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 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!’].
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, the implicit, unstated claim to an ‘Independent and Separated ‘Self’.
The Subject is not just the symmetric complement to Object. It is the source of the Subject: Object construction itself.
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’.
[‘Self’ as used here and as was interpreted in the higher literature is not some mystical genie but rather a ‘Confounding of Object as Subject’, an explicit and verifiable term.]
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.
‘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.]
The usable rule is if you can sit in your rocking-chair and imagine or speculate a ‘True-Nothing’, what you have imagined or speculated is emphatically not: ‘True Nothing’.
The alighting on Shūnyam and the clear and convinced sighting of the absence of any Modeled ‘Self’ is one event. To have alighted on Shūnyam is be convinced of the absence of a Modeled ‘Self’. To be convinced of the absence of any Modeled ‘Self’ is necessarily to have alighted on Shūnyam.
And the analytic convenience of the ‘Subject-Object Divide’ is one unit. They are mutually supporting modeling artifacts. The recurring act of an undead Subject is to name an Object that in turn reflexively gives it life.
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.
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. [See ‘That’ and the subsequent Posts to locate your coordinates.
The Symbol ‘0’ marks 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].
For 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 Symbol ‘0’ is simply the Logical Form of Tát [literally, ‘That’], the original Vedic Insight, taken to its natural, necessary and inevitable limit.
Shūnyam as ‘True Nothing’ and the proper means to arrive at it originate in Yājñavalkya‘s Algorithm, a construct first put-together to arrive at ‘That’.
Originally meant as a transparent Teaching Tool, Shūnyam 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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ [Shūnyam] to see what’s going on with everything.
It is explicit, irreducible, achievable and verifiable. In other words, you cannot fudge it. You either sight Shūnyam or you don’t. Like the Nerds say: ‘It’s a ‘0,1’ thing’.
Herein, the only tale, the steamy gripper, the story of Shūnyam.