Urban Dharma Newsletter... November 12, 2002
The Rosary Renewed ...By Jim
Merritt ...November 9, 2002
Buddhist Prayer Beads
3. Mala Frequently Asked Questions and Instructions
Book Review: Dharma Beads:
...by Joanna Arettam
Temple/Center of the Week: Plum Village
The Rosary Renewed ...By Jim Merritt ...November 9, 2002
their centuries-old devotional practice, local Catholics now
contemplate the new 'mysteries of light'
Pope John Paul II updated the rosary on Oct. 16 - making the
first changes to the popular prayers in five centuries - the
decision had a quick impact on the lives of Roman Catholics
very next day, for example, parishioners at St. Bernard's Roman
Catholic Church in Levittown began devoting an additional 15
minutes to the pontiff's changes during their regular Thursday
prayer group meeting.
been doing the full 15 decades of the rosary, but for the last
two weeks since the pope has added the five new mysteries, we've
been doing 20 decades," says Pam Wise, a member of the
Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale on Oct. 29, the
2,300 students in grades six through 12 participated in an updated
rosary prayer service organized by the faculty of Marianist
brothers and priests, who are known for their devotion to the
rosary. "It was very well received," says the Rev.
Thomas Cardone, the school chaplain.
the rosary a positive experience for young people was one objective
of the pope's apostolic letter, "Rosarium Virginis Mariae"
("The Rosary of the Virgin Mary"), signed on the 24th
anniversary of his election to the papacy, Cardone says. The
pope also used the occasion to start a Year of the Rosary.
announcement was a watershed for Catholics who regard the practice
of the rosary as a bedrock of their faith. Whether said at home
or in church, in private or in public, the rosary prayers are
a method of meditation, a prayer for peace and a vehicle for
asking for God's grace.
to the Diocese of Rockville Centre, the rosary originated with
St. Dominic's devotions to Mary in the 13th century and took
its present form in the 16th century. Now, the pope has added
five more mysteries, or events from Jesus' life, which he calls
"the mysteries of light," to those currently contemplated
in the rosary.
on Jesus' public life, the mysteries of light include his baptism
in the Jordan River and the wedding feast at Cana. They are
being added to the three other sets of mysteries traditionally
commemorated: the joyful mysteries surrounding his birth, the
sorrowful mysteries of his crucifixion and the glorious mysteries
including his resurrection and the assumption of Mary, Jesus'
mother, into heaven.
Gillis, chairman of the theology department at Georgetown University
in Washington, D.C., and author of "Roman Catholicism in
America" (Columbia University Press, $19.50), says that
in making changes to the rosary, the 82-year-old pope, who has
been in increasingly frail health, may be moving to fulfill
long-held aspirations "in the twilight years of his papacy."
an attempt to bring the rosary into focus for contemporary Catholic
culture since in some quarters the rosary has lost ground. There's
a generation now who wouldn't know what the rosary is, wouldn't
know the decades, the sequence of events, the mysteries,"
not sure that changing the mysteries will do that, although
it's a noble effort," he adds.
a nationwide survey conducted last year, the university's Center
for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that 39.4 percent
of the nation's approximately 60 million Catholics never say
the rosary, 33.2 percent do only a few times a year and 27.4
percent do at least once a month. Of all Catholics, only about
8 percent say they recite the rosary more than once a week.
it's to renew interest in the rosary, which has declined over
the years," Cardone says. "By encouraging the rosary,
the Holy Father is trying to wake up the faithful to the contemplative
dimension of the Christian mystery."
Ramos, director of the diocese's Office of Hispanic Ministry,
says the diocese has received only positive comments from Spanish-speaking
Catholics, who number close to half a million in at least 40
parishes on Long Island. In total, the diocese has 1.5 million
Catholics in 134 parishes.
in the past, Catholics will say the rosary clasping the beads
as they repeat such prayers as the Apostles' Creed, the Our
Father and the Hail Mary. The strings of beads will continue
to be made with five "decades," each decade composed
of 10 beads. But from now on, those who say the rosary each
day will be asked to focus on the mysteries of light on Thursdays.
new rosary has been a hot topic at Walsh Conley Religious Goods
and Church Supplies in Hempstead, where pamphlets and booklets
instructing how to say the rosary sell for as little as 25 cents.
had a lot of inquiries" about the new rosary, says store
manager Arnold Goodman, 49, who adds he noticed an uptick in
interest even before the pope's announcement. "Since 9/11,
there seems to be a resurgence in the devotion to the rosary
and to Mary," he says.
convert from Judaism to Catholicism who attends Mass at the
Church of St. Mary of the Isle in Long Beach, Goodman recites
the rosary even while driving his car.
you have a quiet moment, it's almost like a mantra. You find
it relaxing and very calming," he says.
you start praying the rosary, you see changes in your life,"
says Wise, 51, who regularly prays the rosary at home with her
three children. The rosary has become especially important,
she says, in the wake of sex abuse scandals in the church and
the prospect of war with Iraq.
love that new rosary," says Nancy Kosofsky, 57, of Baldwin,
a parishioner and parish secretary at Our Holy Redeemer Roman
Catholic Church in Freeport. "Each time that I do it, I
feel myself getting closer to Mary."
says she is spreading the word to the second-grade religious
education class she teaches at Our Holy Redeemer.
Bonnie Navarro, 72, of Freeport, was less sure, even as she
prepared to make the change. "We have to learn things over
again," Navarro said, as she waited on a recent Sunday
for the 1 p.m. Spanish-language Mass at Our Holy Redeemer. Navarro,
who began praying with her mother as a girl in Puerto Rico,
finds herself wondering "why it has to change after so
the Eastern-rite churches, at least one also will be following
the pope's lead. The Rev. Maxim Kobasuk, pastor of the Ukranian
Catholic Church of St. Vladimir in Hempstead, says that once
they have received guidance from their bishop, church members
will make the change in private devotions said before and after
Mass and at funerals.
probably print up fliers with the mysteries of the light, mention
it at Mass and put it in the bulletin," Kobasuk says.
Mysteries Of the Rosary
who recite the rosary are asked to contemplate mysteries, or
events, in the Life of Christ. The following are the days and
mysteries suggested for meditation:
and Saturday: The joyful mysteries: The annunciation, when the
angel told Mary she would be the mother of God's son; Mary's
visitation to the mother of John the Baptist; the nativity;
the presentation of Jesus at the temple and the finding of Jesus
in the temple.
and Friday: The sorrowful mysteries: Jesus' agony in the garden;
his scourging; crowning with thorns; carrying of the cross,
and Sunday: The glorious mysteries: his resurrection; his ascension
into heaven; the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; the
assumption of Mary into heaven, and the coronation of Mary.
The mysteries of light: Jesus' baptism; the miracle at the wedding
at Cana; his proclamation of the kingdom of God; the transfiguration,
and institution of the Eucharist.
Merritt Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.
Buddhist Prayer Beads
many people may recognize a variation of these prayer beads
among today’s newest fashion accessories, they carry a
far deeper significance in the Buddhist culture. For this
group of individuals, prayer beads, or mala beads as
they are called in the Buddhist religion, represent a meditative
tool. Their specific purpose may vary for different individuals,
but commonly the beads are used to enhance ‘goodness’
and diminish ‘toxins’. The overarching purpose
of these beads from a true Buddhist perspective is to drive
away evil and fill you and all beings with peace and bliss.
In accordance with the active nature of practice in Buddhism,
this material object is used as an accomplice for gaining merit
on the path to enlightenment.
origin of mala beads is rooted in the Hindu religion.
Individuals who converted from the Hindu faith to Buddhism during
its birth, transferred this devotional practice with them and
it soon became a part of the Buddhist faith. The story
of the beads' origin is as follows:
the founder of Buddhism, paid a visit to king Vaidunya…Sakya
directed him to thread 108 seeds of the Bodhi tree on a string,
and while passing them between his fingers to repeat…
‘Hail to the Buddha, the law, and the congregation’…
(2,000) times a day (Dubin).”
interpretation of this prayer is ‘om mani padme hum.’
During recitation, this phrase is repeated over and over again
according to how many beads are on a person’s strand of
there are 108 beads on a strand of mala prayer beads.
This number is significant because it represents the number
of mental conditions or sinful desires that one must overcome
to reach enlightenment or nirvana. Monks usually have
mala beads with 108 beads, where as a lay person may have a
strand numbering in 30 or 40 beads. This difference in
length may possibly be explained by understanding each person’s
distance traveled on the path to enlightenment. Commercial
sellers of mala beads have also suggested that individuals just
beginning this prayer ritual begin with a shorter strand of
as variety exists for the number of beads, variety exists for
the style, color, and material composition. Differences
in the popularity and use of mala beads also exist cross-culturally.
Typically, monks’ mala beads are made of wood from the
Bodhi tree. In Tibet, mala strands often contain parts
of semi-precious stones. In this culture, the most valued
strands are made of bones of holy men or lamas. Typically
there are 108 beads divided by 3 large beads. The end
pieces on these strands are “djore” (a thunderbolt)
and “drilbu” (the bell). These end pieces
represent the Three Jewels, or Buddha, the doctrine, and the
community. In Japan, mala prayer beads are popular at
social events such as funerals, weddings, and other ceremonies.
Mala beads in Japan typically are 112 in number and made of
wood. Additionally, the most coveted strands have been
blessed by a monk. In Korea, the use of mala beads has
been extensive. Their popularity diminished, however,
during the period when Buddhism was banned from the country
(1392-1910). In addition to the traditional 108 beads,
Korean mala strands usually include 2 large beads, which are
used during special prayers. In China, the use of mala
beads was never really popular. They were used, but more
commonly, they were used by the ruling hierarchy as a status
the structure of mala beads may vary among individuals or groups
of Buddhists, the overall purpose of all mala beads is to create
a sense of tranquility and inner-peace for not only the individual,
but for the community as a whole. In reciting the prayer,
‘toxins’ will leave and a sense of peace will enter
making an individual that much closer to reaching nirvana.
Mala Frequently Asked Questions and Instructions ...by Kathleen
of Merit: May the merit and virtues accrued from this work adorn
the Buddha's Pure Land, repaying the four kinds of kindness
above, and relieving the sufferings of those in the Three Paths
below. May those who see and hear of this, all bring forth the
heart of Understanding, and live the Teachings for the rest
of this life, then be born together in the Land of Ultimate
Bliss. Namo Amitabha Buddha!
purpose of a mala is to recite a mantra or affirmation. Mala
beads are similar to a rosary or "worry beads", and
can be carried in the pocket or worn on the body, to be used
whenever you need to center yourself and focus on spirituality.
also serve as a portable "sacred space"; after several
months of use, you begin to relax as soon as you pick them up
This is especially helpful in our stressful careers and personal
are some frequently asked questions about using a mala:
Does my religious tradition allow me to use a mala? Most religions
have a tradition of using prayer beads. Here are some examples:
and Buddhists use a 108-bead mala (or a fraction thereof, such
as 27, 36, or 54 beads). They traditionally use this mala to
recite a mantra given to them by their spiritual teacher, or
to recite the "Sahasranam" prayers, which give 108
names of God.
(especially members of the Orthodox Church) use a 33-bead strand
to recite the Jesus Prayer: "Jesus Christ, son of God,
have mercy upon me, a sinner". There are also a number
of Roman Catholic/Anglican chaplets which are 33 beads, including
the Act of Spiritual Communion and the Chaplet of The Little
use a 99-bead strand (or a fractional strand of 33 beads) to
recite the Names of God, or other prayers and affirmations.
Members sometimes use smaller pocket-sized strands (33 or 36
beads, or whatever feels right) to recite slogans and affirmations.
anyone can benefit from using prayer beads to recite a prayer
How do I hold the mala? Traditionally, it is held in the right
hand, and the beads are passed between the thumb and middle
finger or index finger. In my opinion, using the left hand is
acceptable if you prefer. (I used to recite my mantra in traffic
jams, holding the beads in my left hand while keeping the right
hand free for shifting gears.)
What is the big bead at the end? This is the focal bead or guru
bead. It is where you start reciting mantras (beginning with
the bead just to the right of the focal bead, and ending at
the bead just to the left). In Hindu and Buddhist tradition,
one does not "cross the guru" by continuing past the
bead when starting a new round of mantras; instead, one should
turn the mala over and continue in the opposite direction. Again,
if this is inconvenient or uncomfortable, I see no reason to
follow tradition blindly. The whole point of using a mala is
to improve your life, not to cause additional stress!
What mantra should I use? This is totally up to you, though
it is traditional that each mala should be used for only one
mantra, so that the "shakti" or spiritual energy will
be well-focused. (Practically speaking, it also helps the user
to achieve a relaxed state, because after a short period of
use, the mantra will start repeating itself automatically in
your mind when you pick up the mala. This is part of the process
of creating a portable sacred space, and can be helpful in difficult
situations.) If you already have a mantra or favorite affirmation,
you should use it.
How many times should I repeat my mantra daily? The Hindu and
Buddhist traditions suggest 16 rounds of 108 repetitions each.
This is unmanageable for most people, and even one round of
repetitions can be an enormous blessing. Most spiritual teachers
suggest brief meditations twice daily, and this is a good time
to use one's mala regularly, as well as using it in stressful
circumstances. A wise man once said to learn your spiritual
practices when everything is going well, and to get into the
habit of using them daily. Then, when hard times happen, you
are able to automatically reach out to your spiritual practices
for strength and support.
What type of meditation practice do you recommend? Basically,
the simplest is best...whatever you feel comfortable doing,
because the point is to find something that is soothing and
relaxing, and that you will enjoy doing regularly. Some guidelines
for meditation: it is good to meditate at the same time every
day, so that it will become a habit. Yoga tradition suggests
that early mornings are best; I personally prefer bedtime, as
long as I am not so tired that I fall asleep while meditating!
It is recommended that you sit in a cross-legged posture, but
if you have a back problem like many people do (myself included),
lying on one's back is a good alternative. The idea is to have
a straight spinal column, whether horizontal or vertical! You
may wish to add certain rituals to your meditation time, such
as wearing a meditation shawl, lighting a candle, using incense,
or playing a spiritual CD. These activities traditionally help
to build "shakti", but can also simply serve to trigger
relaxation and a meditative state with regular use. That's why
churches have stained glass windows, pipe organs, incense and
candles...so that worshipers will be subconsciously led into
a reverent state of mind when they enter the sanctuary.
are two kinds of meditation: mind-quieting meditation, which
encourages stillness and non-thought (which can be really worth
cultivating if you are one of those people, like me, whose minds
are always spinning and rushing around, as the Buddhists say,
"grasshopper mind"), and contemplation, or meditating
upon an image, phrase, or concept. Either one is wonderful,
and you should choose whichever (or a combination of both) is
best for you.
Dharma Beads: Making and Using Your Own Buddhist Malas ...by
Living Today... "If you want to attain a state
of peace and serenity while making some trendy jewelry, then
check out the Dharma Bead Kit."
Journal-Sentinel... "For the difficult to buy for
Buddhist on your gift list consider Dharma Beads: Making and
Using Your Own Buddhist Malas."
Age... “Inspiration to start meditating.”
Description... The practice of meditating with Buddhist
malas has been a tradition for thousands of years. With so many
people searching for spiritual expression and Buddhism being
so popular, its no wonder that a rosary from a 2500 year-old
religion has become the hottest trend in contemporary culture.
Beads looks beyond just the hip aspect of wearing Buddhist malas
and presents a thoughtful presentation of authentic Tibetan
mala traditions and customs. Whatever your spiritual tradition,
you can use malas to help you create and maintain a state of
quiet reflection-a cloister of the mind.
addition to all the materials you need to create three Dharma
Bead bracelets, author Joanne Arettam has written a wonderfully
accessible introduction to the meanings of various types of
beads as well as their spiritual meanings and benefits. She
writes, "Used meditatively, these beads offer a scenic
rest stop on the harried eight-lane highway of life."
the Author... Joanna Arettam is a painter and writer
who writes widely on lifestyle, self-help, and spirituality
matters. She was formerly the lifestyles editor of Glamour magazine.
from Dharma Beads : Making and Using Your Own Buddhist Malas
by Joanna Arettam. Copyright © 2000. Reprinted by permission.
All rights reserved
Beads contains all the materials and instructions you need to
make three beautiful 27-bead wrist malas, one each of fragrant
sandalwood, earthy red carnelian, and glistening tiger’s
you use malas to relax, meditate, affirm your personal power,
or to attract luck, prosperity, or well-being, we’ll help
you make them a part of your life.
bracelet. Yogic rosary. Mala beads. All describe the prayer-bead
strands that have been used in meditation by Buddhists and Hindus
for centuries. Usually they come in 27- 54- or 108-bead lengths.
As so-called power beads, usually around 20 beads and so not
exactly traditional, they have crossed over into popular culture—part
fad, part good-luck charm. These bracelets grace the wrists
of celebrities as well as hip students and smart young professionals
around the country. But power beads are more than just a fashion
statement. Used meditatively, they offer a scenic rest stop
on the eight-lane highway of life—the scenery being that
inner landscape of self-reflection.
Hindu tradition, Dharma means duty to your class and stage of
life. In Buddhism, it means accepting the truth of karma and
reincarnation as taught by Buddha. But a more secular meaning
of Dharma is simply to conduct your life in an ethical way.
Just be a good person. See? Mom was right.
Most Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay, our spiritual teacher,
founded the Unified Buddhist Church (Eglise Bouddhique Unifie)
in France in 1969, during the Vietnam war. Thich Nhat
Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, a poet, a scholar, and a
peace activist. His life long efforts to generate peace and
reconciliation moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him
for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He founded the Van Hanh Buddhist
University in Saigon and the School for Youths of Social Services
in Vietnam. When not travelling the world to teach "The
Art of Mindful Living", he teaches, writes, and gardens
in Plum Village, France, a Buddhist monastery for monks and
nuns and a mindfulness practice center for lay people.
Unified Buddhist Church established Sweet Potatoes Community
in 1975, Plum Village in 1982, the Dharma Cloud Temple and the
Dharma Nectar Temple in 1988, and the Adornment of Loving
Kindness Temple in 1995. Thich Nhat Hanh?s sangha (community
of practice) in France is usually referred to as the Plum Village
Sangha. During the course of the year, Plum Village welcomes
thousands of retreatants from all over the world. Due to its
rapid expansion in recent years, the community now comprises
seven hamlets: Upper Hamlet, Middle Hamlet, West Hamlet
and Lower Hamlet, New Hamlet, Gatehouse New Hamlet and
Hillside New Hamlet. The Unified Buddhist Church also has a
mindfulness practice center called Intersein in Bavaria, Germany.
A sangha of about 100 monks, nuns and resident lay-practitioners
live permanently in Plum Village.
1994, we have been exploring opportunities to establish our
presence in the United States of America. In 1997, a generous
donor offered us a 120-acre property in Woodstock, Vermont.
This enabled us to set up the Maple Forest Monastery. In 1998,
with the help of the same donor, we were able to acquire a 120-acre
property in Hartland-Four-Corners,Vermont to set up the Green
Mountain Dharma Center nunnery. We also set up the Mindfulness
Practice Center (MPC) of Queechee, Vermont, the first center
of its kind in the United States. A sangha of monks and nuns
lives and practices in our monastery and nunnery and a team
of lay practitioners practice in and take care of our MPC in
Vermont. In May 2000, we established Deer Park Monastery, our
West Coast Center, in Escondido, San Diego County, California.
You are welcome to visit us in France as well as in Vermont
and California. .
Unified Buddhist Church Inc. (UBC), a non-profit corporation,
was founded in 1998 to officially represent Thich Nhat Hanh
and his Sangha in the United States of America. It is a sister
organization of Unified Buddhist Church (EgliseBouddhique Unifie)
founded in France. The UBC in America is represented by Sr.
Annabel, Abbess of the Green Mountain Dharma Center. The Green
Mountain Dharma Center acts as the headquarters of the Unified
Buddhist Church in the U.S.
official name and address of the Unified Buddhist Church, Inc.
Buddhist Church, Inc.
Green Mountain Dharma Center
Lane, P.O. Box 182
Vermont 05049, USA
(802) 436-1103, Fax: (802) 436-1101
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