View Full Version : Malas

09 Mar 11, 19:43
Hello. I'm still quite new to this forum and I've been trying to learn about Buddhism for a couple of years or so. I don't know much at all, well, very little really. I have a practical question if that's ok in the tea room.

I have this mala that I bought about 2 years ago in Mongolia. It was a proper shop as opposed to the little stands with loads of antique things you're not supposed to take out of the country. My eye was attracted by a really elaborate mala with lovely green and white stones between the rows of 27 beads. The lass behind the counter looked at me a little strangely when I bought it but I didn't take much notice.

I googled malas a couple of times but I didn't see anything like mine until a month ago when I realised the 108 main beads were cut from human skull bones. This was ok as I think it's a good thing to put our remains to use if we can; I've bequeathed my own body to the anatomy department at Cork University. However, it seems that human bone malas should only be used by masters and such like, as they are specifically for exerting power to force angry or dangerous beings to change. Or something to that effect, I need to look it up again.

So, my question is, should I continue to use this mala? I have a bit of a chant with it at the end of meditation sessions and I haven't felt any negativity, or anything apart from warmth. Maybe using such paraphernalia (spelling?) as malas, singing bowls, statues etc. is questionable? I'd be grateful for a little guidance. :o)

09 Mar 11, 19:53
How do you know this is what the beads are made from?

09 Mar 11, 20:20
Hi bailgainin,

I'm moving this topic to the Mahayana/Vajrayana forum.

Its unlikely that your mala beads are made from human bone. The bone will be that of an animal. I used to be a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for a long time before changing tradition to Theravada - and I have a bone mala which I don't use now.

If you are not an offline Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, I wouldn't recommend you try to do any of the TB practices from the internet or books without any instruction and feedback from an offline teacher.

Bone malas are normally used for mantra recitation in wrathful deity practices.

My personal suggestion until you decide on a tradition/offline group to practice with, would be to do samatha meditation practice and then at the end of the practice wish for peace and happiness for yourself and all sentient beings.

With kind wishes,


10 Mar 11, 19:43
Hell there fojiao 2. I did a fair bit of searching through google, mainly because I wanted to find out what the three large beads in between the rows of 27 beads were for, and also because there are 2 additional 'strings' of twisted leather with two lots of 5 bronze beads threaded through each.

One of these extra bits has a single bell shaped thingy and the other has the same thingy only double. The site I found about a month ago explained the two strings with the bronze beads as counters like an abacus for keeping track of how many times you've gone round the mala with whatever chant you are doing.

On the same site I saw photographs of human skull-bone malas for the first time, and the beads were identical to those on my mala; they are nothing like the yak and other bone malas on various sites. That was when I remembered the strange look the woman behind the counter gave me when I picked the mala out. I could have imagined that I dare say, but I had no reason to. If you can help me with the meaning of the bell-like thingies, I'd be grateful.

10 Mar 11, 20:02
Counters often have a vajra (dorje) one the end of one and a bell (ghanta) on the end of the other one.
There are also crossed double dorjes and also vajra-ghantas which are a dorje and bell combined.

I have a feeling that there's another thread about malas in this Mahayana/Vajrayana forum somewhere....

10 Mar 11, 20:15
There are some photos (click on photo to enlarge) of the normal size ritual bell and dorje here:


10 Mar 11, 20:16
Hello Aloka-D. Thanks for the names of the atachments on my mala. I replied to your first points but it disappeared somewhere while I was being told to log on again. I was saying that I am fairly sure that the beads on my mala are human; I've given a number of reasons why to fojaio 2. I would like to know where I can find out about samatha meditation. I live in a remote bit of Ireland and finding others to meditate with is not easy just now as I work in Cork during the week. I'll be retiring in April next year so I'll be in a better position to meditate with others then, if I last that long. I try to send out loving kindness to individuals, groups or places as the case may be, after meditating and chanting with the mala. I would never knowingly have anything to do with 'wrathful deity practices', even if I thought deities existed. Many thanks again for your help. Oh, and in my first reply, I asked you if you used to be Dazzle? :o)

10 Mar 11, 20:23

Hi, yes, the D is for Dazzle !

Regarding meditation, there are some instructions for metta (loving kindness) meditation at Buddhanet here:


There's also a link to some meditation videos on YouTube which you can find in the Study Links section.

24 Apr 11, 14:12
In the Tibetan tradition, bone malls are frequently used in "wrathful" practices, but other traditions use bone as a reminder of impermanence. I have a couple of yak bone malls I am fond of, but don't use any more. The larger beads are markers, my own mall has markers at 21 and 7. The markers can vary according to tradition, in my case, in my practice I do some mantra 7 times, some 21 times and some 108 times. The markers help me keep count without distracting me from the mantra.