Using Malas with Mantras

Mantras and chants 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 hand and finger usage.

When arriving at the Guru bead, some assert that both Hindus and Tibetan Buddhists traditionally turn the mala around and then go back in the opposing direction. However, some teachers in the Tibetan traditions and beyond emphasize that this is superstitious and therefore not so important.Within the Buddhist tradition, this repetition of the beads serves to remind practitioners of the teaching that it is possible to break the cycle of birth and death.

Within the Buddhist tradition, this repetition of the beads serves to remind practitioners of the teaching that it is possible to break the cycle of birth and death. In case it is necessary to recite a very large number of mantras, Tibetan Buddhist malas have bell and Dorje counters (a short string of ten beads, usually silver, with a bell or Dorje at the bottom).

The Dorje counter is used to count each round around the mala, and the bell counter to count each time the Dorje counter runs out of beads. After that, the Dorje counter is reset. These counters are placed at different points on the mala depending on tradition, sometimes at the 10th, 21st or 25th bead from the Guru bead. Traditionally, one begins the mala in the direction of the Dorje (skillful means) proceeding on to the bell (wisdom) with each round.A ‘

A ‘bhum’ counter, often a small brass or silver clasp in the shape of a jewel or wheel, is used to count 1000 repetitions and is moved forward between the main beads of the mala, starting at the Guru bead, with each accumulation of 1000.

Sources: Tibetan Handicraft Society in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala and Wikipedia

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