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The Sound of One Hand: Reaching Beyond the limits of Traditional Ink Painting

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mala Beads ~ A Prayer Chant ~ Meditation

Sketch of my Mala Beads
by Casey Shannon

I have been chanting and meditating for many years now. It soothes me and relaxes my brain while bringing spirit to my soul. My mala beads or prayer beads help me focus my mind while doing a chanting meditation. My fingers flow over the beads while chanting and help to create focus and a calm within my heart.

What are Mala Beads you ask?
These special beads are called malas (or japa malas), and they have been in existence for thousands of years. You can find them almost anywhere in the world, although their earliest origins stem from India and Nepal – where meditation has been practiced longest. Today anyone can use mala beads as a way to create calm and peace of mind in everyday life. Malas are used in traditional prayer and meditation, although anyone can begin to use malas without prior experience.
 Each mala contains a set number of beads (usually 108) representing spiritual identity and connection with the universe. In meditation the idea is to move one bead at a time, using each movement as an opportunity to focus on a breath or mantra. This process creates positive spiritual energy – known as ‘japa.’

A standard japa mala will usually contain 108 beads, the number representing the coordinates of the spiritual center of the universe. The guru bead (largest bead at the top, or the bead marked with a tassel) represents the sacred bond of the student-teacher relationship. Therefore, when meditating, it is advised to turn around and reverse directions when you reach the guru bead – to avoid “stepping over” one’s teacher. 

What are Malas made of?
Traditional malas are made using organic materials such as plant seed, wood, and animal bone, which are carved or shaped into rounded beads. Historically, malas made of Rudraksha seed are thought to carry special significance, as the seed is believed to hold spiritual and healing power. Similarly, malas made from Bodhi seeds represent the ancient fig tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment more than 3,000 years ago.
 Mala beads made from carved bone are common in Tibetan culture – signifying impermanence and the necessity for compassion during our time in this world. And mala beads made from wood or tagua nut represent a spiritual connection with the earth – great for promoting mindfulness and grounding energy during meditation.

 Malas can be made using a wide variety of gemstones with specific healing properties. For example, rose quartz (pink) promotes compassion, lapis (blue) helps calm the mind, and amethyst (purple) is believed to enhance clarity of thought. Malas can also be made of metal, shell, or other materials that can be inscribed or painted with words, symbols, and mantras.
 Here are three of my malas and their symbolism properties.

 Labradorite Mala                                    Bone Mala ~ India
Self- Reliance & Personal Faith           Encouraging Compassion 

Brown Tagua Mala. Made of Tagua plant nut. Made in Ecuador. These organic mala beads are a great way for you to be mindful of the environment while you meditate. Tagua, also known as “Vegetable Ivory” or “Green Ivory” is a type of hard nut found in the fruit pods of the Tagua palm tree.

Casey Shannon
Director of North America Branch ~ ICCPS
International Chinese Calligraphy and Ink Painting Sociey

国際中国書法国画家協会アメリカ支部:Ms. Casey Shannon アメリカ現代水墨画家
Copyright ©  Casey Shannon Studio Art. All rights reserved




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