Posted in interfaith, Uncategorized

My Friend Krishna

Krishna was a nice old Indian man. He was always in a good mood and very pleasant to be around. He was very nice.

He sat next to me at work for two years and he talked to me every single day.

I think a lot of the time we don’t really think of the people we work with as having a big part in our lives.

I’m not sure it’s right to call us close or even friends, really. But he passed away and I am feeling the loss. Now that desk to my left at work is empty.

I remember the first time we talked. Two years ago he asked me if I was a Buddhist. Everyone knows that I am. I’m as “out of the meditation closet” as you can be. I have Buddhist tattoos. Everyone knows I’m a Buddhist and that it’s a big part of my life.

I told him that I am a Buddhist. He asked if I have a temple that I go to and I told him about the Rime Center.  He told me that he attends the Hindu temple in Shawnee, which I had actually visited that same year.

He told me he was  Hindu. He had been raised in Hinduism and he was really interested in talking about spirituality with me. He didn’t know much about Buddhism, but he really like discussing where our beliefs intersected.

There was one other thing.

He asked me about the Dalai Lama’s health. Really he asked if the Dalai Lama’s health was a big concern, something people were worried about.

I said, “Well, I know he’s been having health problems for years now. I don’t know if he will die soon, but he is in his late 70s…so, you know…” (the Dalai Lama is 81 at the time of this writing. )

Krishna just laughed and said, “I’m in my late 70s. What do you mean?”

So, that was embarrassing. But, luckily he was such a positive thinking person that he didn’t get offended at all.

I was clueless. I have trouble realizing how old people are sometimes.

It was a rude thing to say anyway, but I believe in being completely open and honest here. I hope the Dalai Lama lives for many more years.

Anyway, I sat by Krishna for 2 years. We talked about spirituality a lot.

Some of you reading this may not be aware that Hinduism and Buddhism have the same roots and they have a lot of similarities. He thought talking to me was interesting.

Earlier this year he asked me to tell him how to meditate. This was surreal. He had been raised as a Hindu. He had been practicing Hinduism for much longer than I had even been alive. And Hinduism is a meditative religion, just like Buddhism is.

There something we don’t always realize here in the west. There are plenty of people who were raised in Hinduism and Buddhism that don’t meditate, that don’t even know how.

That sounds weird, until we think about how many people raised in Christianity don’t pray or study the Bible. Plenty of them, right?

Anyway, I taught him how to practice breathing meditation. I guess at the temple he went to there was a lot of chanting and bowing, but not all that much meditation instruction.

Last week he told me he wanted to learn more about Buddhism. He asked me to bring a book in, something he could read and get through pretty fast, something simple. A lot of people ask me to recommend books. This is not a big deal.

I did bring in a book for him. I brought it in last week. But I never had the opportunity to give it to him. He never came to work again. And he passed away over the weekend.

He lived a full life and he died surrounded by his loved ones. His death was not a big surprise. He had been struggling with his health for a while.

It occurred to me that if my own father hadn’t passed away 21 years ago, he’d be the same age as Krishna.

Krishna was a wonderful man and my heart is with his family today.

Posted in tattooed buddha, Uncategorized

What’s the deal with meditation beads (malas)?

meditate malas

A lot of Buddhists wear these beads. They look kind of like rosaries, I guess.

They’re used in several different Buddhist traditions, but not in all of them.

A lot of Hindus and Yogis wear them too. There are long ones that you can wear as a necklace, or wrap around your wrist a few times. And there are short ones that are just bracelets. Sometimes you can identify a meditator by the fact that they’re wearing one.

They’re called malas.

Some people call them prayer beads. Some people call them meditation beads.

They can be made of many different things, usually a kind of wood. Mine is made of sandalwood. If you search for malas on the internet you can find all sorts of places to buy them. Traditionally they have 108 beads. If not 108, some number that’s divisible by 108, 54, 27, or 18.

Why 108?

It’s a sacred number in Hinduism. And in Buddhism we just kept it. Someone can probably make up some reason why it’s sacred in Buddhism but I think we should admit that it’s one of things from Hinduism that was kept when Buddhism was created. There are those that say there are 108 afflictions that cause our suffering.

Maybe 108 does have a special meaning to us, I’m not sure. But it is considered a number that is sacred and important.

Generally malas are used in mantra practice.

When we chant mantras we sometimes chant them 108 times.

So, when we chant, OM VAJRASATTVA HUM (a purification mantra), for example, we can move the beads through our fingers to keep track. That way we can keep track and focus on our mantra at the same time. I don’t know how someone would keep track of their number of recitations without one.

Mantra practice is not my favorite style of meditation, but I do practice it at least once a week.

Malas, of course, have a few other purposes.

If a teacher gives you one and blesses it, it can make you feel like you’re carrying your teacher with you. A mala has an extra bead called the ‘Guru Bead’ that is separate from the counting beads. It represents your teacher.

I have one that was blessed by the Dalai Lama.

Some people think they can provide some form of spiritual protection.

One thing is, if you’re wearing this thing, I think it’s a little easier to be mindful. It’s like having a constant reminder that we should be virtuous and mindful. There’s a tendency to be very spiritual in the temple or on the meditation cushion, but not necessarily in everyday life.

The path is meant to be practiced everywhere. The world is  my sacred space and my spiritual life is not separate from my world life.

It can help us recognize each other too. If I see someone wearing a mala, I know we have something in common.

I’m probably not going to strike up a conversation with a random person because they’re wearing a mala, but maybe it helps knowing they’re out there.

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/whats-the-deal-with-meditation-beads-malas/