Buddhist Beads, Prayer beads or Monks beads are similar to other forms of prayer beads used in various world religions and therefore the term "Buddhist rosary" is also used. The Buddhist Mala derived from the Hindu 'japa mala' used in meditation and was adapted to also include being a magical charm of protection.
Buddhist tradition counts the beads at 108, signifying the mortal desires of mankind. As Buddhism spread and was influenced by various cultures, each sect would develop their own traditions associated with the Mala. Some sects made them decorative and would use different materials or stones, others preferred plain and simple designs to highlight the simplistic non-material thinking associated with enlightenment.
HOW DO YOU PRAY WITH MALA BEADS?
Hold your mala in your right hand, draped between your middle and index fingers. Starting at the guru bead, use your thumb to count each smaller bead, pulling it toward you as you recite your mantra. Do this 108 times, traveling around the mala, until you once again reach the guru bead.