The Meaning of the Word Mala
The word mala originates from the Sanskrit word "Japmala", which means “garland". In Tibet, a mala is called a Threngwa. These Tibetan malas are used to keep track of recited, chanted, or mentally repeated mantras and even sometimes the names of deities. Tibetan malas can also be referred to as Tibetan prayer beads or Tibetan rosaries. Tibetan malas are also very similar to other forms of prayer beads used in other religions around the world.
Traditional Uses of Tibetan Malas
In Tibetan Buddhism, people traditionally use malas with 108 beads in total. These malas usually have a larger three-holed bead called a “guru” bead or “Buddha” bead. Often times the 108-bead Tibetan malas will have additional beads known as a "marker bead", which divides the mala into quadrants, constituting sums of 108 counting beads. These marker beads may or may not be counted. This depends on if each of the marker beads accounts for one of the 108 beads or not.
Modern Uses of Tibetan Malas
At present, Tibetan malas have grown in popularity around the world, and have become a growing fashion trend and sensation for many people on the path of spirituality. And so unlike their traditional uses, they are no longer only made and used for reciting mantras, meditation and awareness concentration. But have evolved into a kind of fashion accessory that may contribute to the wearer's life, through the metaphysical healing properties granted by crystals and gemstones. And even feelings of inspiration, joy and peace from the symbolic meaning of crystals, gemstones, seeds and woods.