Ever wondered why in Yoga it is mentioned to do 108 Surya Namaskars? Why it is advised to chant Mantras like Maha Mrityunjay 108 times? Why devotees circle around a shrine for 108 times? Why there are 108 beads in Rudraksh Mala? In Hindu tradition, it is mentioned that Lord Shiva has 108 attendents called as Mukhya Shivaganas. There are 108 sacred temples of Vishnu called as Divya Deshams. In Brindavan, Lord Krishna had 108 followers called as Gopis. According to Marma Adi and Ayurveda, there are 108 pressure points in the body. In fact, 108 is the Emergency Service contact number in India. You must be curious to know now, what is so special about number 108? Is 108 just a natural number and a mere coincidence that we use it everywhere in Hinduism? Let’s find it out!

Importance of 108 in Yoga & Spirituality

In the Yogis system, number 108 refers to Spiritual Completion. In human body there are 114 chakras out of which you can work on 108 chakras. There are 72000 Nadis meeting at 114 different junctions known as Chakra. By practicing chanting, breathwork or Asana in rounds of this sacred number 108, the ancient yogis believed we could align ourselves with the rhythm of the creation, and ultimately bring an end to our cycle of Reincarnation.

108 is not just a natural number, in fact it’s a scientific number which is the basis of life, wholeness of existence. In spiritual terms, 108 stands for,

1 stands for God, the universe or your own highest truth.

0 stands for emptiness and humility in spiritual practices.

8 stands for infinity and timelessness.

Astronomy and 108

In science there are many researches which prove that 108 is a special number. The sun is 400 times bigger than moon yet both sun and moon looks of same size from the earth. During Lunar eclipse, the moon completely covers up the Sun even though moon is very small as compared to sun. It’s all because of this special number 108.

When you divide the distance between Sun and Earth by diameter of Sun, you get 108. Similarly, when you divide the distance between earth and moon by diameter of moon, you get 108. From Earth, sun and moon are located exactly in the ratio 108 in universe. That’s why we have 12 hours of Sunshine and 12 hours of Moonshine. This is the reason Sun and moon both are equally important for earth, even if the ratio 108 changes a bit, the life on earth will be affected.

Mathematics & 108

Mathematicians noted that number 108 has an elegant divisibility and geometry, producing endless pattern. 108 is also an abundant number, a semi perfect number, tetranacci number, the hyperfactorial of 3 since it is of the form 1^{1}\cdot 2^{2}\cdot 3^{3}. Under Hindu temples, the Panchalingam temple of South India has a Shiva Lingam having 5 facets where each facet has an angle of 108 degrees. The Brihadeesvara temple of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu is 216 feet tall which is in the ratio 108*2. In fact, most of the temples are designed in the ratio of 108. There are 12 months or 12 Zodiac signs and there are 9 planets. And when you multiply 12 by 9 it comes to number 108. Just like 108, number 12 and 9 are also very special numbers. In Geometry when you add all the angles of a figure and then add the digits, it comes to 9. In time and measurement systems, number 12 is widely used. There are 12 hours in clock, 24 hours (12*2) in a day, 12 inches in foot etc.

In Hindu culture also, we have 12 Jyotirlingas (self made shiva lingas), Maha Kumbha happens after every 12 years which is one orbital period of Jupiter. In Kundalini Yoga, there are 12 petals in heart chakra.

Earthly Desires

In Buddhism, its believed that there are 108 “Earthly Desires” that humans experience. which include experiences like arrogance, obsession, and violence. Each human experiences these earthly desires as a means to enlightenment. It is thought that in order to be free of suffering and attain enlightenment, humans must be free from all of these earthly desires.

108 Pithas and Upanishads

Pithas are sacred sites considered to be the seats of the goddess Sati, associated with different part’s of the Sati’s body which fell at different parts of the ancient Bharatvarsh. These sacred sites are scattered throughout India, all located near a body of water which is believed to be infused with the energy of the goddess. The 108 Pithas are important pilgrimage sites for the members of the Shakti sects of Hinduism.

The Upanishads are Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu teachings and ideals. The Upanishadic texts are part of the Shruti literature and are considered to be divine in origin. Scholars differ in opinion on the number of Upanishads and what constitutes Upanishads, but many believe there to be 108 of these ancient texts, adding to the significance of this sacred number.

108 and the Sanskrit Alphabet

The Sanskrit Alphabet or Varnamala also part of why this number is so significant in yoga. The Sanskrit alphabet is comprised of 54 letters. Each letter in the alphabet has both a masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) energy. 54 multiplied by these two energies is 108.

Now we have seen the importance of number 108 as well as 12 & 9. What do you think about 108 number now? For the Mystics, such numbers offered more than a scientific explanation – they offered – a code for awakening, a code to our own nature. And for the Yogis, that code is 108.

Like the Mantra OM,

108 seems to be an Essence,

‘That connects us to the Whole’

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