Teaching yoga and pranaic healing are not my only two talents that I have up my sleeve; but I also make beautiful hand crafted Mala Beads. Once again it was something that I felt a knack and passion for in deciding to pursue it as a way of earning income. However the more I have been on the market I find myself asking two questions, why should people by my mala beads? Mala beads are not a need, so in producing them am I contributing to growing trend of spiritual materialism.
Personally I love my mala beads and wear them every day. Further I chant on them for special events like Pujas, or times when I need a little more focus and feeling void of devotion or a loving heart. However I did not make either of my sets, one was a gift upon completing my RYT-200 and the second one was one I bought while in teacher training as a way to deepen my practice. Although I could not see my practice taking a huge nose dive if I did not wear them, each day they add a reminder and often a quick stress relief when life gets tough, of the person I wish to portray.
The mala beads that are on the market now are constantly growing, expanding, and becoming more expensive and elaborate. Each set that is hand crafted is a beautiful work of art, but what is it about these pieces that create someone to spend sometimes hundreds of dollars to obtain one of these works?
I am no expert on marketing or target market groups, but there are a few things that bring people into buying unique artful mala beads. First of all people love standing out. With more and more people wearing mala beads for a variety of reasons, having a piece that is unique is almost a must to preserve a sense of individuality – it that is one of your values. Second each piece has different combination of semiprecious stones with different energetic qualities. We can infer that these qualities were assigned to these stones long ago by our ancestors before they settled down as farmers. This shared understanding of these stones can be explained and understood by Carl Jung and his theories of Archetypes and collective memory. Although the idea of stones having energetic qualities in them some would scoff at, perception is everything and some stones do have physical frequencies that are measurable.
Even with all of these beautiful reasons to obtain a mala set – or many – there is still the question of whether or not this growing industry of unique mala beads is furthering the trend of Spiritual Materialism. The idea of Spiritual Materialism is
Spiritual materialism is a term coined by Chögyam Trungpa in his book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. The book is a compendium of his talks explaining Buddhism given while opening the Karma Dzong meditation center in Boulder, Colorado. He expands on the concept in later seminars that became books such as Work, Sex, Money. He uses the term to describe mistakes spiritual seekers commit which turn the pursuit of spirituality into an ego building and confusion creating endeavor, based on the idea that ego development is counter to spiritual progress.
Conventionally, it is used to describe capitalist and spiritual narcissism, commercial efforts such as “new age” bookstores and wealthy lecturers on spirituality; it might also mean the attempt to build up a list of credentials or accumulate teachings in order to present oneself as a more realized or holy person. Author Jorge Ferrer equates the terms “Spiritual materialism” and “Spiritual Narcissism”, though others draw a distinction that spiritual narcissism is believing that one deserves love and respect or is better than another because one has accumulated spiritual training instead of the belief that accumulating training will bring an end to suffering.
Thus adding to the barrage of material things that we are selling to spiritual people as a ‘need’ could be seen as furthering this idea of spiritual materialism. Nonetheless for those whom are truly committed to their practice, and committed to bring the world that greater sense of peace within their lives conversational pieces like jewelry, clothing, and knickknacks can further their own practice through visual representation and symbolism, as well as create a space for teaching/learning.
There is a great industry building around different yoga and spiritual material objects. Though they are all beautiful and can be purposeful, both as sellers and consumers we need to be conscious of the fact that these items do not necessarily bring you closer to your goal of enlightenment without proper use or understanding. We are providing or purchasing tools for an age old practice with an over all goal of non-attachment. Thus we need to be decisive and selective in both what we offer and what we are looking to buy and why.
Practice in Peace and Love ❤