108 beads on your Mala, 108 Sun Salutations, chanting OM 108 times… What does the number 108 have to do in all this? Magic? Mathematics? Sacred number? The mysteries of 108!
108 beads on my Mala
What is a Mala?
“Mala” means “garland” in Sanskrit.
Malas are Hindu or Buddhist prayer beads, or “rosaries”. Malas are used to recite mantras and prayers : touch a bead, say your mantra, then touch another.
Long malas have 108 beads, with an additional head bead or guru bead, most often a bigger or different bead.
But why 108 beads? Let’s get to know more about 108:
108 Disciples, 108 sacred texts
In Hinduism, Shiva and Krishna are known to have 108 assistants each. There also are 108 Upanishads or Vedanta, sacred texts from the Vedas. (note however that some sources say there are over 200 Upanishads, that’s more than our number 108!).
In Buddhism, 108 turns up as 108 sacred texts, as well as 108 kleshas, the “afflictions” or mental states that are at the root of all suffering (think: ignorance, jealousy, anger … and list 108!). Some schools also count 108 temptations to turn your back on in order to reach Nirvana.
Yep, these are pretty good reasons to have 108 beads on your mala!
108 in the stars
Sky side, we find 108 too.
Astrologers talk about the 12 houses of the zodiac, and 9 planets – including Pluto, like astrologers do! My complex scientific calculation tell me that 12 x 9 = 108.
And, this is one of my favorite 108 facts: the distance from the Sun to the Earth = 108 times the diameter of the Sun, and the distance from the Moon to the Earth = 108 times the diameter of the Moon. (approximately!)
I’m a fan of 108, are you? I’m up for 108 Sun Salutations now!