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Thread: Zen and Mala?

  1. #1

    Zen and Mala?

    As you all know, I'm still a beginner to Buddhism. I know that many schools use the mala as a tool for prayer and/or chanting. I have heard that Zen isn't big on the use of mala, but some schools make some use of them.

    I was wondering whether Soto ever uses mala? Is there any reason perhaps that I shouldn't keep or wear one?

    Gassho,
    Victor
    "Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train"-Ueshiba Morihei

  2. #2
    JUNDO NOTE - I UPDATED SHINGEN'S LINK TO ONE A LITTLE MORE RECENT

    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    As you all know, I'm still a beginner to Buddhism. I know that many schools use the mala as a tool for prayer and/or chanting. I have heard that Zen isn't big on the use of mala, but some schools make some use of them.

    I was wondering whether Soto ever uses mala? Is there any reason perhaps that I shouldn't keep or wear one?

    Gassho,
    Victor
    Hey Victor,

    I know some folks were the mala as a form on connection or reminder of their practice while out in the world. So it is up to you. The Juzu is a little different then the standard mala, but each to their own. Here is a helpful link that gives some good feedback on what you are asking ...

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...l=1#post194472

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat/LAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-11-2019 at 11:31 PM.
    RINDO SHINGEN
    倫道 真現

  3. #3
    Thanks so much Shingen!
    I feel kind of the same about mala. I don't use them in practice really, but they serve as a reminder for me, especially since I haven't sewn a rakusu or attended jukai yet. For me, it serves like the invisible rakusu in my heart in a way. I have a set with small beads that I wear out of the house and a set that I just made with rather large beads so I can wear them while I do hard work and training around my home and not worry about them getting in the way or broken.

    Thank you again!
    Gassho
    "Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train"-Ueshiba Morihei

  4. #4
    Hi Victor,

    I second what Shingen says, but I updated the link in his post to one a little more recent. I think the content is about the same however.

    Here is the link, and I repost it below just in case ...

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...l=1#post194472

    ===============

    We have had a few threads in the past on this, so allow me to repost a few bit and pieces from those threads ... Much MUCH MUCH more info than probably anyone wants or needs on Juzu [Mala] 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. Period, end of story, case closed.

    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 specific styles and use of Juzu for the Soto and other schools, 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 repetitions 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
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    Thank you again Jundo!

    Do most wear them on the wrist, or does anyone else prefer to wear them about the neck when out in the world?

    Gassho
    "Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train"-Ueshiba Morihei

  6. #6
    I have a few nice wrist malas. One was given to me by a long time friend just before he died. I don't use them as part of my practice but to me they are just reminders like Shingen said. I also have a neck mala that I wear sometimes but I am conscious not to be showy about it.

    Gassho
    Sat Today
    James

  7. #7
    Joyo
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    Thanks so much Shingen!
    I feel kind of the same about mala. I don't use them in practice really, but they serve as a reminder for me, especially since I haven't sewn a rakusu or attended jukai yet. For me, it serves like the invisible rakusu in my heart in a way. I have a set with small beads that I wear out of the house and a set that I just made with rather large beads so I can wear them while I do hard work and training around my home and not worry about them getting in the way or broken.

    Thank you again!
    Gassho
    Hello, I feel the same as you, I wear my mala beads around my neck every time I leave the house. I rarely (if ever) use them as part of my practice, they are just there to serve the purpose of reminding myself of my practice on a daily basis.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today/lah

  8. #8
    I have and use mala beads for my Tibetan practice (mantras, etc.). I also have and use bead counters for use with my mala beads -- for my Tibetan practice.

    I also practice shikantaza -- separately.

    So I practice Japanese Soto Zen Buddhism, and I practice Tibetan Buddhism. Just not at the same time. Different practices for different reasons.

    I do not wear my mala beads around my neck (too uncomfortable, and the bead counters would cause problems), but I do keep them in my bag.

    gassho
    kim
    st/lh
    "Not all those who wander are lost." (J.R.R. Tolkien)

  9. #9
    Custom Mala.jpg
    Had my sister, an avid beader, make this custom mala partially from the TNP and partly from recycled beads. I use it when my mind won't settle down in an agitated state when I'm meditating. It's also a way of timekeeping when I don't have a timer.
    Sat/LAH

    Kyousui - strong waters 強 水

  10. #10
    I keep mine in my pocket at work, as a reminder to stay present. I also wear them round my wrist when not in the office, although I'll be switching to my left wrist now. They are just a reminder though and don't form any substantial part of my practice.

    Gassho,

    Neil

    Sat today

  11. #11
    Member Geika's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    San Diego County, California
    I have some beads that my dad brought me from India, but I haven't worn them in quite a while. I re-strung them several times. After the last time they broke, I pretty much retired them. Maybe I'll fix them again someday.

    Gassho

    Sat today, lah

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk
    迎 Geika

  12. #12
    Thank you for the illuminating details, Jundo.

    I just liked the look of mala and juzu long before I got interested in Buddhism, so I have several of various colours. I wear my juzu wrapped around my wrist several times, I think it looks kind of silly on me around the neck. Every time I put them on now I realize they have significance (though perhaps not many people know) and it makes me feel a little weird because I'd rather not show off. At the same time, I'm still putting them on. I usually overthink this kind of thing, so maybe it's for the best.

    There's a videogame series called Samurai Shodown that has a character named Gaira who fights with a giant mala he wears around his shoulders. Probably not their intended use.


    Gassho,
    Kenny
    Sat Today

  13. #13
    I just wanted to share my mala sets for anyone who is interested. The first one is a mala I bought last year when I first became more dedicated to Zen. The second is a giant mala I made inspired by Shaolin and fantasy monks for when I'm doing work or training at home. I make a point to rarely wear it outside of my home because of its size, but it is more comfortable to wear while working than the other.

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk
    "Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train"-Ueshiba Morihei

  14. #14
    Member Getchi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.
    Thats sweet

    I have 3 pairs, one is basically dust (80+years, plus a heavy physical accident) one is black and (i think) resin, the other is clay fired cats, each painted different and bestowed to me by my children on my 38th birthday. Ill borrow my wifes camera later and take a photo too!

    In public, I only ever wear the cat mala with the black mala. Its pretty obviously not a fashion item around my parts
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  15. #15
    Those sound great and I look forward to seeing pictures! I finally finished a project I started like 5 years ago or so!

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk
    "Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train"-Ueshiba Morihei

  16. #16
    I have been wearing this small wrist one nearly every day since 2013 or so. I think I paid $1 for it. I recently restrung it since the band was wearing out, and added the ring. I have also a few 108 bead malas; the main one I use and sometimes wear is a bodhi seed one I strung/knotted myself. I have a large Tiger's Eye one and a smaller Red Jasper one as well (both made by other people). I've used them for mantra recitations over the years, and I wear the small one as a reminder of practice; I chose skulls to serve as a reminder of impermanence, and I added the ring to represent an Enso. I like having the reminder, and it makes a nice way to start a conversation if someone askes me about it. I carry a small flat, bronze Buddha in my right pocket every day as well, it's my "pebble" practice adopted from Thich Nhat Hanh's suggestion in some of his books.

    IMG_1899.jpg

    IMG_1900.jpg

    Gassho
    Kendrick
    SatTonight/LAH

  17. #17
    I don't use them personally but do need something in front of me to center at the moment like a candle or other object because I can't do the wall well at the moment.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Kendrick View Post
    I have been wearing this small wrist one nearly every day since 2013 or so. I think I paid $1 for it. I recently restrung it since the band was wearing out, and added the ring. I have also a few 108 bead malas; the main one I use and sometimes wear is a bodhi seed one I strung/knotted myself. I have a large Tiger's Eye one and a smaller Red Jasper one as well (both made by other people). I've used them for mantra recitations over the years, and I wear the small one as a reminder of practice; I chose skulls to serve as a reminder of impermanence, and I added the ring to represent an Enso. I like having the reminder, and it makes a nice way to start a conversation if someone askes me about it. I carry a small flat, bronze Buddha in my right pocket every day as well, it's my "pebble" practice adopted from Thich Nhat Hanh's suggestion in some of his books.

    IMG_1899.jpg

    IMG_1900.jpg

    Gassho
    Kendrick
    SatTonight/LAH
    Those are awesome! Thanks for sharing!

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk
    "Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train"-Ueshiba Morihei

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by karlmalachut View Post
    I don't use them personally but do need something in front of me to center at the moment like a candle or other object because I can't do the wall well at the moment.
    I use something like that occasionally as well!

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk
    "Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train"-Ueshiba Morihei

  20. #20
    I don't have any, but this thread is really making me want one for myself.

    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat/LAH

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by mateus.baldin View Post
    I don't have any, but this thread is really making me want one for myself.

    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat/LAH
    If you feel drawn to it, I see no reason not to own either a wrist or neck mala

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk
    "Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train"-Ueshiba Morihei

  22. #22
    I want to see that cat mala!
    Gassho
    Meitou
    satwithyoualllah
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

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