Narach Philosophy

THE HINDU THEORY OF NUMBERS


Whatever might be said about the application of the present system of thought to the different branches of science referred to here, what is quite certain is that our present decimal system (in Arithmetic), with the zero is of Indian origin. From the Indians it passed to the Arabians. In Europe the complete system with the zero was derived from the Arabs in the 12th century A.D.

If the present system of numbers from 1 to 9, with zero placed to the Right, is of Indian origin, it cannot be isolated from the general theory of life which constitutes the basis of all Hindu thought. Arithmetic deals with numbers on which the whole science of Mathematics is based, and its importance in Hindu Astronomy and Astrology can hardly be exaggerated; and if the latter follow a certain scheme of thought, it should include Arithmetic itself.

What then is the significance of the numbers from one to nine, and of zero? And why is the place of zero, when it increases the quality of a number to ten, hundred or more, to its Right and not left? And why, when it is placed to the left it does not function in any way at all?

Nine numbers: It has been pointed out that the nine numbers in Hindu Astronomy and Astrology refer to the nine energies or mansions, namely, the seven divisions of Prakrti from Buddhi to "Earth", and the two, descending and ascending, currents of life. Thus, the nine numbers complete and include all that can exist in Prakrti. But if the whole idea of, life includes both Purusha and Prakrti, where is the place of Purusha in this scheme of numbers?

Zero: It has been pointed out that the main scheme of Hindu thought in regard to the creation of life depends on the conception of the union of Purusha and Prakrti; and it has been shown that the male seed is but a hundred thousandth part of the ovum in size, and may appropriately be represented by a point only and that is zero in the Hindu system.

But why should zero be placed to the Right of a number to become creative? The answer to this is to be found in the correct place of Purusha in relation to Prakrti; and that, as has been pointed out, is to her Right. This means that Purusha (zero), to be creative, must lie on the Right of Prakrti (nine numbers); and if he is placed on the left creation cannot take place. Thus we see that the ideas of science and philosophy are represented in the form of numbers in the system of Hindu Arithmetic.

From Abstract to Concrete: Hindu Marriage Ceremony: It has been observed that each system of thought has its counterpart in a system of religion, and that the ancients have translated their abstract ideas of science and philosophy into concrete forms of religious worship; and even their social customs are regarded as sacred by the devout. An interesting illustration of the relation between Purusha and Prakrti, or zero and the nine numbers, is to be found in the form of the Hindu marriage ceremony, which too is conceived as a union of Prakrti and Purusha through woman and man.

The pairs are seated to face the east, the place of the Sun, the supreme source of manifest life, whose image below is the sacred Fire kindled before them. The figure of the nine mansions or grahas is drawn to represent Prakrti, whose place by the Fire as an image of the Sun symbolizes the first union of the Supreme Purusha and Prakrti on earth. When the ceremony commences the bride is seated to the Right of the bridegroom; and it is, completed, only after they have gone round the Fire and grahas four times, and measured seven steps; and then they change their places, and the bride is seated to the left of the bridegroom.

All this is but an illustration of the union of Purusha and Prakrti according to the system of thought already explained. The four circles round the Fire are the four stages through which all life must pass to become manifest; the seven steps represent the seven divisions of life, from Buddhi to the element "Earth", which must be taken to create life anew; while the places to right and left represent the correct position of Purusha and Prakrti. When the ceremony begins, the pair are still uncreative; and so the bridegroom is seated to the left of the bride, like zero in respect of the numbers; but when it is completed, he (zero), having been made creative in respect of the bride, is given his correct place, and that is to her Right.

Some Hindu Religious Ceremonies: If the Hindu marriage ceremony is intended to be a picture of a great scheme of thought, the same idea should apply to other sacred forms of religious worship as well. In this connection we have already considered the idea of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, the ages of their manifestation, and the months of their birth; the idea of the four castes, as illustrating the same four stages of life-development, will be examined later; and here we may deal with a few sacred forms and ceremonies of the Hindus, as a concrete and pictorial representation of the ideas of science and philosophy, satisfying the popular mind intent on outward expression as well as the highest understanding concerned with the spirit only.

Om: The syllable "Om" is regarded as especially sacred by the Hindus, and this sanctity attaches to it from Vedic times. The ideas it expresses are explained in various ways, and it is usually analyzed into its three component letters, A, U, M, according to the rules of Sanskrt grammar, and each of these is regarded as conveying an idea of an aspect of the Supreme Creator. But there is a very simple explanation of this sacred syllable in the light of what has previously been observed. The whole universe is conceived as a union of Purusha and Prakrti, expressed in the form of the positive and negative or Purushic and Prakrtic currents of energy; and these unite in the incoming and outgoing Prana or breath, as has already been explained and it is this idea that is conveyed by Om; for as we pronounce it, it is divided into two parts, 0 and M (called Anusvara in Sanskrt). As we utter the former, we have to open our lips and draw in breath; but in order to utter M (Anusvara), we have to close the lips and breathe out, through the nostrils. Thus the two great currents of life, Purushic and Prakrtic, represented by breathing in and out, are expressed by the syllable Om ; and it may be of interest to note that this sacred syllable is also called Pranava in sacred literature, indicating its obvious connection with Prana or breath.

Sacrifice: Reference has already been made to the idea of Sacrifice as creative action. In the Rig Veda we are told of the great "sacrifice" of the Supreme Purusha who divides himself into many parts and creates thereby different forms of life in the three worlds; the same idea is repeated in the Bhagavad Gita, where Prajapati is said to have created the worlds by means of sacrifice; and the whole idea of the Brahmanas, an essential part of the Vedas, is the same. Sacrifice is action performed for a creative purpose, to bring into the world something new or different from the performer of the sacrifice; and so it is unselfish and impersonal. It is in this sense that the Vedas are said to enjoin action; the idea of Indra as a performer of many sacrifices is the same; and it is in the same light that we have to understand the emphasis laid on sacrifice in the Bhagavad Gita. The original idea has undoubtedly been forgotten through lapse of time; but its essential truth yet remains.

Triple Mark of a Hindu: The three marks of a Hindu are the tuft of hair on the top of the head, the tilaka or mark on the brows, and the sacred thread; and it requires but a little imagination to see that the first points to the place of Buddhi, the second of the Mind, and the third, by its oval form, of Ether and the five elements; and the last includes also the idea of Brahmanda and all that it signifies. This exhausts the fundamentals of all knowledge of the ancients; and it is this that makes a real Hindu.

Name-giving Ceremony: The idea of the birth of a child as represented by the planets has already been explained; and, in accordance with their position, a child is given a name on the sixth, eleventh, or the sixteenth day of its birth, according to different practice of the Hindus. All these numbers, as has been pointed out, refer to the Mind, which, according to the ancients, has Speech for its counterpart, and its energy is immediately made manifest in Ether, which has Sound for its attribute. From this we may infer that the child is believed to reach the Mind-stage of development on these days, and so is associated with speech or sound or a name.

Tonsure or Head-shaving Ceremony: The head-shaving ceremony of a child usually takes place in the seventeenth month of its, birth; and this number refers to Buddhi, as sixteen to Mind; the idea being to indicate and expose the Buddhi-stage (crown) in the growth of the child.

Death Ceremony: In this way we may explain a number of Hindu ceremonies from birth to death. For instance, the death ceremony is intended to show the dissolution of life. The body is consigned to the flames of Agni (Fire) an emblem of the Sun, the supreme manifest Purusha; and what is spared is consigned to Water or Prakrti, indicating thereby the portion of each. We have the same four circles round the fire, but in the reverse order, pointing to the course of dissolution; and the light in the home burns for twelve days to illustrate the complete cycle of life or Time which has come to an end. The details of other ceremonies in this connection will be found to have the same significance.

Sraddha Ceremony: The idea of Sraddha, a ceremony in memory of the deceased, may be similarly explained. Beginning the month with the bright fortnight, the season of Sraddha commences with the dark fortnight of Bhadra or the sixth lunar month; but if the month begins with the dark fortnight, it belongs to the dark fortnight of Asvina or the seventh. It has already been explained that the number six refers to the Mind, and seven to Buddhi; and it has been pointed out that the dwelling place of the departed is the Moon or the Sun or the Supreme Eternal according to their stages of development and it has been shown that the energy of the Sun and the Moon is made manifest in Ether. Now as our planet Earth consists of Ether and the other elements, it is characterised by the energy of the Sun and the Moon; and as the spirits of the departed, dwelling there, are identified with them, they may be said to be in contact with our planet still; and the idea of this connection is preserved in the Sraddha ceremony performed in the sixth or the seventh month, associated with the Moon and the Sun while the dark fortnight is intended to indicate yet further the connection of the departed soul with Prakrtic Ether or Prakrti, also called dark and identified with the night.

Hindu Festivals: It is possible to extend this idea to a number of Hindu sacred festivals as well. Some of them, as for instance Makara-Sankranti and Vasanta-Panchami, are undoubtedly associated with the change of seasons; but in many of them the ideas of philosophy are linked up with phenomena of Nature. Others are intended to be pictures of different schemes of thought; and in this connection reference has already been made to the sacred days associated with the manifestation of the ten incarnations of Vishnu. We might further mention that Maha Sivaratri or the Great Night of Siva is celebrated in Magha or the eleventh lunar month, and this number is associated with Mind, as has already been pointed out. Siva, accordingly, is associated with the Mind religion or the Yoga system of thought; and this agrees with our ideas previously explained.

Similarly we have the Holi festival in Phalguna or the twelfth lunar month; and the number twelve refers to Buddhi as eleven to Mind. Accordingly this festival is intended to illustrate the Vedantic system of thought, based on Buddhi as the supreme manifestation of life, expressing its oneness of creative energy; hence it is associated with Krshna, the highest expression of the Vedantic system.

Conclusion: It is possible to extend this line of thought further yet; and it would be difficult to resist the conclusion that the ancients had made a deep study of the phenomena of Nature, and constructed thereby their systems of philosophy and religion. There is enough of imagination and speculation too; but the whole idea is essentially based on observation, analysis, reasoning and synthesis of facts; and it is possible to discover in their most abstract conceptions the basis of accurate observation and correct reasoning. In the preceding chapters an attempt has been made to show the constructive character of the ancient Hindu systems of thought; and the following ones will show how the same idea has been applied to the creation of a new language, Sanskrt, intended to be an echo of the voice of the manifold universe. Then we shall be able to understand how the sacred works of the Hindus, the Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, Puranas, the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, and the six systems of Hindu philosophy are but pictures, in different ways, of the same scheme of thought; and realize how, in their original form, the great religious and social practices of the people were conceived as a magnificent attempt to embody and visualize in concrete form ideas and theories and forces and laws of life. The original conception has undoubtedly been forgotten in course of time; yet there is enough in the sacred works as well as the present day life of the people to point to the scheme of the whole.