Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Getting to 108

This isn't a critical or necessary aspect of Buddhist study, but I was wondering how one gets to "108" types of delusion. One version suggests 6 gates (the five physical senses plus the mind), 3 poisons (greed, anger/hate, and ignorance), 2 aspects (pleasurable and nonpleasurable), and 3 time periods (past, present, future). Hence 6 x 3 x 2 x 3 = 108. How else have you heard the formula described?

It might be said that these also form the basis for 108 blessing, with the actual number of delusions and blessing (unlike the number of types) endless. Hence the vow to "transcend the endless delusions which hinder the perception of Universal Truth". Which could also be phrased, I think, as "transform the endless delusions". Which calls to mind a favorite line I cite so often from the Platform Sutra, "Affliction is Bodhi and the cycle of birth and death is Nirvana." Which some may associate more with Chan Buddhism. Which goes well with the poem by the Shin Buddhist Saichi:

84000 delusions
84000 lights
84000 joys abounding

Ahh, fun with numbers. Just recall that they point to a truth, they are not a truth unto themselves.


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