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The Meaning Behind 108 in the Universe, the Divine, the Body, the Tradition and the Practice


If you’ve been practising yoga for a while, you may have heard mention of the number 108. A mala consists of 108 prayer beads and a yoga mala consists of 108 sun salutations.

But what makes 108 such a special number?

As with so many questions in life, the initial answer is ‘It depends who you ask.’ The number 108 holds great significance in a variety of fields. So let’s have a look at some of the ways in which the number 108 is significant and see how these may inspire us in our life and practice.


108 and the universe

108 is a particularly significant number in the mathematics of the universe.

For example, the diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth and the average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters.

Mathematicians from the Vedic tradition came to view 108 as the number representing the wholeness of existence.

Placing significance on the number 108 reminds us of our place in the cosmic order of things.


108 and the divine

108 appears as a number of significance within various Eastern religious traditions.

For example, in the Hindu tradition, there are 108 attendants of Shiva. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Lord Krishna in Brindavan had 108 followers. The words of the Buddha are recorded in the Tibetan Kangyur in 108 volumes. A bell is chimed 108 times in Buddhist temples in Japan to finish the old year and welcome the new one.

Placing significance on the number 108 connects us to the divine source of all things.


108 and the human body

As we focus in on the human body, the number 108 holds special significance.

For example, there are 108 marma points, considered to be sacred places in the body. In Ayurveda, these pressure points are seen as vital for giving life to living beings for it is at these points that consciousness and flesh intersect.

Additionally, there are 108 nadis, or energy lines, which converge to form the heart chakra.

Placing significance on the number 108 embraces the life-giving energy so vital for human existence.


108 and the tradition of yoga

The number 108 has emerged as a truly significant number within the tradition of yoga.

According to yogic tradition, there are 108 sacred sites known as pithas, throughout India. There are 108 Upanishads (a collection of Indian religious and philosophical texts from as early as 800 BCE) and 108 Puranas (Sanskrit sacred writings on Hindu mythology from as early as 400 BCE).

There are 54 letters in Sanskrit, where each can be seen as either masculine (Shiva) or feminine (Shakti), and therefore totalling 108.

Placing significance on the number 108 aligns the yogi to the ancient tradition of yoga.


108 and the practice of yoga and meditation

In yoga, the number 108 has significance as the number representing spiritual completion.

Sun salutations are often performed in nine rounds of the 12 postures which totals 108 poses. A yoga mala consists of 108 sun salutations. Pranayama is also often completed in cycles of 108. A mala is traditionally a string of 108 prayer beads with a guru bead. As you pray, you move along the beads, reciting your chosen mantra 108 times.

As we practise chanting, breath work, or asana in rounds of this sacred number, we become aligned with the rhythm of the universe and the energy of the divine source.

Placing significance on the number 108 connects the essence of each individual yoga practice to the whole.


The post The Meaning Behind 108 in the Universe, the Divine, the Body, the Tradition and the Practice appeared first on Yogamatters Blog.

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