger counterclockwise while repeating your mantra.
  • Move through all 108 beads until you reach the guru, or meru, which is the only bead with a larger diameter than the others. It is usually placed next to the tassel or pendant. Never touch the 109th bead, as it is only used to indicate the completion of one round of the mantra and is a moment for reflection during meditation. You can reflect on your practice, honor your teachers, or simply express gratitude to yourself for allowing this moment of introspection and calm.

  • If you wish to continue, do not go beyond the guru, but rotate the mala and continue the repetitions in the opposite direction, starting from the last bead.

It is recommended to practice the same mantra for at least 40 consecutive days.

These are the guidelines that form the basis for meditating with a mantra and are also applicable to all other meditation techniques. If you want to delve deeper, you can visit my page dedicated to meditation.


Traditional malas are composed of 108 beads (or submultiples: 54, 27, and 9, typical of wrist malas). This number is considered sacred in many religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism.

The Hindu Japa-mala rosary was initially made up of simple strings knotted regularly, so that the ties were at constant distances, thus allowing a fluid flow. Subsequently, several were made with pearls, bones, seeds, wood, but always in a number of 108 grains. There are many interpretations and meanings attributed to this figure, although in reality one of the most correct definitions is that 108 is not a number, but rather three expressions of reality:

Photo: Alessandro Cremona, Yogini: Cristina Altrocchi

1 is Brahma, the Supreme Consciousness, the Ultimate Truth; union, uniqueness and truth.
0 represents the Cosmos, origin, emptiness, absolute, Creation personified in the figure of Shiva but also the spiritual state of Samadhi

8 indicates the creative force of Nature. It is cyclicality, the eternal and the infinite.

Among other possible interpretations there is also that 1 is Bindu, the point from which creation begins and multiplicity develops; 0 is Sunyata, the void understood as a state of liberation from Samasara, the interruption of the cycles of reincarnation; finally the 8 is Ananta, the infinite. And again: when the individual (1) reaches the state of nullification of the ego (0), the infinite (8) fills him with energy and awareness.
The sum of the numbers 1+0+8 equals 9 (as well as any multiple of 9): a sacred number in many cultures and religions which means perfection, fulfillment, mastery.
The number 108, on the other hand, can be attributed to the names of the most important Hindu deities and wise men, and appears very often in various cultural traditions:

108 is the number of chakras in the body (+1 above the body)
108 identifies the Cosmos in the Vedas,
There are 108 shepherdesses who are followers and worshipers of Krishna
There are 108 Upanishads
There are 108 sacred places frequented by Vishnu
There are 108 steps leading to Buddhist temples
108 are the deities created to manage the universe when it was created (Veda)
There are 108 names of each god, always in the Vedic tradition. Repeating these names, while ringing the 108 beads of the rosary, is a sacred ceremonial rite (namajapa)

And more...
108 is the number of sins in Tibetan Buddhism and of lies that men can tell. The Tibetan sacred books of Khagiur are 108 volumes. It is the number of stars considered sacred in Chinese astrology: 36 beneficial stars and 72 malefic stars, good and evil in different forms. In Japan, at the end of the year, a bell is rung 108 times to welcome the new year. Each chime represents one of the 108 material temptations that a person must resist to reach Nirvana, in the same way as the Buddha. It is the number of al-Kawthar, the shortest of the Surahs of the Koran. There are 108 lines of energy (nadi ) which converge to form the heart chakra. The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth; The distance between the Sun and the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun; The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon. We also find this number in Greek mythology: 108 were the Suitors, Penelope's suitors while she awaited the return of Ulysses

We could go on with the list, but it could not be exhaustive. It is said that bringing the number 108 into our practice can help us reconnect with nature and the cosmos, rebalancing energies and letting in a sense of peace, harmony and serenity given by the power of rituals which have very ancient roots.

Personally I believe that what Both repetition and consistency count, but I don't see a reason not to honor traditions.