Juzu (beadroll) (数珠)

Juzu (数珠) is a Buddhist ritual implement and a kind of ring composed of many beads which are linked by piercing a bundle of threads into a hole made on each bead. As it means beads that are used when praying to Buddha, it is also called 'nenju' (praying beadroll).
In Sanskrit, it is called 'hasoma.'
While praying to Buddha, it is used for the purpose of rubbing, jingling and/or counting frequency of mantra and Buddhist invocation. In sects that do not care about the frequency of Buddhist invocation, such as Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism), it is used as a symbol of reverence to Buddha.

Generally, it is hung on hands that are put flat together on the occasions of Buddhist rites, Buddhist memorial services and/or praying to Buddha, Bodhisattva, memorial tablet of the deceased. The way to hang on the hands is different from sect to sect.

Monks sometimes hang it on the neck instead of hands.

Concerning its origin, there are various views but it is generally believed that the tool used by Brahmanism in Ancient India is the origin. The above tool was used by Sakyamuni and introduced into China later. Thereafter, it was introduced into Japan in the Asuka period along with the introduction of Buddhism. In the Kamakura period, when Jodo-kyo (pure land teachings) prevailed and Invocation of the Buddha's Name became popular, it spread widely among ordinary people.

At present, there are bracelet-type juzu, called udewa nenju (or wanju, bracelet nenju), which are miniaturized juzu that uses elastic as an inner string so that it can be hung on the arms. However, udewa nenju is not suitable for use for the original purpose of juzu, due to its size.

Matters to be Attended to When Handling Juzu

It must be handled with care since it is a Buddhist ritual implement. When carrying it, it must be put into an exclusive bag such as a juzu bag (nenju bag).

When placing it, it must be put on a bag, a nenju bag or a handkerchief and must not be directly put on tatami mats, and so on.

It is generally believed that juzu should be held by the left hand with a tassel hanging down or should be hung on the left wrist.

Number of Beads

It is believed that the number of 108 represents the number of earthly desires, each bead of juzu represents 108 Buddha who preside over each earthly desire and juzu suffers all earthly desires of human beings.

Juzu that are called 'Honren' (main strand), 'Niren' (two strand) or 'Nirin' (two loops) are ones that are composed of 108 beads of 'Omodama' (main beads) (refer to the name of beads). It is usually used by making it into double rings.

Juzu that are called 'one handed' or 'informal' are ones that are composed of a decreased number of Omodama instead of the original number of 108. The number of Omodama varies widely from 54 beads which is half of 108, 36 beads which is one third of 108, 27 beads which is a quarter of 108 to 18 beads which is one sixth of 108. In recent years, juzu that are composed of the proper number of beads suitable for the size of the ring (size of a hand), instead of sticking to a particular number like 22 beads or 25 beads, are produced.

There exist juzu that are composed of 1080 beads called Hyakumanben-nenju (literally, one hundred times of nenju).

As for a unit in counting the number of beads, '... ball' (玉, tama) or '... grain' (顆, ka) are also used other than '... bead' (珠, tama). In this column, 'bead' (珠) is to be used consistently.

Name of Beads

In the case of Honren-juzu, the biggest bead (one bead or 2 beads) is called 'Oyadama' (parent bead) or 'Moshu' (mother bead) and the 108 beads which mainly compose a ring are called 'Omodama.'
4 beads which are smaller than Omodama and lie between Omodama are called 'Shitendama.'
Other than the above, beads which are called 'Deshidama' (disciple bead), 'Kikotomo,' 'Jomyo' (pure bead), 'Tsuyu' (dewdrop beads) and 'Fukudama' (sub bead) respectively are attached to tassels.
〔Details to be mentioned later since different beads are used depending on religious Doctrines.〕

In the case of one hand juzu, the number of Oyadama is only 1 and a tube-like bead called 'bosa' (Bodhisattva) is inserted between Oyadama and tassel. Many beads which mainly compose a ring are called Omodama, likewise in the case of Niju-juzu (double ring juzu). 2 beads which are smaller than Omodama are called 'Nitendama' (literally, beads of two celestial).

The Chinese character of '玉' (tama) is also used, other than '珠' (tama), for the name of beads. 珠' is to be used in this column consistently.

Shape of Beads

By and large, the shapes of juzu beads are categorized into the following three kinds.

Marudama (round-bead)

Mikandama (elliptic type) - It can be easily handled when counting the frequency of mantra and Buddhist invocation. Juzu that is composed of Mikandama looks meaty and sublime. Monks tend to prefer Mikandama because of ease of handling and fine appearance (though there is a difference depending on sects).

Hiradama (flat-bead) - It is sometimes used in the Tendai sect but not in the Nichiren sect.

Materials

Although cloisonne enamel was recommended in old documents, beads made from various materials, such as lime tree, are used today. Prices of juzu widely vary depending on the bead materials. Women prefer fine-colored juzu that are made from crystal or coral. As materials for high grade juzu, crystal with gold line (rutile quartz), feicui (Burma feicui), ivory, lapis lazuli and Bo tree, and so on, are used. For cheap juzu, glass beads and/or plastic beads which resemble stone beads or coral beads are used. Attention should be paid to the fact that there could be different rules on materials, color and the shape of tassels depending on doctrines and/or sects.

Ptincipal Materials for Beads

Jewelry and precious stones - crystal and the like (crystal, amethyst, smoky quartz, and so on), agate (onyx), feicui (Burma feicui), green aventurine, coral and the like and tourmaline, and so on.

Wood - ebony, rosewood, Bombay black wood, Japanese box tree, White cedar and amber, and so on.

Nuts of trees - Bo tree, Rudraksha, hogan linden, ryugan linden and kogan linden, and so on.

Nuts of grass - seigetsu linden and renge linden, and so on.

Fragrant wood - sandal wood and dwarf Japanese yew, and so on.

Ivory

Glass

Celluloid

Materials for an Inner String and Tassels

Pure silk and rayon (polyester) is used.

As for the shape of tassel, there are several basic patterns such as kashiratsuki tassel (literally, tassel with a head), kiri tassel (cutting tassel), yori tassel (getting together tassel), yotsumehimo tassel (four-eyed string tassel), kiku tassel (or Brahma tassel, chrysanthemum tassel) and Rikyu tassel (or temari ball tassel) but depending on craftsmen, these could be further broken down.

Matters to be Attended to Depending on Materials

Beads which are vulnerable to harmful insects, such as those made from Bo tree, must be kept in a paulownia box or treated with insecticide.

Particular caution is required in handling fragile and/or soft beads such as those made from coral or pearl.

As the beads made from lapis lazuli, red coral, pearl or malachite are vulnerable to sweat, these must be kept in a paulownia box after wiping off sweat.

Formal Juzu for Each Sect

The following are general explanations concerning the forms of formal juzu for ordinary lay believers. In selecting juzu, it is vital to confirm with a family temple or consult with a specialty store.

Juzu for Tendai Sect

Juzu for the Tendai sect uses 108 beads of Omodama, a bead of Oyadama and 4 beads of Shitendama to compose a ring.

These beads are arranged in the following order; 1 bead of Oyadama=>7 beads of Omodama=>1 bead of Shitendama=>14 beads of Omodama=>1 bead of Shitendama=>66 beads of Omodama=>1 bead of Shitendama=>14 beads of Omodama=>1 bead of Shitendama=>7 beads of Omodama, and finally they are shaped as a ring.

1 small bead called 'Jomyo' is attached at the knot of a tassel made under Oyadama.

2 tassels are attached under Jomyo. Various shapes are used for tassels (kiku tassel and Rikyu tassel (kemari tassel) are often used).

Deshidama is attached to each tassel. Each Deshidama has its characteristics since Deshidama attached to one tassel is composed of 10 beads of Marudama and Deshidama attached to the other tassel is composed of 20 beads of Hiradama. A tear-shaped bead called 'Tsuyu' is attached to the tip of each Deshidama.

The characteristics of the Tendai sect juzu is that flat beads called Hiradama (Sorobandama) are used for Omodama.

Juzu for Shingon Sect

The way of holding (in case of Chuin school) - A prayer should hang Moshu on the middle finger of the right hand and hang odome (literally, lacing up the thong) on the forefinger of the left hand. At that time, a prayer should twist nenju once so that its shape becomes the shape of an X. When putting hands flat together in prayer, a prayer should put both tassels into the palms. Then, a prayer should rub them 2 to 3 times slightly with the left hand up and the palm downward, while the right hand is down and its palm upward and should then stop rubbing by pulling the right hand towards himself/herself. When holding juzu in Isso (a ring), it should be hung on the left wrist and in this case, it should be hung in a manner where Moshu is placed on the wrist of the left hand. If and when a prayer holds juzu in Isso, he/she can make a sutra recitation while holding a sutra text in the right hand since the right hand is free. There is no problem for lay believers (Buddhist supporters) to hold juzu according to Chuin school.

As for juzu for the Shingon sect, the number of Omodama and Shitendama used for a ring is the same as with juzu for the Tendai sect but the number of Oyadama is 2 beads. These beads are arranged in the following order; 1 bead of Oyadama=>7 beads of Omodama=>1 bead of Shitendama=>14 beads of Omodama=>1 bead of Shitendama=>33 beads of Omodama=>1 bead of Oyadama=>33 beads of Omodama=>1 bead of Shitendama=>14 beads of Omodama=>1 bead of Shitendama=>7 beads of Omodama, and they finally form the shape of a ring.

One bead of Jomyo is attached only to the knot of a tassel that is attached to Oyadama situated on the side of Shitendama.

2 tassels are attached to each of 2 Oyadama (4 tassels in total). Various shapes are used for tassels (kiku tassel and Rikyu tassel (kemari tassel) are often used).

5 beads of Deshidama and 1 bead of 'Tsuyu' are attached to each tassel (Deshidama: 20 beads in total, Tsuyu: 4 beads in total).

Formal juzu of the Shingon sect for females, for which the length is approximately 24 cm, are called juzu for Hasshu sect (eight sects) and are on sale as one which is usable irrespective of sect.

An example in the design of juzu used by monks of the Shingon sect is the one which is composed of 108 beads, red kansen (string to connect beads) and white tassels. As for the reason why kansen is colored red, there are many theses but no established thesis. One thesis asserts that kansen represents a blood vessel and/or blood since a life (a soul) dwells in juzu. In the Shingon sect, designs of juzu belong to the category of phenomenon (courtesy and/or manners of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism). There is no problem for lay believers (Buddhist supporters) to use juzu for monks (108 beads, red kansen, white tassels).

Godairiki nenju - This is nenju which Nyojitsu HOTTORI, the president of the Daigosan Denpo Gakuin (Denpo (the teachings of Buddhism) Academy on Mt. Daigo), ordered to be produced when his hope was achieved through devotion to Buddhism. Although it is nenju of the Shingon sect, which is composed of 108 beads, its characteristics are the use of beads made from two kinds of materials, as well as tassels composed of strings of five different colors. It is on sale at Daigo-ji Temple as a prize for awarding.

Juzu for Jodo Sect and Ji Sect

Juzu for Jodo Sect and Ji Sect has a unique shape which looks like one that has mixed the two juzu. There exist some differences, such as the number of Omodama, between juzu for males and for females.

Oyadama is attached to each of 2 rings but tassels are not directly attached to Oyadama.

A small bead called 'Fukudama' is attached to one of two rings alternately with Omodama.

A metal double-ring is attached to the ring to which Fukudama is attached and 2 tassels are attached to the ring. As for the shape of tassels, kiku tassel and Rikyu tassel (temari ball tassel) are mainly used.

1 bead of Jomyo is attached to the knot of the tassel.

Deshidama is attached to tassels. 6 beads of Marudama are attached to the one tassel and 10 beads of Hiradama are attached to the other. 1 bead of 'Tsuyu' is attached to the tip of each Deshidama.

It is also called Nikka (daily) nenju.

In the Jodo Sect, it is believed to be desirable to use formal Nenju. Other than the above, a portable juzu that is composed of 36 beads or dai (big)-nenju called Hyakumanben-nenju are also used.

Juzu for males is called Sanman jodo (literally, thirty thousands of pure land, or Sanman-guri (thirty thousands of telling)) of which one ring is composed of 27 beads of Omodama and the other is composed of 20 beads of Omodama and 21 beads of Fukudama which are allocated alternately. It is used for telling the juzu while reciting Buddhist invocation, and it is possible to recite 32,400 times (27 times 20 times 6 times10 makes 32,400) by telling the juzu with all beads other than Fukudama. The above is the origin of the name.

Juzu for females is called Hassun jodo (literally, 24 cm of pure land, or Rokuman-guri (sixty thousands of telling)) of which one ring is composed of 40 beads of Omodama and the other is composed of 27 beads of Omodama and 28 beads of Fukudama. The number of Deshidama is the same as that of Sanman jodo. Therefore, it is possible to recite 64,800 times (40 times 27 times 6 times 10 makes 64,800), twice the number for males, by telling the juzu with all beads other than Fukudama.

Juzu for Jodo Shinshu Sect

In Jodo Shinshu Sect, there is no practice to telling the nenju while reciting Buddhist invocation and therefore, no rule exists concerning the number of beads. No rule exists concerning the materials of beads either. The form of the nenju does not matter, but it is highly esteemed as a ritual implement to be used while putting hands flat together in prayer.

In the case of male believers : It is believed to be desirable to use a himo (code) tassel of one-handed nenju. As there is no rule on the number of Omodama, the number is decided depending on the size of beads, and the nenju that is composed of 18 to 27 beads are generally used.

Female believers of the Hongan-ji School of the Jodo Shinshu Sect (O-nishi (Nishi Hongan-ji Temple)): Female believers are often recommended not to use Honren Nenju. Although a one-handed nenju for females is usually composed of 36 beads, there is no particular rule on the number of beads. For one-hand nenju for females, kiri tassel, kashiranashi yori tassel (twisted tassel, or shinmatsu tassel (new pine tassel) and kashiratsuki yori tassel (twisted tassels with head) are mainly used.

Female believers of the Otani School of the Jodo Shinshu Sect (O-higashi (Higashi Hongan-ji Temple): Likewise the case of O-nishi, one-hand nenju can be used. Kiri tassel and shinmatsu tassel are mainly used for tassels. Notwithstanding the above, there is no problem for females to use Honren nenju which is generally called hassun monto (literally, 24 cm for followers). In hassun monto, number of Omodama and Oyadama, allocation of Shitendama are the same as the juzu of Shingon Sect. Tassels have a distinctive feature because they are knotted in a unique manner, called 'rennyo-musubi' devised by Rennyo Shonin, so that they cannot be used for counting. One bead of Jomyo is attached to the tassel attached to Oyadama of the Shitendama side and 5 beads of Deshidama are attached to the tip of each tassel knotted at the position of the 5th bead from Oyadama. One bead of 'Tsuyu' is attached to the tip of each Deshidama. In other words, Deshidama is packed upwards in an X shape so that they are fixed. A knot (rennyo-musubi) is made on the tassel attached to Oyadama on the opposite side.
The tassel is attached without attaching Deshidama and 'Tsuyu.'
As for the shape of tassels, kashiratsuki tassel is mainly used.

The Way of Holding Honren Nenju

In the case of the Otani School, it should be used in the form of a double ring with 2 beads of Oyadama fixed at a thumb and 4 tassels hung down on the left side. It should be hung on a hand with Oyadama of the Deshidama side situated at the fingertip side and Oyadama of the rennyo-musubi side situated at the body side.

In the case of Hongan-ji School, it should be used in the form of a double ring and the tassels should be hung down.

Although large-sized Honren nenju for males, with a length of over 38 cm and which have a nagafusa (long tassel), are seen, it is basically shozoku nenju (nenju for costume) for monks.

Juzu for Rinzai Sect

As for juzu of the Rinzai Sect, the number and allocation of Omodama, Oyadama and Shitendama are the same as those of the Tendai Sect. However, the shape of Omodama is marudama.

Bosa' (literally, Bosatsu (Bodhisattava)) is attached to Oyadama. Jomyo and Deshidama are not attached.

While himo tassel is often used, kiri tassel is also used.

Juzu for Soto Sect

As for juzu of the Soto Sect, the number and allocation of Omodama, Oyadama and Shitendama are the same as those of the Shingon Sect.

A tassel is attached only to Oyadama on the Shitendama side. The shape of the tassel is almost the same as that of the Rinzai Sect.

Oyadama to which a tassel is attached is slightly bigger than one to which a tassel is not attached.

Bosa' also is attached to Oyadama to which a tassel is attached.

Although it looks like juzu for Rinzai Sect, juzu for Soto Sect have a distinctive feature of using a metal ring called hyakuhachi-kankin (literally, one hundred and eight golden ring). A silver ring is sometimes used for high-grade juzu.

Juzu for Nichiren Sect

As for juzu for the Nichiren Sect, the number and allocation of Omodama, Oyadama and Shitendama are the same as those of the Shingon Sect.

Tassels have a distinctive feature since tassels attached to Oyadama are not symmetrical.

2 tassels with a bead of Jomyo are attached to Oyadama (also called Jomyodama) situated on the Shitendama side (the side to be hung on the middle finger of the right hand) and knots are made on each tassel at the position of the 5th beads from Oyadama and 5 beads of Deshidama are attached on their tips. Tsuyu' is attached to the tip of each Deshidama. 3 tassels are attached to Oyadama (also called odome) situated on the side where Shitendama doesn't exist (the side to be hung on the middle finger of the left hand) and a knot is situated under Oyadama. Out of 3 tassels, 5 beads of Deshidama as well as 'Tsuyu' are attached to 2 tassels for each. The remaining 1 tassel called "kazutori" (counting) is shorter than the other 2 tassels and 10 beads of Deshidama are attached to it. Tsuyu' is not attached to "kazutori."

In the Nichiren Sect, even lay believers must use formal nenju (informal nenju is not be used).

- The above explanations are basically made regarding juzu for lay believers. As for juzu for monks, the above may not be applicable since there are more detailed rules concerning costumes, and so on.

- There are subtle differences in the designs of juzu depending on sects/schools.

- In some regions, there are restrictions on the color of beads and/or tassels.
(For funeral, Omodama (white or transparent), tassels (white); for Buddhist memorial service, Omodama (colored ones), tassels (colored tassels), and so on.)

Custom-Made Juzu

Custom-made juzu are available at some shops specialized in nenju. Juzu of gradation, such as the ones made from crystal or amethyst, which is not available on the market, are also available.

Repair of Juzu

Juzu should be repaired before the inner string is broken. When tassels are damaged, they can be replaced under normal conditions.

By replacing the inner string, juzu, especially the expensive one or the one of a keepsake, can be used for a long time.

It is said that the color of juzu made from Bo tree or seigetsu linden (unbleached) will gradually change the color in amber over time and have depth to its color.

Repairs are undertaken by shops specializing in nenju or Buddhist altar stores which deal with the repair of juzu.

There exist some people who do not replace an inner string based on the thought that the cutting of string leads to the cutting of mishap. For the same reason, it is believed that the natural cutting of string doesn't necessarily mean bad luck.

Others

8 reidama (spirit beads) which appear in "Nanso Satomi hakken den" (The story of eight dog samurai and a princess of Satomi family in Nanso region) are 8 big beads that flown from crystal-made juzu that was possessed by Princess Fusehime and the remaining 100 small beads are connected and becomes juzu that Chudai hoshi possesses.

Similar things are used in other religions, such as Rosario in Christianity.

Sometimes juzu is written in Chinese characters as '珠数' instead of '数珠' by changing the order of each Chinese character.
According to the grammar of the Chinese language, which is the origin of a pair of these Chinese characters, a verb should be placed before a noun and this is the reason why 'juzu' is written as '数珠.'
In Chinese, 'to count the number of beads' is written as '数珠.'