Significance of 108

The rosary or the mala which is used to count mantras in the indian subcontinent has 108 beads. This specific number – 108 – has been a sacred number in the indian subcontinent for a very, very long time. This number is explained in many different ways.

The ancient Indians were advanced mathematicians and 108 could well have been the result of a precise mathematical calculation ( eg: 1 power 1 x 2 power 2 x 3 power 3 = 108 ) which was thought to have a special numerological significance.

• 1, 0 and 8: One stands for God or Truth, Zero stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and eight stands for infinity or eternity.
• 9 multiplied by 12: Both these numbers are considered to have spiritual significance in many traditions: 9 multiplied by 12 equals 108. Also, one plus eight equals nine, and nine times 12 equals 108.
• Astrology: There are 12 constellations and nine arc segments called namshas or chandnikabs; nine multiplied by 12 equals 108. Chandra is Moon and kalas are divisions within a whole.
• Chinese: Chinese Buddhists and Taoists use a 108 bead mala, which is called Su-chu. It is divided into three parts by three dividing beads, so each division is of 36 beads.
• Dance: There are 108 forms of dance in Indian traditions.
• Gopis of Krishna: In the Vaishnava tradition, there were said to be 108 gopis or milkmaids of Krishna.
• Heart Chakra: The chakras are intersections of energy lines, and it is believed that there are 108 energy lines converging to form the Heart Chakra. One of them, Sushumna, leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to self-realization.
•  Jain: In Jainism,108 is the combined virtues of five categories of holy ones including 12,8,36,25 and 27 virtues respectively.
• Marmas: Marmas or marmastanas are like energy intersections called chakras, the only difference being that fewer energy lines converge to form them. There are said to be 108 marmas in the subtle body.
• Meru: This is a larger bead, which is not a part of the 108 beads, and so, it is not tied along with the other beads. It is a guiding bead, which marks the beginning and end of the Mala.
• Numerical scale: The one of 108, and the eight of 108, when added together equals nine, which is the number of the numerical scale, ie, one, two, three … ten, etc., where zero is not a number.
• Planets and Houses: In astrology, there are 12 houses and nine planets; nine multiplied by 12 equals 108.
• Powers of  1, 2, and 3 in math: 1 to 1st power = 1; 2 to 2nd power =4 (2 x 2): 3 to 3rd power = 27 (3 x 3 x 3); 1 x4 x 27 = 108.
• Sanskrit alphabet: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each alphabet has a masculine and feminine, Shiva and Shakti. Here too, 54 multiplied by two equals 108.
• Sikh: Sikhs use a mala of 108 knots that are tied in a string of wool, rather than beads as in other religions.
• Smaller divisions: 108 is divided, as in half, third, quarter, or twelfth, so that some malas have 54, 36, 27, or nine beads.
• Sri Yantra: On the Sri Yantra there are marmas where three lines intersect, and there are 54 such intersections. Each intersection has masculine and feminine, Shiva and Shakti qualities. Again, 54 multiplied by two equals 108. Thus, there are 108 points that define the Sri Yantra as well as the human body.
• Stages of the soul: Scholars believe that the atman goes through 108 stages on the journey after death.
• Sun and Earth: The diameter of the Sun is 108 times that of the Earth.
• Time: Some scholars say that there are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past; 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future: 36 multiplied by 3 equals 108.

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