Malas - what do you think?

Malas - what do you think?

Postby Hickersonia » Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:33 am

Hello friends,

I have seen people practice recitations with a mala and have wondered whether it is something I ought to consider doing myself. I've noticed that they can be bought online but I wasn't sure if maybe this was the sort of thing that shouldn't be purchased on amazon... I'm also curious if it matters much what it is made from.

I suppose I'm just curious about the practice from the perspective of other Dharma Wheel members.

Thanks in advance. :) Be well!
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Sep 10, 2013 7:55 am

Mala are useful if you want to count recitations. The "best" material (ie material that can be used for all types of mantra) is made from some sort of wood or seeds.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby Jainarayan » Tue Sep 10, 2013 2:43 pm

Hickersonia wrote:I suppose I'm just curious about the practice from the perspective of other Dharma Wheel members.


Personally, I find a mala distracting. I would just rather chant the mantra, sub-vocally or mentally, without counting, as many times and for as long as I can or want to.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby dimeo » Wed Sep 11, 2013 3:15 am

I found using a mala to really help my practice. I'm really happy I got into using them. It's such a simple, basic, inexpensive thing in some ways, and super powerful at the same time. (Kind of like how a pencil is so basic and yet can do so much! )

It's a neat way to keep 'count' just by moving your fingers and also can also function like a timer to count down your mediation time with each breath.

I find it really helps to deepen my meditation and to more mindful of the breath. So after two full slow breaths in and out, I push a bead forward until I reach the end of the set. (If I ever lose my attention, I just resume being mindful and go on with the next breath.) I've a string of 36 beads, I do 3 times in a row. I like to start with this, and then continue to meditate without this object or support after.

You can just use an old beaded necklace, rosary, or whatever at the used clothing store / Goodwill etc. I found some beads I liked and made one in a few minutes. I've made some with 50 smaller beads.
If I wear it wrapped around my wrist during the day it helps remind me to be mindful and compassionate, to meditate again soon and other such things.
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby PorkChop » Wed Sep 11, 2013 3:31 am

This is the mala I use. At $6 after shipping, it's pretty cheap. Maybe not the prettiest, but beautiful in a utilitarian sense. It has an elastic cord, which really helps. The beads are smooth with a nice feel. The beads have a sweet sandalwood (incense) smell at the beginning. Over time the beads have kind of turned greenish-blue, which was kind of trippy when I was doing a lot of Medicine Buddha dharani.
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby Hickersonia » Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:07 pm

PorkChop, with the mala to which you linked, does there appear to be any kind of "finish" applied to the wood? I seem to be allergic to exposure to either certain kinds of wood or certain kids of finishes (I can't necessarily tell which yet). At that price, I can justify the "cost risk" as it won't really hurt my pocket any and the reaction isn't anything dangerous.

I've seen malas on amazon made from quartz (and other gemstones) but I feel like I'd be buying jewelry instead of a practice aid, know what I mean? And they're generally more costly, although not prohibitively so.

I greatly appreciate the various insights shared on the matter, friends. :) Thank you very much.
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby PorkChop » Wed Sep 11, 2013 3:25 pm

I can definitely say that it's not lacquered up like many wooden malas. But if they added some sandalwood oil (or something that doesn't obviously coat the beads) to keep it smooth at some point, that I cannot say. sorry.
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby Qing Tian » Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:36 am

Porkchop, I have the same mala that I wear on my wrist most days. Had it about a year and the scent is now quite faded. The beads themselves do not appear to be 'finished' with anything and mine have taken on hues from gold to dark green! I find this set a little small to use comfortably but I wear it as a reminder to incorporate dharma in my life. At $6 it is exceptionally cheap. Also, having an elastic cord allows me to actually fit it on my wrist in 4 loops. I have other malas made of rosewood or bone that are about the same length that don't fit because they have fixed cord. These now adorn my altar instead.

In general, if I am chanting I will use a bodhi seed mala strung on an old piece of string (!) that I got off ebay for $11. I love the feel of various seeds - pipal tree seeds are quite interesting, as are rudrashka.

Also, I wouldn't recommend gemstones of any description for regular use as they are often a) more expensive, b) easier to damage, and c) are affected by the oils on your skin.

This site has some nice examples, and they ship internationally (on malas) from Hawaii at no cost! The owner is very pleasant to deal with and is willing to make all sorts of changes on request.
There are, of course, many places that sell malas online but the prices can vary quite dramatically.

Hope that helps a little.
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby KonchokZoepa » Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:12 pm

http://vajratool.wordpress.com/2011/02/ ... -rinpoche/

here is an interesting article, originating from Padmasambhava
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby Qing Tian » Fri Sep 13, 2013 11:39 pm

My mala is simply a counting tool and a reminder of practice. What it is made from is largely irrelevant to me, although I do have a preference for wood and seeds - simply for the natural warmth of feeling. The notion that the substance of the tool magnifies the skill/intention of the user does not sit well in my mind. :shrug:
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby Hickersonia » Fri Sep 13, 2013 11:43 pm

Qing Tian wrote:The notion that the substance of the tool magnifies the skill/intention of the user does not sit well in my mind. :shrug:

I feel similarly... I have heard it said that crystals seem to do things with the body's energy, but without being able to actively demonstrate that, I've not worried about it much.
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby not1not2 » Thu Sep 19, 2013 3:45 am

I use a hand mala when mentally chanting, but don't use it for counting. They are rather large, smooth jade beads and I use them as sort of a tactile mindfulness "anchor." Also will wear wrist malas of lotus seed or bone as "dharma reminders." Earl
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby lobster » Mon Sep 23, 2013 2:18 pm

You don't need a mala
http://western-hindu.org/2010/01/01/how-to-chant-a-mantra-108-times-without-mala-beads/

There are phone and tablet 'Mala apps'.
Personally I prefer a simple string of wood beads or seeds if using this method. Normally I just chant till I stop, not really into numbers.

The association and calm of a ritual practice implement can be very empowering. Try. Find out what works. Let us know what is best for you :twothumbsup:
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby MalaBeads » Mon Sep 23, 2013 3:41 pm

Hi,

I've had three malas in my life. Or maybe I should say, I recently purchased my third one.

The first one i purchased around 1981 or 82 from a Tibet Shop in SF. I was very new to the dharma and had no ideas at all about what one should do or not do. The mala I chose in the shop was in a special display case and was probably not for sale at all. But I asked about it, held it in my hand and immediately knew I wanted it. I'm pretty sure it was a bodhi seed mala and it was worn smooth. I asked to buy it and the shop fellow sold it to me. Almost immediately, I lost it. One interesting thing about it was, it had a smoke smell. Not an incense smell but a cigarette smell. I've actually never understood any of those circumstances.

My second mala was a small rose crystal wrist mala from Thailand that I bought in a commercial non-dharma shop for $5. I wore once to a Dharma teaching and curiously enough at one point it simply slipped off my wrist. I was stunned, as in, how did that happen? I did use this mala a few times but mostly not, it stayed in a small cedar chest that my grandma gave me. Then one day, i was at gas station, filling my car to go to teaching with Sangym Kamala that was a four drive away. I had the mala on my wrist. As I was walking back to my car, after paying for my gas, the mala again slipped off my wrist, seemingly by itself. Only this time it broke, the beads scattering everywhere and I stepped on one of them. Luckily I didn't slip and fall. I gathered up as many as I could but eventually decided to throw them away.

My third mala I only recently brought, again in an actual Dharma shop. Not having alot of money and not knowing what to buy, i asked the shop woman for a recommendation. She showed me a lotus seed mala and I said okay and purchased that. This time i also purchased counters (heaven knows why since I not in the habit of counting mantras!) Before i left the shop the saleswoman offered to let me hold her mala for a moment and I did. I could tell just from holding her mala that she had an actual dharma practice.

I probably should add that when I was in Dharmasala I purchased 75 amber beads that were strung together by the shop guy and tied with, as he said, "a real tantric knot". This is not a real mala as it does not not have 108 beads, even though i think it does have a guru bead and and is properly tied. When I bought my third mala just recently, I took the Dharmasala mala with me and asked the shop woman if I could trade it for one in her shop. She looked at it for quite awhile and finally said no. I'm assuming she said that because it was not a real mala with 108 beads. I have often worn the amber "mala" as a necklace although I think i have done mantra with it a few times.

And then of course, theres my screen name here "malabeads". Which Malcolm so kindly explained once - "mala" meaning "shi*" in some language or other.

I'm not sure why I'm relating all this here except some of it is kind of curious to me. Like loosing for the first mala immediately and having the second one slip off my wrist seemingly by itself twice, once at a dharma teaching and once when I was on my way to a Dharma teaching. And all the circumstances of buying the third one.

So if i were to give any advice to the opening poster it would be this. From my own experience, I would purchase a mala only from an actual Dharma store. You can ask the shopkeeper for a recommendation as well. If I were to purchase yet another mala, I would probably get a simple bodhi seed one but thats just me.

I have come to understand that mantra practice is effective. Good luck.
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby Jainarayan » Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:54 pm

MalaBeads wrote:And then of course, theres my screen name here "malabeads". Which Malcolm so kindly explained once - "mala" meaning "shi*" in some language or other.


Sanskrit. Mala with short a (approximately muh-luh, or like the a in 'about') means excrement, refuse, waste. Mālā with long a (mah-lah) is the string of beads. ;)
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby yan kong » Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:48 pm

I have a simple set of sandal wood beads. I use it just so I don't have to think about the number when chanting. I tried to use them to count prostrations but the Chinese style of prostrations does not lend well to using beads.
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby SongSau » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:21 pm

I've found a mala very conducive to continuous moment to moment practice. Every moment that I can, I am reciting Amitabha with my breath (in: "ami" out: "tabha") and turning the beads, and it is a good reminder to hold a mantra in your head throughout the day. I feel a definite calming effect from the practice, and I recommend it to anyone looking to move their meditation off of the cushion and in to their everyday life.
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby RikudouSennin » Fri Nov 08, 2013 3:23 am

i enjoy the use of mala, it helps me to keep count of daily recitation among other things
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby RikudouSennin » Fri Nov 08, 2013 3:35 am

i like to pronounce it as ami~TA~bha {अमिताभ}while turning blessed beads, if i'm not mistaken that's how the sanskrit should be pronounced with the short, long, short [अमि{ता}भ]producing a rythmic recitation vibration

you can also use your hand as a mala, open your right hand so your palm faces your face take your thumb,
1) begin by placing the thumb in the middle of your ring finger say amitabha,
2)move down a space say amitabha,
3)move your thumb inbetween the palm lines of the bottom of your pinky say amitabha
4)move up say amitabha
5)move up say amitabha
6) now touch the top of your ring finger and say amitabha
7) touch top of middle finger say amitabha
8) touch top of index say amitabha
9) move down say amitabha
10)move down say amitabha

btw i use tulsi wood mala brought back from india, i never paid for my malas, always received them as gifts and will send one if you would like
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Re: Malas - what do you think?

Postby mandala » Fri Nov 08, 2013 3:38 pm

I think the most important thing is that you like it, whatever you choose is something you have an affinity for.

I feel like a bit of a jerk saying I have a silver mala these days. I didn't seek it out, but found one in a dharma shop & liked it, it's very tactile & weighty. Previously I felt a bit self conscious wearing sandalwood malas because it's quite obvious, whereas the silver mala mostly passes as jewelry to most people. Sometimes people will ask me about it, and I don't mind that either.

I remember when my sandalwood mala finally broke and the beads went cascading all over the floor - it was funny afterwards but i was a bit devastated at the time :P
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