Friday, May 5, 2017

How To Meditate With 108 Beads?

After sharing repeatedly the amazing goodness of 108 beads, and after many blessed clients having acquired their very own set of 108 beads, it has finally come to this stage: how to meditate with 108 beads?

To answer this question, I am going to delve into scriptures and classics of different creeds and faiths. So TAKE CAUTION, this article is laden with boring classical Chinese texts and their translations, and their analysis.

Let's start with this anecdote, when Buddha was on the mountains with 1,250 of his companions (《佛说木患子经》):

There was a time, Buddha was on the mountains with 1,250 of his companions.

The king of Po-Liu-Li kingdom, sent an ambassador to seek advice from Buddha for help: "Buddha! My country is small and far, thieves and pirates are rampant, grains and wheat are expensive, illness everywhere, my people are suffering. I can't sleep well because of this. The way of Buddhism is profound. But I am always laden with urgent matters, as so I can't practice the Way. I implore to your mercy to teach me the Way! Please let me be able to practice day and night, and depart from sufferings."
The king suffers, and Buddha advices:

And Buddha told the king: "If you want to be free from obstacles, troubles, and karma, prepare a string of 108 beads and bring it along wherever you go. Regardless of whether you are walking or sleeping, be focused and praise the three treasures with one heart. Praise the Buddha, the Dharma, the Monkhood -- three treasures, and push one bead. Bead by bead, from 10 times, to 20 times, with total focus, until it becomes more than a hundred, thousand times. Even more than tens of thousands of times..."
We gather a few points here. One, bring your 108 beads wherever you go. Two, chant (praise). Three, count your chanting with your beads, push one bead with every chant.

So the key thing seems to be discipline of the mind and soul -- well, after all, meditation is about speaking and attuning to our mind and soul -- through the help of the 108 beads to gain focus. In a sense, the 108 beads becomes very functional (《苏婆呼童子请问经》):

Initially, the spirit is whole and at peace. Temporal matters bring trouble and pollutes the heart. The true self is then obscured. If the intention is to clear the clutter, one should use the prayer beads, recite and chant to guard the purity of the heart.
The prayer beads are also called counting beads 数珠. Count, recite, focus. Very specific, very functional. And it transcends Buddhism. Let's draw some reference from this Taoist text (《道法会元卷一七七·元素元辉府玉册》):

When meditating to connect with the universe, first, regulate your breathing and be in your practised form. Once your Qi is retained (and accumulated), you are in connection. Sit upright and face the auspicious direction, rest your hands on the sides of your shoes, breathe in and out at the rate of 4 counts of pulse. Hold your prayer beads, push (count) one bead with every breathing cycle. Start inhaling and exhaling as you are used to, adding volume gradually. Refrain from exerting extra force, for it will be obstructive.
While Taoists also uses the prayer beads for counting, we get a bit more information here, especially for those who are not familiar with or simply do not have the habit or chanting something specific.

This paragraph gives up more insight on the form of meditating with your 108 beads (or, about meditating at large). "Sit upright and face the auspicious direction" -- easy, "rest your hands on the sides of your shoes" -- I presume it means the lotus position, then, focus on your breathing. Instead of chanting, count and regulate your breathing.

So then comes this question: do we really have to count?

Let's take a look at what is here (《金刚顶瑜伽念珠经》 ) :

There are 4 types of prayer beads:
1,080 beads is the best, then, next best is the 108 beads.
After that, 54 beads, and then 27 beads.
Of course, I am sure everyone knows by now that 108 beads is the best for wearing (well, don't let me stop you to accumulate to 1,080 beads).

Hold the beads to your heart in your hands, meditate at peace and focus your heart.
Let the core of the one who meditates and Buddhism be one, then there will be attainment in terms of mortal matters and the Way.
Wear it on the top of your head, on your body, over your neck, or around your arm.
And what you say shall be recital of wishes, and with this, the cleansing of the three karmas.
Ok, no mention of counting here. Just two things: One, beads in your hand, close to your heart (let's interpret this as in contact with you or your skin, because the next line says you can wear it on your body, over your neck...). Two, say what you want! It seems to be reminding us to be cautious of what we speak, for when we wear the 108 beads, what we speak shall be repeated over and over again. So make sure that we are speaking of auspiciousness and prosperity.

And for those who DO have the habit of chanting, don't worry, this scripture is not contradicting you:

Wear it on the top of your head, you shall be cleansed continuously.
Wear it around your neck, you shall be cleansed in 4 important aspects (or, 4 folds).
Wear it around your arm, you shall be rid of numerous sins, thereby achieving tranquility quickly.
If one shall practice the incantations, and recite the names of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,
One shall receive uncountable blessings and good karma, and wishes shall be fulfilled.
What you say is important. As Master Yun said before, the most important words are those that we speak not to others, but to ourselves. And if you shall in your own right, chant, recite, incantations or mantras of goodwill, then, "one shall receive uncountable blessings and good karma, and wishes shall be fulfilled".

I guess that is why Master Yun came up with the Lotus Prayers:
I am better today than I was yesterday
I will be better tomorrow than I am today.
I am healthy, wealthy, happy and attractive. 
Wealth & Love follow me as I bloom like Lotus on Water.
Health and Happiness Increase, 
As I grow in Prosperity and Elegance.
We now know that this Lotus Prayer is also on Master Yun's fengshui paintings. Written with vermilion and the Lotus Fortune Tea, it is as if these words of prosperity are repeating by themselves, even before you start reading them.

So there isn't really a hard-and-fast way of meditating with your 108 beads. We know that you should at least hold it, or have it with you all the time, and visualize the good stuff. To enhance your focus, you can chant or count your breathing. And for those who are not affiliated with any particular religion, you can chant the Lotus Prayer.

If you survived this article, and still looking for a definitive answer, the most immediate thing that you can do now: hold your 108 beads, and visualize your dreams of auspiciousness and prosperity.

-- Kan Ying Loong, Executive Director


  1. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info.

  2. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info.