100 and 8

by Aranyakananda

“Auspicious” is a word that I never heard until I began reading Hindu texts and commentaries on said documents. “Inauspicious” was a word I was familiar with, oddly enough. But I had never heard anyone employ its opposite, nor did I really consider it. But they are indeed opposites, absolutes I think.

Auspicious – conducive or favorable to success.

As you probably know, 108 is a most auspicious number not just in Hinduism but in Buddhism, Catholicism, and others. Over time, just in Hinduism 108 has come to have meanings attached to it that are too various to mention here. There are 108 principle Upanishads, many of the gods have 108 names associated with them. I won’t claim to know the one original importance of the number, aside from the various references to it in the Vedas which obviously go back about as far as it gets in Hindu texts.

I won’t even go into the numeralogical wonders associated with 108. Except for this one. The 1 stands for unity/singularity. The 0 stands for emptiness and the 8 stands for eternity as the 8 on its side is the symbol for eternity. I like that.

But I digress.

The most recognizable example of the number 108 will be the number of beads on a japa string. Opposites being extremes/absolutes, the definition above of “auspicious” should refer to not just the lives of the one performing japa, but for all.

In discussing it with a friend, I came upon something of which I’d not been aware. One of the reasons we say mantra 108 times, and therefore the reason there are 108 beads on a japa string is that we say the mantra 100 times for ourselves, and 8 times for the wellbeing of the world at large. (In Buddhism, for the record, the extra 8 are to account for any errors in the 100).

I myself have for as long as I can remember, opened my japa practice with “Aum Gum Ganapataye Namah” for the first 8 beads, and then went on to whatever other mantra was currently on my mind for the remaining 100. As another friend has always told me, Ganesha is the one deity who is most accessible to us in the material world. So in doing so, hopefully I have already been saying 8 for the world at large through Sri Ganesha without even knowing it.

Aum Gum Ganapataye Namaha
Aum Shankaranarayanaya Namah

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3 Responses to 100 and 8

  1. Dhrishti says:

    I was tickled to read that you didn’t know of the “auspicious 8” until recently. Surely someone like yourself does much good for the world at large, bhai, even beyond the “auspicious 8” you freely give.

    • treadmarkz says:

      Haha…tickled. Great, I think. No I had not picked up on that one or at least did not remember it if I did read it somewhere. I knew about the number being divisible by 9 and how every multiple of 9, when you add their digits you again get 9, which is unique, and associated that with the 9 celestial beings in the Narayana puja.

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