Can I carry Rudraksha Mala in my hand?

Mala, Misbaha and the RosaryPrayer chains and strings of pearls in the world religions

"The god Shiva spent a thousand years in deep meditation to repent for the sins of mankind. When he awoke from oblivion and realized the suffering of earthly living beings, he wept bitterly. Some of his tears fell on the earth and turned into Seeds. Soon afterwards the first Rudraksha tree grew at this point. "

This legend about the divine tears is ancient. She made the dried seed pods of the Rudraksha tree so popular: as pearls for the Hindu prayer beads. Hindus believe that all the secrets of the cosmos are hidden in the small fruits of the tropical tree. Therefore the Rudrakshas are particularly suited to lead the praying person to spiritual enlightenment.

Mystery and magic - there is a lot mixed up in religious ideas about prayer chains. In the shamanistic practice of primitive peoples, for example, strings of pearls made from small bones were popular as amulets. The Christian monks of the Middle Ages counted their prayers on the beads of the rosary. Buddhists strive for immersion in meditation with the help of the "mala". The Islamic Sufi dervishes use their prayer cord to praise the name of Allah, for example in the Zikr prayer ritual.

"The prayer chain in Islam is called Misbaha in Arabic; in non-Arab countries it is more likely called Tesbih, for example in Turkish-speaking countries. Tesbih is the name of praise. So be aware that God is absolutely free from defects, from mistakes, and that these qualities only belong to God. Tesbih is also a form of Zikr, that is, of remembrance of God, namely of conscious, deliberate and constant remembrance of God. "

A thousand or more pearls are strung on a Tesbih chain of the Sufi brotherhoods. In the Zikr ritual, the invocation of Allah lasts for hours; often singing, drums and dancing are added to the prayer. Those who pray strive for a state of trance-like ecstasy.

The standard type of Islamic prayer beads is of course shorter. The tesbih common today consists of 99 pearls, as the religious scholar Ali Mete explains.

"A prayer chain used every day by Muslims has four components, three times 33 pearls on a string, at the very end there is an element called 'Imame' in Turkish, which is the 100th part. Three times 33. "

"Allah has 99 names - whoever enumerates them goes to paradise" - a companion of the Prophet Mohammed is said to have said. Only the camel knows the hundredth name, which is why it looks down on people so mockingly, says a proverb from Egypt.

The hundredth name of Allah is unpronounceable and unknown to people, the scholars disagree. But how can the believer avoid miscounting while praying? Apparently the early Muslims were inventive. "You used a certain number of small stones or other objects that were counted beforehand. Or you did it with the balls of your fingers; at the time of the first Caliph Abu Bakr it is known that ropes with small knots were used to make a certain one To be able to count the number. And after that, at some point and somewhere, one does not know exactly, the prayer chain prevailed. "

To list 99 different names one after the other in the correct order and at the same time to strive for a state of devotion and spiritual immersion - that is almost impossible. This is why it is customary in Islamic religious practice to limit oneself to three names. One invokes a saying of Muhammad.

"The Prophet said: If after every prayer someone says 'Subhan Allah' 33 times, 'Subhan Allah' means praised be Allah, 33 times 'Al-hamdu lilah', so thanks to Allah, and 33 times 'Al-hamdu lilah' So Allah is great says 99 times in total, and to complete the hundred says: 'There is no god but Allah' - then his sins will be forgiven, even if they are very many. And these very meaningful hadis are based on the Muslims when they say these formulas Subhan Allah, Al-hamdu lilah and Allahu akbar after every prayer. "

The Tesbih is not only used after the five daily prayers in the mosque, but also in everyday life. Many believers always carry the prayer beads with them, use them in the café, on the subway, when going for a walk.

And - similar to Hinduism - there are numerous legends in Islamic popular belief about the magical powers of the Tesbih.

"The Libyan saint Sidi Salim had a prayer chain with pearls the size of lemons. This Tesbih had the ability to move around. At night the saint chained his prayer cord to a tree so that it would not get lost. Pir Mehr Ali Shah, a Pakistani saint, worked many miracles with his Tesbih. Once he even used it to bring to life a dead sparrow that a British soldier had previously shot from a tree. "

The parallels between the Islamic Tesbih and the prayer chains of the Far East are striking. "Mala" is the name of the string of pearls in Sanskrit. For Hindus, the 108 pearls symbolize the various names of God.

In Buddhism, too, 108 is a magic number.

"In Zen this is the Lotus Sutra: 108 books or teachings from the Buddha. There are 108 prostrations. When I was practicing Korean Zen, it was also a counting aid, because we had to make 108 bows every morning and then we did that counted by this chain. "

Werner Heidenreich from Cologne has been a practicing Buddhist for over 20 years. He always carries a mala with him; usually he has the prayer chain wrapped around his wrist.

"I used it to stabilize my meditation in everyday life, so to speak when going for a walk or when I was standing or waiting somewhere. That meant I pushed these individual pearls on this necklace through my fingers, after every and exhaling one of these pearls. So I still had another object next to the breath, the single pearl. And when you walk through the city or are in general business, then that actually helps to stabilize. "

For those who want to tame restless thoughts and find inner serenity, the prayer chain can be a valuable help. Constantly touching the pearls with your fingers - this is a constant reminder of the prayer or mantra and prevents your thoughts from wandering.

"There is a beautiful parable of an Indian teacher. There are ceremonies like this in India. And in these ceremonies elephants are led through narrow streets and left and right are fruit and vegetable stalls. And the elephants with their long trunks, of course, are always but of course quick to steal vegetables and fruit. It's hard to prevent that against such an elephant, so you thought: what can we do? Then you just gave the elephants a little stick, what they did should hold up with their trunk. They were so busy that these seductions on the right and left no longer took hold. It's similar here. We focus the mind on this mantra and then don't get into such brooding and thought circles but stay actually in such a sleep mode. "

The prayer chain was also known early in Christianity: the hermit Paulus von Thebes, for example, murmured the 51st psalm 300 times a day, also known as "Miserere". To keep track of things, he had just as many stones in the left pocket of his habit. After each psalm recitation he put one in the right pocket.

"The desert fathers tried to say this perpetual prayer; according to Paul: 'So pray without ceasing!' And then they also bought these prayer chains. And they weren't rosaries yet, but it was what they knew from Egypt or Asia: Malas. "

In the so-called "Jesus prayer" or "prayer from the heart" of the Orthodox Christians, the apostle Paul's demand for perpetual prayer is satisfied. In absolute silence the believer should listen to the rhythm of his breathing and heartbeat, say his prayer and immerse himself in a state of spiritual immersion.

"Imagine the heart, direct your eyes there, listen attentively how it stirs and beats time after time. When you have found your way in there, start with every beat of the heart to adapt the prayer words to it. At the first beat say or think: 'Lord', in the second 'Jesus', in the third 'Christ', in the fourth 'have mercy', in the fifth: 'mine' - and repeat this as often as possible. When you have got used to it, the whole thing begins To lead Jesus prayer with the breath into and out of the heart. When you breathe in the air, say 'Lord Jesus Christ', but let it escape: 'Have mercy on me.' In this way you will gain the inner prayer of the heart. But make an effort to reject everything that the mind whispers to you or whatever may appear to you. "

In the "Sincere Tales of a Russian Pilgrim", an anonymously written manuscript of the 19th century, which was probably made on Mount Athos, it is described in detail how the believer can learn the "prayer of the heart". The prayer chain, in Russian "chotki", is a valuable aid. Instead of a string of pearls, it is usually a closed cord with 33, 100 or 500 knots. Magical effects are also ascribed to the "chotki", as the Russian pilgrim reports in his story.

"Once I was walking through a grove in winter towards evening; suddenly a large wolf rushed towards me. As always, I had my Chotki, which was braided from a woolen cord, in my hand and was beating the wolf with it. What happened? Hand torn and just came to lie around the wolf's neck. The wolf escaped, jumped over a thorn bush, entangled his hind legs in the undergrowth, while the Chotki hooked on the branch of a dry tree. Then the wolf wanted to tear itself away, but he could not free himself because the cord choked his neck.I made the sign of the cross in faith, went up to him to free him, because I was afraid that he would tear the chotki and run away with her, then I would never have my precious cord I had hardly taken the chotki when the wolf ran away. "

In the Christian West, the use of prayer beads was restricted to hermits, monks and theologically educated people for centuries. It was not until the late Middle Ages that the rosary became an important part of popular religious belief. The initiative came from Dominican monks who brought a simple but concise form of prayer into circulation.

This has been preserved to this day: for every ten "Hail Mary" is followed by a "Our Father". Such a cycle corresponds to a so-called "mystery" - an episode from the life of Jesus that the believer should visualize during prayer. A complete rosary consists of fifteen of these mysteries, summarized in three groups of five mysteries each: the joyful, the painful and the glorious rosary.

"It's a simple prayer that anyone can easily learn. I don't need any complicated instructions. You can pick up something - that's what psychologists say, it gives you something calming, it's also an external help So it is a prayer that ordinary people can offer; it does not say, 'You must' or 'You should' - it is about looking at, looking at. "

The rosary quickly became popular, especially after the Dominicans established so-called rosary brotherhoods in many cities in the 15th and 16th centuries, which were open to all believers. Father Johannes Bunnenberg is Provincial of the Dominican Order in Cologne.

"In contrast to other brotherhoods that existed in the cities over the centuries throughout the Middle Ages: the poor could also join this brotherhood. Incidentally, it was also for women, that was not a matter of course with the other brotherhoods either. The only obligation was that in the course of a week the three rosaries, the joyful, the painful and the glorious rosary were prayed. "

The flower wreath on the head was a popular piece of jewelry for women in the Middle Ages - especially when it was woven from roses. The rosary was thus a kind of symbolic flower wreath for the Blessed Mother. Each pearl represented a rose and was also a reminder of a Marian prayer.

The material used was initially wood, bones, small stones or fruit kernels. Very soon, however, the simple prayer chain also became a piece of jewelry for wealthy citizens and nobles. Those who could afford it wore an elaborately decorated rosary made of expensive precious stones, silver or ivory. In popular belief, the prayer chain soon became an amulet with magical powers. The concise dictionary of superstition of 1866 writes:

"Haunted spirits disappear when you throw a rosary at them. If you need good weather to dry your clothes, you hang a rosary outside. Pregnant women carry it with them to prevent bewitching and to make childbirth easier Cradle, that protects against all evil and makes the child pious. The rosary also protects from alp and changeling. Of course, it also serves as a remedy. Sick people are coated with a rosary consecrated seven times using certain formulas. A rosary that comes from a grave , helps against headache. If a girl gives her lover a rosary, they always prefer each other because the rosary 'binds' "

Belief in the magical effect of the rosary is still widespread today: as a tattoo on the skin or as a chain on the inside mirror of a car. But the form of prayer has also survived for centuries. The Cologne Rosary Brotherhood, founded in 1475, is still active today and is therefore the oldest of its kind. Every weekday at half past eleven at noon, believers meet to pray the rosary in the St. Andrew's Basilica in Cologne.

"I am not originally Christian, but come from a Jewish family, and I entered the Catholic Church 50 years ago. I like to pray the rosary; at the beginning of the rosary, you may pray it a little unfamiliar, according to the book. But very much soon, in these various secrets that are being considered, one automatically comes to the fact that it becomes a meditative prayer. Then one also forgets what one is saying; one simply prays it. The words just come, one does not think about it. "

Despite her 85 years, Renate Friedländer regularly takes part in the rosary prayers in the Cologne church - once a week even as a prayer leader. In addition to the religious significance, she particularly appreciates the calming power of the constantly repeated prayer.

"That is a good school of meditation. And it takes time. You cannot immediately expect that it will work immediately, that you will go deeper immediately."

"I can perceive repetition as something boring and therefore something annoying. Repetition - this is not just something, yes, lyrical, but repetition is also the accent of deepening or recuperation Religion can only be approached through repetition. "