Brian McIntyre is a deeply spiritual mala maker and world traveler from Canada who learned his ancient craft in Bodhgaya, India (the alleged site of the Buddha's Enlightenment) from a local artisan. The design of his malas are unique: Reading from his website, Destination Om: Custom Malas and Prayer Tools:
The most obvious design that sets these malas apart from others is that I incorporate a "stretcher" into every mala which is a slip knot placed either at the top of the mala (opposite the guru bead) or as the guru bead itself. This slip knot allows for the practitioner to choose the spacing between the beads ideal for them by sliding the stretcher this can be accomplished.
James: I have had many malas over the years but they always had some kind of design flaw that made them uncomfortable and cheap in quality. Brian's malas are the best I've ever seen or worn. The beads are gorgeous, the thread is strong and the design is excellent. The unique "stretcher" construction allows the mala to easily slip over my thick hand and still tighten up snug around my wrist time after time. The stretcher conversely allows for a quick removal. These quality meditation beads retain their shape day after day and Brian will even restring them should they break!! He knows that despite using this brilliant design the malas will one day break and thus he will restring them for free as he doesn't want to see a mala go unused. You can't beat that deal!!
Thus it is without any reservation that I recommend his malas. In fact, I won't use any other mala from now on. Now, on to my interview with Brian:
1). How would you describe your spirituality? When did you become interested in spirituality/religion?
I have followed a path guided by my guru from the time I was able to hear the inner voice. I had a near death experience at the age of 16 that was a wake up to my potential in this life. From that day forward I had delved into Eastern philosophy and religion in search of answers to my inner questions. As time went on I read about Taoism, Confucianism, all levels of Buddhism, and Hinduism. From this I felt compelled to follow Buddhism and was given the blessed occupation of being a mala maker and learning to do so through a mala maker in Bodhgaya, India. Just recently I have awakened to my guru who sits as the head of Siddha Yoga, Gurumayi. It is a branch of Hinduism much like Dzogchen called Kashmir Shaivism. In this practice I have been able to bridge the gaps of my understanding in both Hinduism and Buddhism and adopted both as my practice in this life.
2). What got you interested in making malas?
I have been travelling since 1999 and while living in numerous places in Asia I would come across temples (especially in North East Asia) that would sell beads to assist in funding the monasteries and construction of new temples. When I returned to Canada there was nothing of the sort so I began making simple bracelets. At one point a friend came to me with yak bone and rudraksha and said “You should be a mala maker.” Two months later I was taken to India, guided to Bodhgaya and graced with a mala maker willing to teach me his craft! Now I sit in service to all that feel that a mala is a required tool in their practice.
3). You have visited Bodhgaya--can you describe for us a bit what visiting this sacred ground was like for you? And secondly, can you describe the atmosphere there a bit?
(Above: Brian in front of the Mahabodhi temple. Bodhgaya, India).
Below are two stories written about this question, that feed the emotion from being there in that moment!
Bodhgaya and the cave. March 4, 2006 1:36:09 AM
Bodhgaya is an interesting place, everything centres around the Mahabodhi Temple...the location where Buddha obtained enlightenment, an offspring of the original tree still stands today...an off-shoot was cut from an original in Sri Lanka and brought back here when the last tree died in the early1900s.
The temple is impressive and a towering stupa of over 50m defines this town...the gardens surrounding the complex are dotted with smaller stupas built by devotees from various countries...around the temple worshipers walk barefoot on marble and circumnabulate in a clockwise fashion, many with malas in their right hand reciting mantras as they continue in their meditative walk...the Bodhi tree also known as The Root Tree of Knowledge is enclosed by a sandstone fence, beneath the tree is a diamond throne which protects which is believed to be the very sandstone tablet that Buddha sat on...
( Above: Brian sitting in front of the Diamond Throne at Mahabodhi temple, the wall behind stops too many people from viewing the sandstone marker that is meant to be the EXACT location where Buddha sat!
he would sit here for seven days straight before achieving nirvana and the answer to the entire understanding of human suffering and realizing all his previous lives, understanding the cosmos and communicating with other realms...for 49 days he would sit under a different tree for a period of 7days, each tree would give him different insights and feelings...He would goto Sarnath from here and find his first 5 disciples.
The prayers reverberate from every spot in the complex, millenia of prayers can be heard in the walls, flowers, trees, and ground...there is a sense of over-whelming awe...you enter the complex in a sort of hyper-reality and sensitivity, everything is more intimate and people are together for one reason...to understand this life we live in and overcome the burdens that are unnecessary...when you sit in the temple you can imagine the Buddha sitting next to you in his sublime state...the world is a happier place here...then as he would have it planned...AS SOON AS YOU LEAVE THE COMPLEX...BAM!!!
Indian reality and the perpetual struggle of BIHAR state, the poorest state on this subcontinent...the lack of education and industry have been their downfall, in addition to their state being divided, with the wealthier southern part taking on a new state name and reaping the royalties of their riches...leaving Bihar to struggle. Buddha warned the people of Bihar to be weary of feud, flood, and fire...of which, feud is an everyday occurrence in this region...bandits stroll the countryside to steal riches from vehicles on the roads and they are not afraid to hold entire villages ransom!!It only seems right that the region where Buddha travelled the most would be one of the poorest in a monetary sense...I feel that these people may have more then money, they most likely have the spirit and soul that Buddha graced upon this area...it opens your eyes to the struggles of the world and a need to find some sort of equilibrium...in time I believe we will find a balance of justice...we must for the sake of humanity...time will tell, we can only do our best to make a difference.
There is a cave near Bodhgaya where Buddha spent six years meditating and wasting away in his search for the end to human suffering...plagued by his lack of answers he fast and periods during these six years would eat one grain of rice...he would later write..."In truth, O Aggivessana, if I thought " I will touch my spine", it was the skin of my belly I also took hold of...I was so wasted away with fasting that the skin of my belly cleaved to my spine. Realizing this was not the way he left the mountain cave for a village close by where he took food from a woman called Sujata(the name of the village today)...in these fields he would conceive the idea of the Middle Way.
(Above: Brian in the Mahakala Cave).
Spending a couple of hours in the cave today you could only imagine the mental struggles that he was going through in his mission to SAVE HUMANITY!!... skin and bones are replicated in a golden statue of Buddha during this period in his life, sure to be one of the few statues of Buddha one will ever see in a skeletal form! I take all of you in my heart through my travels and every tear that is shed is for a greater happiness for all...with love and compassion...know you are all close to me...with love.
Mahabodhi Temple – Bodhgaya, India.
(Above: Brian in the shrine room inside the Mahabodhi temple. Bodhgaya, India.
Approaching the town is like a passing through time, the pastures give rise to a waterway that once was. Buddha would have came down from the cave he was meditating in for six years, just in the distance it can be seen…a white temple marks its location.
Bodhgaya is a collection of buildings with a monolithic temple as the “core” of this town and the heart of the world…the location where Buddha obtained enlightenment under the bodhi tree.
Time is immemorial, it stands still, a testament to prayers and mantras that have been chanted and stored in its every crevice…a veil of universal proportions consumes your every thought, until it is only you and the love of prayer reverberating your being. Time is nothing; the only indication is the movement of the sun and the change of hues and shafts of light that illuminate various parts of the temple grounds.
The realization cannot be missed by any; we sit here, one and all…in divine oneness.
The temple pulses, the tree drops its leaves to offer pieces of itself for worship…devotees scurry about picking every last leaf off the ground Others sit eagerly watching a branch, hoping to dart out and catch a leaf before it hits the ground. Honour, love, respect, compassion, and devotion. The Buddha watches on. I am home.
4). You mention visiting 19 countries in seven years—which ones stand out the most in your travels? In other words, which ones are your favorites if you had to chose a few?
Borneo – isolation and raw beauty. Mozambique – scuba diving at depths of 35m (100’) with 6m (18’) Manta. India – heart of the world. Indonesia – walking Borobodur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world! On Java, now home to the most densely populated Muslim community in the world.
5). Could you speak a bit more on your focus to build a meditation and retreat centre?
I want to build a period style Hindu temple and a period style Buddhist temple (likely in Korean architecture) with a library in the middle (of what I am presently amassing for the public)Temples have been a refuge for me while living in Asia, when I am without a place to stay on my walk I often sleep in temples (that are open 24 hours) or sleep within the grounds of monasteries.
The space is always welcome to all and I want to develop a place of worship and divinity where people can come to temple and perform whatever practice caters to them. What lacks in Canada are traditional style temples akin to what is found in Asia. The centre will be open 24 hours. The plan will be to host different events and celebrate holidays of importance to both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
James: This is the end of part I of my interview with Brian McIntyre. The last five questions and answers will be posted on Monday. I hope you all have a peaceful, happy, loving weekend.
~Peace to all beings~