Significance of the number 108
The basic ten digit numbering system developed in India has one to nine numbers and a zero. The final digit is nine which when multiplied by any other digit gives a series of numbers which add up to the number nine. For example the addition of one, zero and eight is nine. This is the significance of 108 which is a multiple of nine or nine times twelve to be exact. Generally a set of prayer beads contains 108 beads. It is also auspicous to offer 108 flowers in Puja or in multiples of 9.
One hundred and eight beads of Mala: 21,600 breaths are divided by two (one half for night, Remaining 10,800 is divided by 100. Some of the Acharyas have set the system that a sanyasi must chant the name of god 10,800 times a day. The figure of 108 is sometimes used in front of the name of a holy or highly respected person who's connected with god. This results in a person who follows the law of repeating the Lord's name with half of his life's breaths.
108 in other traditions
- A mala usually has 108 beads for 108 repetitions of a mantra.
- Hindu Devtas have 108 names. Recital of these names, often accompanied by counting of a 108-beaded Japa Mala, is considered sacred and often done during religious ceremonies. The recital is called namajapa.
- It is described in the Bhagavata Purana, with its primary focus on bhakti devotion, that Krishna dances with 108 Gopis (cow-herd girls) in his Vrindavan pastimes, and later marries 16,108 wives in the city of Dwarka. Krishna devotees thus hold 108 as a number of great significance.
- Shiva Nataraja dances his cosmic dance in 108 poses.
- The total of all digits of 108 (1+0+8) is 9, which in Hinduism is said to represent the 9 tatvas. If you divide 108 by 2 or multiply by 2 the total of all digits again equals 9, however this is true for any number divisible by 18.
- In Hindu Astrology there are 12 Rashis - Zodiacs and 9 Planets - Navagrahas (12 X 9 = 108). There are 27 Lunar mansions - Nakshatras, which are divided in 4 Padas - quarters, each (27 X 4 = 108).
- In the temple at Angkor Wat there are numerous references to the number 108, which plays a significant role in the symbolism of the structure.
- In Japan, at the end of the year, a bell is chimed 108 times to finish the old year and welcome the new one. Each ring represents one of 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana (the state of being free from suffering, literally blowing out the fires of greed, hatred, and maya - delusion.
- Japanese Zen priests wear a juzu, a ring of prayer beads or the so called Buddhist rosary, around their wrists, which consists of 108 beads. (see mala above)
- Muktinath, the source of all S(h)ilas (lit. stones) or Shaligrams (Ammonite fossils that are worshipped as manifestations of Vishnu (known locally as Shaligram). Muktinath is one of the holiest place of pilgrimage of Hindus, Buddhists, Vaishnava, and Jains, it has 108 water springs.
- The Hindu Katri Dhangars Rajput shepherd caste have 108 clans. The lineage of these clans is from the solar and lunar dynasties. These people like to point out that the diameter of the Sun is nearly 108 times the diameter of the Earth, the distance from the Sun to the Earth is nearly 108 times the diameter of the Sun and the average distance of the Moon from the Earth is nearly 108 times the diameter of the Moon.
- The Eklingji temple complex includes 108 temples within its walls.
- There are 108 holy temples of Vishnu.
- Sahasranamastotra or Sahasranama (a list of 10,000 names, given to a rishi called Tandi by Shiva; the rishi gave the list to Upamanyu, who gave the list to Krsna in an abridged form, with only one tenth of the names, (1008 names) that have a total of 108 shlokas.
- 108 signifies the wholeness of the divinity, perfect totality.
- Ananda Coomaraswamy, a Sri Lankan philosopher, holds that the numerology of the decimal numeric system was key to its inception. 108 is therefore founded in Dharmic metaphysical numerology. 1/one for bindu; 0/zero for shunyata and 8/eight for ananta, a Sanskrit word meaning "without end" .
- The heart and Crown Chakras: Chakras (derived from the Sanskrit cakraṃ चकढ़रं, is a Sanskrit word that translates as "wheel") refer to wheel-like vortices that are said to be "force centres" in our bodies. They are the intersections of energy lines (Nadī's - Vedic Sanskrit for river). 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.
- Marmas or marmastanas are like energy intersections called chakras, there are said to be 108 marmas in the subtle body.
- The Lankavatara Sutra repeatedly refers to the 108 steps.
- Laṅkĝvatĝra Sūtra (Chinese: 楞伽經) is a sutra of Mahayana Buddhism. According to tradition, these are the actual words of the Buddha as he entered Lanka and conversed with a bodhisattva named Mahamati. This sutra figured prominently in the development of Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism. The Lankavatara Sutra is the cornerstone of Chinese Chán and its Japanese version, Zen, and was translated from Sanskrit into Japanese and English by the lauded exponent of Zen, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki.
- The lines of the mystical Sri Yantra (a yantra formed by nine interlocking triangles that surround and radiate out from the center) intersect in 54 points, each with a masculine and feminine quality, totaling 108.
Part of the above was adapted from Wikipedia