108 Delusions and 108 Repentances by Zen Master Seung Sahn

In Buddhism the foundation for the number of bows is obvious. Bowing three times, one embraces the Three Treasures, and thus three kinds of practice (Sila-Precepts, Samadhi-Meditation, and Prajna-Wisdom) cutting off three poisonous thoughts of desire, anger and ignorance. Bowing fifty-three times, one bows respectfully to the fifty-three Buddhas.

Bowing one thousand times is to bow respectfully once to each of the one thousand Buddhas in the present kalpa. Bowing three thousand times is to bow respectfully once to each of the one thousand Buddhas in the three great kalpas of the past, the present, and the future. The 108 delusions of mankind is the number of desires of ordinary people, whose torments come when the six roots and the six dusts meet each other. When the six roots (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness) are integrated with the six dusts (color, sound, smell, taste, touch, and object of mind), three kinds of like/dislike cognition appear. In other words, when the six roots and the six dustss connect, the separated mind of liking, disliking, being equal, suffering, being happy and abandoning appears. So the numbers of these kinds of delusions are thirty six (6x6=36). As these delusions occur in the past, the present, and the future, the total number of delusions is 108 (36x3=108). These 108 delusions of mankind are expanded into eighty-four thousand (a number signifying vastness). These innumerable delusions, appearing and disappearing from moment to moment, separate the mind so that ordinary people cannot avoid suffering.

However, during the practice of bowing 108 times, these 108 delusions are purified in nature, change into Samadhi and lead to an infinite capability and vitality of mind. Bowing 108 times is one of the best practices in attaining Buddha Nature, the Primary Point before all suffering.

© CHOGYESA ZEN TEMPLE OF NEW YORK 2014