In Sanatan Dharma and Hindu Philosophy, number 108 has a great significance. Generally, it is said that malas of 108 beeds is chanted for gaining spiritual strength only. However, this is not true for spiritual strength, but is now significant for Yoga and Meditation practitioners. Its special meaning is mirrored in countless different interpretations & context from mathematics and astronomy to religious rites, spirtual practices & even medicine architectures, the number 108 has been always a highly revered number since ancient times.
In yoga, the number 108 refers to spiritual completion. That’s the reason why malas used for japa (silent repetition of a mantra) are composed of 108 beads – with an additional “meru” bead, which when reached, prompts the practitioner to count the mala beads in reverse order. Pranayama cycles are often repeated in 108 cycles and even sun salutations are often completed in nine rounds of the 12 postures, which when multiplied, adds up to 108. Ancient yogis believed that we can attune ourselves to the rhythms of creation by completing practices in rounds of this sacred number.
108 seems to be a mysterious number that connects the ancient world to the modern world and also connects the physical realm to the metaphysical realm. The number 108 is sacred in mathematics, geometry, astrology, numerology and in many world religions and spiritual traditions.
Furthermore, the number 108 has significance with regards to the distance between the earth and the moon and between the earth and the sun.
The distance between the moon and the earth is 108 times the diameter of the moon – but only once a month, because according to NASA the moon’s orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle but more of an ellipse. Similarly, the distance between the earth and the sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun. Earth’s orbit around the Sun is however also an ellipse. And so on September 18-19 the distance of the Sun from Earth is 108 times that of the Sun’s diameter.
Consider the number of days in a leap year – 366 days. When we multiply the three numbers we arrive at 108. 3 x 6 x 6 = 108.
The chakras are the intersections of subtle nerve channels or nadiis, and there are said to be a total of 108 nadiis 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.
108 defilements in Buddhism
In Buddhism, it is among the tenets that there are exactly 108 types of defilements – no more and no less. This could be the reason a bell is usually chimed exactly 108 times in Japanese Buddhist Temples to mark the end of an old year and to usher into a new year.
There are 108 earthly temptations
In Buddhism, it is also believed that the road to nirvana is laden with exactly 108 temptations. So, every Buddhist has to overcome 108 earthly temptations to achieve nirvana. In addition, the ring of prayer beads worn around the waist of Zen priests is usually made of 108 beads.
Tibetans have 108 sacred books
All their holy writings in Tibet, as much as it is, have been divided into exactly 108 sacred books. Tibetan Buddhism also believes that there are 108 sins and 108 delusions of the mind. Some of these sins and delusions are callousness, blasphemy, anger, abuse, and aggression.
The basis of all creation
A certain aspect of Indian cosmology defines the number 108 as the basis of all creation. The number ‘1’ in 108 represents Divine Consciousness. Zero indicates null or void implying that everything on this Earth is vanity since all creatures are here only temporarily. Eight represents the infinity of creation.
108’s significance in astrology
There are 12 zodiacs and 9 planets and when multiplied, we get 108. Additionally, there are 27 lunar mansions and they are divided into 4 quarters. When 27 is multiplied by 4, the result is 108.
108 images of Lord Buddha
Kathmandu is said to be the capital of Buddhism and there are exactly 108 images of Lord Buddha, erected in and around the place in reverence of the Buddhism deity.
There are 108 names for deities
Each deity in Hinduism has 108 names.
Sarsen Circle Stonehenge has a diameter of 108 feet
Sarsen Circle Stonehenge, in the UK, is one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments. Interestingly, it has a diameter of 108 feet. The structure of the monument is similar to that of PhNom Bakheng, an ancient Shiva Temple located in Cambodia. The temple also has 108 towers around it.
108 types of feelings in a human
Both Buddhism and Hinduism believe that every human being has 108 different types of feelings. 36 of these feelings revolve round their past, 36 revolve round the present, and the remaining 36 are based on their dreams and future ambitions.
The significance of 108 degree Fahrenheit
When the internal body temperature reaches 108 degrees Fahrenheit, the vital organs in the body will begin to shut down.
Mathematical significance of 108
Ancient Indians were astonishing with mathematics and they were the ones that discovered the significance of the number – 108 a long time ago. First of all, they discovered the links between 108 and 9, a more sacred number. The link between 9 and 108 is much more than one being a multiple of the other. Here are some of the interesting mathematical relationships between 9 and 108.
11 x 22 x 33 = 108. This means (1) x (2×2) x (3x3x3) = 108.
When 108 is divided by 2, the answer is 54 and 5 + 4 = 9.
When 54 is further divided by 2, it will lead to 27 and 2 + 7 = 9.
When 1 is added to 0 and 8, the answer is 9 (1+0+8 = 9).
When 108 is multiplied by 2, the resultant figures will result in 9 when added together – 108 x 2 = 216; 2+1+6 = 9.
When 108 is multiplied by 3, the resultant figures will result in 9 when added together – 108 x 2 = 324; 3+2+5 = 9.
Other reasons number 108 is sacred
There are exactly 108 sacred sites (also called pithas) all over India. There are 108 Upanishads, and there are 108 Marmas with regard to Ayurveda. There are 108 stars in Chinese astrology and while 72 of them are malevolent, the remaining 36 are beneficial. Tibetan legends are made of 108 Masters and 108 initiates.
108 saints are celebrated in Japan and they are also known as Vajradhatu. The Buddha has 108 names and there are 108 lamps devoted to him. Both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva have 108 names each.
The division of Christian holiday from Soul’s day which is on November 2nd to 25th December has 54 days and 54 nights. The significance of the number lies in the fact that within those two dates, light transformed into darkness a total of 108 times and the reverse also occurred the same number of times.
Most Buddhist temples usually have 108 steps and 108 columns. A very good example of such temples is the temple at Angkor. The temple is built around 108 huge stones.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, 1 represents the Divine or the universe, 0 symbolizes the emptiness or completeness at the beginning of a spiritual journey, and 8 stands for infinity and eternity. It is said that there are 108 energy lines (nadis) converging to form the heart chakra. Ayurveda knows 108 sacred intersection points (marmas) that hold the vital energy in the body. There are 108 known Upanishads, sacred texts of wisdom of the ancient sages. Hinduists knows 108 names for female deities, 108 forms of Indian dance, 108 types of meditation, 108 sacred sites (pithas) throughout India, 108 steps that lead up to most temples, and 108 alleged stages the soul has to pass through until it can reach enlightenment. Legends even tell of Indian sadhus who could reach such deep states of meditation that they required only 108 breaths a day. To this day, the significance of the number is still deeply rooted in India: if you ever happen to get in the undesirable situation to need medical help while travelling the country: 1-0-8 is the national emergency phone number.
Translated into the context of yoga practice, 1 is said to represent the focus on one thing and the verticality of breath as it flows through the body, 0 is for having zero senses and preconceptions when stepping on your mat, and 8 stands for uniting with the flow of infinity. Yogis traditionally do 108 sun salutations on solstices and equinoxes in order to express their gratitude and devotion to the practice. Occasionally these are performed as 9 rounds of sun salutations composed of the 12 asanas in a Surya Namaskar, again totaling 108. Some schools of meditation teach that the practitioner should perform 100 cycles of a mantra meditation for himself, plus 8 extra rounds for those who don’t have the opportunity to practice meditation themselves. Pranayama is traditionally taught and practiced in at least 108 repetitions to unfold its full effects.
Number 108 is important not just for human beings, but also on the scale of earth and solar system. According to the Surya Siddhanta, an ancient Indian astronomical work, the sunlight moves at a speed of 2,202 yojanas in 0.5 nimisha. One yojana is nine miles. 2,202 yojanas amount to 19,818 miles. One nimisha is equal to 16/75 of a second. Half a nimisha amounts to 8/75 of a second, which is 0.106666 seconds. A speed of 19,818 miles in 0.10666 seconds equals 185,793 miles per second. This is approximately in line with the modern calculations, according to which the speed of light is 186,282 miles per second. Modern science has arrived at this number with great difficulty and all kinds of instruments, while a few thousand years ago, they got this number by simple observation of how the human system and the solar system function together.
Back to one cycle of axial procession – 25,920 divided by 60 (which is also the number of heart beats per minute if you are healthy) – comes to 432. Four hundred thirty two is a number that comes up in various cultures – the Norse culture, the ancient Jewish culture, the Egyptian culture, the Mesopotamian culture, and very much in the Indian culture here. Why 432? If you are in good health and in good condition, your heart beats about 60 times per minute, which is 3600 per hour, and 3600 x 24 equals 86,400 heartbeats per day. If you divide 864 by 2, again you have 432.
If you are healthy, you take about 15 breaths per minute. If you have done lots of sadhana, it could be only 12. 15 breaths per minute means 900 breaths per hour and 21,600 per day. 216 multiplied by 2 becomes 432 again. If you take the circumference of the earth – there is something called a nautical mile which is the real mile in the sense that it has something to do with the way the planet is. The other units of measurement were created for ease of calculation.
You know there are 360° in a circle. Likewise, there are 360° upon the planet, and each degree is divided into 60 minutes. One of these minutes accounts for one nautical mile. That means the circumference of the earth at the equator is 21,600 nautical miles – that is also how many breaths you take per day. That means the planet is spinning on time and you are doing well. If the planet was not spinning on time, it would be no good at all for us. If you are not in tune with it, it is also no good for you.
If you’ve been practising yoga for a while, you may have heard mention of the number 108. A mala consists of 108 prayer beads and a yoga mala consists of 108 sun salutations. But what makes 108 such a special number? As with so many questions in life, the initial answer is ‘It depends who you ask.’ The number 108 holds great significance in a variety of fields. So let’s have a look at some of the ways in which the number 108 is significant and see how these may inspire us in our life and practice.
108 and the universe
108 is a particularly significant number in the mathematics of the universe.
As mentioned earlier, the diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth and the average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. Mathematicians from the Vedic tradition came to view 108 as the number representing the wholeness of existence. Placing significance on the number 108 reminds us of our place in the cosmic order of things.
108 and the divine
108 appears as a number of significance within various Eastern religious traditions.
In the Hindu tradition, there are 108 attendants of Shiva. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Lord Krishna in Brindavan had 108 followers. The words of the Buddha are recorded in the Tibetan Kangyur in 108 volumes. A bell is chimed 108 times in Buddhist temples in Japan to finish the old year and welcome the new one. Placing significance on the number 108 connects us to the divine source of all things.
108 and the human body
As we focus in on the human body, the number 108 holds special significance.
There are 108 marma points, considered to be sacred places in the body. In Ayurveda, these pressure points are seen as vital for giving life to living beings for it is at these points that consciousness and flesh intersect. Additionally, there are 108 nadis, or energy lines, which converge to form the heart chakra. Placing significance on the number 108 embraces the life-giving energy so vital for human existence.
108 and the tradition of yoga
The number 108 has emerged as a truly significant number within the tradition of yoga.
According to yogic tradition, there are 108 sacred sites known as pithas, throughout India. There are 108 Upanishads (a collection of Indian religious and philosophical texts from as early as 800 BCE) and 108 Puranas (Sanskrit sacred writings on Hindu mythology from as early as 400 BCE). There are 54 letters in Sanskrit, where each can be seen as either masculine (Shiva) or feminine (Shakti), and therefore totalling 108. Placing significance on the number 108 aligns the yogi to the ancient tradition of yoga.
108 and the practice of yoga and meditation
In yoga, the number 108 has significance as the number representing spiritual completion.
Sun salutations are often performed in nine rounds of the 12 postures which totals 108 poses. A yoga mala consists of 108 sun salutations. Pranayama is also often completed in cycles of 108. A mala is traditionally a string of 108 prayer beads with a guru bead. As you pray, you move along the beads, reciting your chosen mantra 108 times. As we practise chanting, breath work, or asana in rounds of this sacred number, we become aligned with the rhythm of the universe and the energy of the divine source. Placing significance on the number 108 connects the essence of each individual yoga practice to the whole.
Earth, Time and Body connection – Just like a circle, the Planet has 360° and each degree is divided into 60 minutes. One of these minutes’ accounts for one nautical mile. That means the circumference of the Earth at the Equator is 21,600 nautical miles. On average, we take this many breaths a day. This connects our human body with the planet.
Mala Bead/Prayer Beads – In Hinduism and Buddhism, a mala comes as a string of 108 beads plus one guru or guiding bead. (A mala is like a Catholic rosary and is used for counting as you repeat a mantra.)
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.
‘Harshad’ Number is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. 108 is a ‘Harshad’ number. ‘Harshad’ in Sanskrit means ‘joy-giver.’
Meditation – There are believed to be 108 different types of meditation.
Paths to God – Some people believe that there are 108 paths to God.
Dance Forms – There are 108 traditional Indian dance forms. (Traditional Indian dances are used to worship God or tell stories of God.)
In Buddhism, there are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals, 108 lies humans tell and 108 human delusions.
108 feelings – Buddhist believe there are 108 feelings calculated as follows:
6 Senses (Smell, Touch, Taste, Sight, Hearing and Consciousness)
x 3 Pleasant, Painful or Neutral feelings
x 2 Internally or externally generated feelings
x 3 Past, Present or Future feelings
Therefore, 36 past, 36 present and 36 future feelings = 108
In Yoga, 108 Sun Salutations are often practiced to honor change. For example, to bring peace, respect and understanding at a time of tragedy or to
honor the change of seasons.
Tibetans have 108 sacred holy books.
In Jainism, there are believed to be 108 virtues.
108 Steps – Many Hindu and Buddhist temples have 108 steps.
In Japan, at the end of a year, a bell is chimed 108 times in Buddhist temples to finish the old year and welcome the new one. Each ring represents one of the 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana.
Lord Buddha is believed to have given a teaching answering 108 questions which are contained within the Lankavatara Sutra (Buddhist scripture).
In Gnosticism, (an ancient Christian religion), it is believed that an individual has 108 chances, or lifetimes to eliminate ego and transcend the material world.
Atman/Soul – In Hinduism, it is believed that the soul or inner self (Atman), goes through 108 stages of spiritual development.
In Taoism, the Wu style of Tai Chi has 108 postures.
Lord Buddha’s footprint is imprinted with 108 auspicious illustrations.
In Islam, the number 108 refers to God.
In the Bible, the words ‘first born’ is used 108 times. The words ‘in truth’ and ‘to forgive’ are used 108 times in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
Angel Numbers – the number 108 is a message of support and encouragement. A cycle in life might be coming to an end but new opportunities lay ahead.
1 = New beginnings, intuition, insight.
0 = Development of one’s spiritual journey and listening to your intuition.
8 = Manifesting positive abundance, personal power, a desire for peace and a love of humanity.
The Sanskrit Alphabet has 54 letters and each has a masculine and feminine form (Shiva and Shakti) 54 x 2 = 108
Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in England is 108 feet in diameter.
There is a lot of consider here and taking all of this into account, with a simplistic viewpoint, you could say that the auspicious number 108 connects science with human mind, body and spirit.
Mathematics and Geometry
108 is a Harshad number (1+0+8=9) / 108 is divisible by 9
366 days in sidereal year; 3x6x6 = 108
1 squared plus 2 squared plus 3 squared equals 108
108° degrees on inner angles of a pentagon
Theology and Culture
108 beads on a mala
108 repetitions of a mantra
108 types of meditation
108 dance forms in Indian traditions
108 time frame in Rosicrucian cycles
108 gopis of Vrindavan in the Gaudiya Vaishnavism
108 defilements in some schools of Buddhism
108 earthly temptations
108 beads on a juzu (prayer beads) worn by Zen priests
108 questions for Buddha in the Lankavatra
108 previous incarnations remembered in modern Gnosticism
108 chances or lifetimes to rid the ego and transcend the materialistic world
108 earthly desires/lies/delusions in Buddhism
108 is maximum number of repetitions in Kriya Yoga
108 Sun Salutations in yoga
108 breaths in a day to reach enlightenment
108 energy lines or nadiis converging to form the heart chakra
108 sacred books in the holy writings of Tibet
108 epistemological doctrines in Hinduism tradition
108 virtues in Jain tradition
108 steps in temples mentioned in the Lankavatara Sutra
108 sins or 108 delusions of the mind in Tibetan Buddhism
108 pressure points in body according to Marma Adi and Ayurveda
In conclusion, we may say that the sacredness of 108 began in ancient times but it is not likely that the origin will be discovered. What we may discover are the hidden reasons for it being regarded a sacred number.