The Mystery of 108

What’s so important about the number 108? If you google 108 you’ll find tons of sources giving examples of 108 in science and religion, from the number of beads in a mala to the stairs up to a temple, from Hinduism to Buddhism, India and Nepal, to China and Japan, everyone is talking about the mysterious number 108. Why?

108 Shiva Lingams in Pokhara, Nepal

Sanskrit Language

There’s a mystery around the true origin of 108, and despite so many examples of its sacred importance, it’s difficult to say exactly how we became aware of it’s significance.

However, it might have something to do with the ancient Sanskrit language which is one of the oldest known languages, which a large majority of the Hindu religion is built on. We still don’t fully understand the complexity of this symbolic language, but it does give a clue to the number 108.

In this universe, everything is made of masculine and feminine energy which, in Hinduism, we also call Shiva and Shakti. And, what’s outside in the universe is the same as what’s inside our body too. There are many examples of this reflection in science, like how the neurons in our brain look just like the universe.

See, even science agrees…

Therefore, the facts of the Sanskrit language are the facts of the universe itself. There are 54 masculine and 54 feminine letters in Sanskrit language which equals 108. It represents our existence.

Sanskrit language is one of the oldest languages in the history of mankind. Scriptures say it’s the language of gods. Perhaps this is why we don’t know any more about the importance of 108? It’s a secret of the Gods?

In Haridwar, you can find one of the 108 most holy temples in India

Vedic Astrology

In Jyotish Shastra, or Vedic Astrology, the number 108 is explained in mathematics. For starters, there are 12 solar houses and 9 lunar houses, 12×9=108. Simple already!

To understand the mathematics further, we first need to know that the universe is made up of five elements: earth, water, fire, air, all contained within the fifth, ether (space). These elements combine and create life, which has three processes: birth/creation, existence/continuation and death/destruction. These correspond with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

The simplest shape we can create is the circle, which contains space and therefore the other four elements, combined with the three processes inside. 4×3=12, the number of hours in a day and the number of zodiac signs in astrology.

The circle is 360 degrees, and divided by 12 signs or hours, gives 30 degrees. If we times the whole circle (360) by the 30 degrees of each hour or sign, we get 360×30=10,800. Since 0 is seen as nothing or everything, complete, we can remove it to get 108! Everything in existence is represented by this number, at least, according to astrology!

Mathematics also supports the 108 theory…

Sun and Moon

The diameter of the Sun is around 108 times the diameter of Earth. On average, the distance between the Earth and the Moon is 108 times the Moon’s diameter. Of course, this can change a little depending on the movement of the planets, it might be sometimes a tiny bit up and down, but it’s still mysterious!

Carrying on the Moon references, in chemistry, the atomic weight of silver is 108g. In Moon treatments from thousands of years ago, our ancestors were using silver for various health benefits because silver represents the moon qualities such as clear mind and coolness.

In Hinduism, people wrap thread around banyan trees for the health of loved ones

Tantric breathing

Everything we see, hear and experience is a creation of divine, even us. Just like meditation, when we watch our breathing, we remember our connection to this source through prana, the divine energy that gives us breath.

In 24hrs, a normal healthy person breathes 21,600 times, as is written in tantric scriptures. During this time, we should be connecting with divine, which is pretty hard to do, at least for most people.

Even if you say you’ll remember to connect for half of your breaths, which is 10,800, also pretty difficult, especially when we don’t have time to think of ourselves most of the day! So spiritual leaders came up with the idea of 108 which is known as the divine number. If we remember divine 108 times throughout the day, this is the equivalent of 21,600.

There are 108 priests at Pashupatinath Temple in Kathamandu and 108,000 shiva lingams

Buddhist Teachings

According to Buddhism, in our lives, we have 108 different types of negative behaviours, such as desire, lies and ignorance. It’s our duty to overcome these negativities and choose the path of dharma, or “right action”, of which there are also, you guessed it, 108.

108 paths to god in Buddhism

Yoga & Tai Chi

While practicing surya namaskar, or sun salutation, it is the tradition to do at least 9 sets for the asanas to be effective. Each set contains 12 postures, so 9×12 = 108, of course!

In Tai Chi, there are 108 long forms or postures, designed to increase relaxation and awareness – both moon qualities.

Lord Shiva had 108 names for Goddess Durga

Numerology of 9

As mentioned before, we breathe 21,600 times per day, and to bring that breath to 108 it takes a lot of dedication and awareness. In fact, bringing your breath down to 108 broadens your awareness so much that it is said to lead to enlightenment.

Now, many people are aware of the importance of the number 9. In numerology, the number 9 is the symbol of wisdom and leadership. It is often called the number of the creator in Hinduism and the number of heaven in many religions. Funnily enough, if we add together the numbers in 108 we find 9. 1+0+8=9

Another fact of the number 9 is, in 360 degrees, if you add the numbers it also equals 9.

When you multiply 9 by any number, the answer will add up to 9

So, in yoga, religion and daily life there are many facts that show the importance of this divine number, 108. It’s such an important part of spirituality, but in particular, it’s a way to focus the mind onto one path.

When we connect with numbers they affect our mood, thinking and behaviour, so when we connect with a symbolic number like 108, we are one-pointed in our awareness and tranquillity comes – why not try it for yourself.


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