Some numbers carry a universal meaning across different cultures and religions. Many forms of the numeral 108 have made its appearance in various fields of knowledge, religion and culture. Although the association with its occurrence is unknown, it is believed that this magic number connects the modern and the ancient world mysteriously.
Invoking such numbers or even by just viewing the number activates a deep subconscious urge for unity. One such number is 108.
For example India, as a diverse country, has defined languages and dialects for each state, and there are 108 different dance forms in the Indian tradition.
There are many more interesting facts associated with this number. Let us ponder about the significance of this figure, its representation and importance across countries.
Secret Society of Hung League
The Hung League is considered as one of the most mysterious and archaic societies of China. Their rituals take us back to the pre-Buddhist religions.
A group of sacred numbers possessing a mystical significance has been absorbed into the ritual and statutes of the Hung League.
These number are:
2×9 = 18; 3×7 = 21; 3×12 =36; 2×36 =72; 36+72 = 108; 30×12 = 360
This community followed a ritual of planting 108 plants in a pot and 108 groves of red bamboo.
According to Z. Sitchin, The 12th Planet, a Sumerian king Gudea of the city of Lagash, built a temple to Ningirsu employing 216,000 workers. His meal usually consisted in 108 different servings.
Significance in Vedic Cosmology
The numeral 108, as per the Vedic cosmology, is the basis of creation and it represents our universe and our existence. Number 1 indicates God consciousness, 0 implies void and 8 indicates infinity.
In fact, ancient Vedic texts of cosmology state that 108 represents the sacred numerological relationship of the Earth to the Moon and the Sun. Here is a simple fact to prove the numerological relationship:
Earth’s diameter at the equator is 7926 miles. The diameter of the Sun is about 108 times which is 865,000. The average or midpoint distance between Earth and Sun is 93,020,000 miles (again 108 times the sun’s diameter). Similarly, the Moon’s diameter is 2,180 miles. The average distance from Earth to Moon is 238,800 miles. Again, it is 108 times the Moon’s diameter!
Buddhism in Numbers
It is believed that there are 108 types of meditation. A famous Tibetan work, “Gandjour”, contains 108 volumes of Buddha doctrines.
On New Year’s Eve, in Japan, the bell in Buddhist temples are chimed 108 times to mark the end of an old year and to welcome the new year. Each ring is believed to represent the 108 earthly temptations that a man is supposed to overcome to attain nirvana or reach enlightenment.
Bodnath Stupa, the largest stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal is decorated with 108 images of Buddha. The total of the numbers 108 gives us a result of 9. When we multiply each number by 9 and on summing, we get 9 as the result!
9 x 2 = 18 (1 + 8 = 9)
36 x 9 = 324 (3 + 2 + 4 = 9)
285 x 9 = 2565 (2 + 5 + 6 + 5 = 18 = 1 + 8 = 9)
Ancient Vedic sages who dealt with astronomy and mathematics considered this number as a magic number that is associated with success and perfection.
Importance in Hinduism and Other Religions
Even in Indian culture, the numeral 108 has immense significance. The Sanskrit language comprises of 54 letters, representing both genders, the male and the female and are regarded as the Hindu God Shiva (masculine) and Goddess Shakti (feminine). When we multiply the letters with the two genders; 54 x 2, gives us the result as 108.
As per Sri Yantra designs, there are marmas where three lines intersect. And on the Sri Yantras there 54 such intersections. Again, like the Sanskrit language each intersection here has a feminine and masculine, i.e. Shiva and Shakti.
Lord Krishna of Hindu mythology is often said to be surrounded by gopis or women. According to the Hindu Puranas, it is believed that Lord Krishna had 108 women serving him at any point in time.
In India, most of the rituals are strongly associated with this number. The number carries significance in Jainism and Sikhism as well. Even in Islam, the numeral 108 is considered sacred as it is used to refer Allah.
108 in Ancient Architecture
The numeral 108 has not spared the monuments either! The famous prehistoric monument, the Sarsen Circle of the World, Stonehenge, is about 108 feet (33 meters) in diameter. It is a very long way to Asia from Stonehenge, to be more precise, to the Phnom Bakheng at Angkor. Phnom Bakheng is an ancient Hindu temple and represents the sacred Mount Meru. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is built in the form of a temple mountain.
The temple is surrounded by 108 towers. According to an investigation conducted by Jean Filliozat of the Ecole Francaise, a French expert on Indian cosmology and astronomy, the structure is on a rectangular base and rises in five levels and has five main towers as its crown. There are one hundred four smaller towers that are distributed over the four lower levels. The towers are placed so symmetrically that only 33 can be seen from the center of any side. 33 is the number of gods who lived on Mount Meru.
The temple is embellished with 108 surrounding towers. The center tower represents the axis of the world while the 108 smaller towers indicate the four lunar phases, with 27 days. The seven levels signify the seven heavens while each terrace has 12 towers that represent the 12-year cycle of Jupiter.
Other Amazing Facts
There is yet another belief revolving around this magic number. As per the Marma Adi and Ayurveda therapy, a person has 108 feelings; 36 belong to his past, 36 of the present and the future. Also, there are 108 pressure points on a human body.
Those who believe in God claim that 108 paths lead us to God. In mathematics, it is said that the measure of an interior angle of a regular pentagon is 108 degrees. The list is certainly never-ending. The number’s significance is open to interpretation. However, one thing is sure, the number 108 has always been with humanity from the beginning and will probably continue to be so.