This is the story of the Symbol: ‘0’. From the exalted heights of the Upaniṣads  and Sūtras to its present consignment as inconspicuous character on a corner of a crowded computer keyboard.

The earliest interpretation of the Symbol ‘0’ was as Pūjyam: ‘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 Absolute Absence. The meaning meanders over the subsequent centuries and in time settles as Shūnyam, ‘True Nothing’, from a verbal root denoting hollowness [’empty inside’].

The unexamined, inherited, implicit and arbitrary divide of: ‘Self and World’ [God and Man; Subject and Object] is deeply conflicted, demonstrably senseless. At extreme, self-flagellating, violent, at war with itself and its world.

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’. Its first and only child. Cut once; get two. A pair is the first and minimal unit of division, the elemental DNA, the fundamental building block, of every Man-Made Model.

The natural and proper ‘Divide’ is as ‘True Nothing’ and ‘Not-True Nothing’. Sight [miss] one, sight [miss] the other. Not-Two. One symbol, the Symbol ‘0’, is enough. You always and only orient to ‘True Nothing’ and default to ‘Not-True Nothing’. Never the other way around. Hence

Shūnyam is not about the usual binaries of True and False or Right and Wrong. Absence and Presence. Emptiness and Fullness. Null and Whole. These are inexact but intuitively helpful beginning conceptual pointers that exit the scene once their work is done.

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.

It’s lingual equivalent is Shūnyam. In English, True Nothing, Absolute Absence. Its auditory equivalent is the sound: ‘Silence!’ [You violate the silence in commanding: ‘Silence!’].

‘True-Nothing’ is not to be confounded with the Concept of Nothing, the Idea of Absence, an altogether-different animal. [As in the arithmetic condition: -1<0<+1; or such extensions as ‘Tending to Zero’ in Calculus.] Nor: ‘Not-True Nothing’ with Consciousness, Everything, Infinity, and the like. 

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’. Where you thought there was a ‘Self’ as Subject, there you will find Shūnyam.

As the name plainly reveals, there is no such thing as ‘True Nothing’. That you see something there is the speck in your vision. 

Shūnyam evolved from Yājñavalkya‘s Algorithm, a construct put-together to arrive at and articulate its truth. It was later picked-up by the radical scholar-monks of the emerging Buddha-Dharma around 500 BCE and elaborated in the luminous and subversive classic, the Diamond Sūtra.

Originally meant as a transparent Teaching Tool, it was muddled into impenetrable mystique, elongated into opaque doctrines in a series of consequential and commingled short-stops by unfinished monks and book-read scholars.

The first translation of the Diamond Sūtra from the Sanskrit [Vajrachedika] was into classical Chinese in 179 CE by Lokashema [The Tao-Hsing]. With it the Symbol went East 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.

And so it enters this our present Information Age residing at its very heart. An Age where all Knowledge [nay, even all Wisdom] is captured in the Boolean Binary of ‘0,1’.

The mathematician Pappus records Archimedes: ‘Give me a place to stand and [with a lever] I shall move the earth’. You don’t need to move the earth. But you do need to step back to True Nothing to see what’s going on with everything.

Shūnyam is a synthetic self-destroying device built with exactly this purpose in mind, erecting no barriers, suffering no compromise. It is not a distant esoteric Symbol but an explicit, practical and verifiable tool to be acted-on.

Herein, the only tale, the steamy gripper, the story of Shūnyam.