Buddhist beads , mala ( Skt. माला mala, Tibet. འཕྲེང་ བ་ trenghwa, both words translate as a garland) - a cult affiliation, a tool for counting mantras , performed rituals and worship. However, in Buddhism, the rosary also plays the role of an object in which information related to the basic philosophical and practical aspects of the Buddha’s Teaching is codified. Known since the III century  .
By design, they are close to the beads of other religious and mystical practices. Consist of beads strung on a thread, the ends of the threads are combined to form a ring. The rosary can end with an additional larger bead, which is crowned by a cone-shaped or cylindrical pendant, a “tail” of threads is often attached to it  .
Number of Beads
Most often in a Buddhist rosary there are 108 grains, but rosaries with a different number of beads, which are usually a divisor of 108: 54, 36, 27, 18 or 21, can also be used. Beads with 108 grains often have pendant-dividers after the 36th and 72nd beads (or differing from other 36 and 72 beads). A rosary with 18 grains in honor of 18 arhats - disciples of the Buddha, 21 grains - in honor of the 21 forms of the goddess Tara, 32 grains - to count 32 virtues or signs of the Buddha  .
So, for example, the followers of the Tibetan branch of Buddhism believe that rosaries from juniper have the ability to scare away evil spirits and eliminate harmful influences; the same properties are possessed by beads from red coral and dark blue lapis lazuli .
A rosary made of sandalwood , rock crystal and pearls serves to calm, eliminate obstacles and diseases.
Gold, silver, copper, amber, made from lotus seeds or bodhi tree - increase life expectancy, promote the development of wisdom and increase spiritual merit. A rosary made of crystal, sandalwood, lotus seeds or bodhi seeds is also recommended when practicing the puja offerings to all blessed (peaceful) yidam (aspects of Enlightenment) and Guru Yoga.
For mystical practices, especially those associated with angry yidams, they use beads from juniper, black or mahogany, bone, black crystal, agate , black coral.
Warrior monks often wear iron rosaries, using them, if necessary, as improvised weapons.
There are also beads made of knots tied in a special way. In addition, each knot is tied with the reading of certain mantras, prayers and fulfillment of special contemplations.
Followers of the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition (the “Diamond” or the Secret Chariot) are especially appreciated by beads made from the bones of the frontal part of the human skull. 108 skulls are used to make such rosaries, which is possible only in Tibet, where traditionally the corpses of the dead are not buried in the ground (due to the lack of such in the mountains) and not burned (due to the lack of a tree), but left in special places where the corpses are quickly pecked by mountain vultures, after which only a skull and bones remain from the corpse. Since such rosaries are a rarity, more often there are simply bone rosaries (made from human or animal bones), each bead of which is made in the shape of a miniature skull  .
Number of Beads
The classic number of beads in Buddhist beads is 108. However, there are beads with a different number of beads. In any case, the number of beads codifies certain provisions of the Teaching. So, for example, 108 beads of classical rosaries symbolize 108 kinds of desires (Skt .: Tanha), overshadowing the human spirit:
- desires associated with the six senses: vision, touch, smell, taste, hearing and mind (6);
- in relation to objects of the past, present and future (3);
- to internal objects and external objects (2);
- three ways of manifestation: in thoughts, in words and in actions (3).
Hence the canonical numbers of Buddhism: 6x3 = 18; 18x2 = 36; 36x3 = 108.
12 constellations of the zodiac circle (ecliptic) x 9 planets = 108. There are other deciphers of the number 108, however, this is the most common. The rosary is divided by an extra large bead (109th), which is crowned by a cone-shaped or cylindrical bead. The large bead symbolizes Wisdom- prajna , and the cone - Method- upaya . Most often, the 36th and 72nd beads are also made of a slightly larger size or other shape  .
A “tail” of threads comes out of a cylindrical bead, the color of which is often associated with accepted vows in the tradition of a particular Buddhist School. So, for example, black color can mean the adoption of worldly vows (Sanskrit: upasaka, Tib .: Genen), red - initial monastic vows, novice (Sanskrit: Shramaner, Tib: Hetzul), yellow - full vows of monasticism (Sanskrit .: bhikshu, Tib .: Gelong ). The “tail” can be double - in this case, one of its parts symbolizes the Practice of Merit, and the second - the Practice of Wisdom; or they can symbolize, respectively, the state of Clarity - shamatha and Insight - vipashyana. The fact that both parts come out of the same bead symbolizes their unity, non-duality.
The beads used by the adherents of the Vajrayana are often much more complex both in their symbolism and the manufacturing process. Often such rosaries also play the role of a kind of identification mark for the initiates, indicating the level and type of spiritual practice of the owner of the rosary.
In addition to the general symbolism of the classical rosary, the Vajrayan rosary, especially among those who are initiated into the practice of angry yidams, are often made in the form of skulls, which symbolizes the mortality of this world or the Practice of mortality. In the shape of skulls can be both all beads, and only dividing ones - the 36th, 72nd and 109th. It can be made in the shape of a triple skull and only one large, 109th, bead. In these cases, three skulls also denote three main obscurations, the "poison" of consciousness: passion, anger and ignorance.
The base of the rosary (in the area of the "tail" or instead of it) is often decorated with one of the tantric symbols of iron, bronze, silver or gold. From this symbol, you can roughly determine the type of tantras that the owner of the rosary practices. Most often, vajra is used as such a symbol, as a general symbol of Vajrayana or dharmachakra - as a symbol of Buddha’s teachings in general. Gridughs are often worn by lamas (as a symbol of cutting off any obscurity) and initiates in the practice of angry yidams; metal mirror - practices of the Dzogchen system; purbu - initiates in the practice of Yidam Vajrakilaya, etc.
Vajrayan beads are strung on a cord woven from 5 multi-colored threads: white, blue, yellow, red and green. These threads symbolize the five aspects of Enlightenment expressed by the figures of the five Awakened Tathagatas: Vairochana , Akshobhya , Ratnasambhava , Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi . During weaving of the cord, syllables-biji are read and a special visualization of these Tathagats is made. It is believed that in this way the cord is charged with their energy. Five threads can be associated with the practice, the mandala of a particular yidam - in this case, respectively, the mantras and visualizations change. Sometimes the cord consists of 9 threads - in this case they symbolize the yidam Vajradhara and the eight main bodhisattvas  .
In addition to the central “tail”, the Vajrayan rosary can have two more, after the 36th and 72nd beads (in this case, these beads do not differ from others in either shape or size). Each of these “tails” is threaded through five small beads or discs. Two “tails” symbolize the Practice of Merit and the Practice of Wisdom, and the small beads - ten Perfection- paramit , the first five of which belong to the Merits, and the next five - to the Wisdom. Often there is another option, when all ten small beads are strung on the main "tail".
After manufacturing, the rosary is sanctified by the Llama Teacher or by the adept himself by means of a special ceremony. Such rosaries acquire special magical and energetic properties that protect their owner and contribute to his tantric practices. These rosaries are forbidden to be passed on to strangers, to treat them carelessly or disrespectfully. If the rosary becomes unusable (beads or cord are erased), then they are re-consecrated during repair, or they are burned with mantras. Pilgrims often leave their beads on which they have recited 108 thousand or more mantras in holy places. It is believed that in this case, the fruits of completed practices increase, which is understandable, given the relationship that is established between the rosary and its owner as a result of systematic practices.
The beads of the great Lama Masters, famous for their holiness and spiritual strength, are walled up in the stupas or foundations of temples during their construction, put into Buddha statues and Yidams, placed on altars as relics. Often, the rosary is passed from teacher to student from generation to generation as a sign of spiritual continuity  .
- Apte, Vaman Shivram (1965), written at Delhi, The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary (Fourth revised and enlarged ed.), Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, ISBN 81-208-0567-4
- DiamondWay-Buddhism.org - Glossary Archived November 26, 2012 at Wayback Machine Retrieved 2009-02-05
- Buddha Dharma Education Association and Buddhanet.com Buddhist studies: Malas (beads) Retrieved 2009-02-05
- Religion Facts Archived on August 17, 2010.
- Bishop Shinsho Hanayama, "Story of the Juzu"
- Shikoku Henro