When Buddhists meditate, they sometimes use prayer beads -- or mala -- to count mantras, boost concentration and quiet the mind as they chant. A typical mala contains 108 beads, but the amount varies. In addition to the regular beads, a mala has a meru or guru bead. When you chant, reaching the meru means that you've completed one cycle around the mala. (See References 1)
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Sit in lotus or half-lotus position. If either of these put too much strain on your muscles or joints, sit with your legs crossed instead. (See References 2, Pages 89-90)
Hold your right hand level with your heart. Turn your hand so that your palm and the inside of your wrist face your body.
Form a "D" shape with your hand. Your pointer finger should form the straight edge of the "D." Your middle finger and thumb form the curved part of the "D." Your thumb should be closest to your chest.
Drape the mala so the meru bead rests over your middle finger, either in the space between it and your pointer finger or beside the first knuckle. Leave your thumb free.
Cup your left hand beneath your right hand, and allow the mala to pool in it rather than dangling.
Recite a mantra. As you do, place your thumb on the first bead after the meru. Pull it toward you. Continue reciting your mantras, pulling a bead toward you with your thumb until you reach the meru bead again.
Grasp the last bead between your thumb and middle finger.
Turn the mala counter-clockwise while rolling it between your fingers so that the last bead becomes the first bead.
Tips and warnings
- Prior to meditating, practice holding and moving the beads until you become comfortable with them.
- For an alternative way to hold Buddhist prayer beads, hold your fingers straight. Then simply bend your middle finger so that it's perpendicular to your palm. Place the mala beside your first knuckle.
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