One gives birth to two, two gives birth to three,
Three gives birth to the ten thousand.
One hundred and eight counts make one cycle,
Constant turning creates all things.
Today is the one hundred and eighth day. Why are numbers so important to those who follow Tao? Even today, when numbers are more commonly yoked to the service of finance and engineering, there are those who revere numbers with the cheap version of mysticism -- superstition. Numbers form a closed world with mysteries to explore and exploit if our understanding is deep enough.
Followers of Tao emphasize certain numbers : One is the unity of Tao. Two is duality. Three is the unevenness that will generate movement. Four is the seasons. Five elements generate the world. Six parts of the body are the arms, legs, head, and trunk. Seven is the day of the waxing moon by the lunar calendar. Eight is the number of divination. Nine is the number of life. Ten is heaven's cycles.
There are twenty-four periods in a year, each with its own characteristics. Thirty-six is six squared. One hundred and eight is three cycles of thirty-six and represents a greater cycle, although there are even more esoteric connotations attached to it.
Numbers are only symbols, a way for human beings to project order upon the universe. They are a language more precise than words. But does Tao talk? Numbers are important to master, but take care to look beyond language and numbers to the true reality that they foreshadow.