Praying With Sacred Beads

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Roman Catholics use the Rosary Latin " rosarium ", meaning "rose garden" with 59 beads. However, Eastern Orthodox Christians use a knotted prayer rope called either a komboskini or chotki, with knots, although prayer ropes with 50 or 33 knots can also be used.

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The Greek " komboloi " which are worry beads and have no religious purpose has an odd number of beads—usually one more than a multiple of four, e. Since the beads are fingered in an automatic manner, they allow the user to keep track of how many prayers have been said with a minimal amount of conscious effort, which in turn allows greater attention to be paid to the prayers themselves.

A fresco picture dating from B. The Desert Fathers of the 3rd to 5th centuries, used pebbles or knotted ropes to count prayers, typically the Jesus Prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner". The invention is attributed to Anthony the Great or his associate Pachomius the Great in the 4th century. The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions strings of beads, presumably for prayer, found in the tombs of Saint Gertrude of Nivelles 7th century and Saint Norbert and Saint Rosalia 12th century.

These strings of beads were known as "paternosters" and were presumably used to count repetitions of the Lord's Prayer. The term rosary comes from the Latin rosarium " rose garden " and is an important and traditional devotion of the Catholic Church, combining prayer and meditation in sequences called "decades" of the Lord's Prayer , 10 Hail Marys , and a Gloria Patri as well as a number of other prayers such as the Apostles' Creed and the Salve Regina at the beginning and end. The prayers are accompanied by meditation on the Mysteries , events in the life and ministry of Jesus.

This traditional Catholic form of the rosary is attributed to Saint Dominic , [13] though some Catholic writers have doubted this claim. Catholics also use prayer beads to pray chaplets. The Eastern Orthodox Church uses prayer ropes that usually come with 33, 50 or knots. The loops of knotted wool or occasionally of beads , called chotki or komboskini to pray the Jesus Prayer.

The Rosary

Although among the Orthodox , their use is mainly restricted to monks and bishops , being less common among laity or secular clergy. Among Russian Old Believers , a prayer rope made of leather, called ' lestovka ', is more common, although this type is no longer commonly used now by the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia , "The rosary is conferred upon the Greek Orthodox monk as a part of his investiture with the mandyas or full monastic habit , as the second step in monastic life , and is called his 'spiritual sword'.

In regards to the first two numbers, the former represent the number of wounds inflicted on Jesus from lashing, the nails, and the lance while the latter represents Mary's age upon her Assumption. In the mids, Anglican prayer beads or "Christian prayer beads" was developed in the Episcopal Church of the United States by Episcopalians participating in a study group dealing with methods of prayer.

These "Anglican Rosaries" continue to be promoted via internet websites but it is not known whether they have been adopted by any Protestant group in any formal sense. Many Anglo-Catholics use the Catholic rosary and may also be using Anglican prayer beads. Each one has its own significance as a stimulus and reminder for meditation, although they can also be used for repetitive prayer. While there are liturgical churches using prayer beads in prayer, non-liturgical Christian churches do not use them.

Sometimes only 33 beads are used, in which case one would cycle through them three times.

Amethyst Prayer Beads | Amethyst Mala

The beads are traditionally used to keep count while saying the prayer. The prayer is considered a form of dhikr that involves the repetitive utterances of short sentences in the praise and glorification of Allah, in Islam. The prayer is recited as follows: 33 times " Subhan Allah " Glory be to God , 33 times " Al-hamdu lilah " Praise be to God , and 33 times " Allahu Akbar " God is the greatest which equals 99, the number of beads in the misbaha.

To keep track of counting either the phalanges of the right hand or a misbaha is used. Use of the misbaha to count prayers and recitations is considered an acceptable practice within mainstream Islam.

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According to Mirza Tahir Ahmad of the Ahmadiyya community, the use of prayer beads is a form of innovation which was not practised by the early Muslim community [18]. Sikh worshipers may use mala prayer beads while reciting verses from the Guru Granth Sahib.

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An early use of prayer beads can be traced to Hinduism [20] [21] [22] where they are called japa mala. Japa is the repeating of the name of a deity or a mantra. The most common mala have beads. In Pure Land Buddhism , for instance, bead mala s are common. These shorter malas are sometimes called "prostration rosaries" because they are easier to hold when enumerating repeated prostrations. In Tibetan Buddhism malas are also beads: one mala counts as mantras , and the eight extra are meant to be dedicated to all sentient beings the practice as a whole is dedicated at its end as well.

In Tibetan Buddhism , often larger malas are used; for example, malas of beads. When counting, they calculate one mala as mantras and the 11 additional beads are taken as extra to compensate for errors. Various type of materials are used to make mala beads such as seeds of the rudraksha , beads made from the wood of the tulsi plant, animal bone, wood or seeds from the Bodhi Tree a particularly sacred tree of the species Ficus religiosa or of Nelumbo nucifera the lotus plant.

The benefits of meditation are slow and steady over time, there is no quick fix, however, the action of meditation in itself is rewarding and feelings of stress relief and peace are often felt immediately afterward. Mala beads can help to build your meditation routine. Place your mala beads on an altar or somewhere you can see them to remind you of your practice and intentions. You can also wear your new mala for 40 days to attune yourself with it, this is a fantastic way of creating a meditation routine and forming the daily habit.

Which hand should you hold your mala beads in?

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The Tibetan tradition says that there are not any specific rules in the way you count mantra or use your mala. Some believe holding your mala in the left hand symbolically represents bringing forth blessings and virtue. The most important aspect is your intention and sentiment, the purer of heart your prayers are the better!

In the Hindu ways, the mala is held in the right hand and this is because the left hand is considered to be unclean in India, as it's used in conjunction with going to the lavatory. Whichever hand you choose to handle your mala the basic instruction is to gently and respectfully hold your mala beads and use the thumb to move the bead forward as you say mantra or count around the necklace.


The large bead on the mala above the tassel is called the guru, meru, or end bead. Traditionally, out of respect, the practitioner never crosses over this bead but instead reverses direction after moving through the beads. A common and popular way to meditate with mala beads is to simply wear the mala around your neck like a necklace or carefully wrap it around your wrist. A mala acts as an anchor or physical reminder of your set intentions and is known to trigger your mind and body into a deeper spiritual state the more you practice meditation while wearing it.

You may also like to wear a mala for its energy healing properties, as worry beads, or as a reminder of mindfulness and being here in the moment. For suggested ways to wear mala beads , check out this article. A mantra is a word or phrase with a powerful meaning, chanted to discipline the mind as an aid to meditation or as an incantation. While a mantra is repeated, it acts as a point of focus to help unify the mind. The purer of heart the practitioner is while repeating the mantra the deeper the effect and the calmer and more unified they become in their meditation.

When saying a mantra, mala beads are used so that you can focus on the meaning or sound of the mantra rather than counting its repetitions. Another way to use your mala is to hold the beads in prayer form between your hands in front of your heart while reciting a prayer.

12 types of prayer bead materials

Immerse yourself in unconditional love for the Divine. Bring your thoughts to a feeling and expression of self-love and love for all beings. Stress, dis-ease, and anxiety arise from not seeing yourself or the world as worthy of love. A simple exercise while holding your mala beads in your hands is to bring your focus to the navel area, with each breath in is love for self, every breath out is compassion for all. There are many ways to pray with mala beads, you can pray them in a similar fashion to other kinds of prayer beads and rosaries or maybe you have personal prayers you want to work through.

We have a guide on choosing the perfect mala which includes information on color, intention, gemstone, and wood energy properties. Learn about the origin of mala beads. Take care of your mala with our care guide. Check out The Meditation Journey Blog for more articles.

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