A Japamala or mala is a string of prayer beads used by Hindus, Buddhists and some Sikhs for the spiritual practice known in Sanskrit as japa. It is made from 108 beads, though other numbers are used. Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or the name or names of God. Mantras are repeated hundreds or thousands of times; the mala is used so that one can focus on the meaning or sound of the mantra rather than counting its repetitions. One repetition is said for each bead while turning the thumb clockwise around each bead, though some traditions or practices may call for counterclockwise motion or specific finger usage; when arriving at the head bead, one turns the mala around and goes back in the opposing direction. There are knots between each bead; this makes using the mala easier. If more than 108 repetitions are to be done sometimes in Tibetan traditions grains of rice are counted out before the chanting begins and one grain is placed in a bowl for each 108 repetitions.
Each time a full mala of repetitions has been completed, one grain of rice is removed from the bowl. Practitioners add extra counters to their malas in strings of ten; these may be positioned differently depending on the tradition. This is an alternative way to keep track of large numbers, sometimes going into the hundreds of thousands, millions; the 109th bead on a mala is called the sumeru, stupa, or guru bead. Counting should always begin with a bead next to the sumeru. In the Hindu, Vedic tradition, if more than one mala of repetitions is to be done, one changes directions when reaching the sumeru rather than crossing it. There are numerous explanations why there are 108 beads, with the number 108 bearing special religious significance in a number of Hindu and Buddhist traditions. 27 Constellations x 4 Padas = 108 12 Zodiac Houses x 9 Planets = 108 Upanishads or the Scriptures of the Vedas = 108Thus, when we recite or recount number 108, we are remembering the entire universe. This reminds us of the fact that the universal self is omnipresent, the innate nature of the self.
Some Hindu traditions hold that the correct way to use a mala is with the right hand, with the thumb flicking one bead to the next, with the mala draped over the middle finger. The index finger represents ego, the greatest impediment to self-realization, so it is considered best avoided when chanting on a mala. In northeast India those in the Shakta traditions in West Bengal and Assam, the mala is draped on the ring finger of the right hand, with beads moved by the middle finger with aid of the thumb and avoiding the use of the index finger. However, draping the mala over the middle finger and using the thumb to move the beads is acceptable in these regions. A wide variety of materials are used to make mala beads. Beads made from the seeds of the rudraksha tree are considered sacred by Saivas, devotees of Siva, while beads made from the wood of the tulsi plant are used and revered by Vaishnavas, followers of Vishnu. Other common beads include wood or seeds from the sandalwood tree or the Bodhi tree, seeds of the Lotus plant.
Some Tibetan Buddhist traditions call for the use of animal bone, those of past Lamas being the most valuable. Semiprecious stones such as carnelian and amethyst may be used, as well. In Hindu Tantra, as well as Buddhist Tantra and colors of the beads can relate to a specific practice.like in hinduism red and black hakik for taamsik sadhna sphatik or quartz for praying any god red moonga stone for praising hanuman Apte, V. S; the Practical Sanskrit Dictionary, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, ISBN 81-208-0567-4 Dubin, L. S.. Prayer Beads. In C. Kenney, The History of Beads: From 100,000 B. C. to the Present. New York: Abrams Publishing. Henry, G. & Marriott, S.. Beads of Faith: Pathways to Meditation and Spirituality Using Rosaries, Prayer Beads and Sacred Words. Fons Vitae Publishing. Untracht, O.. Rosaries of India. In H. Whelchel, Traditional Jewelry of India. New York: Thames & Hudson, Inc. Wiley, E. & Shannon, M. O.. A String and a Prayer: How to Make and Use Prayer Beads. Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
More on Japa - Ramana Maharshi
Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions and spiritual practices based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are recognized by scholars: Theravada and Mahayana. Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth, either by the attainment of Nirvana or through the path of Buddhahood. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, their specific teachings and practices. Observed practices include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, observance of moral precepts, monasticism and the cultivation of the Paramitas.
Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Nichiren Buddhism and Tiantai, is found throughout East Asia. Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian adepts, may be viewed as a separate branch or as an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth-century India, is practiced in the countries of the Himalayan region and Kalmykia. Buddhism is an Indian religion attributed to the teachings of the Buddha born Siddhārtha Gautama, known as the Tathāgata and Sakyamuni. Early texts have his personal name as "Gautama" or "Gotama" without any mention of "Siddhārtha," which appears to have been a kind of honorific title when it does appear; the details of Buddha's life are mentioned in many Early Buddhist Texts but are inconsistent, his social background and life details are difficult to prove, the precise dates uncertain. The evidence of the early texts suggests that he was born as Siddhārtha Gautama in Lumbini and grew up in Kapilavasthu, a town in the plains region of the modern Nepal-India border, that he spent his life in what is now modern Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Some hagiographic legends state that his father was a king named Suddhodana, his mother was Queen Maya, he was born in Lumbini gardens. However, scholars such as Richard Gombrich consider this a dubious claim because a combination of evidence suggests he was born in the Shakyas community – one that gave him the title Shakyamuni, the Shakya community was governed by a small oligarchy or republic-like council where there were no ranks but where seniority mattered instead; some of the stories about Buddha, his life, his teachings, claims about the society he grew up in may have been invented and interpolated at a time into the Buddhist texts. According to the Buddhist sutras, Gautama was moved by the innate suffering of humanity and its endless repetition due to rebirth, he set out on a quest to end this repeated suffering. Early Buddhist canonical texts and early biographies of Gautama state that Gautama first studied under Vedic teachers, namely Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, learning meditation and ancient philosophies the concept of "nothingness, emptiness" from the former, "what is neither seen nor unseen" from the latter.
Finding these teachings to be insufficient to attain his goal, he turned to the practice of asceticism. This too fell short of attaining his goal, he turned to the practice of dhyana, which he had discovered in his youth, he famously sat in meditation under a Ficus religiosa tree now called the Bodhi Tree in the town of Bodh Gaya in the Gangetic plains region of South Asia. He gained insight into the workings of karma and his former lives, attained enlightenment, certainty about the Middle Way as the right path of spiritual practice to end suffering from rebirths in Saṃsāra; as a enlightened Buddha, he attracted followers and founded a Sangha. Now, as the Buddha, he spent the rest of his life teaching the Dharma he had discovered, died at the age of 80 in Kushinagar, India. Buddha's teachings were propagated by his followers, which in the last centuries of the 1st millennium BCE became over 18 Buddhist sub-schools of thought, each with its own basket of texts containing different interpretations and authentic teachings of the Buddha.
The Four Truths express the basic orientation of Buddhism: we crave and cling to impermanent states and things, dukkha, "incapable of satisfying" and painful. This keeps us caught in saṃsāra, the endless cycle of repeated rebirth and dying again, but there is a way to liberation from this endless cycle to the state of nirvana, namely following the Noble Eightfold Path. The truth of dukkha is the basic insight that life in this mundane world, with its clinging and craving to impermanent states and things is dukkha, unsatisfactory. Dukkha can be translated as "incapable of satisfying," "the unsatisfactory nature and the general insecurity of all conditioned phenomena". Dukkha is most translated as "suffering," but this is inaccurate, since it refers not to episodic suffering, but to the intrinsically unsat
Reincarnation is the philosophical or religious concept that the non-physical essence of a living being starts a new life in a different physical form or body after biological death. It is called rebirth or transmigration, is a part of the Saṃsāra doctrine of cyclic existence, it is a central tenet of Indian religions, namely Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism, although there are Hindu groups that do not believe in reincarnation but believe in an afterlife. A belief in rebirth/metempsychosis was held by Greek historic figures, such as Pythagoras and Plato, it is a common belief of various ancient and modern religions such as Spiritism and Eckankar, as an esoteric belief in many streams of Orthodox Judaism. It is found as well in some tribal societies around the world, in places such as Australia and South America. Although the majority of denominations within Christianity and Islam do not believe that individuals reincarnate, particular groups within these religions do refer to reincarnation; the historical relations between these sects and the beliefs about reincarnation that were characteristic of Neoplatonism, Hermeticism and Gnosticism of the Roman era as well as the Indian religions have been the subject of recent scholarly research.
Unity Church and its founder Charles Fillmore teaches reincarnation. In recent decades, many Europeans and North Americans have developed an interest in reincarnation, many contemporary works mention it; the word "reincarnation" derives from Latin meaning, "entering the flesh again". The Greek equivalent metempsychosis derives from meta and empsykhoun, a term attributed to Pythagoras. An alternate term is transmigration implying migration from one life to another. Reincarnation refers to the belief that an aspect of every human being continues to exist after death, this aspect may be the soul or mind or consciousness or something transcendent, reborn in an interconnected cycle of existence; the term has been used by modern philosophers such as Kurt Gödel and has entered the English language. Another Greek term sometimes used synonymously is palingenesis, "being born again". Rebirth is a key concept found in major Indian religions, discussed with various terms. Punarjanman means "rebirth, transmigration".
Reincarnation is discussed in the ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism and Jainism, with many alternate terms such as punarāvṛtti, punarājāti, punarjīvātu, punarbhava, āgati-gati, nibbattin and uppajjana. These religions believe that this reincarnation is cyclic and an endless Saṃsāra, unless one gains spiritual insights that ends this cycle leading to liberation; the reincarnation concept is considered in Indian religions as a step that starts each "cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence", but one, an opportunity to seek spiritual liberation through ethical living and a variety of meditative, yogic, or other spiritual practices. They consider the release from the cycle of reincarnations as the ultimate spiritual goal, call the liberation by terms such as moksha, nirvana and kaivalya. However, the Buddhist and Jain traditions have differed, since ancient times, in their assumptions and in their details on what reincarnates, how reincarnation occurs and what leads to liberation.
Gilgul, Gilgul neshamot or Gilgulei Ha Neshamot is the concept of reincarnation in Kabbalistic Judaism, found in much Yiddish literature among Ashkenazi Jews. Gilgul means "cycle" and neshamot is "souls". Kabbalistic reincarnation says that humans reincarnate only to humans and to the same sex only: men to men, women to women; the origins of the notion of reincarnation are obscure. Discussion of the subject appears in the philosophical traditions of India; the Greek Pre-Socratics discussed reincarnation, the Celtic Druids are reported to have taught a doctrine of reincarnation. The idea of reincarnation did not exist in early Indian religions; the concepts of the cycle of birth and death and liberation derive from ascetic traditions that arose in India around the second half of the first millennium BCE. Though no direct evidence of this has been found, the tribes of the Ganges valley or the Dravidian traditions of South India have been proposed as another early source of reincarnation beliefs.
But the religions of southern India, like the ancient historical Vedic religion in the North, the Dravidian folk religions do not have the concept of reincarnation. The Vedas, does not mention the doctrine of Karma and rebirth but mention the belief in an afterlife, it is in the early Upanishads, which are pre-Buddha and pre-Mahavira, where these ideas are beginning to develope. Detailed descriptions first appear around the mid 1st millennium BCE in diverse traditions, including Buddhism and various schools of Hindu philosophy, each of which gave unique expression to the general principle; the texts of ancient Jainism that have survived into the modern era are post-Mahavira from the last centuries of the 1st millennium BCE, extensively mention rebirth and karma doctrines. The Jaina philosophy assumes that the soul exists and is eternal, passing through cycle
Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity – to train attention and awareness, achieve a mentally clear and calm and stable state. Some of the earliest written records of meditation, come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE. Meditation has been practiced since antiquity in numerous religious traditions and beliefs as part of the path towards enlightenment and self realization. Since the 19th century, it has spread from its origins to other cultures where it is practiced in private and business life. Meditation may be used with the aim of reducing stress, anxiety and pain, increasing peace, self-concept, well-being. Meditation is under research to define other effects; the English meditation is derived from Old French meditacioun and the Latin meditatio from a verb meditari, meaning "to think, devise, ponder". The use of the term meditatio as part of a formal, stepwise process of meditation goes back to the 12th century monk Guigo II.
Apart from its historical usage, the term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, referred to as dhyāna in Hinduism and Buddhism and which comes from the Sanskrit root dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate. The term "meditation" in English may refer to practices from Islamic Sufism, or other traditions such as Jewish Kabbalah and Christian Hesychasm. In popular usage, the word "meditation" and the phrase "meditative practice" are used imprecisely to designate broadly similar practices, or sets of practices, that are found across many cultures and traditions. What is considered meditation can include any practice that trains the attention or teaches calm or compassion. Definitions in the Oxford and Cambridge living dictionaries and Merriam-Webster include both the original Latin meaning of "think about". Criteria for defining a practice as meditation "for use in a comprehensive systematic review of the therapeutic use of meditation" were identified by Bond et al. using "a 5-round Delphi study with a panel of 7 experts in meditation research" who were trained in diverse but empirically studied forms of meditation.
Other criteria deemed important involve a state of psychophysical relaxation, the use of a self-focus skill or anchor, the presence of a state of suspension of logical thought processes, a religious/spiritual/philosophical context, or a state of mental silence. It is plausible that meditation is best thought of as a natural category of techniques best captured by'family resemblances' or by the related'prototype' model of concepts." The table shows several other definitions of meditation that have been used by influential modern reviews of research on meditation across multiple traditions. In modern psychological research, meditation has been defined and characterized in a variety of ways. Scientific reviews have proposed that researchers attempt to more define the type of meditation being practiced in order that the results of their studies be made clearer. One review of the field provides a detailed set of questions as a starting point in reaching this goal; the practitioner of meditation attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind This may be to achieve a deeper, more devout, or more relaxed state.
In this article the terms "meditative practice" and "meditation" are used in this broad sense. However, in some contexts more specialized meanings of "meditation" may be intended; some of the difficulty in defining meditation has been the difficulty in recognizing the particularities of the many various traditions. There may be differences between the theories of one tradition of meditation as to what it means to practice meditation; the differences between the various traditions themselves, which have grown up a great distance apart from each other, may be starker. Taylor noted that to refer only to meditation from a particular faith...is not enough, since the cultural traditions from which a particular kind of meditation comes are quite different and within a single tradition differ in complex ways. The specific name of a school of thought or a teacher or the title of a specific text is quite important for identifying a particular type of meditation. Ornstein noted that "Most techniques of meditation do not exist as solitary practices but are only artificially separable from an entire system of practice and belief."
This means that, for instance, while monks engage in meditation as a part of their everyday lives, they engage the codified rules and live together in monasteries in specific cultural settings that go along with their meditative practices. These meditative practices sometimes have similarities, for instance concentration on the breath is practiced in Zen and Theravadan contexts, these similarities or "typologies" are noted here. In the West, meditation techniques have sometimes been thought of in two broad categories: focused (
Om mani padme hum
Auṃ maṇi padme hūṃ is the six-syllabled Sanskrit mantra associated with the four-armed Shadakshari form of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. It first appears in the Mahayana Kāraṇḍavyūhasūtra where it is referred to as the sadaksara and the paramahrdaya, or “innermost heart” of Avalokiteshvara. In this text the mantra is seen as condensed form of all the Buddhist teachings; the first word Aum/Om is a sacred syllable found in Indian religions. The word Mani means "jewel" or "bead", Padme is the "lotus flower", Hum represents the spirit of enlightenment. In Tibetan Buddhism, this is the most ubiquitous mantra and the most popular form of religious practice, performed by laypersons and monastics alike, it is an present feature of the landscape carved onto rocks, known as mani stones, painted into the sides of hills or else it is written on prayer flags and prayer wheels. Due to the increased interactions between Chinese Buddhists and Tibetans and Mongolians during the 11th century, the mantra entered Chinese Buddhism.
The mantra has been adapted into Chinese Taoism. In English, the mantra is variously transliterated, depending on the schools of Buddhism as well as individual teachers. Most authorities consider maṇipadme to be one compound word rather than two simple words. Sanskrit writing does not have capital letters and this means that capitalisation of transliterated mantras varies from all caps, to initial caps, to no caps; the all-caps rendering is typical of older scholarly works, Tibetan Sadhana texts. IAST: Oṃ Maṇi Padme Hūṃ Tibetan: ཨོཾ་མ་ཎི་པ་དྨེ་ཧཱུྃ Mongolian: Classical Mongolian: ᠣᠧᠮ ᠮᠠ ᠨᠢ ᠪᠠᠳ ᠮᠡᠢ ᠬᠤᠩ Khalkha: Ум мани бадмэ хум Buryat: Ом маани бадмэ хум Chinese: 唵嘛呢叭咪吽 or 唵嘛呢叭吽 or 唵嘛呢叭吽 or 唵麼抳缽訥銘吽 Sanskrit: ॐ मणिपद्मे हूँ Korean: 옴 마니 반메 훔 or 옴 마니 파드메 훔 Japanese: オーム・マニ・パドメー・フーム or オムマニペメフム Bengali: ওঁ মণিপদ্মে হুঁ Malayalam: ഓം മണി പദ്മേ ഹും Burmese language: ဥုံမဏိပဒ္မေဟုံ Nepali language: ॐ मणि पद्मे हुँ Vietnamese: Án ma ni bát mê hồng Thai: โอมฺ มณิ ปทฺเม หูมฺ'Phags pa: ʼom ma ni pad me hung ꡝꡡꡏ ꡏ ꡋꡞ ꡌꡊ ꡏꡠ ꡜꡟꡃ Sinhalese: ඕම් මනි පද්මේ හූම් Tagalog: ᜂᜋ᜔ᜋᜈᜒᜉᜇ᜔ᜋᜒᜑᜓᜋ᜔ Um mani pad mi hum Telugu: ఓం మణి పద్మే హుం Tangut: ·a mja nji pja mjij xo Old Uyghur: oom mani badmi xung Jurchen: am ma ni ba mi xu Tamil: ஓம் மணி பத்மே ஹூம் kannada ಓಂ ಮಣಿ ಪದ್ಮೇ ಹುಂ Mantras may be interpreted by practitioners in many ways, or as mere sequences of sound whose effects lie beyond strict semantic meaning.
The middle part of the mantra, maṇipadme, is interpreted as being in the locative case, "jewel in the lotus," Sanskrit maṇí "jewel, cintamani" and the locative of padma "lotus". The Lotus is a symbol present throughout signifying purity and spiritual fruition. Maṇipadme is preceded by the oṃ syllable and followed by the hūṃ syllable, both interjections without linguistic meaning, but known as divine sounds. However, according to Donald Lopez it is much more that maṇipadme is in fact a vocative, addressing a bodhisattva called maṇipadma, "Jewel-Lotus"- an alternate epithet of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. Damien Keown notes that another theory about the meaning of this mantra is that it invokes a female deity named Manipadmi; this is due to evidence from texts like the Kāraṇḍavyūhasūtra which depict the mantra as a female deity. As noted by Studholme, if the word is read as a vocative, it would be a irregular form of the masculine grammatical gender and therefore its most in the feminine, thus as Lopez notes, the original meaning of the mantra could in fact be an invocation of "she of the lotus jewel", the vidya and consort of Avalokiteshvara and is equivalent to Shakti's role vis a vis Shiva.
Regarding the relationship between the jewel and the lotus, Sten Konow argued that it could either refer to "a lotus, a jewel" or to "a jewel in the lotus". He argues that the second explanation makes more sense, indicating Shaivite influence through the imagery of the lingam and the yoni, both terms associated with mani and padma respectively, thus the mantra could in fact mean "O, she with the jewel in her lotus". According to Alexander Studholme however, the meaning of manipadme "should be parsed as a tatpurusa, or “determinative,” compound in the locative case", meaning “in the jewel-lotus,” or “in the lotus made of jewels,” which refers to:the manner in which buddhas and bodhisattvas are said to be seated in these marvelous blooms and, in particular, to the manner in which more mundane beings are believed to appear in the pure land of the buddhas. Given the predominance, in the Kāraṇḍavyūha and in the Mahayana in general, of the religious goal of the pure land of Amitabha, it may be safely assumed that maṇipadme would have been quite associated with the mode of the rebirth of human beings there.
The recitation of Oṃ Maṇi Padme Hūṃ the bringing to mind of the name of the Buddhist isvara, includes a declaration of the manner in which a person is reborn in Sukhavati: “in the jewel lotus.” The first known description of the mantra appears in the Kāraṇḍavyūhasūtra, part of certain Mahayana canons such as the Tibetan
The Holy Rosary known as the Dominican Rosary, refers to a form of prayer used in the Catholic Church and to the string of knots or beads used to count the component prayers. When used for the prayer, the word is capitalized, as is customary for other names of prayers, such as "the Lord's Prayer", "the Hail Mary"; the prayers that comprise the Rosary are arranged in sets of ten Hail Marys, called decades. Each decade is followed by one Glory Be. During recitation of each set, thought is given to one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which recall events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. Five decades are recited per rosary. Other prayers are sometimes added after each decade. Rosary beads are an aid towards saying these prayers in the proper sequence. A standard 15 Mysteries of the Rosary, based on the long-standing custom, was established by Pope Pius V during the 16th century, grouping the mysteries in three sets: the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Glorious Mysteries. During 2002 Pope John Paul II said that it is fitting that a new set of five be added, termed the Luminous Mysteries, bringing the total number of mysteries to 20.
The Glorious mysteries are said on Sunday and Wednesday, the Joyful on Monday and Saturday, the Sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday, the Luminous Mysteries are said on Thursday. Five decades are recited in a session. For more than four centuries, the rosary has been promoted by several popes as part of the veneration of Mary in Roman Catholicism, consisting in meditation on the life of Christ; the rosary represents the Roman Catholic emphasis on "participation in the life of Mary, whose focus was Christ", the Mariological theme "to Christ through Mary." During the 16th century, Pope Pius V associated the rosary with the General Roman Calendar by instituting the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, celebrated on 7 October. Pope Leo XIII, known as "The Rosary Pope," issued twelve encyclicals and five apostolic letters concerning the rosary and added the invocation Queen of the most Holy Rosary to the Litany of Loreto. Pope Pius XII and his successors promoted veneration of the Virgin in Lourdes and Fatima, credited with a new resurgence of the rosary within the Catholic Church.
Pope John XXIII deemed the rosary of such importance that on April 28, 1962, in an apostolic letter he appealed for the recitation of the Rosary in preparation for the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae which emphasized the Christocentric nature of the Rosary as a meditation on the life of Christ, he said: “Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as by the hands of the Mother of the Redeemer." On 3 May 2008, Pope Benedict XVI stated that the Rosary was experiencing a new springtime: "It is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother." To Benedict XVI, the rosary is a meditation on all the important moments of salvation history. The Congregation for Divine Worship's directory of popular piety and the liturgy emphasizes the Christian meditation/meditative aspects of the rosary, states that the Rosary is a contemplative prayer which requires "tranquility of rhythm or a mental lingering which encourages the faithful to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life."
The Congregation for Divine Worship points out the role the Rosary can have as a formative component of spiritual life. The theologian Romano Guardini described the Roman Catholic emphasis on the rosary as "participation in the life of Mary, whose focus was Christ." This opinion was expressed earlier by Leo XIII who considered the rosary as way to accompany Mary in her contemplation of Christ. Devotion to the rosary is one of the most notable features of popular Catholic spirituality. Pope John Paul II placed the rosary at the center of Christian spirituality and called it "among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation."Catholics believe the Rosary is a remedy against severe trials and the hardships of life, that the Rosary is one of the great weapons given to believers in their battle against every evil. Saints and popes have emphasized the meditative and contemplative elements of the rosary and provided specific teachings for how the rosary should be prayed, for instance the need for "focus, respect and purity of intention" during rosary recitations and contemplations.
From the sixteenth century onwards, rosary recitations involved "picture texts" that assisted meditation. Such imagery continues to be used to depict the mysteries of the rosary. Catholic saints have stressed the importance of contemplation. Scriptural meditations concerning the rosary are based on the Christian tradition of Lectio Divina, as a way of using the Gospel to start a conversation between the person and Christ. Padre Pio, a rosary devotee, said: "Through the study of books one seeks God; the reported messages from these apparitions have influenced the spread of rosary devotion worldwide. In Quamquam pluries Pope Leo XIII related rosary devotions to Saint Joseph and granted indulgences for adding a prayer to St. Joseph to the Rosary during the month of October. Praying the Rosary may be prescribed by priests as a type of penance after confession. (Penance is not intended as a "punishment".