The Number 108
A Few things the Number 108 is associated with
Here are a few non technical things the number 108 is associated with. One technical thing, however, is the distance of Earth from the Sun is about 108 times the diameter of the Sun. First is a quote.
“the number 108 is held to be the most auspicious, a perfect three-digit multiple of three, its components adding up to 9, which is three threes. And 3, of course, is the number representing supreme balance.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
In Hindu tradition, the Mukhya Shivaganas (attendants of Shiva) are 108 in number and hence Shaiva religions, particularly Lingayats, use malas of 108 beads for prayer and meditation.
Similarly, in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Lord Krishna in Brindavan had 108 followers known as gopis. Recital of their names, often accompanied by the counting of a 108-beaded mala, is often done during religious ceremonies.
The Sri Vaishnavite Tradition has 108 Divya Desams (temples of Vishnu) that are revered by the 12 Alvars in the Divya Prabandha, a collection of 4,000 Tamil verses.
In Jainism, the total number of ways of Karma influx (Aasrav). 4 Kashays (anger, pride, conceit, greed) x 3 karanas (mind, speech, bodily action) x 3 stages of planning (planning, procurement, commencement) x 3 ways of execution (own action, getting it done, supporting or approval of action).
In Buddhism, according to Bhante Gunaratana this number is reached by multiplying the senses smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight, and consciousness by whether they are painful, pleasant or neutral, and then again by whether these are internally generated or externally occurring, and yet again by past, present and future, finally we get 108 feelings. 6 × 3 × 2 × 3 = 108.
Tibetan Buddhist malas or rosaries are usually 108 beads; sometimes 111 including the guru bead(s), reflecting the words of the Buddha called in Tibetan the Kangyur in 108 volumes. Zen priests wear juzu (a ring of prayer beads) around their wrists, which consists of 108 beads.
The Lankavatara Sutra has a section where the Bodhisattva Mahamati asks Buddha 108 questions and another section where Buddha lists 108 statements of negation in the form of “A statement concerning X is not a statement concerning X.” In a footnote, D.T. Suzuki explains that the Sanskrit word translated as “statement” is pada which can also mean “foot-step” or “a position.” This confusion over the word “pada” explains why some have mistakenly held that the reference to 108 statements in the Lankavatara refer to the 108 steps that many temples have.
In Japan, at the end of the 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 108 earthly temptations (Bonnō) a person must overcome to achieve nirvana.
In the neo-Gnostic teachings of Samael Aun Weor, an individual has 108 chances (lifetimes) to eliminate his egos and transcend the material world before “devolving” and having the egos forcefully removed in the infradimensions.
Many East Asian martial arts trace their roots back to Buddhism, specifically, to the Buddhist Shaolin Temple. Because of their ties to Buddhism, 108 has become an important symbolic number in a number of martial arts styles.
- According to Marma Adi and Ayurveda, there are 108 pressure points in the body, where consciousness and flesh intersect to give life to the living being.
- The Chinese school of martial arts agrees with the South Indian school of martial arts on the principle of 108 pressure points.
- 108 number figures prominently in the symbolism associated with karate, particularly the Gōjū-ryū discipline. The ultimate Gōjū-ryū kata, Suparinpei, literally translates to 108. Suparinpei is the Chinese pronunciation of the number 108, while gojūshi of Gojūshiho is the Japanese pronunciation of the number 54. The other Gōjū-ryū kata, Sanseru (meaning “36”) and Seipai (“18”) are factors of the number 108.
- The 108 moves of the Yang Taijiquan long form and 108 moves in the Wing Chun wooden dummy form, taught by Ip Man, are noted in this regard.
- The Eagle Claw Kung Fu style has a form known as the 108 Locking Hand Techniques. This form is considered the essence of the style, consisting of an encyclopedia of Chin Na techniques, and is said to be passed down from the founder General Yue Fei.
- Paek Pal Ki Hyung, the 7th form taught in the art of Kuk Sool Won, translates literally to “108 technique” form. It is also frequently referred to as the “eliminate 108 torments” form. Each motion corresponds with one of the 108 Buddhist torments or defilements.
References for Number 108