Buddhism has been a living tradition for more than two thousand years, Buddhastones offers an extraordinary opportunity to go directly and deeply into the heart of the rich and ancient practices of Tibetan Buddhism.

What are Buddha Beads?

Known as malas, buddhist prayer beads are a traditional tool used to count the number of times a mantra is recited, breaths while meditating, counting prostrations, or the repetitions of a Buddha's name. They are similar to other forms of prayer beads used in various world religions and therefore the term "Buddhist rosary" also appears.
Conventional Buddhist tradition counts the beads at 108, signifying the mortal desires of mankind. The number is attributed to the Mokugenji Sutra wherein Shakyamuni Buddha instructed King Virudhaka to make such beads and recite the Three Jewels of Buddhism. In later years, various Buddhist sects would either retain the number of beads, or divide them into consecutive twos, fours, for brevity or informality. A decorative tassel is sometimes attached to the beads, fanked by talismans or amulets depending on one's local tradition.
The beads themselves are often painted in specific colours and can be made from bodhi wood, seeds, shells, metal, or other materials, depending on the focus of the meditation. Sometimes adorned further with embellishments or amulets, They are often compared to the Catholic rosaries, also used widely in religious applications.

What are Mala?

Mala beads usually in the form of necklaces and bracelets, but their meaning and usage has developed and adapted over time. More recently they have become almost a fashion accessory, with many people wearing them who do not follow the Buddhist faith.

The origins of Mala:

Mala actually originated in India and were used to keep track of the days and to keep accounts. This was a simple way of recording without writing things down, instead seeds were used. These seeds were most often rudraksha seeds (which are still prevalent in “modern” Mala beads) and were either laid out in rows or strung up.

Buddhism and Mala:

Mala beads are used in prayer and meditation, similar to a rosary, but with mantras for each bead, rather than a prayer. The Mala are meant to help you to remain focused, they do this by being a tactile reminder of what you are meant to be doing – meditating.

Buddhists do not always wear their beads, some actually prefer to keep them to themselves and use them only for meditation and prayer. Some Buddhists actually prefer to wear their Mala and see other people wearing them as a good thing, as it all draws more attention to Buddhism and helps people to remain aware.

What are Mala beads made out of?

They are made predominantly from rudraksha seeds or carved from sandalwood, however they can be made from gemstone beads too. Traditional Buddhists will most often use seeds or sandalwood Mala – crystals have been used more recently as people want to combine crystal healing properties with their meditation and intention setting.

Mala Necklaces:

These are often worn by Buddhists, or sometimes just carried as a personal symbol of their faith and are used as a form of prayer bead. Mala necklaces have 108 beads, a guru bead and a tassel; these are traditional known as Japa Mala.

So what do the beads mean?

108 beads:

The main row of 108 beads are used when chanting or doing breathwork, they help you to keep track of your mantra/meditation process. When using Mala beads, each one will pass through your fingers as you chant aloud or in your mind. There are multiple opinions as to why there are 108 beads on the Mala necklace:

108 is an auspicious number:

There are 108 energy lines leading to the heart chakra
There are said to be 108 stages to the human journey
108 inhales and exhales each day will help lead to enlightenment
In the Sanskrit alphabet there are 54 female and 54 male characters
The beads represent 108 vexations – when you recite the name of a Buddha, you can eliminate one vexation or cast off a worry, so one cycle will rid you of all vexations
  • Guru bead:
This bead signifies finishing a complete practice. Once you reach this bead, you can stop chanting or go again. If you are using the Mala bracelet alongside your meditation practice, you will repeat your chanting 18 times; one cycle for each bead.
  • Tassel
The tassel symbolises eternity and is usually pointed towards you when you begin meditating with the Mala necklace. Alternatively, the tassel can symbolise a lotus blossom, which is a symbol of enlightenment.
  • Mala bracelets

Often known as Arhat beads, these bracelets are usually made up of 18 beads and can be used in place of the necklace or alongside. As mentioned above, the 18 beads help you to keep track of 18 cycles of chanting (prayer) with the Mala bead necklace.
Modern mala bracelets can be found made from many different crystal beads and wearing more than one bracelet can help to enhance your intentions. You can use the healing properties of crystals which match your intentions during meditation/prayer to help you to focus more and achieve enlightenment.