Mala counters
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Orientation 3
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ABR 088

 Code: ABR 088

  Country: Tibet


  Date: 1500 - 1600

  Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 17

  Materials: Silver

Mala counters 

Mala is the original Sanskrit word for the prayer beads used for counting mantra recitations. 
Since a common part of Tibetan Buddhist practice is repeating (mentally or out aloud) certain mantrasthousands or even hundreds of thousands of times, it is useful to use a rosary for counting off the number of prayers, like a spiritual abacus. 
The most common type of mala is a string of 108 beads, made of precious or semi-precious stones, wood, seeds, or bone. Each time one round is completed, with one repetition of the mantra for each bead, 100 mantra recitations are considered to be completed. The extra 8 beads are “spare” to make up for any miscounts or mistakes made along the way. There is also a head bead, one that is larger than the others, often called a “guru bead.” Some believe that this bead has a special significance, like representing one’s master, but very practically, this bead is the starting point for the circuit, and is not counted among the 108 total. It is not stepped over and represents the turning point of the recitation.

When counting very high numbers of mantra recitations, it is helpful to have some counters attached to the mala. These are two shorter strings of 10 small beads. One counter is used to keep count of each circuit of 100 that are completed on the mala. After 10 circuits, all 10 beads on the one counter will be pushed forwards, and 1000 repeats of the mantra will have been completed. At this point, one bead on the other counter will be pushed forward, to account for the 1000 recited mantras. Then a new circuit on the mala will be started, and at the end of it one bead on the first counter moved back, and so forth. With this method, up to 10,000 mantrarecitations can be counted.