History of Prayer Beads
Prayer beads are commonly associated with the Middle Ages (A.D. 600-1400) and Roman Catholicism. Their use, however, is universal and predates the Christian Era. Christianity, in fact, was the last of the major religions to employ prayer beads in an important ritualistic role. Even today, the religions of nearly two-thirds of the world’s population utilize some form of prayer beads.
The word bead is derived from Anglo-Saxon bidden (“to pray”) and bede(“prayer”). During the medieval period, when jewelry was discouraged by the church, rosaries were acceptable as convenient portable devices for counting prayers. Their purpose was to assist the worshiper in accurately repeating from memory the correct number of prayers and incantations required by his faith.
Although the number, arrangement, and materials of prayer beads are different with each religion, there are shared concepts that link the beads of the major faiths.
Visitors to present-day Greece, Turkey or the Middle East see men and woman holding “worry beads.” At business meetings in Saudi Arabia, businessmen discuss transactions involving millions of dollars while fingering strings of beads. If questioned people will deny the beads have any special meaning. However, since there are usually thirty-three beads on the string with vase-shaped retaining bead ending in a tassel, they are probably derived from Islamic prayer beads. Worry beads, like prayer beads, are made in a great many materials - plastic, glass, olive pits, wood, amber, ivory, and semi-precious stones - catering to various owners’ wealth and status. Their primary function as a release for tension provides a security that may, in fact, be subconsciously spiritual.
The Religious Use of Beads
Traditionally, prayer beads have consisted of strings of similarly sized beads, seeds, knots, or even rose petals and beads made from crushed roses, from which we get the word "rosary". The Sanskrit term japa mala means "muttering chaplet," which refers to prayer beads' function as a means of recording the number of prayers muttered. Since counting prayers was initially so important, each religion embracing the use of prayer beads developed its own symbolic structure to follow.
In addition to helping keep one's place in structured prayers, prayer beads also symbolize the commitment to spiritual life. With their circular form, a string represents the interconnectedness of all who pray. Each bead counted is an individual prayer or mantra, and the rote repetition of prayers and mantras is meant to facilitate a sole focus on the prayer or mantra itself.
How to Use Prayer Beads
Prayer is a time to protect the mind. When you are ready to allow the noisy world to fade into the background, this is a very good time to pick up your prayer beads and fill your mind with blessed thoughts. When entering a state of prayer, one can awaken innate goodness, kindness, serenity, all virtue, joy, and a peaceful heart.
Prayer beads originally were devised to help people to keep track of repetitive devotions. They enabled one to pray while doing routine jobs and between activities. In the very earliest times, prayers were marked by dropping little pebbles one by one on the ground.
Each strand generally consists of three primary, larger beads surrounded by smaller complimentary beads. They vary in length from 4-5 inches to as long as 17-18 inches.
Holding onto the first large bead, repeat the first line of the prayer and think of what it means to you today – in this moment.
Next, move down to the second large bead and repeat the second line of the prayer, repeating the process.
Finally, move down to the last large bead representing the heart bead and fill your thoughts with taking good care of yourself. Or, you may consider devoting this prayer to someone who is in need of loving kindness.
Mudra, in Sanskrit, means ‘to lock’ or ‘to seal’. According to India tradition certain hand gestures create powerful energy circuits. When we adopt a Mudra, the energy that is being emitted is redirected to a certain parts of the body. Every posture makes us inhale and exhale in a different way. The same happen with Mudras. Every posture affects the way we inhale and exhale and how energy flows within us. Mudras are a science that allows adjustments in the human energy through hand gestures; in the same was as asanas or breathing techniques.
Mudras are considered to hold therapeutic and preventative properties. According to tradition they have the power to reverse destructive changes in the body. Those that hold advanced knowledge of Mudras have the ability to activate their system in any way they want.
Mudras are also used for symbolic purposes in spiritual and religious art. Hindu and Buddhist art depicts gods (Shiva) and goddesses and the Buddha adopting various Mudras. Mudras are also depicted in most painting of Jesus and saints in the Christian Orthodox Church and Catholic Church. It is unlikely that this a coincidence. It could be that ancient knowledge passed on from generation to generation was gradually lost and that the Christian tradition kept the gestures without knowing its significance or changing it. The origins of mudras is a mystery. What we can say with some degree of certainty is that the origins are unknown and that the knowledge of energy manipulation through hand gestures was not limited to India.
Meditation is a precise technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state. It is the means for fathoming all the levels of ourselves and finally experiencing the center of consciousness within. Meditation is not a part of any religion; it is a science, which means that the process of meditation follows a particular order, has definite principles, and produces results that can be verified.
The goal of meditation is to go beyond the mind and experience our essential nature—which is described as peace, happiness, and bliss. But as anyone who has tried to meditate knows, the mind itself is the biggest obstacle standing between ourselves and this awareness. The mind is undisciplined and unruly, and it resists any attempts to discipline it or to guide it on a particular path. The mind has a mind of its own. Meditation is a practical means for calming yourself, for letting go of your biases and seeing what is, openly and clearly. It is a way of training the mind so that you are not distracted and caught up in its endless churning. Meditation teaches you to systematically explore your inner dimensions.
The benefits of meditation are greatest when practiced daily. Ideally, meditation can be done first thing in the morning upon rising and then again at the end of the day, preferably prior to dinner.
5 Meditation Styles for Beginners: By Tris Thorp
Guided meditations have become increasingly popular in the past few years. A guided meditation is led by someone else, either in person or via a recording, that will usually (although, not always) have a theme and relaxing music playing in the background. Guided meditations generally last anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the purpose or theme, and they come in all styles—including healing, manifesting, and going within to find your purpose.
Visualization meditation is a powerful way to use the mind to influence the body and can also be an empowering way to manifest desired outcomes in your life. Deepak Chopra teaches that what we place our attention on grows stronger and what we take our attention away from will begin to diminish. The unconscious mind is extremely powerful and it works very well with imagery.
Japa or Mantra-Based Meditation
Japa meditation is a mantra-based meditation path that is one of the oldest, most revered classical techniques known today. The word “mantra” translates to mind vehicle or mind instrument. Japa meditation has the practitioner repeating a word or phrase for the duration of the meditation, with the mantra being the focal point throughout.
Loving-Kindness or Metta Meditation
Metta meditation, also known as Loving-Kindness meditation, is designed to cultivate four qualities of love: friendliness (Metta), compassion (Karuna), appreciative joy (Mudita), and equanimity (Upekkha). The quality of Metta, or friendliness, is expressed as a genuine compassion sent out with the intention of surrounding ourselves and others with loving kindness. With all that is going on in the world today, Metta meditation is a worthwhile practice for each of us to spend some time in each day.
Breath-awareness meditation is a simple practice of finding a comfortable seat, closing your eyes, and placing your attention in the inhalation and exhalation of your breath. Breath awareness is an effective way to establish greater mind-body connection and to reduce stress. This type of meditation can be your preferred meditation practice each day and it is also highly useful during moments of tension in the workplace and at home.
The literal meaning of mandala, which is a Sanskrit word, मण्डल , is circle and like a circle, the mandala represents wholeness. A circle also denotes balance, perfection and eternity as the distance from its center to all points on it remains the same, from wherever it is measured. Mandalas were created in the service of one of the world's great religions, Buddhism.
A circle represents protection, good luck, or completion. Mandalas link with the spiraling movement of consciousness, sacred geometry, psychology, and healing. It is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the Universe. In common use, "mandala" has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.
They were produced in Tibet, India, Nepal, China, Japan, Bhutan, and Indonesia and date from the 4th century to present. Now they are created throughout the world, including New York City.
Mandalas constructed from sand are unique to Tibetan Buddhism and are believed to effect purification and healing. Typically, a great teacher chooses the specific mandala to be created. Monks then begin construction of the sand mandala by consecrating the site with sacred chants and music. This sand mandala was made from millions of grains of powdered, colored marble. Powdered sand, flowers, herbs, grains, colored stones, and semiprecious and precious stones can also be used in the construction of sand mandalas.
When the mandala is finally finished, however long it takes for the monks to deal in this divine geometry of the heavens, they pray over it — and then they destroy it. ... Because the underlying message of the mandala ceremony is that nothing is permanent. Nothing.
Mandalas A – Z: