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Buddhism, especially in the Pali canon of the Theravada school loves its lists and numbers. 108 is seen as a very special one in particular, as it refers to the number of defilements to overcome to gain enlightenment, and it is derived from the following formula:

The Three Sense Experiences X The Six Senses = 18
Aversion or Craving to these experiences = 18 X 2 = 36
Past, Future, and Present incidents of aversion of craving = 36 X 3 = 108

The three sense experiences are:

  • good, ie pleasurable
  • bad, ie unpleasant
  • neutral, ie indifferent

The six senses are

(It should be noted that Buddhism considers that the mind is a sixth sense that senses thought objects.)

Temples will often have 108 steps for example, and malas (rosaries) usually have 108 beads.

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