What do the numbers mean ?
Though we think of Hindu and Buddhist malas as comprising 108 beads (some have 111), as long as there are around a 100 (in a long or full mala) it is still usable. (In fact, any number of heads that you are used to using — that is convenient in keeping track of mantras — is fine).
108 is number with numerologic (9X12) and cosmological significance. Another, vedic (ancient Hindu) reason, is that there are believed to be 108 channels going from the heart chakra out to the rest of the subtle body.
See the 108 names of the Indian great goddess; many are similar to those of Tara, the Bodhisattva.
Buddhist Theravada tradition presents the number of 108 as related to emotions:
What are the thirty-six feelings ? There are six feelings of gladness based on the household life and six based on renunciation; six feelings of sadness based on the household life and six based on renunciation; six feelings of equanimity based on the household life and six based on renunciation.
What are the hundred and eight feelings ? There are the (above) thirty-six feelings of the past: there are thirty six of the future and there are thirty six of the present.
“These, O monks, are called the hundred and eight feelings : ………. .”
What is mala ?
A full of mala is usually 108 counting beads with a formal three holed special finishing bead called a “guru” bead, “mother/parent” bead or “Buddha” bead. There are oftentimes additional marker beads that may or may not be counted that divide the mala into quadrants, constituting a sum of 108 counting beads. We, at Sakura Designs, use 108 counting beads, with three additional marker beads. One marker is placed at number 21 on either side, as many mantra practices require 21 recitations, and at one marker 1/2 way through at number 54. The malas are then fastened with (guru bead and tasse) or with some styles, tied into knots.(www.khandro.net/practice_mala.htm)
108 Beads – Tibetan
108 beads in Buddhism is considered an “auspicious number”often used.
108 beads in Buddhism is said to represent the following formula:
6 X 3 X 2 X 3 = 108
6 senses of a human being : sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought
3 times : past, present, future
2 conditions of heart, mind or intention : pure or impure
3 disturbing emotional states or kleshia : like, dislike, indiference(www.buddhistmala.com/store/mantra.htm
Mantra diucapkan sambil memegang biji mala di antara jari telunjuk dan ibu jari, (kadang-kadang digunakan jari yang lain pada latihan yang lebih lanjut). Mala boleh dipegang dengan tangan kanan ataupun tangan kiri sesuai kebiasaan masing-masing. Setiap kali mantra selesai diucapkan, pegangan pindah ke biji berikutnya. Hitungan dimulai dari biji yang pertama di sebelah kepala mala. Apabila sesuai satu putaran dan sampai pada kepala mala lagi, maka kepala mala itu jangan dihitung, tapi putarlah mala itu dan mulailah menghitung lagi dan kembali ke arah kebalikannya dari yang pertama tadi.
Biji mala dapat dibuat dari bahan apa saja, yang paling digemari adalah yang terbuat dari biji bodhi, demikian pula yang terbuat dari kaya gaharu. Beberapa bahan seperti gading, merjan, kristal, atau bahkan dapat terbuat dari tulang, namun hanya dipergunakan untuk keperluan yang khusus saja.
Penggunaan mala juga membantu konsentrasi pikiran kita pada mantra dan meditasi. Mala itu sendiri seyogjanya dirawat dengan hati-hati dan penuh hormat. Setiap butir mala dapat dianggap sebagai lambang Bodhisattva yang kepadanya kita tujukan meditasi itu. Sedang tali yang menghubungkan butir-butir mala itu adalah lambang dari kesadaran Bodhisattva. (www.geocities.com/sutra_online/teknik_kesadaran1.htm)
Buddhist Prayer Beads
Prayer beads, or Japa Malas, are also used in many forms of Mahayana Buddhism, often with a lesser number of beads (usually a divisor of 108). Malas are also used in many forms of mahayana Buddhism, often with a lesser number of beads (usually a divisor of 108). In Pure Land Buddhis, for instance, 27 bead malas are common. In China, such malas are named “Shu-Zhu” (??); in Japan “…uzu”. These shorter malas are sometimes called ‘prostration rosaries’, because they are easier to hold when enumerating repeated prostrations. In Tibetan Buddhism malas are also 108 beads: one mala counts as 100 mantras, and the 8 extra are meant to be dedicated to all sentient beings (the practice as a whole is dedicated at its end as well). Because they are. In Tibetan Buddhism, ofter larger malas are used of for example 111 beads: when counting, they calculate one mala as 100 mantras, nd the 11 additional beads are taken as extra to compensate for errors. (wikipedia.org/wiki/prayer_beads)
A tradition in many faiths
A prayer beads or cords are common in many world things. Here’s a sampling :
* Anglicanism : Usually 33 beads, representing the number of years Jesus is believed to have lived on Earth, with a pendant cross.
*Baha’i : 95 beads, for the repetition 95 times of Allah’u’Abha, meaning “God all glorious.”
* Buddhism : “Mala”, 108 beads, representing the number of earthly desires a disciple must conquer; ends with a tassel.
* Catholicism : “Rosary”, usually with five sets of 10 beads each on which are recited “Hail Marys”, separated by single beads on which to say “Our Fathers”, with a crucifix and a medallion of the Virgin Mary.
* Hinduism : “Mala”, can be smaller but often 108 beads plus a marker, interpreted variously as the number of the names of God, the elements of the universe or the names of the River Ganges.
* Islam : “Subha” or “Tasbih”, meaning “to exalt” or “to praise God”; 99 beads, representing every known name of God, or Allah, usually divided into three sections of 33 beads each, plus a leader bead and a tassel.
* Judaism : “Tallit”, “tallith”, “tallis” a prayer shawl made of blue and white pure natural fiber with fringers called tzitzit tied in a carefully prescribed way to represent the 613 commandments of God.
* Orthodox Christianity : “Chotki”, beads or a woolen prayer rope, usually with 33, 50, 100 or 300 beads or knots for repetitive praying of the “Jesus prayer”, a petition for Jesus’ mercy.
* Zoroastrianism : “Kusti”, a consecrated cord composed of 72 very fine white threads of lamb’s wool, passed three times very loosely around the waist, tied twice in a double knot, with the ends of left hanging; it os ritually untied and tied every time people wash their hands, especially in ritual preparation for prayer. (www.mattersofmyheart.com/beads/PrayerBeads/Rosaries/rosaries.htm)