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Thread: 108

  1. #1


    In today's Zazenkai, Jundo mentioned the significance of 3 (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha). And then 9. And then up to 108. I've seen the numbers in many places (like the exercise of 108 prostrations some sects do) but I don't think I've ever understood where it really comes from or its deeper meanings. Are any of you familiar with this? Or know of any good resources or books to reference?


  2. #2
    Hi Jeff,

    This came up recently in a thread on rosary/Mala beads.

    Check out the link below at the bottom. Quite fantastic ...

    108 Gassho, J

    As Buddhism moved from country to country, and culture to culture, bits of Hindu and Tantric elements were mixed into the teachings. The Juzu is one such item. Traditionally, it is an aid in chanting, serving as a counter (so you can keep your place), although a whole mess of mystical 'meanings' and powers came to be associated with the Mala beads themselves and the usual number of beads: 108 (or a divisor thereof).

    Number of beads:
    The formal nenju has 108 koshu 'children'/main beads, plus either one or two larger boshu 'parent' beads.

    [The 108 koshu represent the 108 bonnou (earthly desires, worldly & or evil passions) which the follower of the Dharma seeks to overcome.]

    There are also 'informal' nenju. These are commonly 1/4-size, having 27 koshu and one boshu parent-bead. However there are also informal nenju with 18 koshu (1/6th-size), 36 koshu (1/3rd) 54 koshu (1/2)
    For just some of the many meanings of '108'. have a gander at this. It is wonderful:
    By the way, most Japanese temple bells have 108 little bumpy things (called "bosses" to bell afionados, apparently just decorative) at the top part, for the 108 bonnou.

    Our bell in the Treeleaf Zendo, being small, has 36 (which is 1/3 of 108)

    Last edited by Jundo; 02-02-2013 at 05:23 AM.

  3. #3
    Thanks Jundo!


  4. #4
    Interesting little tidbit here. I'm not saying that this is deffinately the case - but in ancient times there was something called the Ancient Mysteries. Many different cultures were versed in the mysteries, the Egyptians reallty are as far back as we can reliably go with it, they had the Osirian Mysteries, and eventually the Greeks were taught the same systems and made them their own, notably were the Bachic, Orphic, and especially the Elusinian Mysteries. These bled in and out from the Greeks into many many different cultures, including India. For the number 108, if we apply the system of Pythagorian Numerology we add 1 plus 0 plus 8, and get the number 9. In Pythagorian myth, the number nine was the representation of Man. It was a factor of one of the most sacred numbers - 3 because the Mysteries taught that the form of man was divided into Body, Mind, and Soul. Nine is also the number of planets in the solar system, prior to Pluto being "Reclassified" and according to legend, the Mysteries were passed down from a people who would have known and been able to verify this. Much of the mythos of the Mysteries closely matches, if not outright mirrors, Buddhist thought.

    Anyway, kinda neat.
    Sat today

  5. #5
    Also, little tidbit ... in India and Sri Lanka, one dials 108 for police, fire and ambulance! Another kind of rescue for sentient beings ...


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