Author Topic: The number 108 in religion  (Read 174 times)

Tracy

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The number 108 in religion
« on: November 13, 2019, 10:56:40 AM »
The number 108 is considered sacred by several Eastern religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, connected yoga and dharma based practices. In Sikhism all numbers, weekdays, months etc. are equally auspicious or inauspicious. The individual digits comprising 108; 1, 0, and 8 represent one thing, nothing, and everything (infinity), representing the belief of the ultimate reality of the universe as being (paradoxically) simultaneously one, emptiness, and infinite.

Hinduism
Hindu deities have 108 names, while in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, there are 108 gopis of Vrindavan. Recital of these names, often accompanied by the counting of a 108-beaded mala, is considered sacred and often done during religious ceremonies. The recital is called namajapa. Accordingly, a japa mala usually has beads for 108 repetitions of a mantra.

Srivaishnavism has 108 Divya Kshetras of Lord Vishnu, called as 108 DivyaDesam.

Buddhism
Likewise, Tibetan Buddhist malas or rosaries (Tib. ?????? Wyl. phreng ba, "Trengwa") are usually 108 beads; sometimes 111 including the guru bead(s), reflecting the words of the Buddha called in Tibetan the Kangyur (Wylie: Bka'-'gyur) in 108 volumes. Zen priests wear juzu (a ring of prayer beads) around their wrists, which consists of 108 beads.

The Lankavatara Sutra has a section where the Bodhisattva Mahamati asks Buddha 108 questions and another section where Buddha lists 108 statements of negation in the form of "A statement concerning X is not statement concerning X". In a footnote, D.T. Suzuki explains that the Sanskrit word translated as "statement" is pada which can also mean "foot-step" or "a position." This confusion over the word "pada" explains why some have mistakenly held that the reference to 108 statements in the Lankavatara refer to the 108 steps that many temples have.

In some schools of Buddhism it is believed that there are 108 feelings. According to Bhante Gunaratana this number is reached by multiplying the senses smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight, and consciousness by whether they are painful, pleasant or neutral, and then again by whether these are internally generated or externally occurring, and yet again by past, present and future, finally we get 108 feelings. 6 × 3 × 2 × 3 = 108. In Japan, at the end of the year, a bell is chimed 108 times in Buddhist temples to finish the old year and welcome the new one. Each ring represents one of 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana.