Malas having 108 beads, why?
Many yoga students wear around their neck or on their wrist, it is popular. Since these rosaries are used to keep track of the number of mantras a person is repeating, people often ask why they have 108 beads instead of 100. Part of the reason is that the mala represent the ecliptic, the path of the sun and moon across the sky. The ecliptic is divided into 27 equal sections called nakshatras, and each of these into four equal sectors called padas, or “steps,” marking the 108 steps that the sun and moon take through heaven.
Each is associated with a particular blessing force, with which you align yourself as you turn the beads.
Traditionally, yoga students stop at the 109th “guru bead,” flip the mala around in their hand, and continue reciting their mantra as they move backward through the beads. The guru bead represents the summer and winter solstices, when the sun appears to stop in its course and reverse directions. In real yoga, we learn that we’re deeply interconnected with all of nature and bring ourselves into that connection. Using a mala is a symbolic way of connecting ourselves with the cosmic cycles governing our universe.
So there are 108 steps between our ordinary human awareness and the divine light at the center of our being. Each time we chant another mantra as our mala beads slip through our fingers, we are taking another step toward our own inner sun.
Kak indicates that the distance from the Earth to the Sun is 10 times the diameter of the Sun, while the distance from Earth to the Moon is 108 times the diameter of the Moon. This is the reasoning behind the appearance of the number 108 in the Vedas and Upanishads. Interestingly 11x 22 x 33 = 108, and is the number of beads in a rosary and also the number of stone figures leading up to the temple in Angkor. The number of verses in the Rig Veda total 10,800. The total number of bricks in a Vedic fire altar is also 10,800!
Again when one finds numbers like 108, reappearing under several multiples in the Vedas, in the temples of Angkor, in Babylon, in Heraclitus’ dark utterances, and also in the Norse Valhalla it is not an accident.
Sidharth also points out that 11x 22x 33 x44x55 = 86,400,000. Now in 1 day you have 86,400 seconds or 43,200 seconds in half a day (the Kalpa is 4,320,000,000).
A verse from the Norse Poem 8, ‘The lay of Grimnir’ (Grimnismal 24) goes like this
Five hundred and forty doors
Are built into bright Valhalla
Eight hundred warriors through one door
Shall go out to fight with Fenris.
This would make it 432,000! This is also equal to the number of verses in the Rig-Veda (10,800) times the pada or lines (40).