The number 108 is considered an auspicious number in the Hindu system for many reasons. Below is a compilation of the meanings for the significance of 108 according to a couple of resources.
From the Yoga Journal by Shiva Rea:
The number’s significance is open to interpretation. But 108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga. Traditionally, malas, or garlands of prayer beads, come as a string of 108 beads (plus one for the “guru bead,” around which the other 108 beads turn like the planets around the sun). A mala is used for counting as you repeat a mantra—much like the Catholic rosary.
Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. Such phenomena have given rise to many examples of ritual significance.
According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India. And there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body.
For example, Hindu deities have 108 names, whilst in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, there are 108 gopis of Vrindavan. Recital of these names, often accompanied by counting of 108-beaded Mala, is considered sacred and often done during religious ceremonies. The recital is called namajapa. Accordingly, a mala usually has beads for 108 repetitions of a mantra.
It is quiet interesting to know that the distance of Sun from Earth divided by diameter of Sun and distance of Moon from Earth divided by diameter of Moon is approximately equal to 108. It is claimed that the great sires of Vedanta knew this relationship and thus 108 is a very important number in Vedantic chantings.
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 Tibetan Buddhism it is believed that there are 108 sins. And 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.
The number 108 is one of many numeric motifs in the American television program Lost, which includes quite a few references to Buddhism. For example, the sum of “the numbers” (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42) is 108, and “the numbers” must be entered into a computer every 108 minutes. One hundred eight is also the number of days “the Oceanic 6” have spent on the island. And Jacob tells Hurley to rotate the mirror in the lighthouse to a heading of 108°.Ancient Artifacts
In the neo-Gnostic teachings of Samael Aun Weor, an individual has 108 chances (lifetimes) to eliminate his egos and transcend the material world before “devolving” and having the egos forcefully removed in the infradimensions.
- According to Marma Adi and Ayurveda, there are 108 pressure points in the body, where consciousness and flesh intersect to give life to the living being.
- The Chinese school of martial arts agrees with the South Indian school of martial arts on the principle of 108 pressure points.
- 108 number also figures prominently in the symbolism associated with karate, particularly the Gōjū-ryū discipline. The ultimate Gōjū-ryū kata, Suparinpei, literally translates to 108. Suparinpei is the Chinese pronunciation of the number 108, while gojūshi of Gojūshiho is the Japanese pronunciation of the number 54. The other Gōjū-ryū kata, Sanseru (meaning “36”) and Seipai (“18”) are factors of the number 108.
- The 108 of the Yang long form and Wing Chun, taught by Yip Man having 108 movements are noted in this regard.
- Several different Taijiquan long forms consist of 108 moves.
- Paek Pal Ki Hyung, the 7th form taught in the art of Kuk Sool Won, translates literally to “108 technique” form. It is also frequently referred to as the “eliminate 108 torments” form. Each motion corresponds with one of the 108 Buddhist torments or defilements.
- In Homer‘s Odyssey, the number of suitors coveting Penelope, wife of Odysseus.
- There are 108 outlaws in the Chinese classic Water Margin/Outlaws of the Marsh.
- The number of surat al-Kawthar in the Qur’an, the smallest one of the Book.
- There are 108 love sonnets in Astrophil and Stella, the first English sonnet sequence by Sir Philip Sidney.
- In ancient India, Vedic seers had calculated the following distances which modern scientific measurements have reconfirmed:
- The distance between the Earth and Moon is 108 times the diameter of the Moon (true, ratio using the mean values is about 110.5877 and between perigee and mean is at 108 exactly.)
- The distance between the Earth and Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun (true, ratio using the mean values is about 107.7586, and does equal 108 exactly during the orbit variance)
- The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth (close – the number for the mean diameters is about 109.245)
In other fields
- An official Major League Baseball baseball has 108 stitches.
- The atomic number of hassium.
- The number of Mbit/s of a non-standard extension of IEEE 802.11g wireless network using channel bonding.
- There are 108 Stars of Destiny to collect in the video game Suikoden distributed by Konami for Playstation
- 108 is the name of a community of and for open source developers, created by Red Hat.
- There are 108 cards in a deck of UNO cards.
- Jain 108 was the first person in the world to adopt a numerical surname. His official surname or last name is “108”, or as it appears on computer screens as “Jain OneZeroEight”.
- There are 108 golf holes (6 courses) at PGA West in La Quinta, California.
- There are 108 Code Crowns in Digimon Xros Wars.
- The british Television Series Doctor Who has exactly 108 missing Episodes.
EMRI – Emergency Services
In India, 108 (1-0-8) is the toll-free emergency telephone number. Calls are handled by GVK EMRI (GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute), the only professional Emergency Service Provider in India today, handling medical, police and fire emergencies.