40 Days and 40 Nights

100_0613A while ago I completed a 40 day practice of the mantra of Varaha, the avatar of Vishnu who fought the demon to rescue the Earth (see ‘Down on the Beach’).

I posted before about 40 days (‘Running the Numbers’) and despite continued research I have not found out why it’s 40.  This timespan comes up in other spiritual traditions: 40 days of Lent, 40 days of rains that preceded the great flood.  Maybe there are more examples.

It seems an unintuitive figure. 

It has no obvious link to any cosmological or natural cycle.  Why wouldn’t it be 30?  One cycle of the moon? Just as I can find no reason, beyond the natty and pleasing presence of an endless series of 9’s, for the 108 beads on a mala and 108 recitations of a mantra, I can find no reason for the 40.

Opinion will have to do then.

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