Why 108 Beads?

Here at Beads Pray Love, we create Mala beads

in the Hindu & Yogic tradition.

In this tradition the number of beads on a full Mala is 108 + 1 bead known as the Meru, Sumeru (meaning peak), Bindu, or Guru bead.  These are all names for the same ‘peak’ bead of the Mala and when it is reached, it is your signal that you have completed the number of repetitions of Mantra, or breaths that you set out to do.

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There are a variety of explanations as to why 108 is the traditional number of beads on a yoga mala and indeed why 108 is considered a very sacred number in Hinduism and mystical yoga.

According to the Bihar School of Yoga,

'1' represents the supreme consciousness; '8' represents the eight aspects of nature consisting of the five fundamental elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, plus ahamkara (individuality), manas (mind) and buddhi (sense of intuitional perception); '0' represents the cosmos, the entire field of creation. To put it another way: '0' is Shiva, '8' is Shakti and '1' is their union or yoga.

 A similar explanation states that 1 represents unity, or ‘one consciousness’, 0 represents the void, or space of potentiality, and that 8 represents infinity.

Some also say that 108 represents the number of reincarnations required for an individual soul to reach enlightenments.  Numerically, 1 + 0 + 8 = 9 and 9 can be divided into 3 sets of 3.  3 represents many concepts in yoga and within other religions, art and nature that are both useful and pleasing to the human system.  For example, in Christianity, the triad of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  In Hinduism, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and the powerful Shakti combination celebrated as Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati. 

The 3 Gunas or the 3 fundamental forces of nature known as Rajas, Tamas and Sattva are also another example of the power of 3. Rajas is the Dynamic force, Tamas, is inertia and Sattwa is the sustaining element.

The wonderful thing is, that even if these meanings are new to us or not yet quite graspable - When we have our own Mala, especially if it has been awakened, we are in fact connected to the ancient principles, history and benefits through the collective unconscious history carried within the ancient practices and teachings. What we feel, hold dear, and imbue from our Mala and from our own practice becomes an unfolding.  It is not necessary to intellectualize it all or decide what it is.  All that is necessary really is to connect, practice, observe and feel.

This is the beauty of a tool such as a Mala.  A tool that occupies the intellect, reminds us of our path, keeps us on track, and makes room for our education at the level of soul.