COS'E' UN MALA?
"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."
SIVANANDA SARASWATI SWAM
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.
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.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST, IF YOU WISH, YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE TO THE NEWSLETTER.