Malas

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Epistemes
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Malas

Post by Epistemes » Fri Oct 14, 2011 1:57 am

General question:

Why do they make malas using the elastic cord?
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Silent Bob
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Re: Malas

Post by Silent Bob » Fri Oct 14, 2011 2:10 am

Who does? I've never seen one, except for those little 27-bead wrist malas that people like to flash around.
"All the sublime teachings, so profound--to throw away one and then grab yet another will not bear even a single fruit. Persevere, therefore, in simply one."
--Dudjom Rinpoche, "Nectar for the Hearts of Fortunate Disciples. Song No. 8"

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Epistemes
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Re: Malas

Post by Epistemes » Fri Oct 14, 2011 2:24 am

Silent Bob wrote:Who does? I've never seen one, except for those little 27-bead wrist malas that people like to flash around.
I've seen some in these stores that import from Nepal, India and Tibet. That's where I got mine. It's a 108 bead one too.
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Re: Malas

Post by Ogyen » Fri Oct 14, 2011 2:30 am

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=2764" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Usually, elastic cord is used on malas that aren't knotted, like wrist malas. I'm surprised to hear of it on 108 (unless I misunderstood by inference).

All standard malas should be knotted simply for the practicality for when it inevitably snaps from use and you don't lose all your little beads, maybe one or two at most.

:namaste:
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"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget." –Arundhati Roy

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Epistemes
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Re: Malas

Post by Epistemes » Fri Oct 14, 2011 2:37 am

Ogyen wrote:I'm surprised to hear of it on 108 (unless I misunderstood by inference).
Nope. You didn't misunderstand. It's one long strand of beads on the elastic cord.
All standard malas should be knotted simply for the practicality for when it inevitably snaps from use and you don't lose all your little beads, maybe one or two at most.
That's my concern. It's practically brand new right now - but impermanence will have its way.
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Re: Malas

Post by plwk » Fri Oct 14, 2011 2:41 am

Because it's easier to wrap around the wrist. The standard non-elastic cords sometimes have a problem coiling around a wrist...
I used to have one full mala of 108 beads strung with an elastic cord.

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Re: Malas

Post by Epistemes » Fri Oct 14, 2011 3:00 am

plwk wrote:Because it's easier to wrap around the wrist.
Why would you wrap one around the wrist? (New guy here :hi: )
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Re: Malas

Post by plwk » Fri Oct 14, 2011 3:13 am

I can think of some...

1. It's a habit/tradition for some, like before, during or after a chanting interval, rather than leaving it lying around and losing it around in the temple/centre or at home, it's more convenient to wrap it around the wrist lest one goes hunting for it...
2. It's a perceived convenience for some to wrap around the wrist or even the neck than keep it in a mala bag/storage
3. For some, it's a sign of piety or reminder to practice or purely a decor
4. For the life of me, though I haven't got satisfactory answers so far, some think that the mala can only be worn around the neck if one is a monastic (as a Dharma implement during ceremonies or in ordinary times), so for them, the laity wraps the mala around the wrist...one of those cultural thingy...

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Re: Malas

Post by Chaz » Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:38 am

Ogyen wrote:http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=2764

Usually, elastic cord is used on malas that aren't knotted, like wrist malas. I'm surprised to hear of it on 108 (unless I misunderstood by inference).

All standard malas should be knotted simply for the practicality for when it inevitably snaps from use and you don't lose all your little beads, maybe one or two at most.

:namaste:
D. Ogyen

Most mala cords don't "snap". They wear out and start fraying, but there's seldom, if ever, enough pressure on the cord to snap it. In the case of fraying, a reasonably midndfull user can spot the fraying before the mala cord actually breaks. If the beads are are especially valuable and/or fragile, then knotting to protect the beads may be appropriate.

Also, even if their knotted a stone bead is far more likely to damage the cord than seeds or wooden beads. Stone beads, especially those coming out of asia don't have particularly smooth holes and will abrade the cord. The additional weight stretches the cord faster as well.

Some people prefer unknotted malas. If the number of plain-strung malas for sale and in use compared to the knotted variety is any indicator, then a lot of people prefer it. I think they're easier to use, especially if the mala is used single-handed. I prefer a plain-strung mala over a knotted one.

I know a lot of people who use 108 malas strung with elastic cord. These people invariably wear their mala on the wrist as opposed to wearing it around the neck or pocketing. The elastic cord allows for a good snug fit around the wrist. One of the nicest malas I've ever used was one made with 8mm ebony beads strung with monofilament elastic cord. It worked extremely well and I'd still be using it, but I gifted it to a friend who was beginning Ngondro and needed a 108-bead mala. I've also seen elastic 108-bead malas for sale in Himalayan import shops.

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Re: Malas

Post by Ogyen » Sun Oct 16, 2011 1:04 am

Try not to wear a mala as jewelry. It is not. If you practice with it and own it for reasons outside of fashion, try to use it for practice. I never recommend wrapping around the wrist as the pressure of wear and tear does shorten the life of the thread.

Chaz - thank you for the detailed reasons as to why mala cord frays and eventually comes undone. I don't entirely agree that malas don't snap. In my experience, weakened cord or overly strained cord does snap. For all those reasons mentioned from construct of bead holes, to wear and tearing elements, which eventually do lead to snapping thread. As does wrapping around the wrist. Only so much tension can go in a knotted mala between each knot (it's physics) before the wear and tear is such that the thread integrity outside a bead (usually between two tight and perhaps narrowly spaced knots) is breached and brittled. Weakened malas snap due to sharp stones usually. New malas, shouldn't.

You could take your mala apart, restring it knotted if you ever wanted... they're not hard to fix. Many a ham-fisted Buddhist has repaired their own beads simply.

:namaste:
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Re: Malas

Post by padma norbu » Sun Oct 16, 2011 3:53 pm

My first mala was a 108 red lotus seed mala which I purchased at the Buddhist Temple on the east side of Chinatown at the back of the temple where they sell such items. On the way out I grabbed some free, brand new books (not little pamphlets). The mala has an elastic cord with a Tibetan style guru bead and after the guru bead the cord is knotted in an infinite knot design and then extends into two short lengths with 3 more beads each. I had this for a few years before I read about the idea that malas were supposed to be made out of 7 threads representing channels in the body or whatever. Pretty sure it makes no difference whatsoever, since it's just a heap of conceptual baggage placed on a simple counting mechanism. Likely the real reason for 7 threads was to get a strong hold on the beads that would still fit through the little holes easily enough and then they came up with symbolic reasons for it, as with everything else. They didn't have awesome elastic cord back then.
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Re: Malas

Post by Chaz » Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:07 am

Ogyen wrote:Try not to wear a mala as jewelry. It is not. If you practice with it and own it for reasons outside of fashion, try to use it for practice. I never recommend wrapping around the wrist as the pressure of wear and tear does shorten the life of the thread.

Chaz - thank you for the detailed reasons as to why mala cord frays and eventually comes undone. I don't entirely agree that malas don't snap. In my experience, weakened cord or overly strained cord does snap. For all those reasons mentioned from construct of bead holes, to wear and tearing elements, which eventually do lead to snapping thread.
Technically speaking that is "cutting" the thread, not snapping. Snapping occurs when strain on the cord exceeds it's breaking strength. When sharp-edged stones abrade against cord the cord is cut.
As does wrapping around the wrist.


That could cause the cord to snap, but that's why some people prefer malas strung with elastic cord

Only so much tension can go in a knotted mala between each knot (it's physics) before the wear and tear is such that the thread integrity outside a bead (usually between two tight and perhaps narrowly spaced knots) is breached and brittled.
Perhaps, but I've never seen a knotted mala made so tightly that cord would break prematurely. On the other hand, a simple overhand knot will weaken a cord by reducing the breaking strength by up to 40%. That seems a but drastic, but most people won't put anywhere near the strain it would take to break even a knotted cord.

A bigger problem for most people is the strecth that occurs though normal use. Among the mala makers I know of, the space of a single bead is considered about right. However, with use and depending on what sort of cord is used that space can increase by 3 or 4 times. That much stretch renders the mala difficult if not impossible to use. This us usually the case with stone malas - the heavier beads seem to stretch the cord much more than wood, or nut beads. The cord used also plays a big role. Nylon stretches a lot as does silk and cotton. Skip rayon. Knotting may reduce stretching, but to be really effective the holes in the beads need to be the same diameter as the cord being used. Any bigger and the bead will eventually work its way over the knot, abrading and weakening the already weaked cord. Steel cords don't stretch much if at all. Hemp and linen cords are probably best. They're strong, abrasion/stretch resistant and easy to work with. People make the mistake of trying to fix an over-stretched mala rather than restringing it.

What I don't like about knotted malas is that even though the owner may not have lost any beads because of the knotting, it takes much longer to restring a knotted mala - each bead has to be individually cut from the cord and then you probably have to restring the mala by knotting it. I don't think they're worth the trouble.

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Re: Malas

Post by Chaz » Mon Oct 17, 2011 3:17 pm

padma norbu wrote:My first mala was a 108 red lotus seed mala which I purchased at the Buddhist Temple on the east side of Chinatown at the back of the temple where they sell such items. On the way out I grabbed some free, brand new books (not little pamphlets). The mala has an elastic cord with a Tibetan style guru bead and after the guru bead the cord is knotted in an infinite knot design and then extends into two short lengths with 3 more beads each. I had this for a few years before I read about the idea that malas were supposed to be made out of 7 threads representing channels in the body or whatever.
Then what happened?

There are instructions that suggest using 5 threads, one of each of the elemental colors (red, white, yellow, green blue). It can represent the 5 Buddha families, or the 5 Skandhas, or whatever. I have mala cord made made up of 5 colors of thread. Kinda cool actually, but too heavy for most applications.
Pretty sure it makes no difference whatsoever, since it's just a heap of conceptual baggage placed on a simple counting mechanism.
Whether or not it makes any difference depends entirely on who you're asking, don't ya think?

Likely the real reason for 7 threads was to get a strong hold on the beads that would still fit through the little holes easily enough and then they came up with symbolic reasons for it, as with everything else.
Well I don't know about that. The construction of a mala as with any type of prayer beads is in part used as a reminder of certain things. The number of beads, the type of beads, how they're strung are all meant to be significant. Not, it could be that all the significance was introduced after the fact, but seeing as you offfer no supporting evidence to that assertion, it's still equally possible that the significance was important when the traditional mala style in question was frist developed.

Ogyen's malas are loaded with all sorts significance and I don't think that significance is introduced after the fact. Everything I've read indicates a great deal of thought goes into her choice of beads. Material properties are important in her mala designs. Contrast that with how I like to make malas. I make counting devices. Everything I do to make malas these days is to make a mala that is reliable and functional. How they look, letaphysical properties, merit multiplication are all secondary considerations. If someone wants 5 different color threads in the cording, that's what I give them and I don't care why they want it. People can add whatever sort of baggage they like. Fine by me.

Some mala makers bless the malas they make. I don' know if Ogyen does. I don't. While I believe a blessed mala is important, it's not necessary. I don't feel that it's my place to perform such rites and more importantly, I don't think it quite proper to sell a blessed article. I don't share Ogyen's altruism - I sell the malas I make.
They didn't have awesome elastic cord back then.
We don't have "awesome" elastic cord right now! The stuff is hard to work with - doesn't like being knotted.

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Re: Malas

Post by Silent Bob » Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:07 pm

I've found that gemstone beads will always abrade whatever cord they're strung on unless the edges of the holes have been cleaned up with files designed for that purpose:
http://www.firemountaingems.com/details ... =H203232TL" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
and that Accu-flex is by far the most durable and reliable wire or cord for stringing beads: http://www.firemountaingems.com/shoppin ... FLEXS49W24" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"All the sublime teachings, so profound--to throw away one and then grab yet another will not bear even a single fruit. Persevere, therefore, in simply one."
--Dudjom Rinpoche, "Nectar for the Hearts of Fortunate Disciples. Song No. 8"

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Re: Malas

Post by Chaz » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:05 pm

Silent Bob wrote:I've found that gemstone beads will always abrade whatever cord they're strung on unless the edges of the holes have been cleaned up with files designed for that purpose:
http://www.firemountaingems.com/details ... =H203232TL" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
and that Accu-flex is by far the most durable and reliable wire or cord for stringing beads: http://www.firemountaingems.com/shoppin ... FLEXS49W24" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
@Bob: I've found that reaming the hole and then dressing the ends to remove sharp edges using tools like you offer is probably the only way to stop the abrasion. Even then it's no guarantee. Plus, it's a lot of extra work.

I came to the conclusion that the only way a gemstone mala should be strung (if long-life is important) is with wire. Accu-flex is the best for that purpose. It does require extra tools for crimping and cutting, though.

I also don't like the esthetic of a wire-strung mala, but sometimes it's the only way to go, especially with Quartz, Amethyst, Onyx, Agate and other heavy/abrasive stones.

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Re: Malas

Post by Epistemes » Mon Oct 17, 2011 7:03 pm

Chaz wrote:Ogyen's malas are loaded with all sorts significance and I don't think that significance is introduced after the fact. Everything I've read indicates a great deal of thought goes into her choice of beads. Material properties are important in her mala designs. Contrast that with how I like to make malas. I make counting devices. Everything I do to make malas these days is to make a mala that is reliable and functional. How they look, letaphysical properties, merit multiplication are all secondary considerations. If someone wants 5 different color threads in the cording, that's what I give them and I don't care why they want it. People can add whatever sort of baggage they like. Fine by me.
I should have bought my mala from you! ;)
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Re: Malas

Post by Chaz » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:26 pm

Epistemes wrote:
Chaz wrote:Ogyen's malas are loaded with all sorts significance and I don't think that significance is introduced after the fact. Everything I've read indicates a great deal of thought goes into her choice of beads. Material properties are important in her mala designs. Contrast that with how I like to make malas. I make counting devices. Everything I do to make malas these days is to make a mala that is reliable and functional. How they look, letaphysical properties, merit multiplication are all secondary considerations. If someone wants 5 different color threads in the cording, that's what I give them and I don't care why they want it. People can add whatever sort of baggage they like. Fine by me.
I should have bought my mala from you! ;)
Well, thanks! If I can ever be of service ...

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Re: Malas

Post by kirtu » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:32 pm

Epistemes wrote:General question:

Why do they make malas using the elastic cord?
I once got a small wrist mala from a Jodo Shin temple that was practice and had an elastic band. Oh, I also bought a tiger eye wrist mala from Nepal with an elastic band. If it's a wrist mala then it's to fit different people's wrists.

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Re: Malas

Post by Ogyen » Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:11 pm

[quote=Chaz]Ogyen's malas are loaded with all sorts significance and I don't think that significance is introduced after the fact. Everything I've read indicates a great deal of thought goes into her choice of beads. Material properties are important in her mala designs. Contrast that with how I like to make malas. I make counting devices. Everything I do to make malas these days is to make a mala that is reliable and functional. How they look, letaphysical properties, merit multiplication are all secondary considerations. If someone wants 5 different color threads in the cording, that's what I give them and I don't care why they want it. People can add whatever sort of baggage they like. Fine by me.

Some mala makers bless the malas they make. I don' know if Ogyen does. I don't. While I believe a blessed mala is important, it's not necessary. I don't feel that it's my place to perform such rites and more importantly, I don't think it quite proper to sell a blessed article. I don't share Ogyen's altruism - I sell the malas I make.[/quote]

Indeed - the malas I make are a practice of generosity. They are not simply counting devices. That is, they can be, but it's not how I construct them. As all the malas I make are blessed, it's not appropriate to receive money (imo) for the practice. It defeats the whole generosity/altruistic thing. Significance is embedded down to thread count, materials chosen, normally to harmonize with its owner. I find every request is a karmic connection, so I respect that. I have many friends however who are perfectly happy to string beads on thread and sell them. That's absolutely fine, it's just not what I do. If they'd like to purchase a mala, I gladly refer them to someone who sells them. If someone absolutely must give me money, they can, but all $$ goes to the next person's mala.

I agree, all malas should be reliable and functional! The point of a mala when I make it is sometimes to give that person a boost to their practice. One could just see it as a counting device, I have a little hand counter with a click button for that. They find out what I do and how, and then ask if I can make something. I ask a few questions that gives me insight into the nature of the person's habitual energy, as well as observe material choices for that person.

I don't think I've ever made 2 identical malas... Elastic cord is HARD to work with, but about knotted malas... I do feel that restringing a knotted mala is a practice in itself. Yes it takes time, it SHOULD take time in how I approach it, it's a good patience practice. And prayer materials that are blessed are worth all the time you put into them to another person's practice. It's a holistic approach really.
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Re: Malas

Post by Chaz » Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:12 pm

kirtu wrote:
Epistemes wrote:General question:

Why do they make malas using the elastic cord?
I once got a small wrist mala from a Jodo Shin temple that was practice and had an elastic band. Oh, I also bought a tiger eye wrist mala from Nepal with an elastic band. If it's a wrist mala then it's to fit different people's wrists.

Kirt
27-bead malas almost always get strung using elastic cord, whether it's a "wrist mala" or "power beads" or whatever they get called. The circle made by a 27-bead mala (using 8mm beads) is too small ot fit over most people's hand, so elastic is needed if the mala is to be worn there.

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