Results 1 to 23 of 23

Thread: Mala beads

  1. #1

    Mala beads

    There was a discussion awhile back about mala beads. Could someone help me find it? If not, I just wanted to post a question. I just bought some this afternoon. I know they are not something we specifically use here at Treeleaf, but can anyone tell me how they incorporate them into their practice.


  2. #2
    Hi Joyo,

    I found three old threads where you can read tons of comments

    Happy exploring!

  3. #3
    Hi Joyo.

    I have a mala, which I wear sometimes wrapped in my wrist.
    At first I used to wear it to remind me of my commitment to buddhism.
    Then I learnt to use them to chant mantras, altough I don't do it anymore.

    As far as I know one starts in the first bead after the guru bead (the central one) and repeats the mantra (for example Om Mani Padme Hum) once for each bed, except for the guru bead that should not be touched. Once you finish you turn the mala the other way around to start again without touching the guru bead.

    It's just one of the methods out there, you can find others googling.

    I do not find it very useful in the little I know about zen practice, it is more related to other schools of Buddhism, with more ritual elements, I think.


    P.S.: Perhaps I could start wearing them again to remind me of saying the meal gatha on time for example

  4. #4
    Hiya Joyo,

    Just bought some mala beads a few days ago as well. Nindo pretty much summed it up. I just wear it as a necklace and it serves as a Dharma reminder.

    Gassho, John

  5. #5
    Hi, I forgot to say that I use them on the right wrist, because on the left wrist I use the watch.Gassho,Walter.

  6. #6
    Thank you everyone, thank you Nindo. That is very kind of you to post these threads for me, thank you


  7. #7
    You are very welcome!

  8. #8
    I've only used them a couple of times in my life when I experienced something extremely shocking. Reciting the short mantra for each bead focused my mind.

    Kind regards. /\
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  9. #9

    This was on another link, but I will repost here anyway. Much MUCH MUCH more info than probably anyone wants or needs on Juzu beads ...


    First. let me just touch on your question "is a Practice such as reciting Buddha's name (or even the Christian Rosary) 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.


    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) ...

    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:

    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
    (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.
    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.
    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.
    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..

  10. #10
    Hi Joyo!

    I've used mala beads long before I had any other kind of practice. I get distracted with my own thoughts very quickly, so I've used my mala beads to stay on target for non-theistic prayer. Mostly - I use them in my own practice of gratitude. I find a great deal of joy in going around my mala, recognizing something beautiful in my life with each bead. I don't feel any obligation to go through all 108 beads - sometimes I'll just do a quarter or a half as my mala has convenient markers. The beads help me focus instead of chasing mental rabbits.

  11. #11
    Treeleaf Priest / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Virginia, USA
    Hi Joyo,

    I made a mala / juzu a few years ago (with some of Erin's beads -- thank you!). I wear it wrapped around my arm most days. For me, it is a reminder to embody the teachings and precepts as best I can in daily life. When the cushion is far away and the rakusu is folded in its bag, the beads are there, a gentle reminder to count to ten before responding in anger, to recall the Nurturing Seeds practice, or just to remember that we are each children of Buddha.

    Sometimes I do simply sit with them, passing one bead through the hand with each breath, coming back to the present moment over and over again. This is not something I do instead of Shikantaza, nor is it something I do during Shikantaza. It is just another practice I sometimes follow, in the way some of us do Yoga sometimes, and Shikantaza other times.

    I know that in Zen, the beads are less of "a thing" than in some other Buddhist tradition. However, they are an important part of my daily practice, a reminder to return and be present for things as they are. Really, I suppose just about anything would work (even a rubberband if it isn't too tight). But it also isn't particularly difficult to make a set from any beads you might already have. Jundo has provided links with lots of info above. The bead pattern I followed originally was 66/14/7, but I don't think it matters much:

    Deep bows,
    Sekishi | 石志 | He/him | Better with a grain of salt, but best ignored entirely.

  12. #12
    Thank you everyone, this has been such a helpful thread!!

    Erin, my mind is often chasing rabbits as well. It has gotten better with the 2 yrs that I've been practicing Zen, but there's always room for improvement =) So, I do like the idea of wearing them as a reminder.

    Also, Sekishi, what you said about wearing them as a reminder to be in the present with the way things are. This has been my main goal during Ango, and I am most definitely going to use them as part of that.

    Thanks again, to everyone to posted here.


  13. #13
    I still have my Jodo juzu. Probably never use them again.

    Sent from my RM-917_nam_usa_100 using Tapatalk
    Forever is so very temporary...

  14. #14
    Hello Reverend,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    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.
    It's interesting you should mention that. I have an somewhat unusual juzu specific to Jodo-Shu here:

    I used to reuglarly recite the nembutsu 1,080 times (takes roughly 15-20 minutes) and would use that to count, in addition to the beads at the bottom which would track things for the long-haul.

    But yes, when you chant long, i wouldn't say it's soothing as such, but you do get into a kind fo "zone", but also I found it kind of instructive on how my mind works. Within that 15-20 minute span of time, my mind would usually transition through a few stages:

    1) The eager phase: Yeah ,this is great, I should keep doing this more often
    2) The impatient phase: Am I halfway there yet?
    3) The bored phase: Man, I'll never get through this
    4) The relief phase: Almost there....

    I found when I started meditating that I would observe some of these same patterns too. With the juzu beads, i could "check my progress", which is actually a bit distracting, but hard to resits. With meditation you can't keep track of time as easily, so it's a bit different.

    But it's interesting how Buddhist practice can really show you how your own mind works, for better or worse.

  15. #15
    Lovely! Seeing how the mind works, with all its wanting and boredom and resisting is very vital. I would just add a Shikantaza take on this.

    1) The eager phase: Yeah ,this is great, I should keep doing this more often ... all as, simultaneously, just be here, no other place to be or could ever be.
    2) The impatient phase: Am I halfway there yet? ... all as, simultaneously, just be here, no other place to be or could ever be.
    3) The bored phase: Man, I'll never get through this ... all as, simultaneously, just be here, no other place to be or could ever be.
    4) The relief phase: Almost there.... ... all as, simultaneously, just be here, no other place to be or could ever be.

    THERE! ... all as, simultaneously, just be here, no other place to be or could ever be, HERE/THERE ALL ALONG!

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-26-2014 at 07:35 AM.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I would just add a Shikantaza take on this.

    ... all as, simultaneously, just be here, no other place to be or could ever be.
    Quite so, Reverend, and thanks for adding the Shikantaza spin on this.

  17. #17
    I have a couple of sets of mala beads, one rather long set that can be worn around the neck or wrapped several times around the wrist, and a few small sets that just go around the wrist. I wear the small set around my wrist, every day, in fact I wear it 24/7. Why? Because it was a gift from a lovely Buddhist nun, the first Buddhist nun I ever met, and it reminds me of her. No other reason. It just makes me happy.

  18. #18
    I know that feelling. My wife's family in Japan is good friends with a certain "temple family". We've watched their kids grow up, they've watched our's, etc. But they know of my interest in Buddhism, so sometimes they've given me nice mala beads too. They had a certain tree in their property they had to cut down because of some structural issue, but what did they do with the wood? Get some mala beads made, and i received one such bead.

    I don't carry it around much, but I keep it in a nice box near the home altar as a nice reminder of their generosity.

  19. #19
    I have a well worn mala that was gifted to me by my first teacher who was a student of Chogyam Trungpa and later Kobun Chino. I keep them more as a memento of my time with Sokuzan but I do pull them out for a round of Om Manis or medicine Buddhas now and then.

    "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
    Henry David Thoreau, Walden

  20. #20
    I've been wearing mine at school. I'm a teacher's assistant, therefore, deal with all the troubled (aka disrespectful) kids. It's a good reminder of my practice at a time when it is definitely needed


  21. #21
    Hi all, I was just thinking about this the other day when I went by a gift shop in the mall. They sold many mala beads and also the long 108 bead necklaces. I am thinking of getting some though, as a reminder like Joyo spoke of, but also I think it might be a good way to start a conversation if someone asks.

    Incidentally, in the Tai Chi long form there are 108 moves, and there is the 18 Lohan Qi gong sequence. The style of Kung Fu I practice is Choy Lee Fut ( Fut being Buddha). Our founder studied under a Shaolin Monk named Choy Fook who insisted he learn Buddhism or he would not teach him Kung Fu.


  22. #22
    I wear my Mala/Juzu instead of a watch,
    the time is always now.


  23. #23
    I like my Mala. I find the tactile presence of the beads very centering, and the repetition calming. Even just the presence of their cool weight under my shirt when I wear them is a great reminder. There's no mystical power in the beads. Nothing special about repeating the mantra. It's not a goal, or a practice; its something to which I can apply my practice of Zen, much like some may knit, or paint, or whatever one does to relax. That's what I see the Mala as... a relaxation technique.
    護道 安海

    -Godo Ankai

    I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts