Many people know about using the rosary to keep count of prayers. Indian swamis are frequently pictured using what looks like a necklace of beads, running it through the fingers of one hand. What looks like a necklace is called a japa mala. You can buy them now all over the Web made of everything from sandalwood beads through every kind of semi precious and precious stone. But even the cheapest one is a very efficient machine to enable the seeker who meditates to get on with seeking. My first one was a loop of cord with 27 knots in it.
Japa means ‘ repetition.” A japa mala then is an instrument designed to help you repeat prayers, mantras, or sacred scriptures using beads or seeds to do the automatic keeping of the totals. The important thing is that it gets the body involved in what might otherwise be a purely mental activity.