Buddhist mala beads are usually comprised of 108 beads that are strung together and used for chanting mantras – much like a rosary is used. So if you are asked to chant a certain mantra it means you chant it 108 times.
The selection of mala beads is a very personal experience –they can be made of any kind of precious or semi-precious stones. It’s nice to have one made of semi-precious stones since it’s like offering jewels to the Buddha each time you recite your mantras. Once you decide on a mala be sure to empower it with a blessing mantra such as the following:
Mantra to Bless Your Mala Beads
OM RUCHIRA MANI PRAVARTAYA HUM
(Repeat seven times, then blow over your mala beads)
It’s auspicious to attach the dorje and bell to your mala. You can also attach blessing threads given to you by high lamas as well as any one of the eight auspicious objects – the mystic knot, the vase, the double fish, the banner of victory, the wheel, the lotus, the parasol and the right turning conch shell.
Always keep your mala in a pouch or wear it on your wrist and carry it with you wherever you go –especially if you are travelling. Chanting mantras is one of the most powerful ways to purify negative karma that brings misfortune so it’s an effective way to stay protected.
Remember however that without recitations of mantras that empower it, your mala is just a string of beads. It is your motivation that makes your mala unique for you.