The beads in a japa mala are 108 in number along with a guru bead. It is believed that 108 energy lines converge to form the heart chakra. A japa mala may have fewer than 108 beads, but the number is always divisible by nine, such as 18, 27 and 54.
According to yogic philosophy, mantra has the power to promote healing and elevate the level of consciousness to attain spiritual aspirations. Using japa mala helps to focus on the mantra, its sound and its power rather than the number of times a mantra is uttered.
The significance of the number of beads in a japa mala is that it is associated with the aim of practicing a particular japa. A japa mala with 27 beads is used for spiritual progress and a japa mala with 108 beads is used for attaining fulfillment.
The following is an example of how a japa mala may be used while reciting mantras:
- Sit straight. Keep the spine erect and the eyes closed.
- Hold the mala in the right hand.
- With every recital of a mantra, use the thumb to slightly pull the bead towards you and move on to the next bead. The guru bead should not be counted.