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Monday, October 15, 2012

Why 108

108  -  A Sacred Number

108  -  A Sacred Number"The number’s significance is open to interpretation.  But 108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga.  Traditionally, malas, or garlands of prayer beads, come as a string of 108 beads (plus one “guru bead,” around which the other 108 beads turn like the planets around the sun).  A mala is used for counting as you repeat a mantra  —  much like the Catholic rosary.  Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence.  This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth:  The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters.  Such phenomena have given rise to many examples of ritual significance."
says leading teacher Shiva Rea in
 Joga Journal.
Swami Satyananda, Yoga magazine, July 2003, has a different take:
"People often ask why the number 108 is auspicious.  Actually, it is not 108; it is one  -  cipher  -  eight.  One represents
 Purusha; eight representsPrakriti, the eightfold nature, and cipher represents blank, void or shoonya.  When Purusha and Prakriti come together, there is creation.  Eight plus one is nine.  Now, if you take all the multiples of nine:  9 x 2 = 18,  9 x 3 = 27,  9 x 4 = 36,  9 x 5 = 45,  each total is nine! [* Adding the digits of the sum of the multiplication to each other equals nine.   1 + 8 = 9,  2 + 7 = 9,   3 + 6 = 9,   4 + 5 = 9. *]  All the multiplications of nine are nine and it never changes.
Whether duality or destruction is there, the universe, the creation, continues.  But remember there is no beginning and no end to this creation.  There will not be a day when there is no creation.  It was, it is and it will be.  So it is exactly 108.  One represents Purusha and eight Prakriti, but to separate Prakriti from Purusha, you bring in the situation of vacuum, shoonya, non-existence, no mind.  That is yoga.  The number 108 represents the process of yoga, separation of Purusha from Prakriti by creating a state of vacuum, which is called dhyana or samadhi. The cipher means zero, and zero means there is nothing.
When the mind becomes quiet, there are no ripples.  The state of shoonya arises when the mind is totally devoid of every experience:  conscious, subconscious and unconscious.  So, shoonya separates Purusha from Prakriti, samadhi separates Purusha from Prakriti, and that is the significance of one  -  zero  -  eight."
Other interesting tidbits: 
  • According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India.  And there are also 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body.
  • The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.  The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
  • The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.
  • In astrology, the metal silver is said to represent the moon.  The atomic weight of silver is 108.
  • In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets.  12 times 9 equals 108.
  • Some say there are 108 Upanishads, texts of the wisdom of the ancient sages.
  • 108 is a Harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits (Harshad is from Sanskrit, and means "great joy").
  • 1,  0, and 8:  Some say that 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity.
  • The first ever manned space flight on April 12, 1961 by Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, lasted 108 minutes.