Mala’s are beads used for reciting mantras in mediation. In Buddhist tradition rudraksha seeds are used as beads, which is associated with the Hindu deity Shiva.
One does not have to be religious to wear a mala, it is important to understand the significance in different culture. In yogic tradition 9 is considered as a sacred number and therefore the Malas are multiples of number 9, such as 27 or 54 beads for bracelets or small necklaces. The common mala of 108 beards aims at reciting a mantra for 100 times. 108 represents the number of mortal desires of humans, which must be overcome to achieve Nirvana. Another explanation for having 108 beads on a mala is related to the chakras . Accordingly the chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines connecting to form the heart chakra. One of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, which is said to be the path to Self-realization.
The 109th bead that hangs at the bottom of a mala is called either the sumeru, bindu, stupa or guru bead (which often symbolizes the guru from who the student received the mala or mantra, paying homage to the student-guru relationship). It is never counted among the repetitions but used as a marker for as a start and end for a cycle.