The Tara Mala
In my search for tranquility, I have studied many ideologies. Try as I might, the perfect fit continues to elude me. For a while, my journey became a process of acquisition, a gathering of the choice pieces from a plethora of spiritual options. My evolving cafeteria-style spirituality most closely came to reflect the tenets of Taoism, even though I just could not quite wrap my mind around the whole of formal Taoist practice. So for many years now, when asked, I simply respond that my religion is kindness.
One of the more valuable practices I adopted on my road to enlightenment has been meditation. Recently, my teacher suggested that I might be ready to incorporate meditation with a tonal mantra, like “Om Mani Padme Hum.” As with most new adventures, I set myself to research this novel meditation style. This part of my journey has been quite enlightening, yet overwhelming. Since I already benefit from the Ananda style of Hatha Yoga with relaxation through Yoga Nidra (psychic sleep), I have not yet convinced myself to add this new meditation practice.
One constant in my research is the pervasive use of malas—prayer beads—to count repetitions of mantras during meditation. Although there are many styles and lengths of malas, I am most intrigued by the semi-precious gemstone wrist-mala, also called Power Beads. More specifically, it is the Tara Mala with which I have made a connection. In my search for sources that offer such an item, I found that the purchase of a mala of any sort can be a tricky proposition. Be warned that all malas are not created equal. There are quite a few retailers offering inferior products—especially malas that are supposedly made with semi-precious stones.
One reputable source for this sacred jewelry is the online site Celedra. Their Tara Malas are designed and so named for the fully enlightened feminine goddess Tara, whom the Tibetans call Jetsun Drolma. She is also known as the Savioress who assists supplicants toward their awakening. In reverence, the Tara Mala has twenty-one beads to represent the twenty-one praises to Tara and, as with all malas, has the terminus guru bead, which is said to be the symbol of spiritual source. This sacred adornment is of high quality and superior craftsmanship. Any owner would be pleased to use and wear this mala.
The even greater reason to appreciate these Tara Malas is the mission behind their creation and distribution. Celedra Gildea and Jennifer Duoos created this non-profit organization in support of the Nangchen Nuns in Eastern Tibet, who live in overcrowded, impoverished conditions. In this empowering venture, the Tara Malas are made by local Tibetan women, placed on a nunnery alter, and thereby infused with the many prayers and blessings of these devout nuns. The sacred malas are then sent to Celedra for sale. In turn, a percentage of the profits are donated to support these women. I imagine that Tara is pleased and very proud of each and every one of the women involved in this loving project.
The Tara wrist-mala that I have is an “empowerment” mala, which is made with smokey quartz and garnet, and a sterling and garnet guru bead. This combination of gemstones is said to be “grounding and protective,” and the mala arrived with its own mantra to reflect these aspects: “I am grounded, guided, and confident.” Since I have chosen to begin this love affair with the goddess Tara, I will begin with this specific mantra. Just wearing it makes me mindful that peace is made in the hearts of individuals and, as such, I will pray for that in all others and myself.