Why do we wear Neck-beads?
Devotees of Krishna wear Tulasi (occimum sanctum wood) neck beads, often as three strands at the base of the neck. Tulasi beads worn around the neck indicate a devotee's surrender to the Lord; such a person is dear to the Lord.
Tulasi beads are said to protect one from bad dreams, accidents, attack by weapons, and inauspicious destinations at death. For these reasons and because she is dear to Krishna, devotees always wear Tulasi.
Of course in the traditional Gaudiya Math standards, the devotees would start wearing Tulasi neck beads and tilaka only after initiation when they have been given to them by ShrilaGurudeva. But the benefits of wearing Tualsi neck beads and tilaka are so unlimited as described in the Hari Bhakti Vilasa, then one can surely start wearing them when one accepts a spiritual master in one's heart even though one may not have formally accepted the mantras from the Guru. As ShrilaPrabhupada said that real initiation with Gurudeva is from the heart. Also the neck beads mean that we are no longer spiritual orphans but we have a spiritual Gurudeva under whose shelter and guidance we are chanting (ashrayalaiyabhajekrishnataaranaahityaje) just like pet dogs who have masters in India are identified from the stray dogs by a strap around their necks.
The Krishna conscious culture teaches that anyone who is an aspiring devotee of Krishna should wear Tulasineckbeads for Tulasi is so spiritually potent.
The following are some verses from the Hari Bhakti Vilasa
One who engages in the worship of ŚrīJanārdana while wearing tulasīneckbeads accumulates piety equivalent to giving ten thousand cows in charity for each of his flower offerings.
A person who wears tulasīneckbeads all the time obtains the result of living in Dvārakā.
There is no need to perform atonement for a person who wears tulasīneckbeads. Factually, he does not become contaminated at any stage in his life. ŚrīHari resides in the body of a person whose neck and arms are decorated with ornament made of tulasī.
Just by seeing the tulasī beads on a person’s neck, the Yamadūtas flee to a distant place. A person who wanders here and there after putting on tulasīneckbeads has nothing to fear from an accident, bad dreams, or weapons.
Srila Prabhupada also states,
In the Padma Purāna there is a statement describing how a Vaisnava should decorate his body with tilaka and beads: "Persons who put tulasī beads on the neck, who mark twelve places of their bodies as Visnu temples with Visnu's symbolic representations [the four items held in the four hands of Lord Visnu—conch, mace, disc and lotus], and who have visnu-tilaka on their foreheads, are to be understood as the devotees of Lord Visnu in this world. Their presence makes the world purified, and anywhere they remain, they make that place as good as Vaikuntha."
In response to a list of several question asked by disciple Vidyadasi, SrilaPrabhupada replies
“Tulasi is one devotee who appears wherever there is devotion to Krsna. Tulasi’s body is spiritual. Tulasi leaves should be offered to the Deity.”
Srila Prabhupada has also said,
“Just as a pet dog has got a collar, similarly we are pet dogs of God. So we have got this collar. And Yamaraja, the Lord of Death will understand that he-the devotee-is God's dog; he should not be shot down.BecauseTulasikanthi is so important they are never taken off, but they can be replaced. Anyone who wears Tulasineckbeads at the time of death is greatly benefited beyond imagination, therefore it is important to keep them on at all times. Tulasi also identifies one as a follower of Lord Chaitanya. “
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings in his Svīkara: Acceptance of Activities Favorable to Pure Devotion –
I will put on the garb that is dear to the devotees of Lord Gaura-sundara, including the twelve Vaisnavatilaka markings on my body and beautiful beads of tulasī wood around my neck.
SrilaBhaktivinoda Thakur also writes in his Jaiva Dharma that of the 64 angas of devotional service the remaining fourty-four are observed to increase one’s bhakti. Item number one is decoration of the body with the Vaisnava signs of tilaka and tulasī beads.
Q. One may ask that if we are not the body then what is the need of instructions of decoration of the body?
A. Yes we are not the body but unless were areParamahamsa pure devotees then we are still conditioned by the body. We don’t want to become falsely transcendental and reject those good things that the greatly intelligent pure devotees has suggested for our spiritual welfare. Yes, if we are not the body then we also do not need to eat, but because this body is Krishna’s property we take care of it and because this body is Krishna’s property we decorate it in vedic way.