What’s the significance of the number 108?
Is it the number of stories of the tallest building? Is it the number of times the moon revolves around the earth?
Is it the number of pair of shoes Emelda Marcos once had in her closet? Ok…no more fooling around with this riddle.
On a more serious note, the number 108 does show up often in many arenas.
What does the number really mean? In the realm of yoga, for example, it plays a very significant role.
Calling Number 108…Your Order is Ready
The number is considered to be sacred in the Hindu, Buddhist, and yogic traditions.
In the Hindu tradition, it is said to signify the 108 attendants of Shiva, the Lord of Yoga. While in prayer in these traditions, the names of these attendants were recited by the Vedic priests as a way of honoring them during religious ceremonies.
To keep track of their recitation, a necklace or bracelet of 108 beads, called mala beads, were used to count the names. (Wow! That’s a lot of names to remember! Now THAT’S devotion!)
If you’re familiar with the Rosary in the Catholic tradition, the string of mala beads similarly helps the practitioner stay piously in tuned with their prayerful act and intentions. It is a way to stay focused and connected.
This is probably the most common awareness of the number 108 and how it is used. Even in other religious observations, the 108 mala beads are used in prayerful meditative practice.
A mantra, for example, may be recited quietly or out loud as a mindful meditation practice. This is probably a little easier to do than memorizing 108 attendants of the Lord Shiva.
Even in modern times, yogis may devote an entire practice to doing 108 Sun Salutations.
You know you’re in for a long yoga practice when you have to do 108 Chaturangas! (And that’s only if you’re doing Series A. Double, or even triple, that if you’re doing Series B.)
The point being, just like the devotees in prayer, it is a way of honoring and remembering the elders and teachers of yoga. The practice may also be a way to celebrate a special time of year (like the return of Spring) or an important Hindu figure like Ganesha or Krishna.
108 Oms? Um…..
Another way to show dedication to the practice and also a way to generate a new sense of power and vigor throughout your body is to chant Om 108 times.
The sound and vibration of Om is said to have a great resonance and is the sound of the universe. When chanted in a meditative practice, the yogi can experience a purity from within, a sharpening of clarity, and a full sense of serenity.
You might chant Om a few times at the end of a yoga class, but try a whole class dedicated to chanting this word. Whoa! You may end up floating out of class with that much yoga ju-ju flowing through you!
And going back to the mala beads, these yoga accessories have become a bit of a fashion statement for men and women these days.
Look around….you’re very likely to see some pretty hip dudes wearing a set or two of colorful mala beads around their wrists. Are these guys yogis? Hard to tell, but they do look pretty cool!
Back To Business
But the number 108 seems to appear in other areas, too. After some investigation, here are a few other interpretations of this prominent number:
Still related to the yoga tradition, Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, has 54 letters in its alphabet.
Each letter has a masculine component (Shiva) and a feminine energy (Shakti): 54 x 2 = 108.
So, even in the language that is used to teach a yoga class, this powerful number is embedded into the practice itself.
Ever been to India? It is said that there are 108 sacred places to visit throughout the country.
Pack a good lunch and wear your good walking shoes; that’s a lot of places to visit.
And since this is where yoga originated, you may want to take a walk down memory lane: the yogic tradition is rich with history. There are over 200 Upanishads, the ancient Sanskrit teachings that hold the philosophical concepts and practices of early Hinduism. But, according to historians, there are only 108 written texts. These very early writings form the foundation of what we know about yoga today.
Where’s Your Fairy Godmother?
Well, if she’s busy taking care of getting Cinderella ready for the ball, then you may need to call upon your Guardian Angel instead.
The number 108 is considered, in some beliefs, to be a significant number of high resonance and vibration.
Whenever you encounter the number in your daily routines (e.g. the digital clock reads 1:08 or you notice that you’re on page 108 of the novel you’re reading) this could mean your guardian angels are favorably looking down on you.
The number signifies that through your hard work, you have reached or achieved your long desired goals. It fully represents that your diligence, patience, and dedication have come to a positive endpoint and it’s time to reap your rewards.
Time, Planets, and Stars. Oh, My!
The number 108 is also significant in relationship to the concept of time, emotions, measurement, and some astrological references.
It is said that we have 108 feelings: 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future.
In other beliefs, it is said that there are 108 earthly desires in mortal beings. (Can I get a list of those, please?)
In astrology, there are 12 houses or astrological signs with 9 planets. More specifically, in Vedic Astrology there are 12 solar houses and 9 lunar houses. Throw in some mathematics and voila, 12 x 9 = 108.
Pull out your measuring tape because it is said that the diameter of the sun is 108 times that of the earth. And remember those 108 Sun Salutations, they are often done on solstices (the longest and shortest days of the year) and equinoxes (marking when day and night are equal in length.)
As for the number 108 itself, the individual numbers 1, 0, and 8 represent One Thing, Nothing, and Infinity. 108 represents the ultimate reality of the universe as being simultaneously one, empty, and infinite. (Ok. Now that’s deep.)
Please State Your Emergency
And finally, if you dial 108 on your phone in India, you will receive emergency services, much like 112 in parts of Europe and 911 in America.
However you might understand the number 108 (an abundant, semiperfect, and refractorable number – mathematical terms…look them up…) it seems that most of the interpretations have a positive connotation.
The number itself can bring great power and energy to your personal being, it is a way to celebrate and honor our yoga history, and it represents great abundance in our lives.
Whether you’re chanting 108 Oms in yoga class or sporting your rosewood mala bead bracelet while sipping a latte at your local coffee bar, the number 108 has great value and meaning and should not be underestimated.
The yoganum family