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Thread: Malas

  1. #1
    Senior Member Juki's Avatar
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    Malas

    Does anybody here ever use a mala? I never use one for Zazen, which i keep traditional, but I often do use one for a weird kind of metta practice. The mala is 108 beads, and as I sit on my Zafu, I hold the mala with my left hand and touch each bead in turn with my right thumb and forefinger, one bead per breath. Touching the first bead, I tell myself, silently, "I inhale peace, I exhale anger." For the second bead, I inhale love and exhale hate. For the third, I inhale generosity and exhale greed. I repeat these three recitations 36 times, until I have run through the strand of beads.

    I learned this from a Tibetan friend and i like the practice. but, is this compatible with Zen practice?

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Hi William
    I have no input on this myself but I know this topic has arisen before and a quick search yielded a few good threads like this one on the topic!

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ll=1#post60532

    Gassho
    Shohei
    Ordained Zen Priest in training
    http://dirkinstitches.blogspot.com/

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Engineer Seimyo's Avatar
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    Hi William,
    I wear a sandalwood wrist mala as a constant reminder of my practice. I don't count with it like one might do in non-Zen situations. The beads rip the hair from my wrist often enough that it works well to keep me in the moment.

    Gassho.
    Chris

  4. #4
    I wear a cedarwood neck mala. I don't incorporate it into practice as standard mala practice, as Chris mentioned. I sort of wear it as a Rakusu you might say. I can't really wear a Rakusu at work, so I wear this as a token so to speak. I put it on and take it off like the Rakusu as well... touching it to my head 3x and reciting Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and kissing it before putting it on. It's just something I like to do.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by William Anderson View Post
    Does anybody here ever use a mala? I never use one for Zazen, which i keep traditional, but I often do use one for a weird kind of metta practice. The mala is 108 beads, and as I sit on my Zafu, I hold the mala with my left hand and touch each bead in turn with my right thumb and forefinger, one bead per breath. Touching the first bead, I tell myself, silently, "I inhale peace, I exhale anger." For the second bead, I inhale love and exhale hate. For the third, I inhale generosity and exhale greed. I repeat these three recitations 36 times, until I have run through the strand of beads.

    I learned this from a Tibetan friend and i like the practice. but, is this compatible with Zen practice?
    Hi William,

    Shohei already posted a little link about beads ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ll=1#post60532

    ... but let me just touch on your question "i like this practice but, is this compatible with Zen practice?"

    My view is that when one sits (and is sat and sittinging) Shikantaza Zazen, that is the ONLY Practice ... in that moment ... in all time and space. Nothing more need be done, nothing more can be done, nothing more in need of attaining as Zazen is Total Fulfillment. Whole and Complete. In that Timeless instant, nothing else, no other place to be or go. Only Zazen is Zazen.

    However, rising from the Zafu cushion ... anything can be Zazen ... changing the baby diaper, working in the office or garden, praying to Jesus (if that speaks to one's heart), reciting Metta or the Heart Sutra or the Practice you describe (if that speaks to one's heart). So yes, please do so if that speaks to your heart, and it sounds like a wonderful undertaking.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-10-2013 at 02:14 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Senior Member Juki's Avatar
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    Thank you all for your helpful and thoughtful replies.

    Gassho, William

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    hi William;
    I too wear 108 sandalwood beads about my left wrist. I've used it to chant "Om Mani Padme hum" on occasion as well but, I truly like the idea of your "weird kind of metta" practice learned from your Tibetan friend. I'm going to give it a try and perhaps adopt it.

    Thanks and gassho
    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  8. #8
    I tattooed an endless knot on my forearm as my practice reminder. I used to wear a wrist mala, but after a while it just became decoration for me.
    _/\_
    Jigetsu

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by christhatischris View Post
    The beads rip the hair from my wrist often enough that it works well to keep me in the moment.

    Gassho.
    Chris
    Ooooh I need one of those... Could be a market for them. "The In The Moment Mala"
    We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
    ~Anas Nin

  10. #10
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    I used to wear wrist mala beads, but I lost them at a punk rock show. I have a set of long beads still, 108 with several smaller ones branching off. They were given to me by a nice bikkhuni as a gift. She got them at some "special mountain" or something. I don't use them for anything other than a reminder of the nice bikkhu who gave them to me.

  11. #11
    I wear a juzu, in soto style I think, I've made it because some month ago a thread has been post. This juzu is with a ring. I use it as a reminder, and when I can, I will wear the rakusu as a reminder too, at home for example for dharma activities.

    gassho

    Yang Hsin

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by yang hsin View Post
    I wear a juzu, in soto style I think, I've made it because some month ago a thread has been post. This juzu is with a ring. I use it as a reminder, and when I can, I will wear the rakusu as a reminder too, at home for example for dharma activities.

    gassho

    Yang Hsin
    For much much MUCH more information that you --ever-- will need on the styles and use of Juzu, at least in Japan ...

    ... this fellow seems to have done his research on the many styles of Juzu for various sects (follow the link) ...

    http://www.aetw.org/jsp_nenju_juzu.htm

    In Japanese Soto, we are not too much into Mala beads ("Juzu" in Japanese) as a central part of practice, although that depends on how much there has been an influence of "esoteric" or "Pure Land" or other traditions of Buddhism on the particular lineage of Soto Zen over the centuries. They do play a role in some esoteric ceremonies.

    Some folks use the Mala for counting reptitions in certain chants, much as they are used in Catholic prayer. Doing so is not a central practice of Soto Zen, unless the particular priest or practitioner has incorporated other traditions ... like the Jodo (Pure Land) practice of chanting to Amida Buddha (the Chinese Chan priests you might see from time to time often wear very large Mala ...



    ... as Chan has heavily mixed with Pure Land in China and Vietnam), or certain esoteric Buddhist rituals that folks picked up along the way. I once noticed, for example, that Ven. Anzan Hoshin in Canada sometimes uses Mala, but he seem to mix various Tibetan Practices in with his Zen.

    As Buddhism moved from country to country, and culture to culture, bits of Hindu and Tantric elements were mixed into the teachings. The Juzu is one such item. Traditionally, it is an aid in chanting, serving as a counter (so you can keep your place), although a whole mess of mystical 'meanings' and powers came to be associated with the Mala beads themselves and the usual number of beads: 108 (or a divisor thereof).

    Number of beads:
    The formal nenju has 108 koshu 'children'/main beads, plus either one or two larger boshu 'parent' beads.

    [The 108 koshu represent the 108 bonnou (earthly desires, worldly & or evil passions) which the follower of the Dharma seeks to overcome.]

    There are also 'informal' nenju. These are commonly 1/4-size, having 27 koshu and one boshu parent-bead. However there are also informal nenju with 18 koshu (1/6th-size), 36 koshu (1/3rd) 54 koshu (1/2)
    For just some of the many meanings of '108'. have a gander at this. It is wonderful:

    http://www.salagram.net/108meaning.html

    It is an item that traveled up and down the Silk Road, and is brother to the Catholic rosary (in my understanding).

    One reason the beads are much loved is that there are more nerve endings on tips of the fingers than in any part of the body (if I recall), and thus the twirling of the beads is, well, sensual and most soothing. .Combined with the hypnotic rhythms of the chant, and you have an experience that one could lose oneself in ... literally.

    Oh, and at various times in ages past, it has been seen as kind of a magic charm against evil spirits.

    If you are in Japan today, you would see Juzu worn by many Soto priests, and used in ceremonies. Basically, over the centuries, many Tantric (esoteric) elements crept into the Zen schools too ... especially after the time of Dogen. However, some rather recent scholarship has shown that Dogen, while focused on Zazen, was not an opponent of some ritual and ceremony by any means ... he was, after all, just a Buddhist priest following many traditions ...

    Although Dogen clearly extolled zazen (both the seated posture and the samadhi it promotes) as the sine qua non of Buddhism, it would be mistaken to conclude from this that he rejected all other forms of Buddhist practice. The specific rituals that seem to be disavowed in the Bendowa passage are all prescribed for Zen monks, often in great detail, in Dogen's other writings. In Kuyo shobutsu, Dogen recommends the practice of offering incense and making worshipful prostrations before Buddha images and stupas, as prescribed in the sutras and Vinaya texts. In Raihai tokuzui he urges trainees to reverence enlightened teachers and to make offerings and prostrations to them, describing this as a practice which helps pave the way to one's own awakening. In Chiji shingi he stipulates that the vegetable garden manager in a monastery should participate together with the main body of monks in sutra chanting services (fugin), recitation services (nenju) in which buddhas' names are chanted (a form of nenbutsu practice), and other major ceremonies, and that he should burn incense and make prostrations (shoko raihai) and recite the buddhas' names in prayer morning and evening when at work in the garden. The practice of repentences (sange) is encouraged in Dogen's Kesa kudoku, in his Sanji go, and his Keisei sanshiki . Finally, in Kankin, Dogen gives detailed directions for sutra reading services (kankin) in which, as he explains, texts could be read either silently or aloud as a means of producing merit to be dedicated to any number of ends, including the satisfaction of wishes made by lay donors, or prayers on behalf of the emperor.

    History of the Soto Zen School
    by T. Griffith Foulk
    http://www.terebess.hu/english/zenschool.html
    (Although, if I may say, the beads probably remain less the focus of attention in Japanese Soto than in any of the other Japanese schools such as Jodo, Nichiren, Tendai and Shingon ... not sure about Rinzai practice. Soto priests may wear them but, as far as I know, they are not used very much for particular purpose outside of such ceremonies. Some Soto priests may develop a special feeling for the Juzu, but that is there own personal feeling and philosophy. Most lay followers in all traditions and all countries would have beads and wear them for funerals and such, but most would just do so as a custom without any particular idea why or what they stand for.

    So, why do I wear beads sometimes? Good question!

    Well, why do I wear a Grateful Dead t-shirt sometimes?

    In all seriousness, it may be more a symbol for being a Buddhist in my mind than anything else, much as a Star of David for Judaism or a Cross on a chain for Christians. I do not consider them much more than that in my mind. ... more a symbol of our tradition than anything. Others may have other views.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS --- and if that is not enough here are a few other interesting Mala Facts from various schools and from a Mala manufacturer ... make sure you have it on the right hand, or is it the left?


    {Explanation from a Pure Land temple in California] The Nenjie is always held in the left hand since the left hand represents the world of Samsara with its 108 Bonno. The right hand represents the world of Nirvana. It is through the use of the Nenju that the two utterly different worlds of Samsara and Nirvana are seen in their essential Oneness - that is to say, the bringing together of the left hand of Samsara and the right hand of Nirvana into the Oneness of the Gassho. From a Jodoshinshu point of view, one can say that the left hand of Samsara, of the 108 passions of egotism is the world of Namo, of "I, myself; me." The right hand of Nirvana is the world of Amidabutsu, the real world of Amida Buddha. The Nenju brings together these two seemingly opposite worlds into the Oneness of Namoamidabutsu; not Namo, or Amidabutsu separately, but Namoamidabutsu.

    In the Nishi Hongwanji tradition of Jodoshinshu, the Nenju encircles the hands in Gassho with the tassel or strings hanging below the two palms and the two thumbs resting lightly on the beads. There are a number of ways of holding the Nenju depending upon the sect, school, or tradition of Buddhism. The Jodo Sect of Honen Shonin for example, places the Nenju around the thumbs of the hands in Gassho. The Higashi Honganji tradition of Jodoshinshu places the Nenju around the hands in Gassho with the string or tassel end held between the thumbs and base of the index fingers. Priests of the Shingon Sect (Koyasan) use several gestures depending upon the ceremony, one of them being to drape the Nenju around the index finger of the left hand and the

    middle finger of the right hand at the Oyadama and enclosing the strand of beads between the two palms. The beads are then rubbed together producing a raffling sound. When not in use, the Nenju is held in the left hand or placed around the left wrist.
    http://www.senshintemple.org/prajna/10_03.html
    From a big Juzu manufacturer in Japan ... and perhaps the mirror image of what was said above ...

    A rosary is rightly worn on your left wrist when you are sitting and is rightly held in your left hand when walking; the left hand represents the pure world of the Buddha, the right hand the religious world we walk in.
    http://www.echizenya.co.jp/english/juzu1.htm
    also ...

    The mala is traditionally worn by Buddhist monks, nuns and lay practitioners around the left wrist. It can be worn also around the neck, but take care not to make prayers while it is worn this way. The reason for this, as told to us by a Tibetan monk, is that the purpose, or intention of jewelry is as an adornment. A mala’s purpose is for making blessings. To use your mala, it’s recommended to always hold it in your left hand. This may be tradition, but there are probably Tantric reasons for it that are related to energy – channels and chakras.
    http://the12stepbuddhist.com/what-is...n-prayer-beads
    Hindu tradition holds that the correct way to use a mala is with the right hand, with the thumb flicking one bead to the next, and with the mala draped over the middle finger. The index finger was considered rude, and so was also considered bad to use it with a mala. Buddhism, however, explained that there was no sense in this, and so taught that it was perfectly acceptable to use the mala in the left hand with any fingers. In Tibetan Buddhism (tantra), depending on the practice, there may be preferred ways of holding the mala (left or right hand, rolling the beads over the index or any of the other fingers etc..
    http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Japa_mala/id/505274
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-12-2013 at 02:28 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  13. #13
    Having practiced both Chan and Tendai in the past I have several sets of juzu laying around. However, since my practice has settled into strictly zen/zazen, they have not seen the light of day in a few years. Though perhaps they will again.
    Neika / Ian Adams

    寧 Nei - Peaceful/Courteous
    火 Ka - Fire

    Look for Buddha outside your own mind, and Buddha becomes the devil. --Dogen

  14. #14
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    I have a special mala that my dad brought me from India when he went on a long fishing trip. I used to wear it every day, back before I practiced or knew much of Zen. I would do mantra meditation instead. When I started wearing it alongside my zen practice, it just started to feel like useless decoration. I realized that all I wanted was a symbol that people could see and recognize me as Buddhist. So, now I just wear them every once in a while. I relate to how it can kind of feel like a more casual replacement for a rakusu, and usually it is worn as such, though I know that one does not mean the other.
    迎 Geika

  15. #15
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    I have quite a few wrist malas, most of them presents: a jade one from my husband, two wood and stone ones from my friend Rosie (the only other Buddhist I know "in person"); and my favorite, a plastic beaded piece of junk my oldest and best friend got me from the drug store when malas were fashionable some years ago. It's been broken and restrung and has a special place on my altar. I guess I just wear them like friendship bracelets!

    Gassho

    Jen
    The result is not the point; it is the effort to improve ourselves that is valuable. There is no end to this practice. --Shunryu Suzuki

  16. #16
    I have quite a few: a sandalwood one with Kannon carved into each bead, a pure land one with two guru beads, some random ones. I wear them merely as a reminder to live the middle way.
    Hogen (Matt); formerly "mcurtiss"

  17. #17
    Hello,

    although Malas don't feature in any kind of regular practise regime of mine, I simply like them and have one Juzu which I bought in Kyoto a few years ago which to me seems like it was made for me....but as far as practise equipment goes, all one needs IMHO is one's butt and one's cushion.

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Chudo Mongen, Ordained Novice Priest-in-Training

  18. #18
    Thank you Jundo for the link and information,

    I have made from this site an informal juzu, like in the section "zen shu" with 27 pearls (1/4) and added a ring like the big one.

    It is just a reminder, i don't practice with it, an maybe a symbol of a zen school.

    Gassho
    Myoshin 妙 心
    "A person who receives the Buddhist Precepts enters the state of Buddha at once. They stand at the same level as Gautama Buddha. We can say they are a child of the Buddha." Jundo

  19. #19
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    I have to admit, when I did wear the small set (before they were slam danced off of me) I did notice a certain secret club sort of feeling whenever I visited Chinatown in NYC. Actually I think some of the Chinese merchants and waiters just got a sort of kick out of it.

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