You get your string, you get your beads, tie it all together and wear it proudly.
Several of us gathered last week to give Mala making a try after our Thursday night meditation...and after a few rather comical glitches---string too short for 108 beads, which you don't realize until you're at bead number 75 (hmmmm start again!) or picking up the wrong end of the thread and having all your beads slide off the other end (yeah, start again), we all ended up with malas that were personalized, unique and very attractive!
And though I made a new mala, most of my time was spent simply observing.
We were very much like a little village that had come together to accomplish a communal task, yet each of us tackled it in a different way.
Some of us started over and over, some of us collected beads in little piles around our work space and guarded those piles like treasure, some made random choices from the big bead pile. Others brought their own beads and simply sat on the rug stringing, a design having cooked on the back burner for weeks, finally taking shape.
We made decisions impulsively or with agonizing slowness. We shared and we hoarded. We laughed at our mistakes, we got quite upset with our mistakes.
A very human little village!
Once we all figured out that the string I had initially provided was too short, I cut new lengths and we all went to work....Again.
Lots of banter, and sudden silence, as people counted and recounted.
We talked about the history of malas and their usage, the significance of the Guru, or Buddha bead, the possible mantras to recite over each bead, the significance of different bead materials and sizes.
I talked about wearing the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, and I wondered to myself, how else do we wear the Triple Gem, how do we offer it moment to moment, and who receives it?
Finally, as malas were being finished, they were handed over so that I could tie the knots and put a dab of beading glue on those knots, and I would be kidding myself if I didn't acknowledge that I felt like a Doctor in the Obstetrics ward, tying off and cutting the umbilical cord on a newly born baby, then handing that baby over to the the very proud parent!
When A asked me to bless her mala, I was thrilled to comply. We stood facing one another as I silently recited the Nembutsu over her mala. I placed it around her neck as she bent toward me. And then, as my Sensei had done for me, I gently placed my forehead to hers, held her head in my hands and blessed her as well. Finally we bowed to one another, her mala encircling her neck.
I repeated the blessing for others, though not all asked.
I'm looking forward to our sit tonight, to see the new malas in action, even if we do choose to simply wear them rather than running them through our hands.
The intention of living as Buddha is still evident.