During a puja, have you ever chanted a mantra for ten minutes or 25 times? Probably not! You may recall being told to recite it 108 times. Many Hindus have some form of 108 in their passwords, in their mobile numbers and license plates. Companies have made great marketing plans and logos with 108.
But why is 108 viewed as holy? The answer, just like every other answer you will get from your parents, is that it lies in math and science. Vedic sages, pre-dating modern mathematical formulas, had it all figured out! According to Vedic cosmology, 108 is the basis of creation, represents the universe and all our existence.
In Hinduism, we believe that outer cosmology should mirror our inner spirituality because our ultimate realization is that we are one in the same. It is said that the number 108 units represent the distance between our body and the God within us. According to Ayurveda, we have 108 marma points (vital points of life forces) in our body. So, this is why all mantras are chanted 108 times because each chant represents a journey from our material self towards our highest spiritual self. Each chant is believed to bring you 1 unit closer to our god within.
108 has significance in meditation as well. There are said to be 108 styles of meditation. In pranayama, the yogic practice of regulating breath, it is believed that if an individual can be so calm as to only breathe 108 times in one day, enlightenment will be achieved. Furthermore, an average person is said to breathe 21,600 times in a 24-hour period. Half, 10,800, are solar energy (breaths during day), and the other half is lunar energy (breaths during night). 100 multiplied with 108 equals 10,800. Also, in Kriya yoga, the maximum number of repetitions per session is said to be 108.
Hindus also believe our body contains seven chakras, starting at the top of the head and ending at the base of the spine. Each chakra is said to be an energy center within our body. The heart chakra, located at the exact center of the chest, is associated with transformation and love energy. It is believed that opening this energy center will lead to joy and compassion. The heart chakra is said to have 108 nadi (energy lines) that converge to form this energy center.
Also, in Hinduism there are 108 Upanishads, the sacred texts of wisdom from ancient sages. Additionally, in the Sanskrit alphabet, there are 54 letters. Each letter has a feminine, or Shakti, and masculine, or Shiva, quality. 54 multiplied by 2 equals 108.
These reasons explain why Hindus considered 108 holy. However, other religions recognize the mystical power of 108 as well. In Buddhism, for example, there are said to be 108 Earthly desires, 108 lies, and 108 delusions of the mind. This illustrates that the power of 108 has permeated into Eastern philosophies, but it does not stop there. In fact, 108 is not exclusive to religion, as it appears in our natural world.
In astrology, 108 can be noticed with the approximate relationships the Sun, Earth, and Moon. The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of Earth. The distance from the Sun to Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun. The distance from the Earth to Moon is 108 times the diameter of the moon. Lastly, there are 12 astrological houses and 9 planets. 12 multiplied by 9 equals 108.
Additionally, 108 is associated with the River Ganga and Stonehenge. River Ganga spans a longitude of 12 degrees (79 to 91) and latitude of 9 degrees (22 to 31). 12 multiplied by 9 equals 108. Stonehenge’s diameter has been measured to be 108 feet in diameter.
Lastly, 108 is a Harshad number. Such a number is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. In Sanskrit, harsa means “joy” and da means “give”. Thus, Harshad translates to “joy giver.” No wonder the Cubs experienced the joyous moment of winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years!