The Endless Knot

Black Onyx Hand Mala with Wooden  Endless Knot

Black Onyx Hand Mala with Wooden Endless Knot

by Thea Cowsky

The Endless Knot, or the Knot of Eternity, is a rich symbol in Buddhism and is frequently used in Buddhist art and iconography and malas. It is used from different perspectives in different traditions. In some traditions, it represents the interweaving and turns of the spiritual path, crossing and re-crossing.
The Endless Knot with no beginning and no end symbolizes the beginning-less of ultimate reality, the illusory nature of time, and the infinite wisdom of the Buddha.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the endless knot is one of the eight auspicious symbols. As such, it symbolizes the nature of reality interdependence of all things. It also represents the mutual dependence of religious and secular affairs, and monastic and lay communities, each supporting the other and dependent on the other for growth and nourishment. When we are on the path of spiritual training, it symbolizes the inseparability of emptiness (of an inherently existent nature of all things) and dependent arising of all things. This is the wisdom aspect of Buddhist training that develops as we deepen our understanding of reality.

Dark Bone Bracelet Mala with Bone Endless Knot

Dark Bone Bracelet Mala with Bone Endless Knot

The endless knot also represents the complete union of wisdom and method
(compassion) at the time of full enlightenment.
Like other images and symbols, contemplating the symbolism of the Endless Knot can help us question and break through our common conception of time and reality. At the very least, it can remind us that there is a deeper reality than that which arises in a linear fashion before our ordinary eyes. Used as such, it is an example of the power of symbols not only to enrich our spiritual practice, but more importantly to challenge and transform our limited finite perspective.

Contributing author Kate Cowsky


Quan Yin and Chenrezig

by Thea Cowsky
Quan Yin and Chenrezig

The manifestation of compassion in Buddhism is Quan Yin (also Kwan Yin) in Chinese, Chenrezig in Tibetan,  Avalokiteshwara in Sanskrit, and Kanzeon in Japanese.

Quan Yin, or Chenrezig, or Avalokiteshwara are more than love.  They represent  caring. A deep caring for others.  Buddhism believes that suffering is inherent in Samsara. So compassion for others’ suffering is the counter and natural spiritual reaction to this.

While Buddhists believe compassion exists externally, the spirit of compassion—the mind of Chenrezig or Quan Yin—is something they nurture within themselves towards all beings.
Crystal Counter Mala
A crystal mala is associated with Quan Yin or Chenrezig. The mantra of Chenrezig or Quan Yin is OM MANI PADME HUM, sometimes rendered in Tibetan as OM MANI PEMI HUNG. Meaning, “Hail to the Jewel in The Lotus.”

Contributing author: David Cowsky

Deepening the Experience with Mantra

by Thea Cowsky

MeditationAs one is first learning to use mantra, the intellect is most active. As one begins to understand the practice, it is important to make a transition to ‘experiential learning’ by starting a daily mantra meditation practice. It is in the actual ‘doing’ of mantra that the deeper learning reveals itself.

By doing the mantra meditation, our spiritual aspirations are nurtured and we begin to purify mind and body allowing for the deepening of our spiritual awareness.

As one reads about, listens to, and practices mantra meditation, the essence of mantra practice becomes clearer.  The universality of the use of mala and mantra is both reassuring and awe-inspiring.  The deepening of spiritual awareness happens naturally as one practices with open-hearted mindfulness. Regardless of the particular doctrine and beliefs supporting mantra recitation throughout the world, this deepening can happen.

The book “Beads of Faith” gives a brief overview of the use of mala and mantra in several Beads of Faith bookdifferent religious traditions throughout the world, and has lots of nice pictures. There are also several books written on mantra from the perspective of various spiritual traditions as well as CDs that can support your exploration of mantra practice.

Tara Mantra

.More information on mantras.

Contributing author Kate Cowsky

Using Your Mala to Recite Mantra

by Thea Cowsky

om tareWhat is mantra?

Mantra is a series of sacred sounds or syllables that are repeated over and over and carries spiritual energy as it is expressed. In Sanskrit ‘man’ means to think and ‘tra’ means to protect or to free from (the bondage of the phenomenal world). So recitation of mantra is a protection of the mind by focusing and purifying.
The mantra is repeated over and over as a prayer, meditation, invocation or object of concentration. It can be one syllable or several syllables.

Using the mala

how to use a mala for mantra

The mala is the tool used while reciting mantra that helps to focus the mind and to count repetitions of the mantra. It represents a flow of nectar as one is reciting the sacred sounds. A Buddhist mala and Hindu (japa) normally have 108 beads.

Starting Mantra Meditation Practice

The Buddhist tradition teaches one to adjust your motivation so that you wish to do the mantra recitation for the benefit of all living beings. This increases the positive effects for others as well as oneself.
The mala is held in the left (receiving) hand while reciting. The mala can be held at the level of the heart as an expression of devotion if you wish. The beads of the mala are moved one by one as the mantra is recited, starting next to the larger central ‘Guru bead’ which represents Buddha, God, The Eternal. When you reach the Guru bead again the mala is turned and you continue on in that direction. Since the Guru bead represents the Buddha or the Devine, one does not cross over it.
It is sometimes said that mantra sounds like the buzzing of bees, loud enough to hear but not ‘loud’.
Formal mantra practice is nice to do early in the morning when the mind is most clear and the environment is most calm. Mantra can also be done any time during the day to bring the mind back to center and connection with the heart-mind. Reciting mantra and holding your mala can be very supportive anytime of day or night. Using mantra in challenging times or during lunch break helps to refocus and renew.

See Tara Mantra, or instructional aids (cd’s & books).

Contributing author Kate Cowsky

The Bracelet Mala

by Thea Cowsky

Bracelet Mala with Om

Black Onyx Bracelet Mala with “OM” Charm

Bracelet malas are a smaller version of full length 108 bead malas and are suitable to be worn in a variety of everyday settings without calling attention to itself.

Bracelet malas have a Chinese knot that allows them to be opened and closed for easy on and off. A bracelet mala can be used to repeat a mantra or prayer throughout the day. Wearing a bracelet mala is also a wonderful way to remind us of our spiritual intentions as we go about our busy lives.

A bracelet mala can have from 15-27 beads, and can be made in rosewood, bodhi seed, rudraksha or sandalwood. Gemstones such as jade, lapis lazuli, amethyst, black onyx, coral, garnet or amber make lovely bracelet malas that can be personally meaningful.

Many people find that a bracelet mala can become more personal and meaningful with the addition of a charm or pendant such as a small lotus, or Buddha hand, OM pendant,  Dharma wheel, or other symbol.

View all Shakya Design bracelet malas.

Contributing Author: David Cowsky