The Purpose of Buddhist Strings.

author's own photo

author’s own photo

 

By Daniel Scharpenburg

I have three strings around my wrist.

There are two red ones and a yellow one. One of the red ones is looking a little worn. I’ve had it for a while. It’s something people notice sometimes.

Everyone knows I prefer the Zen tradition and strings aren’t part of that, but I have spent a great deal of time practicing in the Vajrayana tradition and it has meant a lot to me too. Each one has a different meaning.

The first red one was given to me by Lama Chuck Stanford when he gave me Refuge Vows and I officially became Buddhist. The second red one was given to me by Lama Chuck when I took Bodhisattva Vows, deepening my Buddhist commitment.

The yellow one was give to me by Lama Lena Feral, and it was blessed by her teacher Wangdor Rinpoche—a famous Vajrayana Buddhist teacher from Tibet who held several lineages.

But, what do these strings mean?

They are sometimes called blessing cords and sometimes called protection cords. They are used in several lineages of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism.

These cords are blessed and given by Lamas on important occasions, for example when one takes vows. Taking vows is a part of most branches of Buddhism, but taking vows doesn’t always involve receiving a string. One can also be given a string when one does an important retreat or receives teachings from a well known teacher, especially secret teachings. I was given my yellow string because I received teachings from Lama Lena.

In ancient times, people would just wear their cords until they fell apart. In the modern world they last much longer because we have synthetic material.

Legend has it that these cords can bring good luck or offer some kind of protection.

In the traditional practice the Lama ties a knot in the cord, blows a mantra into it, and makes a blessing. They say this allows you to take your teacher with you, even after they are long gone. Many religious traditions have this kind of process, where a teacher imbues an object with spiritual energy and blessings.

Now, I’ll be honest and tell you, I don’t believe these strings provide any sort of protection or good luck. I’m skeptical of such things. But I do think they serve a purpose.

They can be a reminder.

I have a string that reminds me that I took Refuge Vows. It reminds me that I am a Buddhist and I should live mindfully.

I have a string that reminds me that I took Bodhisattva Vows—that my purpose is to spread compassion and wisdom, to save as many beings and bring as many to Enlightenment as I can.

And I have a string that reminds me that I have received additional teachings. This one reminds me that there is always more to learn and there are always more steps to take.

I have three strings and I have seen people with more.

I think reminders have some value.

 

Photo: (provided by author)

Editor: Dana Gornall

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Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world.

He was trained and certified as a meditation teacher at the Rime Buddhist Center, where he also spent four years teaching kids about Buddhism and meditation practice. He received additional training in the Zen tradition, both as a Monk in the Korean Zen tradition and as a lay teacher in the Caodong Chan tradition.

He has taken Bodhisattva Vows and the precepts of a lay zen teacher.

His work is dedicated to both sharing his own story and presenting a variety of Buddhist teachings in a way that shows how they are applicable to real life.

Find out more about Daniel on his blog and connect with him on Facebook, Youtube,andTwitter

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By | 2016-10-14T07:49:50+00:00 October 27th, 2015|blog, Buddhism, Featured|1 Comment

One Comment


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    Chris Walton October 16, 2017 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Thank you for this. Your words express the conclusions I had reached in respect of the strings I wear. It is good to have independent verification on issues like this.

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