Shūnyam: The Symbol ‘0’


The earliest interpretation of the Symbol ‘0’ was as Pūjyam, a mystical expression marking: ‘That worthy of worship’. From what little we know about its intended meaning it was a simultaneous reference to both a Completeness [the Plenum of the Iśopaniṣad] and one of Absence.

The meaning meanders over the subsequent centuries and around 500 BCE settles as Shūnyam: ‘True Nothing’; Absolute Absence, from a verbal root denoting hollowness [’empty inside’].

And so here we are in our present Information Age where all Knowledge, so the scholars claim [nay, even all Wisdom], is captured in the Boolean Binary of ‘0,1’.

The Symbol ‘0’ is the graphic expression for the absence of the expressed. The original Self-Negating Expression, an instant self-contradiction, the short blade of Seppuku.

A Self-Negating Expression is simply an expression which you need to negate in order to get to what it is referring to. The necessary and time-tested tool to get to the bottom of this business.

Its lingual equivalent is Shūnyam. Its auditory equivalent is the sound: ‘Silence!’ [You violate the silence in commanding: ‘Silence!’]. As a sentence: ‘All assertions are meaningless’-itself an assertion. And so on.

[A popular contemporary definition is as a: ‘Symbol for the absence of symbol’. It is incorrect. And one famous modern philosopher referred to Nothing as a ‘Deep dark, emptiness’. A ‘Deep dark emptiness’ is not Nothing. It is simply: ‘A deep dark emptiness’.]

The unexamined, inherited, implicit and arbitrary divide of: ‘Self and World’ [God and Man; Subject and Object; ‘I’ and ‘Not-I’] is deeply conflicted, demonstrably senseless. At extreme, violent, at war with itself.

The natural and proper ‘Divide’ is as ‘True Nothing’ and ‘Not-True Nothing’. They are always and only sighted together, head to the other as tail. Any and all reference to Shūnyam is always as reference to the indivisible pair. One symbol, the Symbol ‘0’, is enough.

The Principle of Co-Dependence applies. This gets lost somewhere in the descent from Pūjyam to Shūnyam.

You always and only orient to ‘True Nothing’ and default to ‘Not-True Nothing’. Never the other way around. Hence

When short-stopped, this later becomes the ‘Emptiness: Form’ construct of Madhyamaka Buddhism; the ‘Being-Consciousness’ construct of Vedanthic Hinduism; the Nothing and Everything of Logic; the ‘I and Not-I’ of Language; the ‘Self and World’ of Model; the ‘God and Man’ of Religion, and so on.

The English word ‘Religion’ etymologically descends from the Latin-French Re-Ligaire: ‘To bind back’. The Subject: Object Divide doesn’t originate in heaven but in the very terrestrial assumption of an ‘Independent and  Separated ‘Self’. 

You will find Shūnyam at the terminus of ‘The Backward Step’, behind all intertwined Object[s] confuted as Subject and all interpretations of Subject fabricated in intricate diaphanous reflexive loops of logic and language, what we call ‘Self’.

[Is there a Subject other than as confounded ‘Object’? You won’t be able to answer that with any conviction until you get to ‘True Nothing’.]

Where you thought there was a ‘Self’ as Subject, there you will find ‘True Nothing’. As the name plainly reveals, there is no such thing as ‘True Nothing’. That you see something there is the speck in your vision.

And where you thought and lived the division of ‘Self and World’, of ‘Subject and Object’, of ”I’ and ‘Not-I’, there instead you will find Shūnyam, the final binary clutch, of ‘True Nothing’ and ‘Not-True Nothing’.

Shūnyam’s solemn task, its holy-work, is to undermine you at every stage, trip you at every step, until you thud to the cold hard floor.

Are you still sneaking in ever more nuanced names and sophisticated abstractions, synthetic ‘Objects’ to match an absent ‘Subject’? It’s the oldest trick in the book to assure yourself that you are still around.

To not end the Inquiry in the arisen conviction of the absence of a ‘Self’ is to have not awoken to the significance of the absence of a ‘Self’ in the first place.

The [Self-Scuttling] Sight-Insight on the very nature of Sight-Insight. And the Natural Limit of Inquiry [‘Inquiry’ with a capital ‘I’; I am still inquiring as to why my spinach never blanches just right].

Shūnyam was designed as a guiding-rail. Without it the ‘Backward Step’ is not navigable. You will spin indefinitely in self-referential loops with no exit. 

The first intuition to Shūnyam as described in these Posts begins with the term ‘That’. The method to Shūnyam originates in Yājñavalkya‘s Rule.

This intuition was picked-up and formalized by the radical scholar-monks of the emerging Buddha-Dharma around 500 BCE and elaborated in the subversive classic, the Diamond Sūtra. [Shūnyam And Sacred Text]

Its first translation from the Sanskrit [Vajrachedika] was into classical Chinese in 179 CE by Lokashema [The Tao-Hsing]. With it the Symbol went East as Shūnyathā [a later derivative and truncated version of Shūnyam] and took on local forms.

Around 1,000 years later the Symbol, along with the Decimal System of Number Representation [from Das, for ‘Ten’], headed West and docked in Venice. And did the same. We follow it in both directions.