Significance of Japa Mala
Japa mala is a set of beads made from 108 beads used by both Hindus and Buddhists while doing Japa. The Japa-Mala occupies a special position in Mantra-Sadhana. Japa Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or the name or names of a deity in a practice known in Sanskrit as japa.
During Mantra Sadhana, the mind tends to wander always, through its very nature, so the wandering mind can be quickly recollected or brought back to the thought of the deity or object of meditation through Japa Mala. These days in yoga and meditation and even in the broader community, it has become a fashion statement to adorn oneself with Japa mala beads.
Chanting of some mantras is compulsory with definite number according to the God and the Goddess each for the fulfillment of desires. Japa anusthana is a devotional meditation practice that involves repeatedly reciting a mantra, a word or phrase with specific sacred resonance. For counting the number of chants rosaries are used. Japa Mala should not be used carelessly or kept in an unclean place or touched by the feet or left hand. Even though it is a lifeless object, it is an instrument through which God is remembered and an aid in spiritual upliftment.
The Japa mala beads is traditionally held in the right hand and used in two ways : one method is the Japa mala is hanging between the thumb and the ring (third) finger. The middle (second) finger is used to rotate the mala by one bead towards oneself with each repetition of the mantra.
And the second method is the Japa mala is hanging on the middle finger, with the thumb used to rotate the mala one bead at a time. In both the ways, the index finger is should not be used to touch the Japa mala beads.
Different types of Malas are used for different purposes. So there are some of the popular Hindu religious Japa malas :
Lotus Seed Mala
Putra Jeeva mala
Sandal Wood Mala
Chirmi Beads Mala
The Japa Mala practice begins at the summit bead and continues around the loop until the summit is reached again. The summit bead is never passed over. So if you plan to do more than 1 round, the mala is turned around to proceed again in the reverse direction.
Japa is done in three ways as Karmala, Varnamala and Manimala.
The Karamala procedure involves the doing of Japa on the fingers and can be done on the fingertips. One of the important rules to observe when doing this type of Japa is to keep the fingers together and not separate.
In the Varnamala process Japa involves using the alphabet of the Sanskrit language. And the Manimala procedure is the most recommended and the most common way of doing Japa when a Mala (or Rosary) made of beads threaded together is used.
Whenever the mala is taken up, it automatically conditions the mind to the meditative state. The Japa mala that you use for Mantra Japa meditation should not be exhibited and is best kept privately in a special Mala Bag.