Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads have a wide and varied history. Prayer beads are not unique to Buddhism, believers in Catholicism use prayer beads in the form of a rosary, and they say the rosary as they move their hands over each bead. Prayer beads were first used in Hinduism, in Hinduism they are called japa mala. Prayer beads are also used by Muslims. Believers in the Bahai faith also use prayer beads in their practices. Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads are also known as the Buddhist rosary or by the word mala. The word mala literally means a garland or strand and represents the unity of all things in Tibetan Buddhism.
A typical strand of Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads contains 108 beads. This practice of putting 108 beads on a strand of Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads came from Hinduism. Hindus began putting 108 beads onto each strand of prayer beads because there are 108 Hindu deities. Krishna also danced with 108 cow-herd girls and he is rumored to have had 16,108 wives. In Tibetan Buddhism, 108 prayer beads on a Tibetan Buddhist mala are important because there are 108 sins.
Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads come in other numbers besides 108. There are Tibetan prayer beads with 111 beads. In Catholicism some prayer beads have 10 beads on the strand, and other beads have 50 beads on the strand.
In Chinese and Japanese Buddhism practitioners also use malas with 27 beads. Malas with 27 beads, wrist malas, are typically used for prostration. Prostration is a means for a Buddhist practitioner to rid himself of evil such as anger, envy, and greed and fill himself with compassion, peace, and love.
Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads are made from many different materials including jade, wood, sandalwood, turquoise, etc. In Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism Bodhi seeds are also used for prayer beads.
To use prayer beads you pass your fingers over each bead as you say a mantra. You should say the mantra as you count through each bead until you reach where you started. Prayer beads have a larger bead in the middle so you will know when you have reached the end.
Once you begin using your prayer beads, they become sacred. You should not let other people handle your prayer beads. Store your prayer beads in a special place and do not lie them on the ground. There are special prayer bead bags to hold your prayer beads so they will not be harmed. If you are interested in purchasing a strand of prayer beads for your meditative practices, some of our most popular malas are the Sandalwood Mala, the Lotus Seed Mala, and the Sterling Silver Prayer Beads.