Malas, or Buddhist prayer beads, have their origins in Hindu culture and were originally designed as a grounding and focusing tool in meditation—a practitioner may count the beads or roll them in their fingers as they recite a mantra. Traditional malas are a strand of 108 beads made of wood, metal or semi-precious stones, depending on their purpose or country of origin. More recently, mala beads have found their way into designs for bracelets and other jewelry.
Tulsi, or "sacred basil," is a sacred wood in India, and often used in worship. Mala beads created from Tulsi are thought to clear the aura and aid in spiritual intensity during prayer. Tulsi beads are commonly used in Bhakti Yoga and meditation.
Sandalwood is thought to have cooling and medicinal properties. Rotating sandalwood beads during meditation is said to promote tranquility and positivity. Holding sandalwood malas while chanting is also thought to be therapeutic.
Parad Metal Beads
Parad is a metal that traditionally has been valued for its purity. It is thought to bring success, and since ancient times, has has been used for religious and medical purposes. The wearing of parad mala beads is thought to help diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease.
In Buddhist mythology, the Bodhi tree is the tree under which Buddha achieved nirvana, and the word Bodhi means "enlightenment." Mala beads made from the seeds of the Bodhi tree are popular with Buddhist monks and are commonly used for meditation and the recitation of mantras. They are thought to promote concentration and awareness.
Crystal mala beads are thought to protect and heal by eliminating negative influences. Using crystal mala beads during meditation is said to have a balancing effect on energy Chakras. Some claim that crystal malas help with cellulite and cysts.
Lotus Seed Beads
The brownish-black oval seeds from a lotus are valued for their "cooling" effect. Mantras chanted with lotus seed malas are thought to bring spiritual wealth, or to improve financial conditions.
For Tibetan Buddists, rosewood mala beads are especially valued. Rosewood mala beads are thought to be good for the skin, improving the circulation and strengthening the aura. Rosewood malas are also thought to have protective qualities.