Mala beads: to wear or not wear

topic posted Mon, July 11, 2005 - 7:13 PM by  Shane
I wear my mala or japa beads around my neck and as a reminder. My dear friend who is a Buddhist only wears his mala beads for protection on certain occasions, but will wear the red string that Buddhists wear i.e. for protection at all times. He said Trungpa Rinpoche said that mala beads can be used as spiritual materialism in this country i.e. flaunting ones spirituality or wearing mala beads as jewlery and not practicing. They are for practice and I do practice using them, but wonder what others on this Bhakti yoga tribe think about wearing them around your neck. I wonder if the red string Buddhists wear contridictes Trungpa's thought of spiritual materialism. Swami Sivananda said to always wear mala beads around your neck or carry them in your pocket. I can see Trungpa's point, but wonder if this holds true for someone who uses them as a practice tool. I don't care what others think. I think it is an interesting topic for discussion.
posted by:
  • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

    Mon, July 11, 2005 - 7:42 PM
    PPl who see the devotees wearing their japa make agyata sukriti or unknowing advancement. Especially if they appreciate such spiritual symbols. There in no need to be a in the closet spiritualist, but feel free to express your spiritual interest in our very much materialistic society. It is true however that those who take on such symbols should represent by their character and actions the spiritual philosophy exhibited.
  • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

    Mon, July 11, 2005 - 11:03 PM
    I have learned from my more (classical) tantric teachers that mala beads one uses for actively chanting with are not to be seen by other people, as this dissipates the shakti of the prayer you are working up with each repetition- they are to be kept wrapped up in a bag, chanted with beneath a prayer shawl, and not allowed to touch the ground....

    this is not followed by all traditions but i found it useful to my practice for a long time. i now count of my rounds on my hands only and began wearing my mala as a necklace when i heard Amma's voice tell me to have her put it around my neck as I was sitting at her feet awaiting Darshan. Sensitive to energy, I did notice the shakti spreading when others viewed the mala after i first started wearing it around my neck. interesting experience.

    • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

      Tue, July 12, 2005 - 8:07 AM
      we keep our in a japa mala bag (bead bag) for many of the same reasons-protects them as well. i have never worn mine on my neck. always in the bag.
      • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

        Tue, July 12, 2005 - 9:24 AM
        i am glad you asked this question. i have gone back and forth with this at different times, and feel right about what Swami Sivananda says. I feel pretty right about everything he says that i read.

        no doubt they can be used to glorify oneself by wearing them so other people think they are something special, but at the same time if someone is going to stop and consider what the mala are and why one might wear them that is like seeing God or having a window into something greater maybe for that person. you never know when transformation will occur for a person.

        I have a job at a financial institution in downtown SF and often times I don't wear my mala to work, like today, when if I did they would be drawing a lot of attention to myself (based on the type of shirt i am wearing). I use to feel 'well I am not spiritual then' or I am embarassed or something like that, but really I have created a distinction between my spiritual practices and tools and respecting the place I work and its customs. If I were at a restaurant in another country i would not insist on using an eating utensil if they ate with their hands. when in rome. when i am in an asian restaurant i use chopsticks.

        i have also learned for myself that it is much more about the attitude i have than the ornaments i display.
        i try to embody the spiritual practices as though I am wearing my mala while at work. and i do have a principle of respecting tradition that supercedes personal preferences and right and wrong. i am not sure i quite realized that til now as i am writing this. i don't feel i have to assert my beliefs in someone's face, i would rather people feel comfortable around me than bombarded by my beliefs!

        • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

          Tue, July 12, 2005 - 9:38 AM
          absolutely, they will also be much more receptive, u kno without any pre-conceived ideas.
          • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

            Tue, July 12, 2005 - 9:46 AM
            manu, what do you mean? more receptive to what and without any preconceived ideas about what?

            • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

              Tue, July 12, 2005 - 10:14 AM
              well u said ppl would feel more comfortable around u and i was agreeing with u. as opposed to meeting u and feeling uncomfortable.

              take me for example, i am jewelry artist n designer and i dont wear devotional clothes in my line of work, i wear stylsh clothes and ppl i meet for the 1st time would NEVER guess ima "hare krsna" unless they catch a glimpse of my small kanthi mala (neck beads) or can see the outline of my thread thru my shirt. the point is instead of them being like yikes, ppl can get to kno me 4 who i am rather than think uh-oh a hare krsna, and by receptive i mean to who i am and they reciprocate lovingly. eventually i tell them my spiritual practices and they can identify, be like ohh wow, i didnt know and share theirs :)
              • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

                Tue, July 12, 2005 - 10:24 AM
                I wear both, I am in community college and about half the time, (when the weather permits) I wear Dhoti and kurta and tilak, it is not like Manu situation where he is working and needs to attract customers. Buty hundreds of ppl ask me question of eastern culture when i wear devotional clothing and that is most beneficial for them and myself because we then both engage in spiritual talks. Not that I am great or anything, but ppl often open the door for me or take extra steps in showing respect such respect though I personally am not great is greatly appreciated by the Lord. The Vedic scriptures state that even if a person who hears a kirtan and simple appreciates that person is sure to take birth as a human in their next life and make further advancement on the path of Bhakti.
                • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

                  Tue, July 12, 2005 - 10:39 AM
                  yes totally.
                  i love it when someone sees the pendant i have on my neck and asks me who this is and i say my spiritual teacher. because maybe they reminded me to remember my guru in that moment, and they too receive her blessing in their asking.
        • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

          Tue, July 12, 2005 - 10:18 AM
          but most people in general dresses in a fashion that reflects their political beliefs and environmental beliefs, (hippy, environmental activist) why should we restrict our expression to just those aspects. Should we all try to just to fit in?
          • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

            Tue, July 12, 2005 - 10:24 AM
            no no i agree as well, i love to wear my devotional clothes, in the temple, or on harinama, just not to meet clients ;)
            • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

              Tue, July 12, 2005 - 10:28 AM
              Same thing with me when i work in an office i dress totally different. I work from home now mainly so I am free to dress in devotional clothing. I am most likely, by Krishna mercy, moving to Dallas where I would be doing full time service, i look forward to this, one thing is that i would rarely have to wear nondevotional clothing. Dhoti is so comfortable. but you not going to get far or very materially situated doing business in a dhoti.
          • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

            Tue, July 12, 2005 - 10:36 AM
            i saw this probable contradiction when i wrote what i did. i think there is a balance and only we know for ourselves what our motives are-are htey pure or are they to avoid rocking the boat?
            i do both. sometimes i don't want to rock the boat, in fact, most times i don't want to create more upset and tend to err on the side of peace and making another situation/person happy over my own assertion of what's right/what i want. a predicament i am looking at in my life now..

            i have grown more peaceful, probably bordering on complacent as i have done more spiritual practices.
            • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

              Tue, July 12, 2005 - 10:56 AM
              for instance here we just had ratha yatra (its a time honoured tradition in india and has been goin on in the west for the last 37 years- thanx srila prabhupada;) anyway i do love when ppl ask questions like what does this mean, why r u wearing that, why do u have that mark on ur forehead et all. even though it is exotic for them- answering questions helps break down barriers and they see the sense in it.
  • Unsu...

    Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

    Wed, July 13, 2005 - 8:32 AM
    I think you can argue it either way, but for me, this is such a materialist society, that anything we do that inspires others to feel like it's okay to reveal their heart, including to themselves, is a positive

    Overall, when you add it all up, we have only a tiny fraction of the publicly displayed spirituality of the East ... they have no hesitation about proclaiming the deeper truth in many different ways ... doesn't have to be a mala, but in many ways, and I think that helps those cultures a lot

    I mostly keep beads in my pocket, but bring them out sometimes also

    You can make it into a positive, thinking 'may whoever sees or feels this be inspired to find truth, love, devotion, etc and to live it openly in their lives'
    • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

      Wed, July 13, 2005 - 9:06 AM
      <<You can make it into a positive, thinking 'may whoever sees or feels this be inspired to find truth, love, devotion, etc and to live it openly in their lives'>>

      Let us walk our mantra and invoke this with every step of our lives.

      And let us stay in our own business!
      • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

        Wed, July 13, 2005 - 12:44 PM
        i'm for invoking mantra as i walk...

        and for making 'i' statements, friend, in order to stay in my own business. ;-)

        that way i can avoid confusion about who the 'us' is...

        i think as i began to wear thai pants about a month ago and stopped having pockets, the japa came out around my neck more often. i notice when there's a circumstance where viewing them will cause feelings of separation to others or to myself, and wrap them instead and put them in my handbag. i seek out circumstances where wearing my beads and letting my hair down is natural. it's interesting to walk with jata, dreadlocks, on my head i don't have the same options of to wear or not to wear. they're there. they're imbued with prayer and spiritual meaning. i can choose similarly to roll them up on my head or to wear them down, to wrap them in a scarf or leave them visible, and yet as a mala worn under a shirt is still observable the jata are there regardless, and people will have a different reception to i than they did when i was bald. its an interesting litmus test- the circumstances (ie. my father's family's gatherings) where my hair causes them discomfort, these are the scenarios where i do not want to wear my beads to avoid them feeling so separate from i. the circumstances where i feel wearing my hair down draws attention to myself that causes me discomfort (ie. the airport) are likewise scenarios i don't wear obvious spiritual emblems.
        • Re: Mala beads: to wear or not wear

          Fri, July 15, 2005 - 10:33 PM
          there was a time where i wore a mala before i understood what japa was
          it was 'fasionable' but also i believe there was a re-connection to a spiritual practice from the past....
          then there came a time where me and my boyfriend both said.. hey we dont know what these beads are all about so why are we wearing them and i put them down for many years
          more recently i've been initiated and given mantra.. now i wear my mala at all times usually beneath my clothing....unless they rest on the altar of my guru's paduka... or beneath my pillow as i sleep

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