How to Make Buddhist Prayer Beads

Buddhist prayer beads, known as malas, consist of strings of similarly sized beads made of various materials such as wood, stone, bone or seed. In Buddhist practice, the beads are used as a method of counting individual prayers or meditative breaths. Buddhist malas are strung with either 108 beads or various divisions of 108. The significance of this number is the 108 worldly desires or negative emotions that the practicing Buddhist endeavors of overcome.

Cut a length of the string. You will need a least 1 meter of string or longer. Slip one end of the string through the needle loop leaving plenty of excess string hanging down. Tie a large knot at the other end of the string.

String all 108 beads using the needled end. It is optional to tie a small decorative knot between each bead depending on what kind of look is desired. Cut off the knot on the knotted end and remove the needle from the other side.

Thread both loose ends of the string into the side holes of the guru bead until they both come out of the top third hole. Thread the tower bead on top of the guru bead.

Secure the loose ends with a strong double knot. Tie the tassel to the loose ends of the string.

Use the completed mala for prayer and meditation. Different prayers and practices are utilized by different schools of Buddhism in conjunction with the mala, so it is best to consult your dharma teacher for teachings that are applicable to your practice.

Rachel Alexander is a cultural and political area specialist of South Asia and the Middle East. She received the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship in 2011, and again in 2012, to live in northern India and study advanced Hindi. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from Loyola University of Chicago.