09 October 2007

The History of Buddhist and Hindu Malas, Orthodox Chotkis, Muslim Tasbihs, Christian Prayer Ropes, Roman Catholic Rosaries, and Secular Power Beads

The true origins of the use of a circle or string of beads to count prayers and as a device for meditation are lost to history, although most scholars agree that the earliest use of prayer beads comes from India in the 8th century B.C.E. The word mala in Sanskrit translates roughly as 'garland' and is associated with both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. The tradition of using beads in religious devotion can be traced from there, first spreading to Asia and then through the middle east and to medieval Europe. Some Native Americans used beaded belts and bracelets (known as wampum) as a form of money, a device for memory, as diplomatic or ceremonial tools and to pass on cultural knowledge, rituals and tradition - however they are not known to have used them as a daily devotional tool like the mala or rosary.

Prayer beads are now a near-universal spiritual technology, and have variations in most of the world's major religions - from the Christian rosary to the Arabic tasbih. Malas have even briefly entered mainstream consciousness in the form of power beads worn on the wrist by everyone from celebrities to teenage girls.

This ancient ritual tool has been used by countless people through the ages to help them attain meditative states, relieve stress and worry and provide a concrete tool for counting ones prayers or recitations in their spiritual practice.

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