Friday, April 17, 2015

Mala beads, rosaries, and Anne Bradstreet

Mala bead and rosaries


            I was recently given a gift of mala beads- 108 lightly scented sandalwood beads in a silk pouch.  In the center is a larger bead, called the guru bead, which serves as the starting and ending point for mantra recitation.  There are a surprising number of rules involved in using the beads.  The index finger isn’t used and when you reach the center bead (guru bead) you’re not supposed to cross it, but you flip the beads and start again.  There are 108 repetitions of a mantra because 8 are dedicated to god.

            In the Vedic tradition mantra recitations bring magical outcomes like good health, prosperity, and removal of difficult karma.

            But how different are mala beads from the rosaries that filled drawers in my childhood home?  I never got beyond trying them out as necklaces.  Of course, the crucifix at the end, made that impossible.  I never knew what prayers constituted “saying” a rosary. Having grown up with rosaries makes the mala beads far less exotic than they might be to someone from a different tradition.  Since saying the rosary didn’t bring my mother any miraculous benefits (at least, not that I was aware of), I’m skeptical about the great promises the Vedic practitioners claim.  That shouldn’t stop me from using the mala beads as a meditation tool though I’m not sure I have the discipline I need. 


I’ve been taking a free online course called 10 Pre-modern poets.  It’s been great fun.  I’ve also found it interesting how so many of the poems can be so relevant to life today not to mention how each reader  brings a personal story and background to each interpretation. 


What writer hasn’t felt like this at some point?  She was 38 when this poem was published.


The Author To Her Book    1650

BY anne bradstreet

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam.
In critic’s hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.


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