A mala is a string of 108 beads with one bead as the summit bead called a 'sumeru'.
It is a tool used to keep your mind on the meditation practice. Malas are generally made from different materials such as tulsi (basil) wood, sandal wood, rudraksh seeds or crystal. Each type of material has certain properties which subtly affect the subconscious mind of the practitioner.
Why use the Mala?
Meditation can be quite a tricky practice because the mind is like a naughty child. By its very nature, the mind tends to wander off during the meditation practice. If ones energy is low at the time of meditation, falling asleep can result. If the energy is too high, fantasy and distraction become the barriers. At such times, the mala provides the much needed anchor.
The mala beads are moved in rhythm with the breath and the mantra, so that both-sleep as well as excessive mental distraction-are prevented by this action upon the beads.
A personal mala is a wonderful accessory to meditation, which when used regularly with a personal mantra, absorbs the vibrations of the practice. It becomes like a close friend or a comfortable piece of clothing!
How to Use?
The mala is traditionally held in the right hand and used in two ways -
In one method, the mala is hanging between the thumb and the ring (third) finger. The middle (second) finger is used to rotate the mala by one bead towards oneself with each repetition of the mantra.