108 Days – A Number of Great Significance

Choishi Path – Photo by Adam Jones

With 108 days left until the Kumano Kodo, I will start writing. On my travels on the Camino de Santiago and Camino de Fatima, I wrote more after returning home. This time, I will write in preparation. I hope what I write helps people to plan future journeys on the Kumano Kodo and beyond. 

108 has a special significance among the Dharmic traditions, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism of South and East Asia. In Japan, the Temple bells ring out 108 times at the new year to represent the 108 defilements of man.

Here is a list of what the defilements are according to the Japan Times: “Ostentatiousness, grudge, gambling, ingratitude, dipsomania, ambition, dominance, faithlessness, manipulation, stinginess, pessimism, hostility, abuse, debasement, sexual lust, sarcasm, humiliation, jealousy, gluttony, unruliness, hurt, cruelty, unkindness, obstinacy, envy, indifference, negativity, furtiveness, sadism, enviousness, derision, falseness, high-handedness, know-it-all, rage, aggression, rapacity, effrontery, disrespectfulness, hard-heartedness, power hungriness, lying, insidiousness, self-denial, inattentiveness, contempt, wrath, haughtiness, greed for money, seducement, vindictiveness, insatiability, voluptuousness, excessiveness, censoriousness, dissatisfaction, egoism, ignorance, hatred, greed, impudence, imposture, cursing, imperiousness, lecherousness, callousness, malignancy, torment, intolerance, blasphemy, shamelessness, irresponsibility, obsession, prejudice, arrogance, violent temper, garrulity, dogmatism, presumption, intransigence, oppression, prodigality, lack of comprehension, obstinacy, pride, conceitedness, delusion, quarrelsomeness, self-hatred, violence, vanity, hypocrisy, stubbornness, baseness, pretense, mercilessness, disrespect, ridicule, masochism, tyranny, capriciousness, deceit, anger, discord, calculation, unyielding, desire for fame, and deception.” 

That’s not all. It also has a positive aspect as well. Most malas have 108 beads, sometimes as a reminder of the 108 defilements or, in other traditions, an opportunity for a few mistakes when repeating a mantra 100 times. 

On the 24km long Choishi-Michi (町石道), which I hope to hike to Koyasan in March 2023, there are markers every 108 meters along the way called Choishi that mark the path to Koyasan. More information is headed your way, as day by day, we get closer to Japan.

Japanese Phrase of the day: おはようございます。(Ohayō gozaimasu.) Which means, Good morning.

Sources: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2011/01/01/our-lives/your-108-misleading-karmas/


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