Almost a year ago, I posted this on my personal Instagram account and someone on Facebook asked me to share more about the number 108.
Until then, all I really knew about 108 was that it is a sacred number in many traditions and that a mala typically contains 108 beads. I have been working on a writing project that involves the number 108 because I was drawn there intuitively and I have been creating malas so I decided to dig a bit deeper into the meaning of the number.
As I began to explore and have conversations with people, more and more kept coming up that had me fascinated so I thought I would share some of what I have learned with you. If you know more about 108 than what I share here, please feel free to share in the comments.
I also found myself resisting writing this post because I did not want to just share what I found in other places. Finally, I feel like the words have found their way to the page so I can share more personally about the meaning of 108 for me.
108 offers a connection to the Universe, to some force greater than I feel I have the capacity to fully comprehend.
An article on humanityhealing.net (and supported elsewhere), shares the following information about the number 108 in relation to the sun, moon, and Earth:
“The distance between the Earth and Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun. The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance between the Earth and Moon is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.” I would add that it is important to note that these numbers are approximations and if you seek out the numbers and do the math you will come up with figures ranging from 107-111, but that’s still pretty close and I find it fascinating.
To me, this exemplifies the complexity of the Universe, and also the patterns that exist in a world well beyond what we can understand. In this regard, 108 is a reminder to me of all that is unseen and yet holds powerful sway over us. We plan our days by the light of the sun, our cycles align with the pull of the moon. There is no escaping this brilliant connection between our human lives and the vast Universe.
The number 108 shows up in many ancient texts, and is the diameter of one of the circles of Stonehenge, and to me this forges a connection between the past, the present, and the future.
With the number finding its way into various cultures in different parts of the world and through different periods of time, there seems to be a message coming from our ancestors that there is something important about this number. Perhaps we will never know what, but we can continue to honor it, to meditate with it, to explore what it means for ourselves.
I have found that in moments of doubt, I see the number 108 in some form (often 1:08 or 10:08 on a clock) and I feel an immediate ease and sense of trust in the path I am traveling.
In gematria which is part of the Jewish tradition in which I was raised, the letters of the word chai (life) add up to 18, so in seeing 108 I also see 18, the number symbolic of this precious gift of life.
When I practice Jappa meditation (meditation where one repeats a mantra), I have fallen into the practice of using a mala to repeat the mantra 108 times. This feels sacred to me for the reasons mentioned above and because it gives me enough time with the mantra to really feel a connection to the energy of the words I am chanting, to help me find focus in that moment of meditation, not the moments that come before or after my meditation.
Whether you feel a resonance with the number 108 or not, I hope this has helped you to understand why it has become part of my practices and why you will continue to see me reference, through my poems, through the Sacred Becoming Malas, and perhaps in new ways in the future as I deepen my journey of understanding those things that feel sacred to me.