I’m Likely The Only Bead Chanter
It’s practically t-shirt weather, although damp, as I found my way walking in what’s called The Annex area, with beads in hand. They are a glorious string of 108 beads, which act as an aid to my chanting. The word ‘bead’ hails from the German word, bidden, which means prayer. The word is very similar to the Dutch word I’m familiar with, when as a child raised by a family from the Netherlands, we would pray on the rosary at the time of Lent. To my recollection there are 54 rosary beads which is half the number of what we call japa beads. That, of course, shouldn’t matter, the half number, because the routine is cyclic. Once one revolution is completed, you just do another round of prayer.
While embracing my japa beads in the right hand, privately chanting my prayer and thinking of the good fortune to be able to do this, a young man was about to pass by me on the sidewalk. He used his right hand and had just put a light to his cigarette. When we actually met he blew out his smoke, and in a relative sense I’m sure he felt to be a lucky dude himself. To each his own.
“I’m likely the only bead chanter on Davenport this evening,” I thought. By this time of night, 10 PM, few pedestrians walked the street with a higher ratio of people as motorists. Surely those whizzing by at the steering wheel are not embracing a mala, as a Buddhist or Hindu would call it, or a Jew bearing a tefillin, a small leather strap for prayer, or a Muslim clutching on to a tasbih, while a Christian might have a rosary. You sometimes see one of these holy instruments dangling from the rear view mirror as a kind of talisman offering a protective power.
I, indeed, do feel fortunate to have my japa beads as my security blanket. I can’t help but project into the future with the anticipation that more prayer with an instrument of such will become a practice of many. How we could use that help at the current perilous time. And when is it not perilous in this precarious material world? The great master of chanting, with and sometimes without beads in hand, was Sri Chaitanya. He recommended that we all do as much chanting or praying as possible.