Each traditional Mala has 108 beads, plus the Guru or Bindu bead which signifies the realization of ultimate reality.
Wearing a mala indicates that the wearer has transcended the physical limitations that normally plague a person. So it is also a blessing to wear a rudraksha mala of 108 beads. Beads are also used for counting in meditation, through which one attains ultimate spiritual completion; Self realisation.
The mala is said to maintain our harmony with the energies of the sun and moon, affecting our quality of life and good health.
Meaning of 108 beads on a mala
On a mala, or set of mantra counting beads, there are usually 108 beads, or a fraction of that number.
The question often arises: Why are there 108 beads on a mala?
Below are some of the many reasons given for having 108 beads on a mala, along with a few other points of interest.
Regardless of the meaning of 108, it is important that if a mala is used to count mantras, that mantra should be remembered with sincerity, devotion, feeling and full attention.
1, 0, and 8: Some say 1 represents God or higher truth, 0 represents emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 represents infinity or eternity.
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 equal to 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
Moon and Earth: The average distance from the Moon to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.
Heart Chakra : There are 108 main energy channels or nerves that pass through the Heart Chakra Anahata Chakra.
Time : Some say that there are 108 feelings, of which 36 relate to the past, 36 relate to the present and 36 relate to the future.
Astrology : There are 12 constellations and 9 arc segments called namshas or chandrakalas. 9 times 12 equals 108. Chandra is the moon and the kalas are the divisions of a whole.
Planets and Houses: In astrology there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.
Breath: Tantra estimates the average number of breaths per day at 21,600, of which 10,800 are solar energy and 10,800 are lunar energy. Multiplying 108 by 100 equals 10,800. Multiplying 2 x 10,800 equals 21,600.
Pranayama : If one manages to be as calm in meditation as it takes only 108 breaths a day, enlightenment will come.
Paths to God: Some suggest there are 108 paths to God.
The Stages of the Soul : Atman, the soul or the human center goes through 108 stages of the journey.
River Ganga : The sacred river Ganga spans a longitude of 12 degrees (79 to 91) and a latitude of 9 degrees (22 to 31). 12 times 9 equals 108.
Body Temperature: 108 degrees Fahrenheit is the maximum internal temperature the body can maintain, it is believed that the mala balances and maintains the body's inner balance, heat and can help us avoid disease.
Sanskrit alphabet : The Sanskrit alphabet contains 54 letters. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.
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 qualities, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 equals 108. Thus, there are 108 points which define the Sri Yantra as well as the human body.
The Harshad number: 108 is a Harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits (Harshad comes from Sanskrit and means "great joy").
Upanishads : Some say there are 108 Upanishads, texts of wisdom from ancient sages.
8 more marbles : Counting the number of repetitions of the mala, 100 are considered completed. The others are meant to cover errors or omissions. The 8 is also said to be an offering to God and Guru.
Goddess Names : There are said to be 108 Indian Goddess names.
Hinduism : 108 is said to refer to the number of Hindu deities. Some say that each of the deities has 108 names.
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 people, comprising 12, 8, 36, 25 and 27 virtues respectively.
Sikh : The Sikh tradition has a mala of 108 knots tied in woolen thread rather than beads.
Buddhism: Some Buddhists carve 108 small Buddhas on a walnut to bring them good luck. Some ring 108 times to celebrate a new year. There would be 108 virtues to cultivate and 108 defilements to avoid.
Chinese : Chinese Buddhists and Taoists use a 108-bead mala, called a su-chu, and split into three beads. The mala is therefore divided into three parts of 36 each. Chinese astrology says there are 108 sacred stars.
Praiseworthy Souls : There are 108 grades of Praiseworthy Souls.
Desires : There are said to be 108 earthly desires among mortals.
Lies: There are said to be 108 lies told by humans.
Delusions : It is said that there are 108 human delusions or forms of ignorance.