Have you ever asked wondered why 108 is a sacred number in yoga, but not only in yoga?
I certainly have, when I was chanting mantras, when I bought my mala, when I did 108 sun salutations… The are a lot of
different answers to this question, in conclusion it is a sacred number with a lot of meanings.
So I’ve put together a list of meanings that I have found … maybe you'll resonate with some of them :)
- According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India, 108 Upanishads, texts of the wisdom of the ancient sages, 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body. There are 108 stages on the journey of the human soul. Pranayama gives the possibility of enlightenment with taking only 108 breaths a day, while in deep meditation.
- In Sanskrit alphabet: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.
- According to Buddhism tradition there are 108 feelings. An individual has 108 chances (lifetimes) to eliminate his egos and transcend the material world.
- Sun and Earth: The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
- Moon and Earth: The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.
- Silver and the moon: In astrology, the metal silver is said to represent the moon. The atomic weight of silver is 108.
- Islam: The number 108 is used in Islam to refer to God.
- Jain: In the Jain religion, 108 are the combined virtues of five categories of holy ones, including 12, 8, 36, 25, and 27 virtues respectively.
- Sikh: The Sikh tradition has a mala of 108 knots tied in a string of wool, rather than beads.
- Buddhism: Some Buddhists carve 108 small Buddhas on a walnut for good luck. Some ring a bell 108 times to celebrate a new year. There are said to be 108 virtues to cultivate and 108 defilements to avoid.
- Chinese: The Chinese Buddhists and Taoists use a 108 bead mala, which is called su-chu, and has three dividing beads, so the mala is divided into three parts of 36 each. Chinese astrology says that there are 108 sacred stars.
- Stages of the soul: Said that Atman, the human soul or center goes through 108 stages on the journey.
- Meru: This is a larger bead, not part of the 108. It is not tied in the sequence of the other beads. It is the quiding bead, the one that marks the beginning and end of the mala.
- Dance: There are 108 forms of dance in the Indian traditions.
- Praiseworthy souls: There are 108 qualities of praiseworthy souls.
- First man in space: The first manned space flight lasted 108 minutes, and was on April 12, 1961 by Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut.
- 1, 0, and 8: Some say that 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity.
So, the significance of 108 is open to interpretation :)
*text inspired from www.swamij.com