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Home » Religion Articles - I » SRIVAISHNAVAM & the significance of Number 108, Other Values!
Why 108 - What it signifies? In Hinduism & Sanathana Dharma, 108 Importance for Srivaishnavas
by TRS Iyengar
We are well aware that all the Gods in Hindu religion have 108 names. Even Lord Sri Krishna had 108 disciplined servants named as Gopis surrounding Him!
Beginning from the cervical, spread in countless nerve and flesh woven body, the Sookshamas protect the body with every move one makes; it is inter-linked to the nerve center and spread into 108 spokes from the heart and spread all over human body. Again each of this 108 Marma nadi known as pulse is controlled with 9 different functional organs within, signifying the NavAmsa. In Astrology, the number 9 represents to 9 planets known as Navagraha, and the sub-chart known as Navamsa Kundaly has nine divisions of each constellation part instead of 12 in the Main natal chart.
As per the Hindu Ithihas, an History of events, when the ThiruppArkadal (Ocean of Milk - Better known as Milkyway) was churned with one side with 54 Deva Ganas representing the positive qualities and at the other end with 54 Asuras that represent the Negative qualities (the Demons) (Here again it totals to 108!) to find the nectar containing the DevaAmrita (a pot containing the liquid for immortality). This signifies the Kundalini to raise to the mountain of axis in one's body with the Kundalini Chakra in the body at the level end of Spine!
This also indicates that 108 navamsa/charaN (Nakshatra padam) mentioned in the Astrology, they are permanently charted into 12 zodiac signs. The Sun traverses through these signs throughout the year. The significance of the number 54 in borth sides denotes the the hemispheric changes that indicate DakshinayaNa and Utharayana (Sun entering into trophical Capricorn and again demons are the Sun's Southern Course (DakshinAyana) where there is more darkness on the northern hemisphere. The 54 Devas are the Northern Course of the Sun (Uttara Ayana). It is the time of the devas, where light is more prevalent.
The list is endless. For Srivaishnavas in particular and the Hindu religion in general believes that 108 represent the universe or supreme; there are 108 Divya Desams associated with Lord Sriman NarayaNa, ( Sri Maha Vishnu) known as Holy places for the Srivaishnavites, 108 Tulsi beads in Hindu Japa Mala, 108 Upanishads, some of the Buddhist temples have 108 steps leading to the temple sanctum sanctorum and so on. All associated with the Supreme Power. Even in Christians' rosary beads count to 108. Yes, you can find this in Tao's, Ching too has 81 chapters that bring again 9 which if multiplied by 9 brings 108. Many other religion too has this numbering idioms that is placing 108 felt as sacred as it is for Hindus.
The cosmic web spinning around the number is connected with every subject. Be it Astrology, Astronomy, Cosmology, Religion, philosophy and theology.
The Inter-woven nodal in Astrology, Geometry & Theology:
The 12 signs in the Zodiac system are familiar to even a lay man in the East & West. According to the Indian Hindu Vedic astrology, 27 constellations known as Nakshatra are made into one circle counting to 160 degrees. But in the Lunar system of same Astrology bases the zodiac of 12 signs has a basis in solar motion: each day the Sun moves through approximately 1 degree of this zodiac, and in 1 month the Sun moves through 1 zodiac, and in a year the Sun moves through the entire zodiac. The system allocates specific timing for each Star into which the lunar movement is centered.
The nakshatras are closely related to lunar motion. The Moon takes 27 1/3 days to revolve around the Earth and return to the same position, so the Moon moves through 1 Nakshatra in about 1 day. A nakshatra has a length of 13 deg 20 min, very close to the mean motion of the Moon. The is already explained with illustrations in the article "Astrology - Where to begin" Astrology section of this website. Astrology is simply arithmetic based, without dwelling into calculations, no one can just erect a Horoscope chart, nor find out the running Dasa and Bhukti periods. The following will definitely explain the combination of Astrology & Mathematic in a realistic way. No wonder, in Vedic Astrology, known as our ancient Hindu System Astrology earned a very accurate predicting methods that is available in the world.
In the Geometric pattern, as mentoined below, however, it is the inter-weaving of geometric patterns, not the motion of the Moon, that gives the nakshatras their awesome significance, and also their relationship to the number 108.
In Vedic Science Astrology, each of the 27 constellations known as Nakshatra is further divided into 4 part, each consisting 3 degrees and 20minutes; these sections are known as charan or padam that is considered a step. The total number of 27 constellations multiplied by 4 quarter each totals to 108. This signifying the evaluation to the divine path.
It is important in Vedic astrology, the use of "mini-zodiacs". Instead of dividing the sky into 12 nodes of 30 degrees for the solar zodiac, and into 27 sections of 13 deg 20 min for the lunar zodiac, Vedic astrologers also divide the sky into 9 "mini-zodiacs" of 40 degrees each; that means, instead of stretching the zodiac around the entire ecliptic plane to arrive at 12 divisions of 30 degrees each, one can create 9 successive signs of 40 degrees each. It is known as "Navamsa" chakram. Each navamsa zodiac again consist of 12 signs with 3 degrees and twenty minutes for a 40 degree length.
A zodiac sign in the navamsa chart is also a padam in the Nakshatra zodiac. In other words 3 deg 20 min is 1/108 of the circle and 1/108 of the circle can be regarded as 1/12 of 1/9 of the zodiac (i.e. 9 x 12 = 108) or as 1/4 of 1/27 of the circle (i.e. 4 x 27 = 108). In Vedic astrology the Navamsa sign is viewed from both of these perspectives.
The interweaving of a pattern of 12 signs within 9 zodiacs with a pattern of 1/4 of the 27 Nakshatras to identify the same "basic step" of both the Navamsa chart and the Naksahtras is the kind of cosmic tapestry that the ancients sages and saints, who were well versed with Astrology and Astronomy, saw as fundamental to the divine and cosmic design.
Most astrologers of the past many centuries, excelled in mathematics as well as astrology. Even todays most famous Ms. Sagunthala Devi, of present day who excels in math combine the subject Astrology. Also, for an example from the past, Mr. Jerome Cardan, a gifted Italian of the 16th century, is noted in mathematical circles as the first person to publish the solution to cubic and quadratic equations, and a pioneer in introducing probability theory. To astrologers, however, Cardan is a brilliant astrologer. Obviously, Cardan made important contributions in both mathematics and astrology. The intertwining of mathematical knowledge with astrology is critically important in the historical development of astrology.
The Navamsa Chart, being 1/12 of the division of the sky into 9 zodiacs, presupposes the importance of both 9 and 12. As 1/4 of the 27 sign zodiac we find that 4 and 27 are regarded as important. Of course, 27 = 9 x 3, or 3 x 3 x 3, i.e. 3 cubed. The number 108 incorporates elements of both the "9-based" lunar zodiac (or, one might argue "3-based", because the number of nakshatra signs, 27, is also 3 cubed) and the "12-based" solar zodiac. It incorporates elements of both the Sun and the Moon. It is a kind of an alliance of the Sun and the Moon. It is noteworthy, that in the Indian Vedic Astrology the navamsa chart and nakshatras are used to pick suitable life partners for marriage.
The Mirrored patters of the cosmos are like any Hindu image of Gods with many heads and arms; these cosmos are considered intertwine in a divine design. The Navamsa sign, it is the Charan known as padam or quarter, is the puzzle of the divine plan of which we are part of, and to which we can find our relationship through the natal chart of Horoscope.
In my own astrological work I find that the Navamsa chart shows where healing, community, a sense of wholeness and integration with our communities, can take place. The number 9 is a very powerful equations in the cosmic tapestry, and it is a key to finding peace and a sense of belonging.
The western and modern astrology neglects the important contributions of the geometric patterns and evolves only within the 12 Zodiac signs, which are vitally important. We lose much of the rich wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors; it is just like we pretend to be more advanced than our ancestors! By doing so, we lose the full enriched meaning of the subject Astrology and prevent astrology from evolving by myopically limiting the cosmos to "base-12". It is sometimes, the Zodiac based-12 in astrology, is touted as a means of recapping the ancient wisdom, wherein, it results in a limited, barren form of astrology that leaves out vital messages in the soul of men and women, and strips astrology of its richness and original flavor.
In Hinduism, Lord Sri Krishna, an incarnation of God, plays the flute, and the gopis dance. Vibrant colors depict the divine lila. The divine lila represents the cosmic, playful dance of life. The divine lila expresses the cosmic influence of the number 5 as this is a playful dance, rather than a serious ritual. Feelings of wholeness, bonding, oneness, and peace express the influence of the number 9. The 108 gopis engage in a cosmic dance that incorporates the qualities of 5 and 9. There is also beauty and romance in this art, and beauty and romance are associated with the planet Venus by astrologers. Also noteworthy is that Venus stations (that is, turns retrograde or direct) at points approximately 216 degrees past the previous station, which is 144 degrees (2/5) measured directly in the shortest distance between the planets. Creativity and play leads to beauty, and the Venusian power of attracting us to beauty play prominently in Hindu art as well.
In Indian ancient Vedic Astrology, dividing the Chart into 9 zodiacs is the navamsa chart. The navamsa chart is so important that many Vedic astrologers must study the navamsa chart before they can evaluate your personality. Other charts are also used, such as the division of the sky into 7 zodiacs, which is the saptamsa chart. However, the navamsa chart is the most widely used of these additional charts, which are known as vargas or divisional charts.
The division of
a natal chart into 5 zodiacs of 72 degrees
is not as popularly used as the Saptamsa, Navamsa
or Dwadasamsa charts; though the method is known to
many experienced and practicing Astrologers, it is seldom used
to study an horoscope. The
numbers 5, 7, and 9, in the form of astrology are a combination of the soul of
a person. The Panchamsa based chart, which is rarely used by
some known astrologers, is said to be related tothe creativity, 7 is
corresponding discipline, and 9 denotes sense of oneness. All
the 3 are required to
have a vibrant healthy human being. Here, the number 108 has a fascinating
relationship to two of these three numbers: 5 and 9. The intricate ways
in which the numbers 5 and 9 intertwine within the number 108, as
described above, reflects and resembles the beautiful dance of life
which is portrayed as that of Lord Sri
Krishna playing his flute surrounded with 108 gopis dancing. It is said
our life's drama is unfolded when the cosmic rays create the
force, while the wheel of life known as Kala-Chakra rotates.
STEPS TO ENLIGHTENMENT
The Divine number 108 is not the only valid number of steps to enlightenment.
The Yang and the Yin involvement in The 12-based system used in much of astrology works very well especially in classical horary astrology, where the emphasis of the question is on what events & circumstances.
There are 64 hexagrams in the I Ching, and this is a book of changes, quite literally, the dynamics of our lives, and an octave harmonic number seems to work well. As the number four cubed, the number 64 may have a kind of stability or finality to it, as opposed to 32 which equals 4 times 4 times two, or 128, which equals 4 times 4 times 4 times 2. The repetition of four in the factors of the number may make the numbers 16 and 64 particular important or fundamental octaves of one.
It is noteworthy and fascinating, the "Tao Te Ching" by Lao Tzu, an extraordinary work of wisdom, has 81 small chapters. The number 81 equals 9 times 9, and again we see that squaring or cubing of numbers is used.
The squaring of 9 seems to indicate a "hyper-peace" or ultimate fulfillment.
The number 108 is considered a very special in some ways, though the other numbers too are special in other ways. There are many known pathways to enlightenment.
THE COSMIC TAPESTRY.
Our universe is a cosmic tapestry. It is also a sea of electro-magnetic waves, which our five senses interpret in various ways in life. By just studying this cosmic tapestry, we not only enter into a fascinating world of sacred Geometry, but also to a system of knowledge, that can help us in our practical life; to better understand our own needs, desire, liking, conflicts, hopes, despair, dreams and what not! As we uncover our place in the exquisitely intricate and the most beautiful tapestry of our life.
HINDUISM - THE PAST CONNECTION - RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES AND APPRECIATION OF CULTURE:
In Hinduism we find a confluence of beliefs, geometry, astrology, philosophy, art, and science, which are combined in a grand vision. A life style and culture evolved that integrates this understanding in a fulfilling way. Culture does not develop simply out of morals, ethics, habits, and adaptations to an environment. Culture also develops from a rich integration of many levels of comprehension, attunement, and sensitivity. This also binding on the "Law of the Nature".
People cling to cultural traditions not only from pride or tribalism, but because of a deep sense within their souls that something very precious and dear has developed and evolved in these traditions, and often in ways unfathomable to our conscious minds. All of us would do well to work towards preserving and further developing the various cultural traditions, and also allowing them to inspire one another.
Cultural traditions and religions can also sustain negative, unhealthy, and dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors. It is common in India and some middle eastern countries for people to follow the indications of astrology almost blindly, marrying whomever the astrology tells them to marry, and conducting their affairs in accordance with the astrological indication. The supposition that the astrological interpretation is so vastly more accurate than the person's own feelings, thoughts, and desires is hubris on the part of the astrologer. This tradition is not a viable one for future generations because people all over the world are developing a greater sense of their own empowerment and ability to make decisions for themselves.
Since about the middle of the 20th century there has been a strong movement in western astrology to free the practice of astrology from this fatalistic and dogmatic attitude, and to use astrology to empower people to make better decisions rather than to dictate what a person should do and what the future is. This movement to self-empowerment rather than a fatalistic or dogmatic prognostications is vitally important, and it can help restore the beauty and grandeur of astrology as it removes the negative impact of the over-ossified rules that constrain and limit people rather than empower them. We must, in fact, question whether astrology has objective validity at all or whether astrology is a beautiful scheme projected on the celestial sphere but having no actual relationship to the firmament on which they are projected. My own views on the validity and relevance of astrology are given at the end of this article.
As an American and a citizen of one of the most powerful nations on our planet, and a nation whose culture is spreading around the globe, it is important that we Americans realize that the cultural traditions of other nations must be preserved and enhanced, and allowed to blossom in their own way. The conflicts in the Middle East are evidence of how attachment to cultural traditions is, fortunately, almost impossible to destroy. The Muslims and the Jews must be assisted in developing their own unique life styles, while learning to appreciate and respect one another.
A greater appreciation of the 108 steps to enlightenment that are dear to Hindus demonstrates the wisdom of this culture. If we are Christians or immersed in some other religious or cultural experience, we need not adapt or change what we do. We need not all become doctors because modern medicine makes discoveries, and we need not become astronomers because a new planet is discovered. We can and we should appreciate the discovery. We can and we should appreciate the 108 steps to enlightenment and we can and we should develop a greater love and appreciation for those who tred this path. We can and we should continue with our own path and our own heritage that is dear to us.
Why 108 ?
There are a lot of people trying to understand the significance of the number 108. Often people will give a list of items that come in 108, but this doesn't explain why 108 is sacred. A list gives no deeper understanding of why 108 is sacred, it only proves that people consider it sacred. As Rishis and Yogis yesteryears and also the Vedic Scholars who did a lots of research on Astrology and Astronomy combined, the Jyotishis included, we need to understand a lot on this theorem "why" behind the principles of the ancient Rishis and Munis. The sages and saints of the Sacred Indian History, definitely had the more authentic ways and means to find everything through their mystic powers, that they earned through their penance and meditation.
There are 12 rasi (sun signs) of 30 degrees each in the zodiac. These rasi are connected to the Adityas (12 Sun gods) and the rasi are said to give the results of the Sun. The Sun is karaka (significator) for the 1st and the houses 9th houses. When you take each rasi and divide it into nine amsas (divisions) it creates the Navamsa (9th divisional chart). 30 degrees divided by nine gives 9 signs of 3 degrees and 20 minutes each. With each of the 12 signs containing 9 amsas there is 108 amsas. This Navamsa shows the inherent qualities of the soul, a native's dharma (purpose), bhagya (luck), and one's spouse. The Navamsa is the 108 sign chart held in high esteem in Vedic astrology and a Vedic astrologer doesn't read a birth chart without the navamsa sitting next to it. These are explained in the Astrology section of this website with illustrated diagrams degree and step wise.
The Moon goes through the zodiac in approximately 27 days which creates the lunar zodiac called the nakshatras. The Moon is karaka (significator) for the 4th house. Each of these 27 lunar signs are divided into 4 amsas (divisions) called padas (feet/footsteps). The nakshatras (lunar signs) are 13-20 degrees and divided by four become 3-20 degrees. 27 nakshatras multiplied by 4 padas is 108. The four pada relate to the four ayana: karma (career), artha (sustenance), kama (pleasure/family), moksa (spirituality/liberation). Each pada has a tone, using which can activate a planet within the tone. The Moon has a 108 padas and 108 tones.
The 3-20 division reveals itself as the most crucial division. The Moon sign's padas and the Sun sign's navamsas line up with the number 108. 108 is the number where the Moon (manas) and Sun (atman/ahamkar) line up. It is where the Moon's cycle can be aligned with the Sun's cycle. 108 is a number that aligns the mind and the soul.
The 3-20 division aligns the Sun and the Moon, which also shows the alignment of Shiva and Parvati or the Purusha and Prakritti. The 108 division is the coming together of Purusha and Prakritti, it is the creation of the world.
The Sun and the Moon are connected to the earth by approximately 108 times their own diameters. When you look at the Sun and the Moon from earth they are perceived as the same size, this same size appears because of their distance. In the zodiac the large solar signs (rasis) find the same size as the smaller lunar signs (nakshatras) with the number 108. Even though the Sun (1,392,000 km ) is 400 times smaller than the Moon (3,474.8 km), they are perceived the same by their division of 108 times their own diameter. This just physically reveals that the Purusha (Sun) and Prakritti (Moon) are using the vibration of 108 to create and maintain life as it is on this earth. 108 is not sacred because of this distance, this distance (of a 108 the luminaries own diameter) are existing because it is the vibration in which all life as we know it is brought into existence.
It is the vibration of the Purusha and Prakritti that has put us into existence and it is the secret key that will allow us to awaken in our existence, manipulate our existence, or transcend our existence. It is a powerful force that can do anything, tantra (both positive and negative) taps into this force. There are a 108 beads upon a mala to tap into this vibration of the supreme creative force of the god and goddess, Purusha and Prakritti.
All other lists of 108 unfold from Purusha (Sun) and Prakritti (Moon). For example, in Ayurveda there are a 108 marmas in the body. They are points that can heal or kill a living being. They are considered the points where consciousness connects to the body, where Purusha (consciousness) is brought into Prakritti (body) to give life to the living being (both humans and animals have these points). The 108 intersections on the Sri Chakra again relate to this numbers ability invoke the balance of Purusha and Prakritti and the primordial ability of the rishi to see both clearly.
In the Purusha Sooktham, it is clearly outlined the Creation Manifest of the world and the universe. In linear time Prakritti (manifest creation) came forth from the Purusha (the absolute beyond anything created, which Srivaishnava believe is Sriman Narayana as Purusha). It is a point from which all came into being. In non-linear time, this point is always present where the 'nothing' and the 'something' connect beyond words. This space is 108.
I heard about the distance between planetary bodies being connected to 108 Sookshamas that are mentioned in some holy books and I was wondering whether do this matter really and from where these numbers were coming from and how accurate they are.
Here is the
statically made statement:
it is arrived at the following:
According to NASA, it is 1,390,000 kms. (The Amazing Structure of the Sun - NASA - 2003)
And now for the two contradictory statements by the same authors (Namowits - Samuel N and Nancy E.Spaulding, Earth Science Lexington MA, Heath 1994:398, - and Mc Dougal Littel Co., 1999) the Sun's Diameter is stated to be 1,380 kms and 1,400,00 kms respectively. These books specifically brought by two different publishers at different years!
are the matters that I borrowed from the page http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast04jan_1.htm)
The distance between the earth and the Sun is
known as Astrological Unit (AU).
(i) Considering the distance between Earth the Earth & Sun, it can be judged that taking the mean distance between earth and the Sun (149,597,870,691 kms) and dividing it by the common diameter of the sun viz. 1,392,000 Kms, we arrive at 107.46973469181034482758620689654.
(ii) The distance between earth and moon = 108 times moon-diameter
The Moon's diameter according to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.ord/wik/Earth ) is: 3,474.8 km
Based on the information available at http://freemars.org/jeff/planets/Luna/Luna.htm) the distance from earth to the Moon and again its rotation in elliptical as not exact circle. The Apollo-11 astronauts put mirrors on the Moon and laser measure of the amount of time it took for the light to reflect, just giving the measurement with near accuracy upto a few inches at any given time:
The Diameter of
the sun equals to 108 times the earth diameter
Note: The Bhagavad Purana
Canto 5, verse 2 says "The Sun globe, which
is a source of heat, has a width (vistaratah)
of 10,000 yojanas. The moon has a width of
Note: One Yojana equals to 7.2km
So it means that by taking the most used diameter of the Sun (1,392,000 km) divided by the mean diameter of the earth ( 12,742.02 km) results in 109.24484500887614365697118667213.
In conclusion, it is assumed that the relative closeness to the holy number 108 in these measurements; maybe, it really cannot stand out and stretched out under scientific scrutiny. Pointing to this factual information also does not really give any holy understanding to the number 108. But this might give an understanding, why the number 108 is sacred, may be relevant to the numbers and distances as quoted above.
Now, let us see what the other general views are available on this Holy Number 108; listed below are the other Religions' approach towards this magnificent 108:
9 times 12: Both of these numbers have been
have spiritual significance in many
times 12 is 108. Also, 1 plus 8 equals 9. That
12 equals 108.