There is one sad truth about japa meditation: every mala will eventually break. How soon a mala breaks depends on the quality of the mala’s materials and craftsmanship, the amount and intensity of one’s japa practice, the care and maintenance of the beads, and the state of one’s karma.
It is common and perfectly natural to feel sadness when a treasured mala breaks. A frequently worn and used mala is not just a strand of beads worn around your neck–mala beads symbolize all of the intentions, prayers, promises, and practices established through months or years of your meditation and yoga practice. Feeling and watching your mala beads break and spill out everywhere can produce deep feelings of loss and sorrow, but a mala breaking does not need to be a purely disturbing and distraught life event.
In both the yogic and Buddhist traditions, a broken mala is said to symbolize the breaking a cycle of suffering, a spiritual breakthrough, and a release of karma or other negative traits. A broken mala can be seen as a positive sign of progression along one’s yogic path and an auspicious opportunity to reflect on the blessings of peace, luck, and prosperity received from the use of the mala beads.
As a mala breaks and it’s beads fall and scatter, your intentions and prayers are being released out to the Universe. Use this event as a sign to create new intentions into your life and to cultivate the courage and inner-strength to step into a fuller version of yourself. Lastly, the breaking of a mala is a powerful reminder of the nature of impermanence and the importance of practicing detachment.
Time for reflection
After your mala breaks, you have a fantastic opportunity to reflect on what karmic and life changes arose just before or after it broke. Spiritual breakthroughs are sometimes very dramatic and noticeable, but often they are subtle and can pass by unnoticed unless we pause to reflect on them. Notice where you are at now–phyiscially, mentally and emotionally–compared to where you were when you purchased your mala. Consider asking yourself one or more of these questions to further guide your reflection:
• Do you feel the intentions of your mantra practice have been fulfilled?
• Do you feel complete with your mantra practice?
• Is there something that has fallen apart in your life or do you feel like a blockage or barrier has been released?
• Are there attachments in your life are calling out to be let go of?
• Is there a new direction, purpose or goal that you have been contemplating?
• Are there any places of fear, anxiety or uncertainty when thinking about your near or distant future?
Should you repair or replace your broken mala?
Depending on your process and beliefs, you may wish to restring your mala. This would be recommended if you feel the mala broke prematurely or if you don’t feel complete in the mantra practice you were using it with. You may also wish to restring it and instead of using it for japa meditation, use it as a gemstone healing talisman.
If you choose to not restring your mala there are a couple of options of what to do with the broken parts:
1. Put the broken mala on your altar as a reminder of the spiritual work invested in it.
2. Create a ritual of letting go of intentions or seeing your intentions actualized as you bury or toss the mala into a body of water.
3. Cut a small section of the mala to carry in your pocket as a reminder to be present and to use to count a few mantras on the go.
4. Reuse some or all of the beads in a necklace or bracelet as a reminder of your journey with the mala as well as to receive the positive energy and blessings of the beads.
Malas that have been damaged beyond repair are called in Tibetan Buddhism “dharma waste” and should be disposed of properly, with deep respect and care. The sacred waste of damaged malas still hold blessings and positive energies so they should be taken to a holy place or sacred shrine, and offered to the shrine or buried.