Malas (prayer beads) enable mantra meditation to become an easy and effective practice. I credit a solid six months of near daily mantra meditation for my ability to sit for empty meditation now.
On a technological level, the point of mantra meditation is to get in the habit of commanding your awareness while still having a point of focus. It’s harder to focus on nothing than it is to focus on something.
In mantra meditation, you focus on a repeated phrase such as “aum namah shivaya”. Sitting in a comfortable position, you hold your mala in your right hand and say the mantra for each bead in the strand, which totals 108. While you sit with your eyes closed, focus on the mantra. Whenever thoughts, ideas, or images arise, simply discard them by focusing on the mantra. The point is that you fill yourself with the mantra so that no other thoughts or images can take hold in the mind.
Once you learn how to do that steadily, you’re ready to let go and practice filling yourself with silence instead.
Furthermore, some people believe that the mantra and the material of the beads make a difference. A pink pearl mala may cultivate divine love while a sandalwood mala might bring unwavering calm. This can happen if you want it to. If you choose a mantra that means something to you and a mala that conveys a certain vibe, then you will feel it.
While that isn’t the point of mantra meditation, it can certainly be a useful side effect. I have a ton of malas. This isn’t a materialistic thing, I tend to give away my malas to people I know who would enjoy them. Or my dogs sometimes eat them.
But each of my malas I purchased for a reason, for a quality in me that I seek to open up. That’s my own technology, something I use malas for besides meditation. Since I do empty meditation regularly, I don’t do mantra meditation daily. But I will sometimes do it if the moment strikes my fancy or if I am connecting with a specific aspect of the divine.
Personally, I think mantra meditation and prayer beads are the perfect way for a beginner to get into meditation. It’s much easier when you have something to focus on when you first begin meditation.
Namaste, sangha. :)
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