Japa Mala

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Various significances of 108 (adapted from Elephant Journal)

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”)

Planets and Houses: In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.

Heart Chakra: The chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra. One of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to Self-realization.

Time: Some say there are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future. 

8 extra beads: In doing a practice of counting the number of repetitions of the mala, 100 are counted as completed. The remaining are said to cover errors or omissions. The 8 are also said to be an offering to God and Guru.

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

1 = God or higher Truth (Bhakti)

0 = emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice (Seva)
8 = infinity or eternity (Tapas)

Why perform 108 Surya Namaskara?

For me, practicing 108 Surya Namaskara is a ritual to honor significant changes or transitions in life. All things begin and end. The mala is a circle, symbolizing the infinite cycle of birth and death. The high goal of escaping this cycle is to find union (yoga) with the Universal Self. Through devotion, selfless action, and burning effort, we get closer to finding that union. We are here to celebrate the beginning of a new yoga space, but there are many other transitions we may be aware of. As we begin our practice, let us hold awareness of those transitions in our mind.