The forgotten meaning of the number 108

The number 108 is considered a sacred and significant number in many spiritual and religious traditions.

In Hinduism, the number 108 is considered a sacred number and is associated with various beliefs and practices. For example:

  • The ancient Indian scriptures, known as the Upanishads, contain 108 teachings.
  • There are 108 beads on a mala (prayer beads) used for meditation and reciting mantras.
  • There are 108 sacred sites throughout India.
  • There are 108 energy lines, or nadis, that converge at the heart chakra.

In Buddhism, the number 108 is also considered significant. For example:

  • There are 108 delusions or defilements that a person must overcome in order to achieve enlightenment.
  • There are 108 beads on a Buddhist mala used for meditation and reciting mantras.
  • There are 108 prostrations in certain Buddhist rituals.

In addition to these traditions, the number 108 is also significant in other spiritual and religious practices, including certain forms of yoga and in the Japanese martial art of karate. In music, where note A4 is set to 432 Herz, the “natural” interval, 108 Herz is the frequency of A2 and 216 Herz is the frequency of the A3 note. When it comes to tempo, 108 beats per minute is the border between Andante and Moderato.

In search of the Enlightenment

As we saw, the Buddhists believed that this number is somehow related to enlightenment. But the idea is older than Buddhism, as it is surely not a coincidence that there are 108 Upanishads and 108 prayer beads in Hinduism.

However, I couldn’t help but notice that similar parallels exist even in Norse mythology. According to Norse mythology, Odin suspended himself from the world tree Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights in order to gain knowledge and wisdom. During this time, he also suffered and made sacrifices, including sacrificing one of his own eyes to the well of Mimir. This experience is known as the “sacrifice of Odin” or “Odin’s ordeal”.

I’ve read different versions of this myth, and what they all have in common is that they insist on the “nine days and nine nights” part. Why were the nights and days always separated? Perhaps because there are 12 hours in a day and 12 hours in a night. And 9 x 12 = 108. In other words, Odin had to go through two 108-hour cycles.

Is this a coincidence? Perhaps. However, very similar symbolism exists in Hinduism. Namely, Lord Shiva has 108 beads on his mala, and he is often depicted with two malas, making a total of 216 beads.

Shiva with two sets of mala beads – one black, one white

In Buddhism, the number 216 is associated with the sacred mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum.” This mantra consists of six syllables, and there are 36 different combinations of these syllables. Multiplying 36 by 6 gives 216, so the number 216 is considered significant in the recitation of this mantra.

In astrology and numerology, the number 216 is often associated with spiritual growth, wisdom, and enlightenment. It is also considered a powerful number for manifestation and creating positive change in one’s life.

But is there more to it? What is the true hidden meaning behind these numbers?

The answer might be surprisingly simple. Nakshatras are the lunar mansions used in traditional Indian astronomy and astrology to divide the 360 degrees of the zodiac into 27 equal parts. These 27 Nakshatras are then divided into four groups or categories, known as Padas. In other words, there are 108 Padas in a year. The Padas can only be observed during the night time, but in order to get the duration of the full year, we need to add the daylight hours, which would be equal to another 108 Padas, 216 in total. This is what the black and white beads around Shiva’s neck represent. And this is why Odin spent 9 days and 9 nights hanging from a “tree”.

Interestingly, number 108 was sacred even for the ancient Egyptians. They too, obtained it through astronomy. Namely, they belived that the Sun (as well as human soul) travel across the sky in 36 boats, each carrying 3 dieties – a toal of 108 gods and goddeses.

Astronomical connections

As always, when I want to see the “bigger picture” my first go-to place is astronomy. And 108 seems to be an important number here. The diameter of the Sun is approximately 108 times the diameter of the Earth, while the average distance between the Earth and the moon is approximately 216 times the diameter of the Moon. Moreover, the diameter of the moon is approximately 2160 miles, and it takes the moon 27.3 days to orbit the Earth, which is 2160 hours.

Interesting. But there is more.

The precession of the equinoxes, which is a slow movement of the Earth’s axis, has a cycle of approximately 25,920 years. As the path of our planet around the Sun is not circular, the position of the stars relative to the Earth gradually changes over time. On the spring equinox, the Sun will rise behind one of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac for a period of 2160 years (25,920 / 12), before moving to the next one.

These 2160-year cycles are known as Astronomical ages, and we are currently living in the Age of Pisces.

There is no doubt that the ancients knew about these cycles, and knew how to calculate them. And it seems that number 108 was the key for these calculations. Namely, we can easily get the number 25,920 by multiplying numbers 108 and 240. At the same time, the number 2,160 = 108 x 20.

The ancient heritage

In order to consider the possibility that the number 108 was originally used to calculate complex astronomical phenomena and shifts of the Astronomical ages, we must first find some tangible evidence. And indeed, in India, one of the holiest festivals known as Kumbh Mela takes place every 12 years. However, the most important of the Kumbh Mela festivals take place every 108 years (9 x 12 years) and every 144 years (12 x 12 years). The latter is known as the Maha (Great) Kumbh Mela.

What is the meaning behind these long counts? In my opinion, the ancient sages knew that human life is too short to follow these great cycles, so they broke it down into smaller numbers, which are easier to understand and observe.

The last Maha Kumbh Mela was held in 2013 in Allahabad, India. It was attended by an estimated 100 million people, making it the largest peaceful gathering of humans on Earth.

The next Maha Kumbh Mela is scheduled to be held in 2157. I find it interesting that this number is so close to the number 2160 – which marks the duration of one Astronomical age. We are currently in the year 2023 of the New Era because it was approximately that many years ago that the Sun first appeared on the background of the Pisces constellation, during the spring equinox. And it seems like the next Maha Kumbh Mela of 2157 will be a perfect marker for the transition to the Age of Aquarius.

If Maha Kumbh Mela happens every 144 years, that means that there are exactly 15 such festivals in a cycle of 2160 years, and if we go back from the year 2157, we end up in the time of Christ, around the year 2-3 BC. That is an interesting coincidence, isn’t it?

But why would the ancients be so concerned with these long counts in the first place? Is it because they knew that our planet goes through some cyclical and extremely dramatic changes along its path?

Some say that the Age of Aquarius will be the age of information and enlightenment. But there are also those who foresee floods and other cataclysmic events. Even the Holy Scriptures talk about the Apocalypse. What if the climate change that melts the ice of the Arctic and the Antarctic is unavoidable, being a part of a natural cycle that takes place every time the Sun enters Aquarius?

Only Odin will know. Just like the Egyptian Horus, he left one eye to shine in the daylight and left the other to shine at night. Their diameters are based on numbers 108 and 216. And we, the mere mortals, we have to deal with our own 108 delusions before we reach enlightenment.

More on the Norse – Vedic connections here:


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.