The string of beads is mainly used to count repeated mantras. So actually, it serves the same purpose as a rosary. Beads made of semi-precious stones, pearls, bodhi seeds or wood may serve all kinds of goals, like counting any kind of mantras, or other forms of prayer, bows, walk-rounds and such. The cord is the same for every mala, and should be made of nine threads, symbolising Buddha Vajradhara and the eight Bodhisattvas. The larger bead at the end stands for wisdom, realising emptiness, and the cylindrical bead on top of the large bead symbolises the void itself. Together, they symbolise the triumph over all adversities.
The Mala with 108 beads is used while reciting or singing the mantras. 108 is the ideal number for all kinds of purpose. It is important that our thoughts will be pure while reciting or singing the mantra. Mantra is the practical use of secret powers which may help our progress. Mantra means a collection of letters from the alphabet. The effect will be made by repeating the mantra over and over again; this becomes more profound as one continues this recitation. Essential is the sound that is produced while reciting. This sound creates a unique spiritual imprint on the person who is reciting. They say that a mantra is like a human being; there are various stages to go through before reaching the final effect: "Purification of mental impressions." There are various mantras with an inherent potential power; these may only be personally transferred from Master to initiate. These are the so-called "Siddha Mantras". Some Malas have two counting devices with pictures of Vajra and Bell. In Buddhism, the symbolic meaning of these images are "method and wisdom, the masculine and feminine principle." The animal bone symbolises transient state of all beings. These counting devices are used while doing a retreat, reciting 100.000 mantras.