Why 108

summertime sun

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. When I worked as an office dweller I often let these days drift on by and I noticed how seasons would come and go without much ado. Now that it’s my job to share yoga, I enjoy taking a moment to recognize the transitions of our earth, and connecting my yoga practice with the reality of what’s going on outside my window. Worldwide, interpretation of the summer solstice has varied among cultures, but most have recognized it as a sign of fertility, a time to celebrate the bounty we have sown through spring, typically involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.

A common more ritualistic, meditative yoga practice for the solstice is to do Surya Namaskar A 108 times. I’ll be doing smaller divisions with my classes this week: 54, 36, 27, 9, or 3 depending on our energy levels. I’ve discussed the significance of the number 108 on this blog before, but I also found an epic article on Elephant Journal on the subject. Below are some of my favorite tidbits on the significance of 108 and a video of Surya Namaskar A to get you moving. Go ahead, do a couple at home, you can do it. Celebrate the sun and the longest day of the year!

A japa mala or mala is an eastern rosary with 108 beads. The mala is used both in Hinduism and Buddhism for counting mantras, chants or prayers. 108 has been a sacred number for a long time, and this number is explained in many different ways.

Traditionally, Buddhist have 108 beads, representing the 108 human passions that Avalokiteshvara assumed when telling the beads. This number ensures a repetition of a sacred mantra at least 100 times, the extra beads allowing for any omissions made through absentmindness in counting or for loss or breakage of beads.

Sometimes smaller divisions can be used: 108 is divided in half, third, quarter, or twelfth, so some malas have 54, 36, 27, or 9 beads.

108 may be the product of a precise mathematical operation (e.g. 1 power 1 x 2 power 2 x 3 power 3 = 108) which was thought to have special numerological significance.

POWERS of 1, 2 & 3 IN MATH: 1 to 1st power=1; 2 to 2nd power=4 (2×2); 3 to 3rd power=27 (3x3x3). 1x4x27=108

SANSKRIT ALPHABET: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.

HARSHAD NUMBER: 108 is a Harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits (Harshad is from Sanskrit, and means “great joy”)

9 x 12: Both of these numbers have been said to have spiritual significance in many traditions. 9 times 12 is 108. Also, 1 plus 8 equals 9. That 9 times 12 equals 108.

ASTROLOGY: There are 12 constellations, and 9 arc segments called namshas or chandrakalas.
9 times 12 equals 108. Chandra is moon, and kalas are the divisions within a whole.

PLANETS AND HOUSES: In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.

SUN AND EARTH: The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.

PYTHAGOREAN: The nine is the limit of all numbers, all others existing and coming from the same. ie: 0 to 9 is all one needs to make up an infinite amount of numbers.

STAGES OF THE SOUL: Atman, the human soul or center goes through 108 stages on the journey.

MARMAS: Marmas or marmastanas are like energy intersections called chakras, except have fewer energy lines converging to form them. There are said to be 108 marmas in the subtle body.

Joseph Campbell says it’s 1+0+8 = 9, the number of the goddess.

Or one can look at 1, 0, and 8 as:

1 = God or higher Truth
0 = emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice,
8 = infinity or eternity

Resource:  Elephant Journal

This entry was posted in sequences, solstice, videos, yoga teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *