Reciting a mantra is both one of the easiest and, at the same time, hardest things to do in Yoga. The Mala is one of the basic elements of mantra and meditation dating back almost three thousand years. At first sight it can be mistaken for a necklace or bracelet, however it is much more than that; it is a sacred item.
Like any other sacred item, we need to pay it special attention and look after it to protect it. By doing this, we will also protect ourselves. After all, a mala is a personal item.
The Mala is used when reciting a mantra. It is made up of a certain number of beads, usually 108, but always a multiple of three. To use the Mala you pass each bead through your fingers and recite the mantra once for each bead, until you complete the number of desired repetitions.
WHAT SHOULD THE MALA BE MADE OF?
Although we are now starting to see Malas made from certain varieties of stone or gems, they are traditionally made from wood or Rudraksha seeds.
At the time Mala’s originated, wood was very accessible and easy to work with. This traditional aspect is what makes a lot of people choose wood for they Mala.
Also traditional, Rudraksha seeds come from the Elaeocarpus ganitrus tree. It is said that the seeds represent the tears that Shiva cried while meditating.
WHAT IS A MANTRA?
The practice of the mantra consists of repeating a mantra or the name of a divinity/deity. This repetition of sounds creates a vibration which helps the practitioner to reach a higher level of consciousness. You can practice any mantra you like, but consistency is key and you should avoid constantly switching from one mala to another. If you have a master or spiritual guide, he/she will be able to recommend a mantra that is suitable for you.
HOW SHOULD WE TREAT THIS SACRED ITEM?
This garland is a sacred item, so you must take some things into consideration: The mala cannot touch the ground. You cannot place it in front of your feet or touch it with your index finger (the "ego finger"). We recommend protecting the mala by placing it in a bag of some sort, so it isn't in contact with anything else.
WHY IS THE MALA A PERSONAL ITEM?
This sacred item, which is used for meditating or mantra chanting, is personal because it contains your energy and this is why only you should touch it.
PREPARE YOUR BODY AND MIND, BUT ALSO SPACE
We sometimes find it hard to start practicing a mantra because we forget about the little things. It is essential that you choose a comfortable posture which you can hold for a certain amount of time and you also need to set realistic time goals. It's important to start with only five or ten minutes a day. As you progress you will be able to increase the time and it will become easier.
Create silence; the sounds from our daily life distract us and confuse us. In order to do this, choose a place with no distractions and no noise.
If that isn't possible, some earplugs will do the trick. Listen to your mind in order to reach the maximum inner connection with yourself. Lastly, use breathing to control your body; this will help you relax.
HOW SHOULD YOU HOLD THE MALA?
The mala should always be held towards you and you should not touch it with your index finger. This finger symbolizes fire and ego, it is the accusing finger we use when we are filled with negative and pessimistic energy... When we experience a moment of anger or frustration towards someone.
The index finger represents the egocentric side of people and this is why it should not be in contact with the mala. Using your middle finger and thumb, pass the beads through your fingers, one by one.
If you have not yet tried using a Mala, now is the time to try! Remember that, by meditating, you will achieve greater consciousness and connection with yourself.
In the following video, Swamiji talks about the mantra: