Have you ever wondered why 108 is such a special number in the spiritual world? Why does a mala have 108 mala beads?
108 is a number signifying spiritual completion rooted in the ancient Indian scriptures known as the Vedas, which date back some time between 1500 and 1000 BCE. The Vedic sages (known as rishis) were renowned mathematicians, and invented our number system.
108 is a Harshad Number, which means it is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. Harshad in Sanskrit means “joy-giver.” 108 represents the whole of existence. There are said to be 108 forms of meditation. Some say there are 108 paths to God. Indian tradition has 108 types of dance.
Hindu deities have 108 names, whilst in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, there are 108 gopis of Vrindavan. Repetition of these names, often accompanied by the physical counting of the 108-beaded mala, is respected as sacred and often carried out during religious ceremonies. The recital is called namajapa. Consequently, a mala typically has beads for 108 repetitions of a mantra.
In Kriya Yoga, the maximum number of repetitions permitted in one sitting is 108. Also, 108 Sun Salutations in yoga asana practice is often used to value change (ie: change of seasons, or at a time of tragedy to bring peace, respect and understanding). It is believed that if one can be so serene in meditation practicing pranayama to have only 108 breaths a day, that enlightenment will come.
The earth cycle is thought to be of 2160 years = 20 x 108. The distance between the Earth and Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun. The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance between the Earth and Moon is 108 times the diameter of the Moon. The universe is composed of 108 elements according to ancient texts.
There are 12 constellation and 9 arc segments. 9 times 12 equal 108. The 9 planets travelling through the 12 signs constitute the whole of existence. 9 x 12 = 108. The 27 nakshatras or lunar constellations spread over the 4 elements – fire, earth, air, water or the 4 directions – north, south, east, and west. This also represents the whole of existence. 27 x 4 = 108.
There are said to be 108 energy lines, or nadis, joining to produce the heart chakra. One of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to Self-realization. Marma points are like Chakras, or intersections of energy, with fewer uniting energy lines. On Sri Yantra, the Marmas have 54 interconnecting energy lines where three lines intersect. Each has feminine, or Shakti, and masculine, or Shiva, qualities. 54 X 2 = 108. Subsequently there are 108 points that express the human body and the Sri Yantra or the Yantra of Creation. The same instruction is followed in the Sanskrit language, with its 54 letters, both representing the two genders and they are also called Shiva and Shakti respectively; again, 54 X 2= 108.
Vedanta, the science of self inquiry, acknowledges 108 original doctrines (Upanishads), pointing to the Truth, in order to end Ignorance. According to Atman (Awareness), the human soul or center goes through 108 stages on the journey. The sacred River Ganges spans a longitude of 12 degrees (79 to 91), and a latitude of 9 degrees (22 to 31). 12 times 9 equals 108.
In both Indian folklore and Buddhism, there are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals. There are said to be 108 lies that humans tell. There are said to be 108 human delusions or forms of ignorance. Some say there are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future.
In some schools of Buddhism, it is believed that there are 108 defilements. In Japan, at the end of the year, a bell is chimed 108 times in Buddhist temples to finish the old year and welcome the new one. Each ring represents one of 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana.