The number 108 holds within it a great mystery, but I have never found anyone who could explain this mystery.

There are 108 beads in both the Hindu and Buddhist rosaries.

There are 108 movements in T’ai Chi Ch’uan.

In Kyoto and other ancient places in Japan, temple bells ring 108 times at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

In ancient China, the malefactor usually received 108 blows as punishment.

In India, there are 108 principal Upanishads.

The great river Ganges is said to have 108 names.

One hundred eight maids are supposed to have danced simultaneously with Krishna in his great rasa dance.

It is believed that holy men know 108 names for Vishnu.

In the Indian scriptures there are nine steps to the Twelve Nidanas (totaling 108).

In Buddhism there are 36 klesas (afflictions) in the past, present, and future. (Three multiplied by 36 is 108.)

There are said to be 108 mudras (hand positions).

Shiva gave 108 instructions in the tantras to his consort, Devi.

According to mythology, 108 Brahmins were summoned to the Buddha’s birth to foretell his destiny.

The Burmese footprints of the Buddha are said to have 108 subdivisions.

The Tibetan sacred writings, Kangyur, have 108 volumes.

The White Pagoda in Peking has 108 columns.

In India, it was customary to give 108 rupees as alms.

One day I hope to find the meaning behind the number 108. There are so many other instances of 108 coming into play. Not 107, not 109, but always 108. Often Indian gurus will say, “You are 108,000 miles from the Truth.” (Ramana Maharshi used this expression.) Why 108?

This article is published in Climb the Joyous Mountain.