Saturday, February 7, 2009

Why 108?

This is the title of a page that contains interesting information about this most sacred holy number among the Hindu people. You may find it at .

“It could have been otherwise, says the author, but it so happens that the distance between the earth and the sun equals about 108 (actually 107-odd) times the sun’s diameter. Likewise, it so happens that the distance between the earth and the moon equals about 108 (actually 109-odd) times the moon’s diameter. That sun and moon look equally big in the earthly sky is the immediate result of their having the same ratio between distance and diameter. Moreover, it so happens that the sun’s diameter approximately equals 108 times the earth’s diameter.”

Did the ancient Hindus know that the distance between the earth and the sun equals about 108 times the sun’s diameter? Likewise, did they know the distance between the earth and the moon equals about 108 times the moon’s diameter? As I have also said elsewhere, in the light of facts like these, and after seeing the cumulus of other “coincidences” in the scientific lore of ancient cultures so distant from one another, we would certainly need to be blind to think that it is all just the product of chance.

But however it is, I would like to add the following with regard to this and other cyclic or “circular” numbers:

According to Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Efeso (540–475 BC), the period between two great conflagrations such as the one that would have submerged Atlantis, thousands of years before his time, is 10,800 years, a “circular” period of time which divided by one hundred becomes 108: a number which for Hinduists and Buddhists is an object of special veneration.

This can be seen in that 108 is the number of Upanishads in the Buddhist canon and it is also placed before the name of the venerable acharyas or teachers of the great disciplic lines, apart from the fact that it is the number of stone figures along the lanes at the temple of Angkor in Camboya, etcetera.

Now the basic form of 108, i.e. 18, which among other particularities corresponds to the number of breaths of a human being in one minute, is equal to the total number of Puranas and of the Bhagavad–gita chapters. For the rest, it should be noted that the total number of the Rig Veda verses is 10,800 and those of Bhagavata Purana 18,000, distributed into twelve “Cantos” or chapters; and that within the Judean–Christian esoterism, the number of chapters of the enigmatic Book of Enoch is, again, 108.

Other important facts regarding this holy number:

1) 108 is 3 times 36, the number 3 symbolizing heaven (rather than time) as opposed to 4, which symbolizes the earth. Actually time, in the absence of which no action is possible, is best symbolized by 9 and, beyond that, by 108.

Why so? Because 9 is the dynamic power that makes it possible to inter-relate cycles of all orders and magnitudes, from 360, which represents the year, to 311’040,000’000,000, which is the length of the total cosmic manifestation. Both are multiple of 9, i.e. the sum of their digits is 9.

This can also be seen with the traditional yugas’ lengths of 1’728,000, 1’296,000, 864,000 and 432,000 years (totaling 4’320,000 years), all of which are multiple of nine (i.e. the sum of their digits is always 9).

It also can be seen with the length of the cycle of precession of the equinoxes of 25,920 ideal years (of 360 days) and with that of a degree of this cycle, which is 72 years and a multiple of nine as well.

Most important among the relationships that can be established between the yugas’ lengths and the length of the precession of the equinoxes are:
72 x 60 = 4,320, and 72 x 360 = 25,920; and again, 4,320 x 6 = 25,920.

Also, it is a known fact that the normal age of man for this current Era is 72 years. Now 72 years x 360 = 25,920 days, which means that from a cosmic view, the life of man lasts only one day.

Now as to why 108 symbolizes time (and more specifically total time) we need to look into the greater cycles.

To the orthodox Vaishnavism, a Brahma’s day consists of one thousand maha-yugas, and his night consists of an equal number of them. The “day” and “night” therefore are 4’320,000 x 1,000 x 2 = 8,640’000,000 common years long. But the relevant number here is 8,640 (without any more zeros) as it can be related to 25,920 by multiplying it by 3 (8,640 x 3 = 25,920). In turn, 25,920 years can be assimilated to 24 hours by multiplying the latter (with an added zero) by 108. Here the totality of time is represented by both 25,920 (the “ideal” length of a cycle of precession of the equinoxes) and 108.

Another way to show why 108 symbolizes total time is by simply relating it to 36 (36 x 3), where 3 represents the division of day into three parts of 8 hours (daytime, night time, and dawn and dusk taken together).

2) The Hindu and Buddhist rosary of 108 beads symbolizes more specifically the “chain of worlds” in the esoteric traditions, every bead symbolizing a successive created world. In reciting their mantras as they pass the beads along with their fingers, the devotees – whether knowingly or not – are recreating the worlds. As with the Aztecs, the Incas, etc, ‘worlds’ here may be regarded to mean cycles, the chain of worlds in turn representing the complete universal manifestation.

3) Here is an oddity: Which chapter is in the center of the Bible? Psalms 118.

There are 594 chapters before Psalms 118, and there are 594 chapters after Psalms 118. Add these numbers up and you get 1188.

True, 1188 is not 1008 or 108; but take 180 from 1188 and you get 1008. Take 900 from 1008 and you get 108.

Also, the catholic rosary has 108 : 2 = 54 beads. Another “coincidence”?