The mala beads

One day a spiritual Master went to visit one of his ashrams in another country. The disciples there welcomed him with excitement and devotion, and one of the boys presented him with a set of japa or mala beads that he had painstakingly made by hand for the Master. The Master blessed the boy and then blessed the other disciples who had come to greet him. After they had all meditated together for a while the Master spoke to the disciple who had given him the mala beads.

"My son, I thank you deeply for your dedicated service. From now on, however, I ask you to let me know about your projects in advance so that I can sanction them. I cannot sanction your making this kind of beads in the future, for it would be going against my own philosophy. Also, people will bring me hundreds of malas to bless. I have blessed some in the past, but I have done so with inner reluctance. My philosophy does not advocate the use of malas, because they encourage one to use the mind while counting. It is better to say 'Supreme' seven times soulfully while you breathe in rather than to say it many times counting mechanically. Great Masters like Buddha, Krishna, Ramakrishna and others did not do japa but used will-power and aspiration to realise the Highest. In my case also, although I have done japa three times in my life, I have not done it very seriously.

"In India I knew of a Yogi who had realised God through japa. Some of his disciples did not believe in his realisation, so the Yogi told them that whoever did not believe in his realisation would go to hell. Of course, my children, if someone does not believe in my realisation, I will offer that person at the feet of the Supreme for illumination rather than threaten him in this way. If that does not work, however, I will just give the responsibility for that person's realisation to the Supreme."

One disciple raised his hand and said, "Master, in a recent talk of yours you spoke about mala beads. You said that each mala had one hundred and eight beads, and you said that the number dated back to Krishna's time. You suggested that one way to achieve purity is to say 'Supreme' five hundred times one day, six hundred the next and then continue increasing the number by one hundred a day until we reach twelve hundred at the end of one week. Then you said we should decrease the number by one hundred each day until we reach five hundred again in another week. You said that this practice is good for discipline, will-power and purity. But is this not japa, Master?"

The Master replied, "Yes, that is true. But japa must be done with utmost sincerity. Two disciples of mine who have since left me used to wear their beads all the time merely to show off, but the kind of emotional and mental life they were leading was very impure. If you must wear beads, you should keep them inside your clothing.

"Musicians, for example, in some ways have a very hard job. Although music, the soul's music, is the language of God, the public likes to hear lower vital music, so it is difficult for most musicians to lead a pure life. One famous musician in India used to wear, not one, but seven malas outside his shirt to show how pure he was. Unfortunately, he nonetheless lived a most unbearable vital life.

"Three years ago, an ex-disciple of mine presented me with a mala. While I was in Europe this year, that particular person let it be known that he wished to have his mala back. Since the mala in question was locked in my room, that ex-disciple had to await my return. Upon my arrival, I offered the mala back to that person, but he had reconsidered and decided to let me keep it. Although I tried to give it back, he would not take it. Later I could not help comparing myself with a bank, for I felt that since he had given me his mala to hold for three years, it should at least have acquired interest by this time. The Supreme always listens to a spiritual Master's innocent request, and here is the proof. Now I have not one, but two malas for him."

The disciple who had made the japa beads bowed and said, "Master, now that I understand your philosophy, I can see that I will not need japa beads any more. From now on, I shall try to progress with your loving inspiration and my soulful aspiration, with your soul's concern and my heart's sincere cry."

20 July, 1974