Holy bone malas are made from the bones of mahasiddhas or lamas and hand made by highly skilled lamas, therefore, they are extremely precious. The lama who makes the holy bone mala, will chant mantras while shaping the bones into beads and polishing them. The whole process of making a holy bone mala may take over one decade, hence there goes a saying in Buddhism: holy bone malas can bring peace to the dead and safety to the living. What the holy bone mala represents, in mundane words, is that life is ever-changing and death may knock at your doors in anytime, therefore, one should be diligent in his or her practice; in Dharmata chos nyid, is the emptiness.
A mala is a set of beads used for counting "mantras" which are the expression of a Buddha-aspect on the level of sound. The number of mantras gets counted to ensure certain meditation results will occur.
In Tibetan Buddhism, traditionally malas of 108 beads are used. Doing one 108-bead mala counts as 100 mantra recitations; the extra repetitions are done to amend any mistakes. The materials used to make the beads can be different according to the purpose of the mantras beening used. These beads can be made from Bodhi seeds, Rudraksha seeds, lotus seeds( called 'Moon and Stars' by Tibetan) , sandalwood, abelia, gold, silver, copper, iron, crystal, coral, ivory, amber, coloured glaze, turquoise, giant clam, pearls and so forth, and even bones of a holy monk or revered lama.
Some beads, such as the ones made of lotus seeds, can be used for all purposes and all kinds of mantras. However, in Tibetan Buddhism, beads are recited for four different purposes:
1: Pacifying mantras should be recited using white colored malas such as crystal. These can serve to purify mind and clear away obstacles in one’s life, like illness, bad karma and mental disturbances.
2: Increasing mantras should be recited using malas of Bodhi seeds, gold or amber. The mantras counted on these kinds of mantras, for instance, mantra of Yellow Jambhala, can "serve to increase life span, knowledge and merits".
3: Mantras for magnetizing are meant to tame others, but the motivation for doing so should be a pure wish to help other sentient beings and not to benefit oneself. To do mantra of Amitayus and Kurukulle, malas made of coral should be used.
4: Mantras to tame by force should be recited using malas made of bones of mahasiddhas. Reciting this kind of mantras with mala serves to tame others, but with the motivation to unselfishly help other sentient beings. To tame by force means to subdue harmful energies, such as "extremely malicious spirits, or general afflictions". Only a person such like Dakini that is motivated by great compassion for all beings, including those they try to tame, can do this.
Beads made of lotus seeds can be used for many purposes and for counting all kinds of mantras.