Yesterday we had a reunion of the meditation course taught by Alistair on Holy Island in August.

London rather than Scotland was the venue this time, the highlight of the day being meditating in the beautiful shrine room at the Kagyu Samye Dzong Tibetan Buddhist Centre.

People came from Dallas, New York, Germany, Scotland, north London. Childcare duties meant I was late, very very late, joining the proceedings but I made it to the shrine room just as the meditation ended. And everyone there was wearing a mala! I noticed this particularly. The reason soon became clear as Jonathan uncurled from his cushion like a cat, holding out the string of beads pictured above. He had brought one for everyone, each different, each with individually designated recipients.

Alistair talked about the importance of individual practice and not relying on the group, which makes a lot of sense both in practical as well as spiritual terms. But there is something very special about the gestalt of this group of people which came together around the course.

mala beads

Just as each of the beads on this mala is individually exquisite – the graining luminous as tigers eye, the perfume of sandalwood, the smooth sheen of the surface almost soft to the touch in its lustre – so with everyone in the group.

But before I get too carried away with extravagant similes I have to confess that the real world soon took its toll on my beautiful mala. Originally the cords at the end were much, much longer. Unfortunately that night the cat got into my room, found the beads on my bedside table and chewed the cords. I had to cut them off short.

A feline lesson in the dangers of attachment I suppose.

8 Replies to “Mala”

  1. I am something of a mala addict: right now I’m wearing 2 stretchy ones on my wrist, and I have an assortment of others lying about the house. Whenever I find myself able to buy malas, I do…and to make matters worse, last weekend at the Dharma teacher retreat I attended, I learned how to *make* malas. So now when one of my malas breaks, I’ll know how to restring it, make a new tassel, etc…or when I find myself in a bead shop, I can go nuts buying mala-making materials, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    And regarding your mala-chomping cat…over the entire time I’ve had Reggie, he’s chewed only two things. Once he gnawed on a moktok striker (the stick used to hit the gourd-like instrument I use when I chant), and once he methodically chomped the wooden beads on a mala, splitting each in half one by one.

    My gut reaction was to scream NO, but then I stopped to wonder why Reggie only chews on Dharmic accoutrements. Many Koreans believe that lazy monks come back as dogs, so maybe Reg was a Buddhist monk in a past life, and his *mouth* is the only way he can finger a mala or pick up a moktok striker.

    Is it possible that kitty was similarly trying to practice? Or does she chomp any/everything she can get her mouth on?

  2. Beautiful story, beautiful beads.

    And the thing about your cat made me chuckle. If my cat sees me unwinding my tefillin (leather boxes that contain sacred texts, worn for weekday morning prayer; attached by long leather straps) she goes nuts to pounce on the strap and would probably gnaw it to bits if I let her…

  3. Lazy monks back as dogs? How enchanting. I’d love to be a lazy monk and come back as a spoiled pooch. But I suppose the risk is that I would be maltreated and deserted rather than coddled.

    The only other thing the cat chews obsessively is rubber gloves. The kind you use for housework and dishes. No matter where we hide them, on top of the highest cupboard, he finds them, carries them in triumph hanging limply from his jaws like some corpse and proceeds to rip holes in them and eat them. I have no idea why.

  4. first of all the mala at the top look amazing.
    lorianne, could you tell me where you get the mala making kits, i have rosewood but would love to put my own effort into making my own

  5. It seems obvious to me that your cat is channeling Hanuman! In the Ramayana, Hanuman munched Sita’s pearl necklace (mala) after she gave it to him as a present. An onlooker said,”why are you eating that necklace you silly monkey!” He replied, “I am looking for Sita and Ram, if it doesn’t have Sita and Ram in it, what good is it?”He is known as the ultimate devotee, looking for Sita and Ram in everything. Finally the onlooker says, “well, you might as well rip yourself in two and see if Sita and Ram are inside, whereupon, Hanuman rips open his chest, and there in his heart, are Sita and Ram. I think you have a very holy cat!

  6. Thanks for that story, Sydney. I fear the cat, now named Mario, is to outward appearances almost entirely lacking in godliness but I’ll take that fable as a positive sign for his future spiritual development 🙂

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