Number 108 – The Significance of 108

January 10, 2011

in Yoga Wisdom

Mala beads, significance of number 108You may have noticed the number 108 a few times, maybe you have heard about repeating Sun Salutations 108 times or about prayer beads that consist of 108 beads. You may have wondered what the significance of 108 was. 108 can be found in mathematics, astronomy, in scriptures and beyond. Some consider 108 a sacred number, some say there isn’t enough proof to determine the significance of 108. Below are a few references as to the existence and what is said about 108 in history and today.

Yoga
In Kriya Yoga, the maximum number of repetitions allowed to be practiced in one sitting is 108.

108 Sun Salutations in yoga practice is often used to honor change e.g. change of seasons, or at a time of tragedy to bring peace, respect and understanding.

Mala
On Mala, mantra counting beads, you will find 108 beads or some fraction of 108. A larger bead called Meru on Mala is not counted as one of the 108 Mala bead, rather it is the guiding bead, a bead that marks the beginning and the end of the mala.

Sanskrit
Sanskrit alphabet has 54 letters, each has masculine and feminine form called shiva and shakti respectively. 54 times 2 = 108.

Pranayama:
It is said that if one can be so calm in meditation to have only 108 breaths a day that enlightenment will come.

Chakras:
There are said to be 108 energy lines or nadis converging to form the heart chakra.

Marmas:
Marmas are like Chakras, intersection of energy, with fewer converging energy lines. On Sri Yantra, the Marmas have 54 intersecting energy lines where three lines intersect. Each have feminine, shakti and masculine, shiva qualities. 54 times 2 = 108. Therefore there are 108 points that define the human body and the Sri Yantra or the Yantra of Creation.

Mathematics:
Each of the interior angles formed by two adjacent lines in a regular pentagon equal 108 degrees.

108 is a Harshad Number, an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. Harshad in Sanskrit means ‘joy-giver’.

Religions:
Hinduism:  The names of Hindu Deities = 108.
Early Hinduism: The Last part of Vedas called to Upanishads are said to traditionally 108 Upanishads.
Lankavatara Sutra ancient teachings refers repeatedly to many temples with 108 steps.
Tibetan Buddhism: it is believed that there are 108 sins.
Islam: 108 is used to refer to God.
Jain: there are 108 virtues
Zen priests wear prayer beads called Juzu on the wrist, Juzu has 108 beads.
Buddhaism/Japan: A bell is chimed 108 times to celebrate the new year.

Astronomy:
The distance between the Earth and Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.
The distance between the Earth and Moon is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.

These were calculated in ancient India and they have be verified by modern calculations to be very accurate.

Astrology:
There are 12 constellation and 9 arc segments. 9 times 12 equals 108.
The metal silver represents the moon in astrology. The atomic weight of silver is 108.

Geography:
River Ganga: The sacred river in India, River Ganga spans a longitude of 12 degrees and a latitude of 9 degrees. 12 times 9 = 108.

Martial Arts:
According to Chinese and Indian Martial Arts: Marma Adi and Ayurveda, there are 108 pressure points in a human body.

Other:

There are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals, 108 lies humans tell and 108 human delusions.

There are said to be 108 types of meditation.

Some say there are 108 paths to God.

Indian traditions have 108 dance forms.

The first manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin lasted 108 minutes – April 1961.

The highest broadcast band of FM radio is 108.0.

1-0-8 is the emergency telephone number in India (such as 911 in U.S.)

Modern TV reference:
Lost – TV series lost used many references to the number 108. For example, the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 equal 108. The numbers had to be re-entered every 108 minutes in to the computer at the dharma station. The time the six Oceanic flight survivors “The Oceanic 6 spent on the island as 108.

It may have been possible that the origins of the significance of 108 stem from the ancient Indian astronomy but this is with no certainty. The origins of 108 as a sacred number seem to remain hidden, for now anyway, unless new discoveries are made of ancient texts that shed light to the significance of 108.

How about you? Is 108 significant to you?

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