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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/

Posted in tattooed buddha

Using the Mantra SO HUM.

This is very similar to the practice of following the breath.

But, instead of following the breath, we’re going to follow a mantra instead.

The mantra I am writing about today is SO HUM.

This mantra means literally, “I am that.” It is supposed to bring us from normal awareness into expanded consciousness. It’s a oneness mantra, designed to remind us that we are one with the world around us, not separated from everything. We are one with everything and holding this mantra in our minds during a meditation is supposed to remind us of that.

I’m not someone that believes that words in other languages are magical.

We aren’t using a Sanskrit mantra because Sanskrit is special, we are using it because it’s easier to hold in our minds. It’s designed that way on purpose. It’s easier to carry the mantra SO HUM than it would be to carry “I am that” or “I am one with everything.”

First, establish the time of the meditation. Set a timer for an amount of time that you think you can do. A lot of people like to start with just 5 or 10 minutes and try to do more after they have an established meditation practice.

Find a comfortable place to sit. Adjust your posture so that your spine is erect without being stiff. Allow the rest of your body to relax. Rest your hands in your lap or on your legs. Allow your eyes to gently close. Bring your full attention to the feeling of sitting still. Allow your breathing to be natural. Bringing attention to your head, release any tension that you feel in your face.

Scanning the body slowly downward, relax your neck and shoulders.

Feel the rising and falling of your chest with each breath. Bring your attention all the way down your body to the places of contact with the floor (or chair if you’re sitting in one). Feel the pressure and density of your relaxed upright body.

Bringing your full attention to the present moment and acknowledge everything you’re experiencing. Thoughts are happening, sound is happening and there are probably mental and emotional sensations. Allow these experiences to be as they are, but bring your attention to the sensation of breathing. Bring your awareness of your breath to the foreground in your mind.

Take a few moments and investigate where you can feel the air entering and leaving your body.

Now, as we breathe we are going to carry this mantra in our minds. When we breathe in, we are going to mentally say “SO” and when we breathe out we’re going to mentally say “HUM”.

Every time a thought arises in our minds to distract us, we’re going to bring our attention back to the mantra, SO HUM.

SO HUM.

SO HUM.

We will continue to do this practice until the timer goes off.

 

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/meditation-instructions-using-the-mantra-so-hum/