The Meditation Beads
The Mokugenji Sutra states:
A King named Haruri once spoke these words in sorrow to the Buddha: “In recent years famine and pestilence have plagued my small country. All the people are distressed. I am always worrying about this. We are in a painful position. The storehouse of the Law is too profound and extensive to practice. Please teach me the main point of the Law."
The Buddha replied: “King, if you want to eliminate earthly desires, make a circular string of 108 wooden beads. Hold them always to yourself. Recite ‘Namu Buddha-Namu Dharma-Namu Sangha’; Count one bead with each recitation.”
This is the origin of the meditation beads. As this sutra indicates, the Buddha advised the king to hold a string of beads. We follow this tradition when meditating on the Three Treasures, or when counting recitations of the Daimoku.
Nichikan Shonin further stated:
A circle of beads manifests the character Myo. Miao-lo stated in his writing ‘The Annotations on the Great Concentration and Insight’: “There is no Lack in the principle Myo.” Therefore we use a circle of beads that compares to the unending potential of the principle, Myo (no-extremities or individuation, i.e. root potential). The basic number of beads is 108, which is said to represent the number of earthly desires possessed by common mortals.
In Quantum Life Buddhism, as in the Buddhas words, “Namu-Buddha” is dedication and conviction to the complete and ultimate teachings of Buddha as manifest in the Buddha-nature, “Namu-Dharma” is dedication and conviction to the complete and ultimate teachings of Buddha as manifest in the Daimoku and our practice, and “Namu-Sangha” is dedication and conviction to the complete and ultimate teachings of Buddha as manifest in our shared practice with others whenever possible. These are the Three Treasures, Buddhahood itself, the teachings to lead directly to Buddhahood, and the sharing, study, and practice of those teachings.
Our meditation beads consist of two long strands joined at either end with two large beads. Hanging from the outside of these large beads are two shorter strands on one end, and three on the other. They are strung with white braided cords with white pompom tassels at the end. The sets of two and three strands are equidistant and opposite from each other. The two large beads are called the father and the mother beads. Both of them together represent the Buddha.
When we use the beads, we twist the circle once, forming a figure eight, or infinity symbol. The end of the symbol with three strands is placed over the middle finger of the right hand, and the end with the two strands is placed over the middle finger of the left hand. The short strands are left to dangle on the outside of the hands as the hands are brought together with palms facing and the fingers folded right hand over left for men and left hand over right for women. Take care to fold the fingers over the thumbs and not underneath. This presses the two palm shakras together and forms a ball or sphere at the chest. This is a position of ownership, receptiveness, and anticipation.
Between the father and mother beads are 108 of smaller size. These represent earthly desires. You will find also, four smaller beads. They are opposite each other, two being seven beads away from the end with two strands, and the other two are fourteen beads beyond the first two.
These four small beads represent the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth – Jogyo, Muhengyo, Jyogyo, and Anryugyo – And also indicate the four virtues of the Buddha’s Life. These are Eternity, Happiness, True Self, and Purity.
Directly under the father bead, which is at the end with two tassels, is a smaller bead. This represents the essential nature of the Law, the Essential creative core, the eternal, absolute Truth.
The strands that hang from the outside of the middle fingers represent the concept of Ichinen Sanzen. The two strands of ten beads each that hang from the left signify the ten worlds and their mutual possession. Of the three strands that hang on the right, the two strands with five beads each together represent the ten factors. The remaining strand of ten beads represents the final concept of Ichinen Sanzen as the Three realms of existence, including the five components and their combination with the ten worlds and ten factors to render three thousand realms in a single moment.
The Buddha’s basic teaching on life is that our manifestation as humans is a string of these Ichinen Sanzen moments occurring one after the next. Our advent in this life is to ensure that there is no remainder from one moment to the next. More on this will be clarified by study.
Because of their profound significance, you should treat your meditation beads with respect, just as you would Buddha. To understand the meaning of the beads is to begin to understand the profundity of Buddhism, the correct practice, and the reason for expressing gratitude to the Three Great Secret Laws – The object of devotion of the essential teaching (Gohonzon, both as scroll or mirror and the essential truth of this Buddha nature inseparable from your life), the Daimoku of the essential teaching (Namumyohorengekyo, invoking that innate Buddha nature to awaken it), and the sanctuary of the essential teaching (meaning both the Butsudan housing the Gohonzon, and the essential core of your life), and the Three Treasures as discussed earlier.