105 bead mala

105 bead mala
Originally uploaded by anselm23

A mala is a string of prayer beads in the Buddhist tradition; my understanding is that that Tibetan Buddhism uses 108 beads. This is partly because one is supposed to say 100 mantras… but there’s always a risk of screwing some up, so it’s best to do 108, and be sure you did an even hundred correctly. It turns out that 108 is the ratio that governs the relationship between the diameter of the earth and the distance to the moon, and the diameter of the Earth-Moon, and the apparent distance to the Sun (I’m not sure that this is true – a back of the envelope estimation suggests that’s wrong, but I recall reading about it as a part of Hindu cosmology, and the reason for the 108 beads).

In any case, this mala has now broken twice. The first time it broke, I lost one bead. The second time, I lost two. Now I’m down to 105.

I re-strung it last night, with a black thread (for flesh), a red thread (for blood), and a white thread (for Spirit). Some Buddhist schools use three threads in malas, too, representing the Buddha (the teacher), the Dharma (the teaching), and the the Sangha (the community). I liked the symbolism of that, but I’m feeling not very community-oriented in my spiritual practice these days.

The first place the strand broke was my own house; that was the original cord. The second place was my girlfriend’s place; that was my first replacement. This time, it was in a restaurant. I pray for the awakening of all beings there, that night — but most especially for the safety of the waiters and waitresses, that they not trip on my two missing beads.

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