Mala beads seem to be the new rage in Pop Culture these days. Its hard to walk down the streets in a big city like New York, L.A, Toronto, London, and not find somebody wearing them around their neck or wrist. It has definitely become a more favorable cultural accessory, but yet so few even know what they truly are and why they look the way they do.
Mala Beads are an eastern traditional tool used for counting the number mantras being recited while meditating. The mantras can be recited for various purposes associated with higher consciousness, raising one’s vibrations, and purifying the mind. Materials used for making the beads will vary according to the mantra purpose. There are some beads such as those made from Bodhi tree wood that are appropriate for all purposes and all mantras.
Mantras are usually repeated hundreds to thousands of times by serious devote meditation practitioners. Malas are used for one to focus on the meaning or sound of the mantra instead of counting its repetition. One repetition is said for each bead while the thumb is turned around each bead. Tibetan meditators use grains of rice to count out before the chanting begins. One grain is placed in a bowl for the number of repetitions they wish to chant. Each time a full Mala of repetitions is completed, one grain of rice is removed from the bowl.
In the post bling era, the attempt for people to distance themselves from all the opulent and somewhat tacky Gold or Platinum bling has made people gravitate to more natural jewelry pieces.
Some say that those who wear these Mala beads with no real interest in meditation, Buddhism, or Hinduism are posers trying to turn a spiritual tradition into just another fashion piece. When everyone started wearing rosaries around their neck even though most of them were not Catholic or even Christian, it began to raise concern among devote Catholics. It is no surprise that is has become an issue to those who truly follow the Buddha.
I personally wear them for both reasons. I am a very spiritual person, I meditate every day, and I love the look that Mala beads add to my appearance. Its hard to say whether it is appropriate to wear the Mala as a fashion accessory if you don’t intend on using it for spiritual reasons. I am no ambassador on the issue, but my personal believe is that, its great to where it for fashion reasons, but it should at least hold some sort of significance to you. And when I say that I don’t necessarily mean that one should use them exactly as what they are intended for and count the Malas as one meditates etc. what I am saying is that, you should have some form of spirituality in your life if you chose to wear them. Have some sort of desire to elevate and expand your consciousness, some sort of interest in something beyond the physical world. You don’t necessarily have to believe in God, but align yourself with some philosophy of what it represents. Again, this is just one person’s point of view.
At the end of the day I can understand why people like to wear them, because they truly are very exceptional pieces of accessories. For those looking to find some, visit your local flea market, China Town, or next you go to Asia (Got a few in Hong Kong), grab a few.