Thirty some years ago my wife made me a set of japa beads out of some tulasis who had appeared and left their bodies in New Vrindaban. At the time we had ideal circumstances for growing tulasis in the Northern Temperate zone with the winters and all. We had a greenhouse that was attached to a heated building so she had maximum natural light and a warm space to grow in. The benches were made on top 55 gallon steel drums laid on their sides and filled with water.
I painted the south end of the drum flat black so during the day the drums would soak up heat with their thermal mass and at night give bottom heat to the tulasi plants. They got over a meter high (4 foot) and quite bushy so the stems got big enough to make beads. As a matter of fact, while the beads were regular japa size, the head bead is 7/8″ (17 mm) in diameter. Which may be normal in more moderate climates but big for here.
I treasured that she made them for me but put them away and never used them out of fear of losing them I have lost several sets of beads over my lifetime, including the ones that Srila Prabhupada handed me when I was initiated. I used to travel a lot and would leave them in places I couldn’t get back to so I held these in reserve.
A few years ago I realized i wasn’t traveling anymore and as my life expectancy diminished I figured I better use them now or never. I never take them out of the house and on the rare occasion I do want to take some beads i have a second pair I use so there is no risk of losing them.
After using them for a couple of years I noticed that they tangle more than regular beads. The inner dynamics of bead movement in a bag while chanting sometimes causes the beads to get snarled which usually just needs a couple of shakes and they flow again but I realized it was happening a lot.
I took them out and thad a close look at them and could see that while Vidya had done a few passes with the file after cutting the individual beads to approximate roundness there was still a flat edge on the bottom so I got a file and started to roundthem off some more. This took several hours in a few different sessions. The large head bead itself was quite square and was the main culprit for tangles to I really rounded off the ends of that as well as all of the beads
Tulasi’s stem is square so that had made some sharp corners but I round them as well as at the edges. Some of the beads were a little misshapen and I had noticed when I came to them that they distracted me so I smoothed them up so they glide unnoticed through my fingers now.
So although it took decades to complete I now have a set of New Vrindaban tulasi beads that are top notch to chant on and it adds a dimension to my chanting I believe.