Shūnyam: What, Where, Why?

The earliest interpretation of the Symbol ‘0’ was as Pūjyam, a mystical expression marking: ‘That worthy of worship’.

It was a simultaneous reference to both a Completeness [the Plenum of the Iśopaniṣad] and one of Absence. And its articulation, extracted from the coils of innumerable and intertwined self-referential loops was as the: ‘Inexpressible’ [see ‘That’].

The meaning meanders over the subsequent centuries and finally settles as Shūnyam, from a verbal root denoting hollowness [’empty inside’]. In Shūnyam, what is the ‘Inexpressible’ of ‘That’ becomes visible as the ‘Absence of the Expressed’.

The evolution of the construct of Shūnyam and its formalization as the Self-Negating Expression occurs in step with the gradual progress of the Inquirer in disentangling himself from the coils of the Self-Loop.


Shūnyam is the formal Sanskrit for Śūnya in common-speak. Etymologically, Shūnyam originate in the notion of hollowness, of ‘Empty Inside’.

The  term ‘Empty’ or ‘Null’ as used in English translations of Shūnyam originate directly from the vocabulary of Classical Logic as does the word ‘Form’ as used in the Heart Sutra. [Although no guru, fee-speaker or book-writer I have met is aware of this root, which might explain their wildly creative interpretations of these two terms.]

Shūnyam itself is not to be confounded with the numerous versions of Śūnya with a suffix that evolved in the regional Dharmic literatures well into the 10th Century [ŚūnyaBrahman, ŚūnyaPurusha et al]. Or the selective use of the term Shūnyathā in others, from the early Theravada Schools to the later Mahayana appropriations.


The Symbol ‘0’ is the original, paradigmatic 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.

Its lingual equivalent is Shūnyam. Its auditory equivalent is the sound: ‘Silence!’ [You violate the silence in commanding: ‘Silence!’]. 


The claim to an ‘Independent and Separated ‘Self” is a preposterous presumption, a comic conceit, a sanctioned vanity.

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

The actual and natural ‘Divide’ is as ‘True Nothing’ and ‘Not-True Nothing’. The two 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.

Absence and Presence, Null and Whole, Empty and Full. These are inexact but intuitively helpful beginning conceptual pointers that exit the scene once their work is done. [In other words, do not get stuck in any of them.]

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.


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’.

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 wake to Shūnyam, the final and necessary binary clutch of ‘True Nothing’ and ‘Not-True Nothing’.


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

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.

[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’.]


Shūnyam is the natural, necessary and inevitable limit of Modeled-Reality. Of Inquiry as Man [root ma,-‘to build’, as in manas [mind], manush [man]].

[‘Inquiry’ with a capital ‘I’; I am still inquiring as to why my spinach never blanches just right.]

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.

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.

Round the Circle. The [Self-Scuttling] Sight-Insight on the very nature of Sight-Insight. [If ‘Sight-Insight’ appears ambiguous, replace it with ‘Observation-Understanding’.]

Shūnyam is explicit, irreducible, achievable and verifiable. You can’t fudge it. You either see it or you don’t. Like the Nerds say, it is a ‘0,1’ thing.


See the reference to the: ‘Reality Limit’ in the Diamond Sūtra and the translation of the Prajñā-Pāramithā Mantra in the Heart Sūtra.

If the ‘Backward Step’ is prematurely short-stopped, this later becomes the Being: Consciousness divide of Vedantha, the Emptiness: Form divide of  the Madhyamaka, 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.


There are numerous Posts interspersed across the body that serve as maps and markers. But the following should get you started: Browse Post Titles

The Self-Loop
‘Giving Birth To Myself’
The Axioms Of Sight
Darśana: ‘To See’
The Principle Of Co-Dependence
‘Sight’ To ‘Subject’ To Shūnyam
Nirvāṇa And Saṃsāra