How Buddhist Mala Beads are made from scratch – on the street

Street Malas! Authentic Buddhist recitation beads made by hand from scratch – right there on the street!

This business is doing a roaring trade! Every time I walked past it, it was packed with several people were gathered around watching what was happening – and they were selling like hot cakes!

They are in Hainan Island in China on the street in a really busy shopping centre area called Bu Xing Jie – Walking Street, in an open cubicle ~2m x 2m.

Using Special Wood

They are making them from a special rare, high quality type of wood called Huang Hua Li wood (Yellow flowering pear wood), that especially comes from Hainan Island (imitations come from Vietnam and Thailand – but the grain is not as nice looking). You can pick your own personal piece of Huang Hua Li wood and they can make it on the spot for you or you can pick from the ones that they’ve already made.

It probably takes them 15-30 minutes to finish a Mala bead wrist bracelet.

Why Buddhist Mala Beads come in certain numbers

Buddhist prayer/meditation/recitation beads usually have 21 or 108 beads per Mala. Why?

Because the beads help you count. Certain mantras are supposed to be recited 21 or 108 times over water or vegetarian food or other pure objects in order to charge it up with the power of the mantra. Then the food or water can be eaten or drank to help a person with healing or the object can be worn for protection.

So for each mantra recitation, your fingers move along the beads by 1. This way, you mind is no longer preoccupied by counting and you can focus your mind wholeheartedly on the mantra.

When reciting mantras, your mind needs to be focused and you need to put your heart into the recitation so that you become one with the mantra. You need to let everything else go and only focus on the mantra recitation. Try to enter the mantra recitation samadhi.

The beads these guys were making were bigger, and to be worn on the wrist – do there may have been less than 21.

Cost

How much were these hand made Huang Hua Li beads, made from scratch? I saw Huang Hua Li beads at the airport selling for $3000-$10,000 RMB Chinese dollars). These hand made ones were 500 RMB – sounds like a bargain! Which is around ~$75 US dollars depending on the exchange rate.

So there is a high demand for hand made fresh, authentic beads from scratch because they are yours – not just some generic beads you got off the internet or shop – and some of them – you don’t really know, you can’t be sure that they are using the genuine materials for the beads.

So that gives you guys an idea of how much high quality Buddhist beads cost in China.

It’s also great to see an example of Right Livelihood (1 of the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path) – it’s great to see people making an honest living and flourishing being able to provide for their employees and their families.

There’s also a great demand for Buddhist things in Hainan Island China because there are a lot of pilgrims and tourists (numbering in the thousands everyday) who come specifically to Hainan Island to see the enormous and majestic Hai Shang Gwan Yin (Gwan Yin upon the Ocean).

Some pilgrims are really sincere – they were doing San bu Yi bai (3 steps 1 bow – for every 3 steps, they’d make a full prostration on the ground) whilst walking towards Gwan Yin.

Perhaps similar in size to the Statue of Liberty, this Gwan Yin is the Enlightened One who personifies great compassion.

There is also a large Gwan Yin statue that looks out towards the sea in Vietnam. Why is Gwan Yin Bodhisattva by the sea?

Because when Gwan Yin Bodhisattva was still an unenlightened everyday person like you and me – he went to practice meditation by the sea where he was listening to the sounds of the waves crashing towards the shore and used those sounds to detach his hearing nature from the objects of sound and realise his own Buddha Nature. This method of highest level meditation was related by Gwan Yin himself in the Shurangama Sutra. The principle behind this method is the same as the principle behind Zen/Chan meditation.

Now maybe we can go practice our own meditation in a safe spot by the seashore.

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