Shunyata, Nirvana, and Zero

There is a persistent misconception in the English-speaking world that I have to every so often set right. It is this: because the numerals we use are called “Arabic,” the number system was invented by Arabs and by association, is Islamic in origin. This is as silly and illogical as claiming that potatoes originated in France since in the US we call them French fries.

Actually, two of the greatest inventions in mathematics arose in India: the positional number system and the number “zero.” Where else could zero have originated but in the land which has the concepts of Shunyata (emptiness, nothingness) and of Nirvana (complete, utter, and absolute extinction) embedded deep into its philosophy?
Continue reading