Malas are a string of 108 beads, usually with one more “guru bead” at the base to hold them all together. They sometimes have a tassel or a pendant dangling below. They’re beautiful as jewelry but even more gorgeous when used spiritually. In this post, you will learn how to make a mala with step-by-step instructions and photos to illustrate each step. Keep reading in our next post for how to use and activate your mala (click the image after the instructions).
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Intro: How I got into Malas (Living in Asia)
I remember being at a mountain temple in Korea around Buddha’s birthday and they had a special celebration, including a station under the Boddhi trees where you could make your own mala. We strung each bead with a wish– 108 prayers and hopes. I loved it- a warm, quiet day, perfect for taking a moment for spirituality.
At a fort in Suwon, South Korea, I got to ring an ancient bell– 3 rings per person– one for yourself, one for your family (or favorite loved ones), and one for the greater world. I thought that was a beautiful sort of way to look beyond myself. So I tried to incorporate some wishes for myself, some for my family and some for the world as I strung my mala.
I recently visited Mahamuni Pagoda, here in Mandalay to get some beads for making a new mala. Mahamuni is a large colorful complex known for its gold Buddha image. I’ve been a few times to visit the Buddha and to shop some of the temple stalls. This time, I bought mostly colored wooden beads to make my own malas.
Malas always have 108 beads (or 216) because this number has great scientific significance in the Hindu tradition. The circumference of the sun times 108 is the distance between the sun and the Earth and the same is true for the moon and Earth. Also, there are 108 nadis or energy channels in the body. There are 54 sanskrit letters- both masculine and feminine, totaling 108. There are 108 Puranas and 108 Upanishads. The list goes on and on!! So that same sacred number is used in malas.
Making a Mala: Creating the Mood
I think it’s important to create a calm, spiritual space for making a mala. For making my mala, I found a time for just me where I could be alone with my thoughts, wishes, candles and mantra. In a way, it’s a bit of self-care to take the time out and simply create.
I chose the mantra, Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, which roughly translates to “I bow to the divine and the teacher within myself.” I listened to this mantra repeatedly as I worked.
You can also choose a mantra to weave into your mala, or you could choose an intention to focus on while you bead, or focus on a wish or goal you’d like to manifest. You want to fill your mala with that intention or goal and with love as you bead it.
How to make a Mala: Knotting
I recommend finding silk thread (UPDATE! now that I’m in America I use Simply Silk Beading Thick Thread) that is made specifically for beading. I looked around a bit, but I didn’t find any here in Mandalay so I opted for local hot pink yarn instead, naturally. If you are using thread that may fray or pull, start from the center of your mala and work out from both sides so you don’t use one end of the thread excessively and damage it.
How to string and knot the mala
- Start with a single knot
- Thread a bead onto the string and push it all the way up to the knot
- Tie a new knot under the new bead carefully– wind the threaded beads through to loop the knot, but don’t pull it tight yet. Put tweezers through the loop of the knot to hold the string directly below the bead. As you pull the string, the knot will tighten around the tweezers and glide up them to that spot on the string just below the bead
- Thread on another bead and slide it up
- Repeat the knot process again and again… 108 times!
Once you finish stringing and knotting the 108 beads, string the 2 ends of the mala through a guru bead (a larger bead that holds both sides of the threaded necklace), creating a circle.
To Make the Tassel
Wrap thread around a small rectangle of card stock or cardboard repeatedly so the thread makes many loops (thicker thread for beading would be better here too)
- String the threads from the guru bead through the loops and tie them underneath the loops
- Either with the thread from the guru bead or a new thread (depending on whether or not you want to change the color) wrap the thread around the loops near the top to hold the loops together– knot the thread to secure it. I used the same thread from the necklace and wrapped the 2 ends in opposite directions so they would meet nicely to knot
- Cut through the loose end of the loops opposite the necklace to make the fringed edges of the tassel
- If your ends come out uneven, you can comb them to make sure they’re straight, then trim them with sharp scissors
Once your mala is complete, you can activate it and use it for mediation or manifestation, or wear it to help bring new energy or healing. Also, check out “Malas: choosing one, activating it, and using your mala for meditation and manifestation”