The following points explain just a handful of reasons for the number 108’s significance.
9 and 12 are believed to have spiritual significance in many philosophical and eastern traditions (9*12=108).
Many believe that 1 represents higher truth (God, Atman, etc), 0 represents emptiness (bliss), and 8 represents infinity.
Mathematically speaking, 108 is a semi perfect number. It is hyper factorial of three, which means it is divisible by three. 1 to the 1st power = 1; 2 to the 2nd power = 4; 3 to the 3rd power = 27; 1*4*27=108.
108 is a Harshad number, a mathematical term meaning that it is divisible by the sum of it’s digits (108/(1+0+8)=12). Harshad is a Sanskrit word meaning “great joy”. Vedic mathematicians regarded 108 as the entirety of existence.
There is also an interesting connection between 108, the Earth, Sun, and Moon. Distance from Earth to Moon = 108*diameter of Moon. Distance from Earth to Sun = 108* diameter of Sun.
In the study of astrology, silver, who’s atomic weight is 108, represents the moon. There are also 12 houses and 9 planets (12*9=108).
Yogic tradition states that there are 108 sacred sites (pithas), in India .
There are 108 Upanishads (scriptures of Hinduism). Many eastern belief systems hold that humans are capable of 108 earthly desires, 108 lies, and 108 forms of ignorance (Avidya). It is also believed that 108 feelings exist (36 of the past, 36 of the present, and 36 of the future).
The sacred River Ganga in India is mapped at 12 degrees longitude and 9 degrees latitude. 12*9 = 108.
The Sanskrit alphabet consists of 54 letters, each containing masculine and feminine forms (shiva and shakti). 54*2=108.
It is believed that Samadhi (enlightenment) will be attained by those who maintain a calm meditative state, breathing only 108 times per day.
The average number of breaths per day, according to Tantric estimates, is an average of 21,600 (10,800 are solar energy and 10,800 are lunar energy). 108*100 = 10,800. 2*10,800 = 21,600.
108 also holds great significance in the yoga chakra system. Chakras are intersecting points in the body where energy meets. 108 lines join to form the heart chakra, one of which (Sushumna) leads to the crown chakra. Sushumna is believed to be the path to enlightenment.
Malas, or prayer beads, are used to count mantra repetitions. “Mantra” translates to “mind tool”. Repeating a mantra helps keep the mind focused, leading to dharana (one-pointedness). Traditionally, malas are made of 108 beads strung around 1 meru (“guru bead”). A mala is considered complete with 100 repetitions. The extra 8 are thought to be used for correcting any errors or can be used as an offering to God and Guru.
Yoga malas are generally performed at the equinoxes. A yoga mala of 108 Sun Salutations welcomes new seasons and can favorably change the body’s energy.