‘Nothing Holy’

The next few Posts lay-out the originating historical roots of Shūnyam.

If you ask a Librarian to show you the section with the Upanishads and Sūtras, the nice lady is likely to point you to the shelves marked ‘Religion’.

But these compilations are documents of Inquiry characterized by Trial and Error, not claim and faith. It is in this very evolution, the error of experiment and application that Shūnyam takes form. They were the obsessions of the Learned. Your normal healthy farm-boy will find it all quite batty.

There is nothing holy, religious, sacred, spiritual, esoteric or mystical about Shūnyam. To limit it so would be to abase its Truth.

There is nothing earthy, profane or banal about it either. But that is less often the slip. Put an early religious label on Shūnyam and you will spin  interminably in a binary loop.

The search for some Grounding Truth is Man’s first investigative journey. And the First Inquirers were the men and women of Religion [from the Latin-French Re-Ligaire: ‘To bind back’]. We aren’t so smart to have newly awoken to it for the first time.

The Rig Veda is solemn invocation meant for performance at formal sacrifice. The Upanishad is mystical poetry in which teachings can be gleamed. Sūtra is fiercely focused, if cryptic, teaching. And so on. They each yield very differently to interpretation and translation.

The entire evolution and its settling was complete by about 500 BCE. In the centuries following, Shūnyam gets morphed into a rarefied space of high-abstractions and elevated reifications, all proxying for a missed denouement. [The Posts list about 40 examples.] The regression once again begins.


Indian records are sketchy as is the norm. We know Bodhidharman cited from the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, [Lanka, as in Sri Lanka today] a later tradition to the Prajñā Pāramitha.

Chinese chroniclers [Tánlín, Dàoxuān, circa 550 CE] identify him as: ‘The third son of a nobleman of firm Brahman stock from South India’.

Given what we know of dynasties and trade-routes, he was most likely from Kāñcipuram, the then capital of the PallavasNo shrines, no stupas, no sign-boards, the last time I checked. No one remembers anymore.

Kāñcipuram, seat of the Śaṅkarācārya, my maternal family Guru. I haven’t been back in a long time.