Do We Need Prayer Beads for Chanting?

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In all religions of mankind, prayer beads are significantly utilized in every respective religious belief whether we are Christians, Buddhists or of Islamic teaching, Hinduism or Taoist belief. However, all religions have their respective pattern of prayer beads or rather different forms of prayer beads being used as ways to pray.

So, do we need prayer beads for chanting actually? The short answer is, it is best to use prayer beads for chanting, provided there is an affinity towards using rosary. Let’s explore more about the types of prayer beads, why prayer beads serve as an important tool in spirituality plus some important notes about rosary usage.

What Is The Purpose of Prayer Beads?

Rosary prayer beads - Do We Need Prayer Beads for Chanting - Poh Ern Si Penang Blog

Prayer beads are like a passport to an owner of such rosary. Whenever one goes, one will always wear the prayer beads around one’s neck and carry along the journey as the purpose of using chanting beads, rosary or prayer beads is that it helps one to practice incantation consciously and focus better concentration.

Also read: Zen State of Mind

At the same time, rosary or prayer beads act as protective gear whenever one travels and believingly helps to thwart any untoward incident. Prayer beads, once fortified with constant prayers, will produce a very strong vibration of protective power.

It is important for one to always carry this rosary along wherever one goes and if ever one has departed from this earth, then this rosary should be placed along the side of the coffin as a constant companion towards his next journey or afterlife. In the case of a normal laity, the rosary should be put into a small pencil bag separated from other things instead of being worn around the neck at all times.

Regardless of one’s spiritual status, one should always treat the rosary as a sacred item and must keep it at proper places.

What Are The Different Types of Prayer Beads?

Buddhist Rosary prayer beads - Do We Need Prayer Beads for Chanting - Poh Ern Si Penang Blog

Being available in so many varieties and forms, one must know the essential needs of a prayer bead before one could identify the correct type of a prayer bead needed to perform one’s desired objective.

In a similar term, it is like visiting a wet market where there are so many varieties of seafood available – you don’t simply buy some seafood but you will need to choose the correct type of seafood needed for your cooking menu. This also means you need to first set your cooking objective before you are able to identify the appropriate seafood for your targeted cooking dishes.

In much the same way, we need to know the basic structure of our belief in order to identify our correct usage of a prayer bead. Here are some of the types of prayer beads across the faiths:

  • Mahayana Buddhist Prayer Beads: Usually consists of 108 beads, with one slightly bigger bead that is tied to a tassel.
  • Tibetan Buddhist Rosary: Also made up of 108 beads, with one guru bead (slightly bigger bead). Also known as mala beads. Commonly available ones are usually made with crystals.
  • Hindu Prayer Beads: Usually made of 108 beads, similar to Buddhist prayer beads. They are sometimes called japa mala beads.
  • Islamic Prayer Beads: Also known as Misbaha or Tasbih, Islamic Prayer Beads are usually made of 99 beads, while some are made of 33 beads.
  • Christian Prayer Beads: Christian Prayer Beads typically consist of 33 beads.
  • Catholic Rosary Beads: The Catholic rosary typically consists of 59 beads, including a crucifix.

Also read: How to Build Spiritual Protection

Sandalwood rosary is best for Buddhists

Most of the prayer beads available are made from assorted types of plain wood, crystals or even plastic beads. For most Mahayana Buddhists, it is important to select the correct type of prayer beads as the ideal form of a rosary is of sandalwood type.

Unfortunately, real sandalwood rosaries are difficult to obtain easily in the market unless one has to specifically order from shops or sellers, and they can be expensive. Even then, there are artificial sandalwood beads that are not so appropriate for use, so one must be careful when selecting and buying rosaries.

Rosary sizes

Besides the different types of prayer beads material, there are also different sizes of prayer beads or rosary.

For men, rosary beads should be of bigger size in diameter while women should use smaller-sized prayer beads.

This is mainly due to women’s fingers are much leaner and thinner in size than men who mostly have stout fingers. When choosing a suitable rosary, one must choose appropriately-sized prayer beads that fit the palm for a smooth prayer repetition during chanting.

Do We Need to Use Rosary in Theravada Buddhism?

However in Theravada Buddhism, much to the expectation, there is no usage of rosary or prayer beads in practice. This is due to the basic teachings in Theravada school of Buddhism that everything we do should be simple, moderate and humble in outlook.

This is the reflection of those ancient times in India, where there was scarcity of food, clothing and other daily needs, hence everything had to be simple in living. Owning a rosary would be a luxury, hence it appropriated that no rosary was being used except the use of our mind to control all matters.

Do We Need Prayer Beads for Chanting?

Unknown woman using Buddhist Rosary prayer beads in the outdoors - Do We Need Prayer Beads for Chanting - Poh Ern Si Penang Blog

Many Buddhists often wonder if it is necessary to own a rosary and use prayer beads as they chant sutras and mantras. Whether there is a need to use prayer beads in chanting is like asking whether we should be taking vegetarian or not.

The idea is that, regardless we are vegans, atheists, free thinkers, Mahayana or Theravada Buddhists or any other religious beliefs, taking vegetarian diet is a very subtle form of enhancing our positive energy in our body through observation of non-killing in all animal meats. Other positive traits of taking vegetarian is the gradual reduction in our lust tied with our five sensual desires with regards to our senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing and tasting, which basically means a reduced attachment to worldly things.

Unless we have a strong desire to uplift our spiritual advancement, there is often little thought to feel any importance of taking vegetarian. This is partly due to the hidden fact that taking vegetarian could advance our thought of pure mind, heart and body, provided one has the proper guidance of initiating the observance of taking vegetarian diet.

Merely taking a vegetarian diet just because many people are doing it or say it is good for spiritual cultivation is never beneficial and has no positive development in our minds. We need to take into account of ensuring that each time we take vegetarian, we must develop the feeling of more compassion, more loving kindness and a more magnanimous heart. Only this way will it ultimately help one to fully harvest the whole good effect of taking vegetarian, which is often invisible to our naked eyes. The same applies to prayer beads usage.

In much the same way as the vegetarian diet analogy, using prayer beads in our chanting does help to speed up and improve our spiritual progress. However, we must have the sincerity to utilize and believe in rosary to channel positive energy onto our beads each time we flip the prayer beads while chanting, otherwise, it defeats the purpose of owning and using a rosary when one does not see the needs nor understand the effectiveness of rosary.

After a while of practicing and focusing our incantation of prayers onto our beads, the prayer beads will gradually absorb all the positive energy and ultimately radiate a strong positive vibration. This strong positive vibration radiating from the rosary will in turn enhance our spiritual insight upon constantly touching the prayer beads. Hence it is important that once prayer beads are anointed and one is constantly utilizing the rosary, one’s prayer beads should never be touched by anyone else except the owner of the prayer beads.

Important Notes About Rosary and Prayer Beads

There are a few important things to note about rosary and its usage:-

  • Prayer beads are non-transferable and are solely owned by the original user alone. In many temples, abbots and other spiritual masters have the wrong notion of transferring any used rosary to other users who need them upon the demise of the prayer beads’ owner so as to not waste it being thrown away. The initiative is good but unfortunately, the rosary of any owner who has utilized them for years cannot be transferred to anyone. This is because when one utilizes a rosary, one has already channeled his personal energy onto the prayer beads and therefore, the original owner’s energy contained in the prayer beads will be in conflict with the new user’s energy when this same rosary is given to someone else for usage.
  • One must have a strong affinity and destiny towards a specific rosary or prayer beads. In actual fact, prayer beads are not supposed to be accessible to anyone easily unless one has reached a certain remarkable spiritual development. The proper way to own prayer beads is when a spiritual master or trained spiritual teacher who possesses the gift of insight has identified one’s affinity to own a rosary and anoints the prayer beads before giving it to one who has the necessary traits of using a rosary.
  • Rosary by hidden rule should not be simply bought from any shop and used on themselves; the same applies to all amulets. As mentioned earlier, rosaries have to be given by highly trained spiritual masters or teachers after identifying one’s affinity to use prayer beads. Buying a rosary and using it without ensuring a person’s affinity with prayer beads and prior anointment of the rosary does not bring about any fruitful effect towards spiritual cultivation.

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