**108: The Significance of the Number**

It is amazing how much Western science has taught us. Today, for example,
kids in grammar school learn that the sun is 93 million miles from the earth and
that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Yoga may teach us about our
Higher Self, but it can't supply this kind of information about physics or
astronomy.

Or can it?

Professor Subhash Kak of Louisiana State University referred to the statement by
Sayana, a fourteenth century Indian scholar. In his commentary on a hymn in the
Rig Veda, the oldest and perhaps most mystical text ever composed in India,
Sayana has this to say: "With deep respect, I bow to the sun, who travels 2,202
yojanas in half a nimesha."

A yojana is about nine American miles; a nimesha is 16/75 of a second. 2,202
yojanas x 9 miles x 75/8 nimeshas = 185,794 m. p. s.

Basically, Sayana is saying that sunlight travels at 186,000 miles per second!
How could a Vedic scholar who died in 1387 A. D. have known the correct figure
for the speed of light? If this was just a wild guess, it's the most amazing
coincidence in the history of science!

The yoga tradition is full of such coincidences. Take for instance the mala many
yoga students wear around their neck. Since these rosaries are used to keep
track of the number of mantras a person is repeating, students often ask why
they have 108 beads instead of 100. Part of the reason is that the mala
represent the ecliptic, the path of the sun and moon across the sky. Yogis
divide the ecliptic into 27 equal sections called nakshatras, and each of these
into four equal sectors called paadas, or "steps," marking the 108 steps that
the sun and moon take through heaven.

Each is associated with a particular blessing force, with which you align
yourself as you turn the beads.

Traditionally, yoga students stop at the 109th "guru bead," flip the mala around
in their hand, and continue reciting their mantra as they move backward through
the beads. The guru bead represents the summer and winter solstices, when the
sun appears to stop in its course and reverse directions. In the yoga tradition
we learn that we're deeply interconnected with all of nature. Using a mala is a
symbolic way of connecting ourselves with the cosmic cycles governing our
universe.

The mala of 108 beads also represents Krishna, as the head bead, and His 108
most confidential servants. So you chant on all the beads except the Krishna
bead, which you turn the mala around and chant the other ways for another
"round" of 108 times of chanting. It can also represent the 108 most important
of the *Upanishads*.

But Professor Kak points out yet another coincidence: The distance between the
earth and the sun is approximately 108 times the sun's diameter. The diameter of
the sun is about 108 times the earth's diameter. And the distance between the
earth and the moon is 108 times the moon's diameter.

Could this be the reason the ancient sages considered 108 such a sacred number?
If the microcosm (us) mirrors the macrocosm (the solar system), then maybe you
could say there are 108 steps between our ordinary human awareness and the
divine light at the center of our being. Each time we chant another mantra as
our mala beads slip through our fingers, we are taking another step toward our
own inner sun.

As we read through ancient Indian texts, we find so much the sages of antiquity
could not possibly have known-but did. While our European and Middle Eastern
ancestors claimed that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago, the yogis
have always maintained that our present cosmos is billions of years old, and
that it's just one of many such universes which have arisen and dissolved in the
vastness of eternity.

In fact, the *Puranas*, encyclopedias of yogic lore thousands of years old,
describe the birth of our solar system out of a "milk ocean," the Milky Way.
Through the will of the Creator, they tell us, a vortex shaped like a lotus
arose from the navel of eternity. It was called Hiranya Garbha, the shining
womb. It gradually coalesced into our world, but will perish some day billions
of years hence when the sun expands to many times its present size, swallowing
all life on earth. In the end, the *Puranas* say, the ashes of the earth
will be blown into space by the cosmic wind. Today we know this is a
scientifically accurate, if poetic, description of the fate of our planet.

The *Surya Siddhanta* is the oldest surviving astronomical text in the
Indian tradition. Some Western scholars date it to perhaps the fifth or sixth
centuries A. D., though the next itself claims to represent a tradition much,
much older. It explains that the earth is shaped like a ball, and states that at
the very opposite side of the planet from India is a great city where the sun is
rising at the same time it sets in India. In this city, the *Surya Siddhanta*
claims, lives a race of *siddhas*, or advanced spiritual adepts. If you
trace the globe of the earth around to the exact opposite side of India, you'll
find Mexico. Is it possible that the ancient Indians were well aware of the
great sages/astronomers of Central America many centuries before Columbus
discovered America?- the Mayans or Incas.

Knowing the unknowable: To us today it seems impossible that the speed of light
or the fate of our solar system could be determined without advanced
astronomical instruments.

How could the writers of old Sanskrit texts have known the unknowable? In
searching for an explanation we first need to understand that these ancient
scientists were not just intellectuals, they were practicing yogis. The very
first lines of the *Surya Siddhanta*, for of the Golden Age a great
astronomer named Maya desired to learn the secrets of the heavens, so he first
performed rigorous yogic practices. Then the answers to his questions appeared
in his mind in an intuitive flash.

Does this sound unlikely? *Yoga Sutra* 3:26-28 states that through, *
samyama *(concentration, meditation, and unbroken mental absorption) on the
sun, moon, and pole star, we can gain knowledge of the planets and stars. *
Sutra* 3:33 clarifies, saying: "Through keenly developed intuition,
everything can be known." Highly developed intuition is called *pratibha*
in yoga. It is accessible only to those who have completely stilled their mind,
focusing their attention on one object with laser-like intensity. Those who have
limited their mind are no longer limited to the fragments of knowledge supplied
by the five senses. All knowledge becomes accessible to them.

"There are [those] who would say that consciousness, acting on itself, can find
universal knowledge," Professor Kak admits. "In fact this is the traditional
Indian view."

Perhaps the ancient sages didn't need advanced astronomical instruments. After
all, they had yoga.

**Further**** Significance of the
Number 108 in Vedic Culture **

Indian culture has a very special significance for Number 108. What does this
number represent, and why is it so important?

One idea is as follows: In one minute, we breathe in approximately 15 times, in
1 hour 900 times, And in 12 hours 10,800 times, and in a day 10,800 * 2 times. A
day consists of 24 hours, and if we set aside half the day for our day to day
routines. Then one can spend 12 hours for recitation of one's God. Therefore, it
seems that the maximmum number of times that one can recite "mantra", or perform
"Japa" is 10,800. If one wants to obtain 100% benefit of the japa, then
performing Jap 108 times will give you the benefit of 100%. That's why in a "Mala",
There are 108 beads. It is written in Vedas, that 1 japa or "round" corresponds
to 1 mala (which has 108 beads), therefore performing japa of 108 malas will
result in 100% benefit.

Astronomically, there are 27 constellations in our galaxy, and each one them has
4 directions, and 27 * 4 = 108. In other words the number 108 covers the whole
galaxy.

3) According to Indian scriptures, letter 9 corresponds to Lord Brahma (the
Creator of universe). Mathematically, the interesting property of 9 is 9x1 = 9

9 x 2 = 18 (8+1 = 9)

9 * 3 = 27 (7+2 = 9)

9 * 12 = 108 (1+0+8 = 9)

The addition of digits of number 108 is 9, and number 9 is related with
Brahma, that's why 108 is very important.

Indian *Vedas*, treats the Sun as God, and Sun has 12 signs (Zodiac signs).
In *Yajurveda*, the Sun is related with Lord Brahma (the number 9),
remember - 12 * 9 = 108; therefore for recitation of the mantra or prayer, the
number 108 is very sacred.

According to Indian mythology, there are also 4 Yugas

Satya Yuga - consists of 172,800 years (1+7+2+8 = 18 = (1+8 = 9)

Treta Yuga consists of 1296000 years (1+2+9+6 = 18 = (1+8 = 9)

Dwapara Yuga consists of 864000 years (8+4+6) = 18 = (1+8 = 9)

Kaliyuga consists of 432000 years (4+3+2) = 9

Harshad number: 108 is a Harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the
sum of its digits (Harshad is from Sanskrit, and means "great joy")

Desires: There are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals.

Lies: There are said to be 108 lies that humans tell.

Delusions: There are said to be 108 human delusions or forms of ignorance.

Heart Chakra: The chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are
said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra. One
of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to
Self-realization.

Sanskrit alphabet: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has
masculine and feminine, Shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.

Pranayama: If one is able to be so calm in meditation as to have only 108
breaths in a day, enlightenment will come.

*Upanishads*: Some say there are 108 *Upanishads*, texts of the wisdom
of the ancient sages.

Sri Yantra: On the Sri Yantra there are marmas where three lines intersect, and
there are 54 such intersections. Each intersection has masculine and feminine,
Shiva and shakti qualities. 54 times 2 equals 108. Thus, there are 108 points
that define the Sri Yantra as well as the human body. The angle formed by two
adjacent lines in a pentagon equals 108 degrees. Pentagon: The angle formed by
two adjacent lines in a pentagon equals 108 degrees.

Marmas: Marmas or *marmasthanas* are like energy intersections called
chakras, except have fewer energy lines converging to form them. There are said
to be 108 marmas in the subtle body.

Time: Some say there are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past, 36 related
to the present, and 36 related to the future.

Chemistry: Interestingly, there are about 115 elements known on the periodic
table of the elements. Most of those, around or higher than the number 100 only
exist in the laboratory, and some for only thousandths of a second. The number
that naturally exist on Earth is around 100.

Astrology: There are 12 constellations, and 9 arc segments called namshas or
chandrakalas. 9 times 12 equals 108. Chandra is moon, and kalas are the
divisions within a whole.

River Ganga: The sacred River Ganga spans a longitude of 12 degrees (79 to 91),
and a latitude of 9 degrees (22 to 31). 12 times 9 equals 108.

Planets and Houses: In Vedic astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12
times 9 equals 108.

Goddess names: There are said to be 108 major names of the Vedic Gods and
Goddesses.

Gopis of Krishna: In the Krishna tradition, there were said to be 108 most
important of the gopis or maid servants of Krishna .

1, 0, and 8: Some say that 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for
emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or
eternity.

Sun and Earth: The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.
The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.

Moon and Earth: The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the
diameter of the Moon.

Silver and the moon: In astrology, the metal silver is said to represent the
moon.

Numerical scale: The 1 of 108, and the 8 of 108, when added together equals 9,
which is the number of the numerical scale, i.e. 1, 2, 3 ... 10, etc., where 0
is not a number.

Meditations: Some say there are 108 styles of meditation.

Breath: Tantra estimates the average number of breaths per day at 21,600, of
which 10,800 are solar energy, and 10,800 are lunar energy. Multiplying 108 by
100 is 10,800. Multiplying 2 x 10,800 equals 21,600.

Smaller divisions: The number 108 is divided, such as in half, third, quarter,
or twelfth, so that some malas have 54, 36, 27, or 9 beads.

Islam: The number 108 is used in Islam to refer to God.

Jain: In the Jain religion, 108 are the combined virtues of five categories of
holy ones, including 12, 8, 36, 25, and 27 virtues respectively.

Sikh: The Sikh tradition has a mala of 108 knots tied in a string of wool,
rather than beads.

Buddhism: Some Buddhists carve 108 small Buddhas on a walnut for good luck. Some
ring a bell 108 times to celebrate a new year. There are said to be 108 virtues
to cultivate and 108 defilements to avoid.

Chinese: The Chinese Buddhists and Taoists use a 108 bead mala, which is called
su-chu, and has three dividing beads, so the mala is divided into three parts of
36 each. Chinese astrology says that there are 108 sacred stars.

Meru: This is a larger bead, not part of the 108. It is not tied in the sequence
of the other beads. It is the guiding bead, the one that marks the beginning and
end of the mala.

Dance: There are 108 forms of dance in the Indian traditions.

Praiseworthy souls: There are 108 qualities of praiseworthy soul.

First man in space: The first manned space flight lasted 108 minutes, and was on
April 12, 1961 by Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut.

Time: Some say there are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past, 36 related
to the present, and 36 related to the future.

[This article and more information at www.stephen-knapp.com]