Meaning and Importance of the number 108 in Hinduism

While modern scientists had to go through a lot of trouble to try and figure out the distances between the earth and the moon and the earth and the sun; ancient Indian astronomers calculated it by simply observing how the human and solar systems operated together. Leaving their findings and records in the Surya Siddhanta, an age-old astronomical work, these brilliant minds discovered that the distance between the earth and moon could be calculated by multiplying the moon’s diameter by 108 and, likewise, the distance between the earth and sun could also be yielded by multiplying the Sun’s diameter by 108. According to Sadhguru, this is one of the reasons why mala beads were made to have 108 beads plus a 109th guru bead. 

Furthermore, mathematicians belonging to the Indian Vedic culture regarded the number 108 as a representation of the wholeness of existence. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why the number of Upanishads, that is the texts that translated the teachings of the Vedas into practical and personal guidance, was of 108. 

When it comes to yogic tradition, a total of 108 sacred places or pithas can be found in India; as well as 108 marma points or spiritual spots are believed to be located in the human body. Pranayama is also completed in cycles of 108, and sun salutations are frequently done in nine rounds of 12 postures. Totaling 108. 

But this coincidental repetitive appearance of number 108 in many aspects of the Indian tradition is not a mere accidental happening. In fact, ancient sages are said to have affirmed that by applying rounds of this divine number, they would be able to align themselves with the rhythm of creation. 

This mysterious number, however, has managed to find its place in other far away cultures too. In Islam, for instance, number 108 is associated with God; while in China there are 108 forms of Tai Chi Chuan. Apparently, the Sarsen Circle of Stonehenge is 108 diameters, and the High Temple of Lamanai as well as that of the funerary Temple in Tikal, were elevated at 108 feet tall. 

Up to date, there are still no in-depth explanations on why this number concurrently appears in different aspects of ancient traditions. American mythologist, Joseph Campbell, said 1 + 0 + 8 equals “the number of the goddess”. Seemingly, the number one can be interpreted as God or the Higher Truth. Number zero can be interpreted as either emptiness or completeness of spiritual practice, and number eight as can be understood as eternity.

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