Monday, September 3, 2012


Visualizing the Divinity in Numbers……
The ingenious method of expressing every possible number using a set of ten symbols (each symbol having a place value and an absolute value) emerged in India (Bharatvarsaha of Sanatana dharma was rechristened India by outsiders). The idea seems so simple now-a-days that its significance and profound importance is no longer appreciated. Its simplicity lies in the way it facilitated calculation and placed arithmetic foremost amongst useful inventors”—a French Mathematician so glorified our sages including Aryabhatta who completed the task by discovering zero “0” inspired by the word soonyam  which is Poojyam as addition  to  the existing numbers “1 to 9 hidden in the words sata (sata Rudreeyam), sahasra (Vishnu sahasranaama) and Kotisoorya.
Hindu way of life is so knitted with the religion that spiritually motivated Hindus cannot think anything other than divine for things that fascinates our lives—the amazing numbers. As a Hindu I am bound to think these numbers are also of divine origin and divine directed for the benefit of mankind, for without these numbers no scientific advancement was ever possible including the latest computer science. The origin of 1 (Ekah) comes from Purusha (Saguna Brashman) glorified as “Tadekam” (that one). Then Prakriti or Sakti joined Saguna Brahman to start the work on creation and declared Supreme Principle as adviteeya who is unfathomable. Thus came number 2 (Dvau).  Sanskrit grammar is the only  grammar  that talks about dual number (dvivachana).Then appeared Trigunas as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. We all know creation started when they got intermixed, manifested as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva for Creation, Preservation and Destruction. This should have been the origin of 3 (trayah).   Then emerged the four Vedas (Chaturvedas)     spreading their wisdom in all four directions (Chaturdisaah) through courtesy Chaturmukha Brahma. That should have brought the symbol of 4 (Chatvaarah)in the divine language. Then Panchabhoota elements were created the principle materials in all creations bringing the Symbol of 5. Then was the appearance of the six headed Supreme Intelligence (Shanmukha) necessary for human creativity giving scope of the first perfect number known to Mathematics today. That should have been the inspiration for 6 (shat). Also the descent of sixth incarnation of Parsurma, at once perfect intelligence in fully developed human form took place.  Then Saptarishis appeared on the scene.  That was for the symbol of 7 (Sapta), with the task of developing humanity. Then the divine guards on duty as Ashta Dikpalakas were created who contributed to the symbol 8 (Ashta).   Gazing at the stars   and planets our wise sages recognized Navagrahas that shaped the destinies of human lives by their influence. That revealed the symbol 9 (nava). Sages then did not know where and how to proceed further.  
They heard the unfathomable Nirguna Brahman as 0 for he was at once Soonya and Poorna who gave them rhytam orderliness and showed them how to multiply or increase or decrease to be revealed later. However Rishis did not know who that was, how large or how small. They addressed that as anoraneeyaan mahatoe maheeyaan--smaller than the smallest bigger than the biggest. As we all know 0 gave the place value in rhytam which again is the Vyahriti of Brahman the Absolute. Anything multiplied by 0 is 0 but the zero itself is not affected (meaning that gets absolved in zero) reminding the mantra “Poornamadah Poornamidam”-- IT is full everywhere and whatever way you look at IT.
 Bhaskaracharya was the first mathematician to reveal to the world the intimate relationship between “sunya” and “ananthaha”, between Zero and Infinity. Any quantity divided by “sunya” is equal to Infinity, he said. Take a value like 16 and divide it (“haraha”) with progressively decreasing divisors. What happens? The quotient progressively enlarges. For e.g. 16 divided by 4 = 4; and 16 divided by 2 = 8; and eventually when 16 is divided by 0 it equals “Infinity!” Every quantity, every value in the world, when divided by “sunya”, results in the same quotient or result viz. Infinity, “ananthaha”
Such is the mighty power of Zero that it can raise and relate all values on earth to the exalted state of Infinity – that very same state in which God Almighty, the Vishnu of the sacred “Sahasranama”, is said to eternally reside and rule!

 One set of children of Abraham visualized God completed his perfection of creation in six days.   The other children of Abraham took away these numbers to their land and wanted to enrich their knowledge. They too did not know how to proceed further. They called them Arabic numbers and revealed to the world as their own.

It was left to Aryabhatta much later to visualize the Absolute symbol Soonyam (0) and his handy-work. It was so holy they called it Poojyam too. That was Nirguna Brahman. By its rhythmic movement it could be smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest—anoraneeyaan mahatoe maheeyaan. Seeing Nirguna Brahman 0, on the right side of Saguna Brahman Aryabhatta could visualize  this increased   appearance manifold  as (dasa) increasing its face value. This is its first place   value.  Hindus circumambulate clockwise to face the deity right always. When Saguna Brahman symbol appeared with two Nirguna Brahman symbols to the right   it got the place value as (sata) and so on. He then got the other place values for 1 as well as other eight   absolute value symbols in the series.  Probably this dasa gave inspiration to celebrate Dasavatara in Puranas whichincluded in it the first-ever perfect human being as Parasurama Avatar: indeed is the first perfect number. Aryabhatta also recognized Sakti as dot (Bindu) as in Srichakra (.). When this Sakti appeared on the left hand side of (Saguna Brahman) its power diminished by dasa amsa. This seems to be the origin of modern day decimal (dasaamsa) system. Amazingly when Bindi appeared to the left of Nirguna Brahman (0) its face value did not get disturbed at all. One Bindu is the smallest particle. With two dots, line starts building up that can lead to infinity.  With two dots below in series and one above stars the geometric configuration found in Srichakra. Agnichayana the most basic Vedic sacrifice used a fire altar defined by the squares of seven lengths of the sacrificer. Four equal parts of the area define body, one each the two wings and the tail. This paved the way for solid geometric figures.

The interesting thing is the word symbols ekah, dvau, trayah, chatwaarah….dasah, satah, sahasrah, koti etc. existed long before the start of present civilization in Hindu scriptures inspiring people to invent the science of Mathematics which has to-day landed us in the amazing computer science. Vedas say Brahman is Samvatsarah (Year)—Samvatsarh sa esha Purushah (Purusha is Samvatara), Kaala (time), Aksharah (letter)—Om ityekaaksharam (Om is the one letter that is Brahman) etc.  By the same analogy Brahman could be Sankhya (number) too. 
Why do we invariably run to temple to a sponsor Ashtotttara Puja when we are in trouble or when we do not wish to part with SREYAS (santosha) though we know it is only temporary unlike PREYAS which is Eternal Bliss (Aannda). Based on my little knowledge of astronomy I thought the distance of the Sun from earth divided by the diameter of the Sun is 108 approximately. Also Vishnu Sahasranama contains 108 slokas which can be called 108 mantras.  There is a saying in Sanskrit Trivaaaram Satyam (that which is a said thrice is true). In the court of law we declare repeating thrice---I shall speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but truth. We repeat Shanti thrice. 108 is 36 times 3; 1008 is 336 times 3 and 100008 is 33336 times 3. This is the basis of Sahsranaama archana and Lakshaarchana. They all are based on holy number 3. I also thought why Christianity says that God created the world in six days. Six is the first perfect number and therefore God decided to finish his perfect handy-work in six days.  It is also customary in Hinduism to chant the name of the Lord 3, 10, 28, 108. You know the significance of 1 and 3. Ten is symbolic of the first four numbers viewed together--1, 2, 3, and 4. (1+2+3+4=10). 28 is the next perfect number after 6 which we employ to glorify the first perfect number 6 which is divine. It should not be forgotten that Sanskrit language was the first to give the concept of number and systematic nomenclature.
In North India people think odd numbers are auspicious and signify continuity. Therefore while offering dakshina (money) to priests they always give 11, 101 etc.  The holy numbers 1 and 3 should have motivated them to think so.  Even numbers can be equally divided and therefore the act is final in dividing. Odd numbers always leave behind 1 while equally dividing.  1 signifies Purusha as odd number which stands out as though it can't be touched and unique and takes care of continuity.  Why are 1 and 3 sacred?  1 is always Sadguna Brahman. 3 is always 1+1+1 when equally divided and again points to Sadguna Brahman.  Hence there is special significance to 1 and 3, as very sacred. Hence all odd numbers are divine.  Hindus bow to Durga once as she is primordial; other deities thrice. This is because of special significance for one and three. They also consider even numbers are inauspicious and show final act and so offer to priest after cremation as dakshina (money) in even numbers like 10, 100 etc. Pythagoras and Einstein too talked about mysticism of numbers.
 Lord Krishna said in Bhagavadgeeta "Yoe maam pasyati sarvatra sarvam cha mayi pasyati | tasyaam na pranasyaami sa cha may na pransyati || (6-30)-- Those who perceive Me in everything and behold everything in Me, are not separated from Me, and I am not separated from them.
Influenced by these divine thoughts on numbers I started analyzing odd and even numbers in Chamakam. I therefore made bold to post the discourse on the Blog <>: “What do Odd and Even numbers in Chamakam signify? "" The other discourse “Words Identified with Numbers in Hindu Scriptures” should also interest all religious and spiritual thinkers. 


Why Lord Vishnu is Called as Shunyah or Zero in the Vishnu Sahasranama?
Posted by M.K. Sudarshan | Apr 20, 2016  | IndiaDivine.Org
 One of the “namas” in the Sahasranamam that I’m always intrigued by is the name “shunyah” given to Vishnu, which appears in sloka No. 79:
suvarnavarno hemango varangas chandhanangadhi
viraha vishamaha sunyo grithasirachalaschalaha
The Sanskrit word “sunya” means “zero”, “nullity”, “cipher”, “emptiness”.
It would strike anyone as extremely odd that the Sahasranamam should choose to call Lord Vishnu as Zero! You can understand God being called “ekaha”, the One Supreme Being. The essence of all monistic theism lies in the belief that God is One (the Upanishad says, “sayaschayam purushe; yaschasavadhithye; sa ekaha”).
You can understand too God being addressed as “ananthaha” the Infinite, as in the Sahasranamam stanza 70:
kamadhevaha kamapalaha kami kanthaha krithagamaha
anirdhesya vapurvishnuhu viro ‘nantho dhananjayaha
Since God is Immeasurable it seems plainly alright to name Him “ananthaha” the Infinite. But how is one to explain hailing the Almighty as “shunyah” the Cipher?
There is a view that “If Infinity is immeasurable, so is Zero”. Mathematically speaking, one could define zero to be anti-infinity. If “Infinity” is immeasurable plenitude, “Zero” is immeasurable emptiness. If you were to imagine, say, an interminable series of values, from zero to infinity, floating somewhere out there in endless space, then, surely, Zero would be at one end of it while Infinity would be found at the other end, wherever, that is, the two ends may be found, if at all. And if you reflect upon it deeply, that would make out “Zero” and “Infinity” to be two sides of the same un-graspable coin.
By the same logic, you might say the Sanskrit “ananthaha” and “shunyah” might seem antonymous but in reality they mean the same thing. Hailing God Almighty as “Lord Infinity” is hence no different from hailing Him “Lord Zero”.
Incredible logic notwithstanding, we know for a fact however that the “Infinite” and the “Cipher” are never really the same thing. None of us would be willing to exchange one for the other if it came to a real choice between the two. If I go up, for instance, to a venerable “acharya” or “guru” and prostrate at his feet, I would expect him to shower his benediction upon me saying, “May you be blessed in life, my son, with Gods infinite Grace!” If instead the man were to say, “May Gods zero grace be thine in life!”, the blessing would stand transformed into a vicious curse, wouldn’t it?
So then, why is God, who is Infinite Being, being called “sunya”, a Zero – the very opposite of infinity? The traditional commentators of the Vishnu-Sahasranamam offer us some explanation in their respective “bhashyas”.
Let us take up Adhi Sankara’s “Sahasranama bhashya ” first.
In his commentary, Sri Sankara (6th CE) explains “sunya” as an apt “nama for God, the Supreme Brahman, who is “nirguna ” – i.e. the Being who is totally devoid of any qualities or attributes. In other words, according to Sankaras school of metaphysics, God is “guna sunyan”.
According to this explanation, God transcends all attributes. His qualities like omnipotence, omniscience etc. only serve to help us in ascertaining His reality but they do not “per se” define Him. The truth of Gods existence cannot be grasped by us with reference to His qualities or “guna” alone, says Sankara. Brahman is to be apprehended as an Absolute Being who stands far apart from and quite beyond any of His infinitely (“ananthaha”) great qualities – i.e. He is “nirguna brahman”, a Being without qualities, a Being with “zero” qualities. Hence it is fit to call Him “shunyah”
Let us turn to the other explanation found in the commentary of Sri Parashara Bhattar (11th CE) on the Vishnu Sahasranamam titled “bhagavadh guna dharpanam”.
Bhattar explains “shunyah” in the typical way of the school of Visishtadvaitha theology. According to this school, God is the Supreme Abode of all auspicious attributes. The Almighty is full of innumerable good qualities like “gny+an+a”, “bala”, “aiswarya”, “virya”, “shakthi” and “thejas”. In Visishtadvaitha, God is “ananthakalyana guna ganan+” (to use a famous expression of Sri Ramanujacharya) – i.e. Brahman is Being with Infinite Number of Happy and Wholesome Attributes. The theology next states that God, by corollary, is also totally devoid of inauspicious, un-wholesome or negative qualities.
According to Bhattar, in so far as, Brahman is replete with infinitely good attributes, He is to be known as “ananthaha”. And in so far as He is absolutely bereft of defective qualities, He is to be known as the God of “zero-defects” – in other words, He is “shunyah”.
From a purely theological standpoint both explanations above are equally valid and wholly satisfying (depending, of course, upon which school of Vedanta – Sankaras or Ramanujas – one is predisposed towards). All the same, for one who is not steeped in the various nuances and niceties of Vedantic theology, (especially for one who cannot really appreciate the technical difference between the metaphysical “nirguna” and “savisesha” Brahman), the explanations of Adhi Sankara and Parashara Bhattar for “sunya” might only seem to resemble the case of the proverbial bottle that got described as “half-empty” by one and “half-full” by another.
Even leaving theological considerations aside, one can still regard Zero to be a remarkably apt “nama” for the Almighty. Common knowledge of the world around us reveals how all-powerful the concept of Zero, “sunya”, truly is. When we look at the history of Zero, we realize why “sunya” is almighty indeed!
Until about 1500 years ago nobody in the world outside India could count numbers beyond 9 without enormous difficulty. The entire Greco-Roman Western world knew nothing about the Hindu-Arabic system of numerals that prevails in the entire world today. The Romans depended upon alphabets to denote numbers – such as I, X and C or with V, L and D. In their system the number 32 had to be written, for example, as XXXII but writing a number like 3200 or 32000 for the Greeks and Romans presented a huge, often insurmountable problem! For several centuries the Greco-Roman civilization struggled with this cumbersome system of numbering. It was the principal reason why for almost a thousand years Western mathematics hardly advanced beyond being a method of elementary counting and mensuration using crude devices like the abacus. The Greeks and Romans had no knowledge of how to deal with large numbers, ratios, series, complex algebraic functions and calculations – all child’s play for any high-school student today. Western thought simply stagnated for ages since it could just not grapple with the mathematical problem of large numbers and calculations.
Somewhere between 1000 and 1200 AD, the Western world came in contact with the Arab world and that was when the Hindu-Arabic system of numerals opened the eyes of the Europeans to a whole new world of mathematical thought.
The Arabs had for long borrowed and been using the Hindu system of numerals that had been in use in ancient India for more than a thousand years earlier. The Hindu system did not use alphabets but a simple but versatile scheme of numeric symbols starting from “Zero” – the famous “sunya” – and ending with 9. These symbolic numerals made it so easy to represent and calculate numerate values anywhere from zero to infinity in quick time. They enabled complex functions and calculations. They made it possible to represent the most formidable series of values by a mere formula which in turn facilitated further complex mathematical functions! The Western world realized – for the first time ever – the power of the Hindu numeral system: a power that became the inspiration for all the mathematical advancements to later come out of Europe: algebra, ratios, surds, functions such as squares, cube and root, series and progressions, logarithmic tables, quadratic equations… and so on and so forth.
It was the power of Zero, “Sunya”, indeed, that made the European Renaissance possible – the Renaissance that eventually gave birth to all the wonderful discoveries of modern mathematics such as Fibonacci’s series, Pascal’s Probability theory and even Newton’s Calculus! “The concept of Zero unleashed something more profound than just an enhanced method of counting and calculating”. Zero revolutionized the old modes of human thought. It meant firstly people could use only ten digits, from 0 to 9, to perform every conceivable calculation and to write any conceivable number. Secondly, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities for abstract human thinking that had been simply unthinkable before!
How did the ancient Hindus discover such a powerful concept as “sunya” while the rest of the world remained ignorant of “Zero” for ages?
To grasp the concept of “sunya” required a very high level of intellectual and spiritual advancement as what prevailed in India during and after the Vedic period. As the English philosopher, A. N. Whitehead wrote: “The point about zero is that we do not need to use it in the operations of daily life. No one goes out to buy zero fish or eggs. (But) It is in a way the most civilized of all the cardinals, and its use is only forced on us by the needs of cultivated modes of thought”. Vedic mathematics and astronomy of those ancient times clearly bear evidence to the highly sophisticated conceptual and ideological skills that our Indian forbears possessed. There was no doubt at all that the ancient Vedic Indians who gave to the whole world the idea of “sunya” were indeed masters of the most civilized and “cultivated modes of thought”.
There was a great mathematician in India who lived in the 10th century CE, He was Bhaskaracharya. He wrote several pioneering treatises (in Sanskrit) on Vedic mathematics. In one of the treatises, it is said, he wrote a small dedication: “To the Supreme Brahman, who is Infinity, I offer my salutation”.  Bhaskaracharya used the Sanskrit word “khahara” to denote God as “Infinity” in the dedication. It is derived from “kham” which means “Zero” and “hara” meaning “divided”. The word “khahara” was meant to indicate that God who is Infinity is related to Zero.
Bhaskaracharya was the first mathematician to reveal to the world the intimate relationship between “sunya” and “ananthaha”, between Zero and Infinity. Any quantity divided by “sunya” is equal to Infinity, he said. Take a value like 16 and divide it (“haraha”) with progressively decreasing divisors. What happens? The quotient progressively enlarges. For e.g. 16 divided by 4 = 4; and 16 divided by 2 = 8; and eventually when 16 is divided by 0 it equals “Infinity!” Every quantity, every value in the world, when divided by “sunya”, results in the same quotient or result viz. Infinity, “ananthaha”
Such is the mighty power of Zero that it can raise and relate all values on earth to the exalted state of Infinity – that very same state in which God Almighty, the Vishnu of the sacred “Sahasranama”, is said to eternally reside and rule!