How to Make Buddhist Prayer Beads

Updated November 21, 2016

Buddhist prayer beads, also called mala beads, are not jewellery. Rather, they are a way to count prayers or mantras in several Buddhist traditions, much like the Catholic Rosary. Buddhist prayer beads come in a variety of styles and are made from natural materials such as semiprecious stones (lapis, jade, amethyst, rose quartz) or wood. Sandalwood beads are very popular, as are beads made from bone. You can buy a pre-made set of mala beads, or you can make your own. Stringing your own strand of beads makes them a more personal spiritual tool.

Assemble your beads. You will need 108 matching beads big enough so your fingers can distinguish one from the next without looking at them. You also need two beads (usually slightly bigger) not necessarily of the same material. Consider a few additional beads--possibly even beads carved to look like the Buddha--to separate the beads in half.

String your beads. String 54 of the 108 beads onto your length of silk beading thread. The next bead should be one of your two different beads. Add the rest of the 108 matching beads. Add the other different bead, and tie the beading thread tightly so as not to unravel.

Add a tassel. This step is optional. You may want to make or buy a small tassel from the beading thread to hang off one of your non-matching beads. If you like, you can thread some matching (but smaller) or contrasting beads in the tassel thread.

Store your beads respectfully. If you want to take your beads with you throughout your day, find or make a small fabric pouch to carry them in. You may also leave them in the pouch--or a decorative box--near a meditation area in your home.


The number 108 is significant in Buddhist lore. It has to do with lunar cycles, and also represents the 108 human passions that the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara enumerated to his students. A drop of superglue on the beading thread knot will keep it from unravelling.

Things You'll Need

  • 108 matching beads
  • Silk beading thread in a colour that matches or complements your beads.
  • Beading needle
  • Scissors
  • 2 additional beads, different from the 108
  • A few extra decorative beads
  • Tassel (optional)
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