Mantras are typically repeated hundreds or even thousands of times. The Japa mala is used so that one can focus on the meaning or sound of the mantra rather than counting its repetitions. One repetition is usually said for each bead while turning the thumb clockwise around each bead, though some traditions or practices may call for counterclockwise motion or specific finger usage. When arriving at the head bead, one turns the Japa mala around and then goes back in the opposing direction. There are typically knots between each bead. This makes using the Japa mala easier as the beads will not be as tight on the string when used.
Japa Malas are a type of meditation beads or prayer beads and are ancient tools that were developed to keep the mind focused and clear from thoughts. A full japa mala contains 108 counting beads plus one guru or meru bead. Usually, a 108 bead Japa mala is long enough to wear as a necklace. A Japa mala can also be strung as a half Japa mala containing 54 beads, or as a wrist mala with 27 counting beads to be worn as a bracelet. The guru (teacher) or meru (mountain) bead is often larger than the other counting mantra beads and it provides a starting and ending point for counting the repetitions of the mantra. A tassel is connected to the end of the guru/meru bead to finish the Japa mala with a final knot. Japa Mala beads are also referred to as mantra beads, meditation beads, Hindu rosaries or Buddhist prayer beads.