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What are the 4 types of mala?

4 types of mala

Narayan Shrestha |

For centuries, spiritual seekers have found focused concentration aids to support their meditation practices. Early yogis experimented with hand gestures and breathing techniques to calm the mind. Eventually, they developed malas, or prayer beads, crafted from natural materials.

Malas come in varied styles to suit different needs but share the same purpose - guiding mindfulness. Each holds encoded mantric energies activated through ceremonies. Their strands link our wandering thoughts back to focused awareness, like pearls on a thread. The beads are arranged in contemplative sequences matching spiritual disciplines.

By handling each bead in sequence while chanting, malas stimulate healing energies along the chakra pathways. This soothes tensions and maintains dedication during life's highs and lows. Their calming presence encourages living fully in the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or future. Malas can be worn or discreetly carried for portability.

Whether used for circling mantras or simple finger tracing, malas spread a relaxing effect. They provide steadiness during challenging times by connecting us to enlightened masters of old through blessings. Different mala types cater to diverse personalities, so everyone can benefit from the meditative practice. Above all, they unite us in shared goals of inner peace and compassion for all.


As individuals tread their paths of spiritual growth, they often encounter supportive companions to aid them along the way. Prayer beads, commonly known as malas, represent one such invaluable ally that offers a diverse array of energies to nurture the soul's evolution.

Malas serve as essential tools in Hinduism, Buddhism, and various other spiritual traditions. These exquisite strings of beads play a pivotal role in counting mantras (sacred chants) and directing the mind during meditation sessions. 

While malas are crafted from a wide range of materials and designs, four primary types stand out: Japa Mala, Tibetan Mala, Zen Mala, and Mantra Mala—each imbued with distinct characteristics serving unique purposes in spiritual practice.

What are the 4 Types of Mala?

1. Japa Mala

Carrying 108 beads sets it apart from others, the Japa Mala brings harmony to body and spirit through disciplined repetition of mantras. This style has no markers or divisions at all. It consists of 108 mala beads, a guru bead, and a tassel (or pendant substitute).

The types of beads used for the 108 mala may be uniform or diverse; however, in both cases, the distinct feature is that there are no marker beads or segmented sections.

As one moves through its smooth rotation, life energies awaken and consciousness ascends step by step from base to crown. 

Crafted for liberation, its rhythm soothes inner turmoil and allows love's blessings to blossom. A timeless steadfast companion for souls everywhere.

2. Tibetan Mala

Intricately crafted from calming materials such as wood, bone, or precious stones, the Tibetan Mala helps to ground a person in the present moment. 

In traditional Tibetan style, the 108 beads are divided into four equal sections of 27 beads each with three marker beads denoting these divisions.

The marker beads differ in size and type from the rest for easy identification by touch and sight. They may be accompanied by spacer beads or other elements to make them stand out. Each set of 27 mala beads can feature identical designs or variability.

As fingers move across each unique bead shape, an appreciation for mystery and creative possibilities emerges. Similar to serene snow-covered landscapes teeming with unseen natural blessings, it quiets restless thoughts so that intuitions can freely express their messages.

Similar to Japa Mala practice, using a Tibetan Mala fosters concentration, mindfulness, and deeper meditation.

3. Zen Mala

The Zen Mala is simple yet captivating in its subtle texture, featuring a reduced number of beads to emphasize the concept that less can be more. The mala divides its 108 beads into five sections with 7, 14, 66, 14, and 7 beads respectively. 

Each section is separated by a marker bead, which typically stands out from the rest. This design technique creates a symmetrical look by making slight differences between each section's beads. 

With each slow breath along its seamless sequence, inner stillness is cultivated as Life's Flow naturally writes its rhythms within. This silent companionship leads to unforced answers to life's significant questions hidden within daily actions.

Ultimately fostering mindfulness and deepening meditation practice, the Zen Mala nurtures a sense of calm and inner peace.

4. Mantra Mala

The Mantra Mala, infused through meaningful rituals with hopes for positive journeys, offers protection against life's challenges. 

The 108 beads are divided into four sections of 21, 33, 21, and 33 beads respectively. Each section is separated by a marker bead as you move around the mala. These markers are easily identifiable from the other beads, which may be consistent or varied within each section.

Its sacred mantras embedded in its grains provide strength and support during difficult times, encouraging pilgrims to continue their journey with a sense of comfort. 

Specifically crafted for chanting a specific mantra, counting the beads ensures accurate recitation and helps maintain focus during practice.

Similar to other malas, using the Mantra Mala encourages concentration mindfulness and fosters a deeper connection with the meaning and power of the chosen mantra.


In this busy, distracting world, it's easy to lose our connection to the present moment. Malas act as gentle guides to keep us grounded and centered and maintain mindfulness even during daily activities. Through their multisensory use incorporating touch, breath, vision, and mantra, they integrate body and mind, nurturing overall well-being.

Whether choosing a simple beaded strand or one sculpted intricately through careful ritual, finding the right mala companion matching personality and needs can enrich any seeker's practice. And as with all tools, how we use them depends on our own sincerity and intention - with compassion and gratitude, malas truly empower spiritual evolution.

Wherever this journey of discovery leads, may these prayer beads support you in riding challenges with equanimity, openness, and care for fellow pilgrims.

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